Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the late Afrobeat legend expresses his view on ethnic jingoism which is one of the vices in Nigeria.
INTERVIEWER: Fela, you are a southern Nigerian but you recently presented a special gift to specially thank Inspector General of Police M D Yesufu, who is a northern Nigerian prince. This raised eyebrows in some quarters especially due to the fact that many southern Nigerians avoid northern Nigerians. What’s your take on this?
FELA: I don’t care about any raised eyebrows, I care only about the person that saved my life and my career. During Gowon’s regime, a certain policeman known as Sunday Adewusi made life unbearable for me. He promised me that I will never rest, and he made sure I never had rest because I was always arrested, beaten up, and charged to court almost on weekly basis on the orders of Sunday Adewusi. Now tell me, is Sunday Adewusi a northern Nigerian? Let it be known that when Murtala came to power and made M D Yesufu the inspector general, my house was never raided, not even once. I have evidence of people going to meet M D Yesufu to raid my house and get me jailed but he always replied them that “…Fela is not a criminal…”. Why do you think Obasanjo sent soldiers to burn down my house? It was because M D Yesufu refused to obey his orders to send policemen he controlled to do such an illegal thing. So is Obasanjo a northern Nigerian, and Murtala and M D Yesufu, are they southern Nigerians?
Even when Abiola owed me money, and I occupied his Decca building to force him to pay me my money, it was the same M D Yesufu that settled the matter. Instead of paying me my money, Abiola went to court to get a court order mandating police to arrest me and detain me but M D Yesufu refused to obey court order to arrest me but instead spoke to me like a brother. So, tell me, was Abiola a northern Nigerian, or was M D Yesufu a southern Nigerian? Even when I sued Obasanjo to court for burning down my house, was Justice Dosunmu that threw out my case from court a northern Nigerian? Even Tunji Braithwaite that was my lawyer at that time, didn’t he bungle my case from the beginning, using me to get popular in Lagos? Was Tunji Braithwaite a northern Nigerian?
I will never join anybody in believing that everything from southern Nigeria is good, and everything from northern Nigeria is bad. I’ve been helped by many southern Nigerians, and I’ve been victimised by so many southern Nigerians – Sunday Adewusi, Obasanjo, Abiola, Tunji Braithwaite, you name it. M D Yesufu was good to me, even though he is a northern Nigerian, so why won’t I go to his official residence to present him the gift?
-Excerpts from the book titled Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore, PhD