By Richard Akinnola
Bankole Osunla (Fela’s aide): Fela, you dey fear? Fela: (Awaiting court ruling on his bail application at the Federal High court, Ikoyi, Lagos) Why l go fear court? Court wey judge go dey sleep.
Na so so lie dem dey talk for court, all these lawyers dem…Kanmi dem people. Police go arrest accuse for Mushin. Dem go call I.P.O. wey no dey dia when the accuse thief o, as witness. E no dey dia o, but police go say na prosecution witness.
Lawyer go go London and India to go cite case wey happen for 1900 for the thing wey happen for Mushin in 1984. And the judge wey go judge case dey live for Ikoyi. Which kain justice be dat?
That was vintage Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. The iconoclast, who made over 300 court appearances in his lifetime, charged with all manner of criminal offences by the State, over his fight for social justice, using his music as the instrument of protest….
Providence had played a fast one on Fela while serving his jail sentence in Maiduguri prisons. Fela had taken ill and was rushed to Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
The time was 8.30pm when one of the nurses quietly announced to him that he had visitors. And two men sauntered in. He tried to seize them up. One of them was the Chief Superintendent of Maiduguri prison, Mr. P. Goji, while the second was Justice Gregory Okoro-Idogu, the Chairman of the Tribunal that sent him to prison for 5 years.
He could understand that Goji came to see him but Fela was at a loss on what could have brought Justice Okoro-Idogu to him. Fela’s thoughts were interrupted by the judge who told Fela that he (the judge) came to apologize for jailing him, stating that Fela was not guilty of the offence but that he (the judge) was under considerable pressures from the Buhari/Idiagbon junta to jail him.
And as a follow-up to this visit, Okoro-Idogu promised to put up a letter to President Ibrahim Babangida to grant him unconditional pardon.
A flustered Fela could only manage a smile, happy that at last, he had been vindicated and hoping that his days in prison were numbered.
But it was hope deferred as Fela on January 8, 1986, four months after his encounter with Okoro-Idogu, was transferred to Benin prison.
Appreciative of the facilitative role that Goji played in the Okoro-Idogu visit, Fela kept in touch with the prison officer, thanking him for his assistance, a gesture that Goji reciprocated.
Meanwhile, Fela had notified his younger brother, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti of Okoro-Idogu’s visit and confession. And through Fela’s lawyers, Kanmi Ishola-Osobu and Femi Falana, a petition was written to the Justice Akinola Aguda panel.
The Justice Akinola Aguda panel was set up the Babangida administration to review the cases of those jailed under the Buhari/ Idiagbon regime.
Letters Between Fela and Goji January 9, 1986
“My dear Mr. Goji,
“I arrived safely in Benin yesterday. First, I deem it fit to express my gratitude to you for your deep concern for my plight while I was at the Maiduguri prisons. Your actions reinforced my belief that although we operate in a system that alienates us from one another, there are a few decent men in uniform who are ever ready to assist their fellow countrymen and women when in difficulty.
Secondly, I sincerely thank you for arranging (the) visit of 24/9/85 between Justice Okoro-Idogu and myself. As you would have noted that day, I appreciated the visit. In fact, it was more significant than any other visit I had since I was jailed. The reason being that it provided me an opportunity to learn through the Chairman of the tribunal which convicted me that I committed no offence under the law of the land.
I really felt on top of the world when he told me I was not an economic saboteur but a victim of circumstance. As I told Justice Okoro-Idogu, I no longer see myself as a convict but a detainee who would soon regain his well-deserved freedom.
Could you give my regards to his lordship and find out if he has fulfilled his promise to petition the president in respect of my case. It will be appreciated if this can be done as soon as possible as my case is fixed for January 31st, 1986, for review.
Once again I thank you very much for your concern over my plight. Extend my heartfelt greetings to all the inmates and your hard working officials who I miss very dearly.
I would appreciate if I can have a reply through bearer. I hope your kids and wife are fine.
Yours sincerely, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
“My dear Fela.
Thanks so much to God for the safe arrival of you and my staff made (sic) from here to Benin.
May I mention here, too, that Mr. Fidelis and his men were very happy with you while you were on your way to Benin prison; that is of course a sense of maturity in you, indeed I was very happy for the cooperation you gave them on the way.
I shall certainly find out from the judge if he has actually done what he promised you whenever he is in Maiduguri.
Greetings from Fidelis, and new ASP and the rest of the staff and our entire inmates.
I wish you God (sic) blessings and more especially when your case comes up for review.
I hope and pray that you will give our colleagues at Benin prison the same cooperation while with us here in Maiduguri.
Other Fela’s letters from Prison: Ikoyi Prisons 9/11/84
My dear Beko,
This is to inform you that I was brought back to Ikoyi Prisons as soon as judgement was delivered in my case yesterday. I am already trying to adjust myself to this environment.
I appreciate the immense efforts made by you and the entire family to ensure that I was not jailed. But unfortunately, such efforts were not rewarded. I was deeply moved when I saw your eyes flowing with tears yesterday. I saw you shedding tears for a land where people who are on the side of the oppressed are gaoled.
Honestly, Beko I had to restrain myself from joining you in weeping for our country at her dark hour. You know my tears would have been interpreted to mean a triumph for the ruling class. I am sure you would have wept more to read in their papers, stories like Fela weeps on way to jail.
If they think keeping me here for five years would silence me and make me compromise my ideological stand, they are deceiving themselves. As a matter of fact, I don’t see how I can be here for five years for no just cause. One day, we may have to break these walls and set free those who have no business here!
Could you please tell my fans that I appreciate their support at this critical period in my life. Tell them as well that I will never never stop fighting. This (jail) only makes me stronger and I hope it gives my people more courage to do their own part in our struggle. I am not unhappy because greater men like Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah have gone through this before.
I was very happy to learn this morning that Egba women took to the streets yesterday to protest against excessive levies being imposed on them. They even went to mama’s grave to pray to her to guide them in the struggle ahead. You may dismiss this as superstition but it means much to the women.
Once again, I thank you for your brotherly concern for my plight. Could you please try and arrange to visit me so that we can discuss my band, business and household which responsibility has fallen on your shoulders. We are allowed visits once a month.
My regards to brother Koye and the entire family. Tell Kanmi and Femi Falana to see me urgently.
Thanks. Your brother, Fela.
Kirikiri Prison 21/11/84
My dear Beko,
Help me find one of my books -”Fela: This Bitch of a Life” and send it to me quickly. I will need more “goro” by next week, don’t forget.
I am feeling quite fine but no one can really feel happy in prison, but we are trying.
Your loving brother,
Kirikiri Prison 9/1/85.
To Whom It May Concern:
I hereby give my brother, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti the authority and power of attorney to open a bank account on my behalf.
I have written a few notes to you and I am sure you read them by now. If you have brought some provisions for me, leave them, I will get them. Also leave some more money for me.
I have heard most of the news about you and the (NSO) raid in your house. We get some news sometimes, especially when it concerns me, and also about the coup.
I am sure you were dealing very well with those people before they were toppled. I am quite fine and I am taking everything and everyday with some new dynamic spirit.
When you watch these people small, then you can start to press for my release. But I also think they will do something. Send me about N100 to celebrate the fall of Idiagbon.
Things are not so bad here, as a matter of fact, I have got used to the place. I don’t even know what to say any more. Greet everyone for me, brother Koye, Nike and all.
Sorry about my writing. I was awoken from sleep. I am awake all night and sleep all day. That’s a good thing for me in prison. Good luck.
Your loving brother,
My dear Beko,
I hope you arrived safely. Oh! It is ridiculous to be in prison as you have to feed yourself.
What is really wrong is that my mind is outside. All I hear is that it will be soon, soon, soon! How should a prisoner feed himself? This country and justice. My delay in prison and all.
Beko, it is this week that people should know that the judge who jailed me has begged me. I am tired of this punishment. What am I doing here? I am not guilty. The judge has begged me. They have to make a statement whether I finish my jail term – which is injustice – or they release me now. Otherwise the world must know say the judge don beg me.
I hope to see you soon.
Your loving brother,
EXCERPTS FROM AFFIDAVIT SWORN TO BY BEKO RANSOME-KUTI IN SUPPORT OF HIS PRAYERS FOR FELA’S RELEASE
In the judicial tribunal of inquiry to review cases of persons convicted under decrees Nos. 7 and 20 of 1984.
I, Beko Ransome-Kuti male, Nigerian, medical practitioner and residing at 6. Imaria Street, Anthony Village, Lagos State, make oath and say as follows:
* That I am the younger brother of the convict/applicant, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, whose authority I have to swear to this affidavit.
* That the convict/applicant was convicted and sentenced to a 5-year jail term on Thursday, November 8, 1984, by the Port Harcourt Zone of the Exchange Control (Anti-Sabotage) Tribunal.
* That the convict/applicant was also ordered to forfeit the sum of £1,600 and pay the sum of N2,000 to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
* That the convict/applicant informed me and I verily believe him that he is completely innocent of the 2-count charge for which he was convicted.
* That the convict/applicant informed me and I verily believe him that the decision to imprison him had been taken by the Buhari regime before the commencement of his trial. Attached herewith and marked exhibit “FA” is the photocopy of my protest letter addressed to the former Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Ibrahim Babangida.
* That although the defunct Supreme Military Council had no power to confirm the convict/applicant’s sentence, it did so on the ground that the convict/applicant had the temerity to acknowledge cheers from the crowd on the day he was convicted. Attached herewith and marked Exhibit “FD” is the photocopy of my letter addressed to the former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters.
* That efforts to send a written appeal to the former head of state before the confirmation of the convict/applicant’s sentence were deliberately frustrated by the tribunal which withheld copies of the judgement from the convict/applicant’s counsel despite repeated demands. Attached herewith and marked Exhibit FE” is the photocopy of the letter addressed to the tribunal by the convict/applicant’s counsel.
* That while the convict/applicant was serving his jail term, the deposed Buhari regime set for itself the task of harassing and intimidating all those who were considered close to the convict/applicant.
* That the convict/applicant who was on admission from the prison in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH for bleeding from peptic ulcer since January 1985 was forcibly removed from the hospital against doctors’ protest by members of the Nigerian Security Organisation, NSO, aided with armed soldiers on April 25, 1985.
* That the convict/applicant was subsequently transferred to the Maiduguri Prisons in Borno State where he was completely denied medical attention despite his deteriorating health.
*That the convict/applicant was also refused normal visits from members of his family on the grounds that he was not only a convict but a detainee held under Decree 2 of 1984.
That the convict/applicant informed me and I verily believe him that the former chairman of Port Harcourt Zone of the Exchange Control (Anti-Sabotage) Tribunal, Mr. Justice Gregory Okoro-Idogu, visited him on the 24th September. 1985, at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital where his lordship told the convict/applicant that his tribunal convicted him due to pressures from some members of the former Supreme Military Council. Attached herewith and marked Exhibit ‘FG’ is the photocopy of the affidavit of facts deposed to by Mr. Femi Bankole Osunla.
*That the convict/applicant informed me and I verily believe him that he did not and would never sabotage the economy of his fatherland, Nigeria.
*That as part of his personal efforts to fight economic sabotage through currency trafficking, the convict/applicant has a record titled Army Arrangement where the convict/applicant sang: “…foreign currency scandal, dem start to arrest efrybody: doctors, lawyers, hustlers, engineers, photographers; all of them in Kirikiri; 10 to 15 years in jail; after one inside jail, civilian gofment take over: dem release all of them; dem say dey be innocent.”
*That the over 200 dependants who look towards the convict/applicant for their up-keep have suffered untold hardship since he was jailed.
Fela was eventually released