Prof Patrick Lumumba Ignites ‘The Fela Debates’ as Felabration 2017 Unfolds
Felabration 2017 kicked off with The Fela Debates – the 9th in the lecture series, and it had the director of The Kenya school of Law, Prof Patrick Lumumba as keynote speaker. A better choice couldn’t have been made, as Lumumba delivered a very stimulating paper on the theme: 40 Years After Festac, 20 Years After Fela… Wither the Pan African Dream?
Espousing the many lofty attributes of pan African leaders – Sankara, Nkrumah, Azikiwe, etc, as well as the literary legends, Soyinka, Okara, Ayi Kwei Armah, Ngugi, Achebe, the professor whipped the audience into a near frenzy as he denounced Africa’s present situation, and the role of successive leaders in her downfall.
“Today, Nigeria and Africa’s leaders are infamous as men and women in the business of accumulating material wealth. They are infamous for many things, but these things are not new, Fela (fore)saw them a long time ago. And we must ask ourselves, 20 years after his mortal body was interred, how can we immortalise Fela?
“We have analysed, intellectualised, philosophised and catalogued our problems for too long. Now the people are asking for solutions. After so many years what have we achieved?” Lumumba challenged the audience.
The professor insisted that Pan Africanism is alive and well, adding that when Fela sang Afrobeat it was so that Africans could dance the Afrobeat of health, such that leaders would improve our hospitals and not need to go abroad for treatment. To dance the Afrobeat of education so that our graduates could build even a simple bicycle. This, he said, is what Pan Africanism is about.
Other speakers at the debate were Abraham Ogbodo, Femi Falana, and Kadaria Ahmed who moderated the session.
When Ms Ahmed asked the question of identity in Africa, Lumumba posited that we must look for the things which unite us, not those that divide us. He added that African countries must find a way to negotiate leadership concepts and structures that works for them. Still on this he spoke of IPOB’s agitation for self actualization, hinting that he disagrees with the idea of breaking away, but supports negotiation to achieve the self actualisation within Nigeria itself.
He however cautioned against following rebels without a cause. To buttress this he stated categorically “It is not lost on me that those who make landmines are also the ones who make landmine detectors.”
Mr Falana Applauded Lumumba’s speech but cautioned against the tendency to judge African countries as the most corrupt in the world. In his words:
“African countries aren’t the most corrupt, check out USA, Britain… How come Switzerland is not ranked as corrupt, yet the country houses all the monies stolen form African countries?”
Falana also did not mince words when calling out corrupt leaders, who never see tribe, religious affiliation or gender when it is time to rob the people and enrich themselves.
In the course of the debate Nigeria’s educational system and the removal of History from her school curricula, reared its head, and was declared as one of the reasons why young Nigerians remained ignorant of many realities.
Falana suggested getting back to our roots, beginning with the teaching of children their native tongue and indigenous culture from childhood, at home. He also suggested that the Felabration team plan a similar session with music artist, so that they understand what ‘singing for relevance means.’
Conversations that arise at the Fela Debates are important for the historical and cultural insights that they bring. Whether they actually provoke a change or improvement is yet to be seen.
Felabration 2017 is a week-long celebration, which will run to October 15. Now in its 20th year, the annual festival of music and arts commemorates the life of the music icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
This year will feature performances from a wide array of artistes in different parts of Lagos. Venues include: Freedom Park, Radisson Blu Hotel, Terra Kulture, CCA (Yaba), Kalakuta Musuem and The New Africa Shrine.
The line up of Felabration 2017 events include a special musical concert featuring Femi and Seun Kuti, an arts competition, a play about the last hours of Thomas Sankara staging at Kalakuta on the 15th, and a presentation of the re-packaged book This Fela Sef, by Benson Idonije on October 11.
A special 20th anniversary magazine was unveiled, titled FELA Today, Memories: The Man, the Music, The Maverick. It holds essays, interviews and more from 30 contributors.
Winners of the first Felabration International art competition were announced. The first runner up was Has Hammond, with a painting ‘Sun’. John Wajua was declared winner for his painting ‘Identity’