Recently the Nigerian Tour Operators (NATOP) in collaboration with the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) hosted the South African Tourism trade partners who came for a trade workshop in Nigeria and Ghana to a special outing and tour of Lagos which focused on the life and times of the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
The Fela story resonated once again in the international circle as the South African Tourism trade delegation came calling as part of the side attraction for the West African trade workshop and road shows in Nigeria.
The special outing which featured the life and times of Fela kicked off from the Federal Palace hotel on the Island to Surulere Senior Girls secondary School which used to be his abode before he left the place to other locations with his musical band, supporters and his women.
At the Surulere Girls Senior Secondary School, the delegation were met with Lemi Ghariokwu and Abdul Okwechime, two personalities who were part of the Fela’s history.
One after the Other, they took time to explain to the South African Trade delegation, Nigerian Tour operators, travel agencies and others the Fela’s story and struggle with the military administrators and Police.
Lemi Ghariokwu, the graphic artist who worked all through with Fela explained the Fela’s story, brand of music, struggle with the military, constant police raids, his women and view of contemporary and societal issues. Ghariokwu stated that Fela had a two sides, the musical and the intellectual Fela which began to manifest in the latter part of his life.
Narrating the Fela story also, Okwechime, a Journalist who lived with Fela in Kalakuta Republic disclosed that Fela got the name Kalakuta from his cell mate at Alagbon close who was accused of forging Nigerian currency then and was detained in Alagbon, but the police did not find anything on him as the currency he was said to have forged and the currency outside were the same.
“The police could not find the difference, so to Fela, that was a genius, why keep him in detention. When he came out of detention, he decided to re-christen this place Kalakuta Republic in honour of his cell mate at Kalakuta cell in Alagbon close.
“Even the name area started from here because this whole street was called area, because 24 hours people were selling alcohol and all sorts of things, Police raiding here was a common thing. Even the Alagbon raid here was not the most brutal, there was the expensive shit, that was the title of the record, the expensive shit came after the second police raid where some policemen came into Fela’s house and caught him smoking weed and they took the weed from him and Fela said to them ‘let me see the weed, are you sure this is weed’, he took the weed from the police and swallowed it and that infuriated the police and they took him to the cell and said they will conduct test on him using his faeces to nail him for the weed he swallowed. That day Fela didn’t go to toilet and in the night his mother brought him vegetable soup and all sorts of things that mixed with the weed he has swallowed, and about a day or two later we went to toilet and the police took the sample to the laboratory for test and they did not find anything incriminating and when he came out from cell, he composed that song expensive shit to lampoon the police and the authorities,” Okwechime narrated.
Ghariokwu and Okwechime telling the legendary Fela story to the visitors at the Surulere Senior Girls school, Lagos
From the Surulere Senior Girls Secondary School, the group proceeded to the Blue lodge hotel on the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos for lunch and from there to Omotosho street which used to be Fela’s abode, now serves as museum of Fela personality.
At the museum which houses Fela’s tomb, Ghariokwu explained that Fela’s tomb was built in form of Egyptian pyramid which was in line with the belief of the legendary musician in contemporary African view.
At the museum, the visitors were taking into Fela’s world, with pictorial illustration of his life and music which was playing on the screens in the museum.
It was an experience to see his arrays of shoe well-arranged and well designed apparel, his fridge, big drums, saxophone, guitar among other things.
At the Museum, the visitor were excited to learn more about Fela’s maverick life style, insatiable appetite for sex, which he calls ‘benbensky’, Marijuana and ice cream.
One of the legendary musician son was on ground to receive the delegation and take them round the museum.
The train moved from the museum to the African Shrine in Agidingbi, Ikeja where the delegation were also taking round the premises by Ghariokwu and Okwechime.
At the African shrine, it was a distinct environment where Marijuana was smoked freely left and right.
The delegation was told that stealing is prohibited at the shrine as anybody caught in the act will be severely punished.
Okwechime said the members who visit the shrine respect that rule and keep to it as one of the guiding principles guiding the place.