A Benin based Afro Jazz rock master, Eno Louis Enobakhare has called on the federal giovernment to name the National theatre after the legendary Afro beat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Eno who was reacting to the recent take over of the national edicice by CBN said that such action is good as it help bring back the lost glory of the moribund monument, however is of the view that based on the contributions of the Afrobeat king to the arts and culture industry, naming the national theatre after him is well deserved.
According to him, "Fela Kuti is the most popular Nigerian musician worldwide. In America,a movie has been made about his life, his afrobeat music has inspired a new army of afrobeat ambassadors and the young musicians all identify with him. The yearly 'Felabration 'attests to this".
Eno who went down memory lane pointed out what Fela did during the FESTAC 77, "in 1977 during the FESTAC, he opposed government spending of such a colossal sum to have a 'festival' as he felt the private sector could have footed the bill. For that, he refused to perform at the festival and all the popular musicians like Stevie wonder,Osibisa, Mariam Makeba etc went to his 'African shrine' to watch his mesmeric performances.
Eno whose personal relationship with Fela was established in the mid seventies stated his encounter with Fela. "I met his first cousin from America who introduced me to him. He always had his sax by his side while listening to Miles Davies or John Coltrane, two great traditional jazz musicians. Wild as the people of his 'kalakuta Republic' were supposed to be,the rule was 'first touch'.You can 'yab' the much you wanted,but don't touch. There was a fine for any one who started a fight.
"Fela encouraged gossiping amongst his wives with that, he had a grasp of all that happened in the 'Republic'. He knew the thieves, lesbians,etc. No musician could play any other music with any of his instruments except his Afrobeat. This provided a steady flow of musicians for him. Apart from the wind session, he had two or three instrumentalists attached to every other instrument. His songs were lengthy,so a guitarist for instance would play one song a night.
"To engage him outside his 'Shrine' was an uphill task. All the money must be brought in cash and passed through mercury light to ensure that non was fake. A luxury bus must be stationed in front of his abode at an agreed time. One minute lateness will lead to the loss of any money paid. My troupe left 'kalakuta'a few hours before it was burnt.
If Chief M.K.O Abiola who was arrested and imprisoned for treason could have the national sports stadium Abuja named after him,there is no reason the National arts theatre, Iganmu, Lagos cannot be named after Fela.
Everything complained about in his songs have remained with us and have even become worse. The powers that be could only be chased out by a resilient civil rights movement.
With democracy now fashionable in Africa, it is time to right some of the wrongs. The first is to recognize Fela by naming the National theatre after him. The President of a world power -France, breached protocol and went to his residence decades after his demise.
The Federal government should do the needful. Nigerians applauded the recognition of Abiola as a former president of Nigeria. The world will also applaud the naming of the National theatre after this great son of African.