18 YEARS AGO – After several weeks of illness, Afrobeat maestro Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died of AIDS on Saturday, August 2, 1997, at age 58.
“The immediate cause of death of Fela was heart failure but there were many complications arising from the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome,” Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a doctor and Fela’s elder brother, told a news conference in Lagos on Sunday, August 3.
Before his death, Fela refused treatment for his deteriorating health. He rejected both Western and traditional Nigerian medical services, insisting it was on grounds of “principle.”
Though he is dead, Fela lives on in the hearts of his many admirers and in his evergreen music. Many remember him as one of the greatest visionaries Nigeria has produced. Everything he said about the country and its leadership has come to pass. His commentaries on the place of the black man are true today as they were 30 years ago.
If Fela had lived to this day, what would he be saying? Could he have put up with Obasanjo for eight years? The vote rigging? The emergence of Boko Haram with its suicide bombings? And the failure of the military to stop the terrorists? No, Fela couldn’t have witnessed the events happening in Nigeria and still remained alive. He would have had a heart attack!
The golden years of activism in Nigeria were in the 1990s. Fela and his siblings Olikoye and Beko were there, as were Gani Fawehinmi and Chime Ubani. Only Femi Falana and a few others are still alive.
For the next two or three decades, the “Abami Eda” of the “African Shrine” in Ikeja will be remembered throughout the world. Fela’s children-musicians Femi and Seun remain additional gifts of the founding father of Afrobeat to the world.