This is one season to remember and celebrate Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. It is a season of Felabration.
Till his passing away 22 years ago,I was closely associated to the late Abami Eda, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Towards his last days, I didn’t use to miss those Friday night gigs at the former Africa Shrine in Ikeja, Lagos.
We would usually arrive The African Shrine about 1 am, sit and enjoy Baba and his girls on stage and enjoy ourselves till the wee hours of the morning, till 7am when he would then take a seat at the back to smoke the biggest wrap of Igbo I have ever seen in my life.
He would then sit over the trial of on several of his boys who would be arraigned for sundry offenses like fighting, stealing, etc. He would later chat with some of us. I used to spot a beard then and the Great Fela used to abuse me that my mustache looked like that of Herbert Macaulay. He will then take any available kabukabu home.
How did I get close to and friendly with Fela? You may be wondering. We met at Ikoyi Prisons. That was where I met Fela, Live & Direct. That was 26 years ago. It’s a long story.
My journey to detention at Ikoyi Prisons along with 3 of my colleagues began on a fateful day. We were at work at The News Magazine office when a Lagos Court Official came with Bench warrant for 2 of my Ogas (Bayo Onanuga, Dapo Olorunyomi) Akin Adesokan and my humble self.
It was the late Justice Olugbani of the Lagos High Court, who invited us to appear before him in a pending case. He was angry with us. The case was an interesting one. We had written a story about the unusual Lagos Judge who used to eat Epa & Boli in court, crack jokes and was very unconventional in his conduct. And he didn’t like it one bit. He kept his cool until many months after when his attention was called to a story written by the 4 of us.
It was a sensitive story that had to do with Beddings Holdings vs Humphrey Nwosu. It was an allegation of fraud in which a businessman accused the INEC Chairman of receiving a bribe from him. The case was before Justice Olugbemi.
Once his attention was called to our story, he was happy it was his chance to get back at us. He promptly issued a Bench Warrant for the 4 of us. It was on a Friday and we didn’t know that Friday is a BAD day for appearing before any judge because once you appear, he or she will detain you and you will be there till Monday.
We appeared before him and once the case was called, we were docked.
We were represented by over 30 lawyers led by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory. The team had all the big names in the legal profession, Olisa Agbakoba was a member. So, also were Chief Mike Ezekome, Mr. Femi Falana and many more.
But the interesting thing was that Justice Olugban refused to listen to Chief Fawehinmi’s presentation as the Lawyer, despite the fact that he was on his feet to address the judge. What happened next was the judge sent for 9 gun-wielding Mopols, who were told to come and lead us to a waiting Ikoyi prison Kombi Bus.
We were not charged with anything. That was how we were bundled into a bus and driven to Ikoyi Prison. When we got there, we were refused admission because there was no formal charge again us.. The officer who escorted us to the Prison had to dash back to the court on an Okada to get our papers duly signed.
He came back and after registering us, we were thrown into a General Cell and we began to mingle with other inmates. It was after introducing ourselves to those we met in our own prison cell that we got to know that Fela was inside the prison. They told us he was in a Special Cell.
That was how we arranged to meet Fela and we began to have sessions with him in his tiny cell.
Each time we woke up, it was off to Fela’s cell we went. For the next 5 days, we spent time with Fela. We began to interview him about his life & views. How we beat the Prison Warders to it to be able to do the extensive interview with him spanning 5 days still remains a trade secret.