Oluseun Anikulapo Kuti is a Grammy nominee musician who also happens to be the lead singer of the world famous Egypt 80 band. He is also the last son of the legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti. With so much passion for his motherland and intellectual knowledge, we decided to pick his brain in regards to Nigerian politics with the underling question. To vote or not to vote, and here’s what he had to say.
Would you say you are interested in Nigerian politics
Yes…yes… but not form the electioneering point of view. More from the organising point of view.
Ok, can you explain further?
Well, I believe more in politicising the people, because that’s what is missing mainly from the Nigerian political narrative. The people are not politicising enough, they don’t understand the different levels of affiliations that they must first of all analyse, decipher and then pick their sides appropriately.
You know everybody… nobody even discusses the fact that all parties in Nigeria are conservative…
Even the so- called new candidates are all running on a conservative platform except Sowore. And that’s the only reason why he was removed from the debate. Because, they didn’t really want a liberal voice.
You know that the voice of conservatism, is actually racist to black people. Because they are all one way or the other functioning for the imperialist. There are so many class, they don’t understand the class affiliations. Nigerians are not class conscious at all.
Poor and working class people here are rooting for the rich. They don’t understand that clear division. Your aspirations as a poor and working class person completely contradicts and threatens the livelihood of the rich and the powerful.
So we are completely in different sides. Nigerians are conned generally by the one sided narratives in the media, the one sided narratives in our religious institutions, in our educational institutions and entertainment.
So if we curate this a little bit further and target it towards the youth…
I don’t believe in ageism, there is nothing like the youth or the old or the elderly. We just need citizens of the country to understand their goals. I don’t like this thing that people are going ‘oh the youth’ what’s that? I mean even the youths right now are a lot more unprepared and disillusioned than the so-called old people. They don’t even have real goals, all they think about is money.
One of the things in Nigeria that is wrong is that our educational institutions and our religious institutions have stopped people from actually growing up. With the aid of entertainment, they keep people infantilised. So people have the same dreams they had as teenagers till the end of their lives.
That’s why Nigeria is the only country in the world where you go to the club and you find people of all age groups in there, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, as long as they have money, they’re in the club.
But don’t you think that’s the reason why these youths should be educated? So that it’s not a cycle…
(Cuts in) everybody should be educated, everybody should be educated.
Though I agree, but don’t you thing think that there’s a certain level of education at a point that needs to be enlightened or highlighted to people of a certain age, to realise that they’ve come to an age or an awareness in their life?
Yeah, but that does not eliminate the fact that people that are of any certain age needs to be told the same thing. Because you see, the job of the oppressor is to create different internal divisions.
And one of it that is really literal in our society is the ageism, everybody thinking like… everybody that is old is outdated and doesn’t know what they are saying and since the youths are the future, they are the only ones that should know what’s going on.
I definitely think more opportunities should be given to young people. But young people also have to be deserving of the opportunity. Because, if you are already caught up in a narrative of the elite, who are all these elders we talk about anyway, what are you fighting to change really? You just want to be the oppressor, we don’t want to separate an old oppressor from a young oppressor …
So are you voting this year?
No.. Not at all
Because I’m busy organising. The Naija resistant movement is growing. People always say I should involve people so It can be popular and I can have numbers. Nah, numbers at this point will create chaos. Change, real revolutionary change does start we a lot of people. It’s the dedicated few that matters and that’s what we are targeting. I’m really happy about what I see as the massive investments and growth and the development of the cells that we are creating. That for me is more important, because, another thing missing in our political narrative right now is that they is no politicisation of the people.
That is what all these parties lack; everybody is running for their ego, ‘ I can fix Nigeria’ ‘I can do it’ I…’ you know, everything I see is an ego trip from Obi Ezekwesili to anybody.
No one person can fix this country. The president of Nigeria cannot fix Nigeria. No governor can fix the state. The people of Nigeria, are the only people that can fix Nigeria, you understand…
So the goal of anybody that is really interested, in fixing this country, is to politicise the people. You have to take the time and that’s the hard work.
I don’t know why we don’t study the people that actually liberated us in Nigeria and we spend all our weekend studying Jesus and Mohammed and all these nonsense. People that actually liberated Africa, that fought, that created… that give us the opportunity to sit down like this in our own country and talk, we forget them, we think they are trivial. We all think our freedom was just something that was handed to us.
We dishonour and disregard that sacrifice when we completely forget to honour these people. You know it’s also because of our education. Education teaching us about Mary Slessor… stopping the killing of twins in Africa rather than about Nkrumah. It’s also systemic, you have to understand, because you are doing the job of the imperialist as supervisors.
So what is missing is that people are not politicised enough, a party that wants to fix this country must first of all politicise the people. Because when the people are politicised, that is your check and balance. That is how you will know if you are going astray as the government, it will not become a party that brings the government into power.
The only decisions you will be able to make are popular decisions, decisions that people support, because when people are politicised you won’t be able to get one on them. When you make any decision, people will immediately counter you, with massive strikes, massive protest. Not now that when they even strike for Nigerian people’s benefit. Nigerians are like ‘please stop distracting, we want to eat, there is no oil’. It is the lack of politicisation of the people, they don’t understand sacrifice. Because they don’t understand that they themselves, are a product of sacrifice. Black people have never been invited to the table for anything in our lives. In our entire existence in the system, let me not say in our lives, we’ve ruled everything before. But in our existence in this system, these systems of global white supremacy and imperialism. We have never being invited to the table for anything.
To go to school…struggle, to vote… struggle, to enter the bus… struggle, to be a taxi driver… struggle. To be a doctor… struggle to do anything, to get patent for our own ideas was a struggle. To be independent in our own continent and have our own government. Every single step taken in this system has been a struggle. We are all products of sacrifice. But we believe everybody is coming up with this falsely, I don’t even know how to put it, so cowardly self made, ‘I’m self-made, everybody in Nigeria is self-made. No black person can be self-made.
It is a cowardly statement that you are making because, one; may be you are ignorant and refuse to study where you are in the world and what you really represent, or you are just too selfish to pave forward which is the two categories that every successful African well most successful Africans fall into. Probably 98 percent or 97 percent of successful Nigerians fall into either ignorance or selfish category, because, we are all product of sacrifice and we have to pave forward.
When we are ready, we will fight for every political position in this country. The party must represent the people in every aspect of their lives. President, senate, house of assembly, all the governors, all the state assembly, all the local government counsellor, all the executive chairmen of the state. Look at Buhari for example, his party controls both senate and the house of rep, and he still cannot bring them to order for the benefit of Nigerians. Cause he himself is not about the benefit of Nigerians.
So what happens to the ‘one man setting’? Let’s say… okay let’s say Kingsley Moghalu wins the election, or Fela, Sowore or Obi or any of these people wins the elections. Then what happens, all the sycophants around them, that are doing their aide right now… they all want positions, posts! And that’s the beginning of the end of the government. ‘I want to be minister of oil, why will you be minster of petroleum? Was I not the one that started with Obi’… instead of them to be running their own campaigns, trying to better their own communities… it’s a one-man sycophant, ego trip show… that’s what I see you know… for me that is not the way to go. We can always engage politics in different ways, it is our lack of engaging at all, that is our problem.
I’m not saying don’t vote or vote, it depends, you know… if you have time to go and queue under sun for PVC that is someone’s contract. I don’t know how I can be a citizen and you are telling me I have to register before I can vote, you know… that is an affront on my right, on my alienable right of franchise, that my ancestors have died for. You are now telling me to go and register somewhere again, before I can vote in my own country.
The same kind of bullshit those racist people used to disenfranchise black people in America, I understand all their racist language, because our government who don’t know they are black, they are all racist. When Buhari says ‘oh Nigerian students are lazy, young people in Nigeria are lazy’. If you are exposed to racist lingua in Europe and America, that’s one of their ways of identifying black people- ‘they are lazy’ they are criminals’. That’s what it entails. So, I understand when I hear their master’s voices coming out of their mouth, but we don’t see that… ‘Oh he insulted us that we are like this’ it’s even deeper than him saying that Nigerian youths are lazy and they don’t want to work, It goes deeper… it goes deeper to his own training, his own conditioning, the ideological belief that he has as an Arab superior to the black people that he is dominating here.
So, understanding that is another different level, I mean, look at the north, our northern brothers are still under Arab oppression and subligation till tomorrow. Arabic imperialism is till strong, rife in the north. Which is what this southern elite are trying to attain too here. Trying to become overlords like their northern brothers that don’t have to do anything, to start business and just fleecing the people as the superior people and we continue to, you know… speak their ‘oh I hate Hausa people’ all these kind of nonsense, without really knowing the oppression that they are going through, or understanding them as our brothers.
I mean there are so many things we can point to, that defeat any idea of me engaging in politics as it is. Because, it doesn’t represent anything, I want something that represents me, and I realised that if it’s not going to happen, then may be I have to build it. So, I work towards that.
I’m going to back track a little bit.
So how long have you been working on this, it sounds like you’re going to have a party, a political party.
I don’t know but, you know…
But can you define what this movement is?
Well, it is a movement that is aiming to politicise the people at the moment.
Does it have a name?
Naija resistance movement, we have a website naijaresistance.org. Because I believe that people have to understand their positions; lets take the message to the people, lets evangelise, lets use the same tactics that these imperialist churches, that protects our oppressors, and blame our mothers and our sisters, and our wives and our husbands, and our colleagues, and our friends for the unfortunate events of our lives. Instead of the government and their own financiers. Their tactics will be effective if they go door to door and go and meet people on the street, share their ideas.
So let’s engage them, lets evangelise, let’s go to neighbourhoods, let’s see if young people become inspired. Let’s see if they want to start their own cell, to understand and learn and grow and see things for what it is. So lets build that. Let’s see if we can build more local governments in Nigeria, lets see how long that takes. Let’s get the dedicated few, lets do our best, lets promote it. Let’s not be involved in back politics and looking for you know… that big unnecessary popular contest. Let’s do that; let’s see how far we can go with that.
So will you ever say you are going into politics?
Yes yes yes.. yes. I mean everybody is political, people that say they are not political… when you say you I’m not political, that’s a political statement.
How far would you want to go?
As a chairman of my party; I think a strong party is more important than a strong government. Even in opposition; because when the party is strong, when the ideology of the party is strong and rooted in the corns of the people, It becomes the driving force of the government. The government will not be able to derail from its’ promises to the people. Because the party will check its’ members, its’ officials that it has put in the different positions. Yeah, and people can be called to order. Like if you look at the British politics, you don’t have to rule the election to stop being prime minister.
The party can remove you at any point and replace you, because the party is what has the mandates, not the candidate.
So what would you say, like if you think about Nigeria’s future, are you hopeful?
The immediate future, so in 2019…
No, I don’t really care about the immediate future, you see that’s another thing that oppressors use to hold us back, to discourage us. That’s why there are so many miracles happening in churches, instant gratification. It’s all a tech… I’m telling you! These people employ social engineers; we don’t know what’s going on. We’re just… everybody here is so basic, it’s… it’s frustrating sometimes.
We have to understand what’s happening in this country, these people employ racist social engineers that, come from America, to come and tell them how to keep us oppressed here. The same techniques of gentrification, that’s why we don’t have housing. The same way black people are oppressed with housing all over the world is the same way there is no public housing even in our own countries for us. So these elite can be pricing us whatever they want for rent. Instead of the government to put checks and balances with public housing, cheaper and more available, more attainable for the people, so people can become homeowners, you know.
Instant gratification is one of the means that these government uses to suppress our people, we always want… if it can’t happen now, that mean he’s a failure, you know… that’s… so… I don’t know what to say.
The fact that I’m doing what I’m doing at all, it means I’m winning, that’s it for me. I’m not judging myself by the criteria of my oppressor. My oppressor, is not going to make the rules that will liberate me. I have to now think out of their own narratives, to understand that the rules must be different for me. I cannot play by the same rules of my oppressors.
Well this was very enlightening, I don’t think I have any other questions, cause you’ve probably answered most of it.
But…if you have to advice anyone, you know, who decides to vote, what will you say to them.
I’ll say vote for a Pan-Africanist socialist, don’t vote for any capitalist, that is telling you about private sector. Anybody that just says private sector in their mandate or foreign investments, in any of their this thing… just scamper away from them. Because these are the things that we need to frown away from and stop the lies.
The private sector cannot, save the people of this country, the private sector is the biggest problem of the people in this country. How are our money leaving this country if not through private banks.
The only thing the private sector needs from us is our labour, what do they invest in the people.? How many of them have built libraries for the people, youth centres, parks for the people? How many of them have done anything of giving back to the communities that have made them? They are willing to sponsor some concerts; you know… some basic shit.
But what have they institutionalised for the people? They keep their profit, they take it to Europe and America, buy houses buy some foreign shit to throw in our faces, is that what we want to continue to encourage? No! so let’s look for a government that is discussing about social investments. Investments in the people, that’s another thing, they make you feel as if it’s your fault when you fail. No one has really invested in you to succeed but in the church, they want you to blame your father and your mother. And you know my fellow Africans… that’s the only time Africans gods have power, when they’ve destroyed your life. Suddenly, African gods that don’t have power are so powerful because, your life is going back (Laughs)
So yeah, for me I just want Nigerian people to engage in politics, the way we should, to make our ancestors proud. Those people gave everything for us to be here today, that believed in us so much, that they gave their lives. I mean go and read about how Lumumba was killed. You know… sprayed with hail of bullets, thrown in a whole with acid and all… I mean… with all his aids, you understand.
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Interview: Bella Adeleke
Transcribed by: Betty Nicholas
Photography: Ademola Odusami