Chief, High Chief, Otunba, LL.D Honoris causa… despite having lived in an era fraught with the pervasiveness of tawdry titles dumped on “achievers” in the community and Nigeria at large, they chose not to answer any.
My reflection is directed at the illustrious Kuti family of Abeokuta, Ogun State in the South-Western part of Nigeria. In the banality of the news of the recent demise of the last of the Ransome-Kuti brothers – Dr. Bekololari Ransome-Kuti, the need arises to pause, extract and internalise the latent lessons with which the lives of these brothers – Olikoye, Olufela and Bekololari, present.
Olikoye, Professor, Consultant Paediatrician and former Federal Health Minister in Nigeria chose the stoical manner of exemplary service, even under a junta which institutionalised corruption. I am positive that during “cerebral” deliberations at which his fellow Federal Cabinet colleagues exchanged ideas on the safest means to embezzle public funds, “settle” the birds that may “sing” and siphon their loot to foreign accounts he was excluded, as he had no value-added capabilities in that regard.
Fela, the music maestro, iconoclast and maverick, chose not to be stoical. He foresaw today’s Nigeria over two decades ago, on the premises of the goings-on at that time and through his music, made efforts at sensitising Nigeria about what would become of the economy and the lot of the common man if the “perambulation” continued that way. It would take a treatise to recount his “reward” from successive regimes in their bid to suppress the Voice of the voiceless. He remained undaunted till death, as his most acerbic works were unrecorded. Needless to say, he is more appreciated and honoured outside Nigeria. Suffice to state that his Legend is celebrated the world over, from intellectual discourse on Felasophy in Doctoral theses in diverse universities and institutions, among others, to world-acclaimed exhibitions and performance of his Works.
For Beko, though a medical doctor by training, it was a life of selfless activism. Right through the course of his life, he cursed the oppressors for the cause of the common man and from Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) to Campaign for Democracy (CD) to Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO, to the Committee for Constitutional Governance (CCG) to the Ethnic Nationalities Forum (ENF), to the Citizens Forum (CF), he fought doggedly in the face of government incarceration and bullying with the characteristic spirit-cannot-be-killed fortitude.
Indeed, it is startling to fathom how these brothers led their individual lives, each in his atypical manner, in the bid to change the lot of the ordinary man in Nigeria for the better. Truth is, siblings in most families (even mine) would have called one another to ‘order’, explaining the futility of such endeavour. No, not the Kuti brothers. They fought individually and many times, collectively. Beko was steadfast in agitating for Fela’s freedom and vice-versa, anytime the Tarantula Spider’s web caught either. What resolve!
I was not personally close to any of the three and I do not pretend or make representations in that regard; all I know about them is garnered from my observation in my status as the everyday, ordinary man in Nigeria, for whom these three lived. Indubitably, I would be speaking the minds of the relatively few progressives in describing them as highly intellectual, but unassuming, with exceptional humility, exuding palpably, a depth of understanding that “you cannot be rich when everyone else is poor”. These attributes somehow cut across the Kuti brothers.
For some now – the despicable negative forces and cogs in the wheel of advancement, who do not even merit the honour of acknowledgement in my writing or in print, it is, a sigh of relief. They will eulogise in condolence registers and give obsequious speeches, only for personal and political aggrandisement. Donning their usual façade, they have begun screeching for a “befitting” funeral for Beko.
We remain undeceived by this despicable lot. What they actually mean is “good riddance” to the voice of sincere and untainted Opposition (a duty ordinarily meant for a crop of Legislators, now turned Legislooters). A “befitting” funeral? No, thank you. Beko would sure have appreciated a befitting life for himself and the down-trodden at large.
Until the visualisation of Beko and certainly his other two brothers, of a Nigeria that gives a damn about its citizenry is achieved, government-assisted “befitting” funerals in these circumstances will be an utter squander. These Titans of Freedom are our own heroes; leave us to mourn them. We will bury them. We reject the “assistance” of those that suppressed them. Requesting no formal invitation (if there ever was such), I traveled over 120 kilometres to attend Fela’s funeral in 1997, by myself and for myself. We know to whom we owe.
Their bodies are gone, but the Kuti Brothers live on!