Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Fela goes to jail

Not everyone of Fela's twenty seven wives was present to hear the verdict but the expression of sorrow by the three who were in the courtroom summed up the widespread anguish and anger over the jailing of a man who through music has meant so much to so many people in and out of Nigeria.

One of the wives whom Fela refers to as his Queen, Fehintola, who is nursing a two year old child, cried out, "we are finished, who will take care of me and my child?" A second added, "we are finished".

Hundreds of his local fans who thronged the court premises lamented, "the soldiers have finished Fela". His son, Femi, heir apparent to Fela's musical group called Egypt 80, could only mutter "no comment" to journalists while his younger brother, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti who was perspiring profusely in the air-conditioned courtroom, exclaimed, "this is very bad, I'm so shocked, things are getting ridiculous in this country".

Beko continued, "if a person who came into the country with £1,600 and travelling out with 41 persons could be sent to jail, I think it's very unfortunate".

Fela's counsel, Mr Kanmi Ishola-Osobu told journalists he was not satisfied with the judgement and that he would make his feelings known to all legal authorities in the country.

Fela himself, who did not want to add to the sorrows of his wives, admirers and other relations, tried to put up a brave countenance. Grinning broadly from ear to ear he gave a clenched fist salute as he was escorted into a Black Maria van to begin his sentence.

Forty-eight year old Fela Anikulapo- Kuti, King of Afro-beat was jailed last week for ten years by the Port Har- court zone of the currency (Anti sabotage) tribunal. He was convicted for five years on each of a two count charge of currency trafficking and the sentences are to run concurrently.

In addition he was fined N2,000 and the £1,600 found on him was to be forfeited to the Federal Military Government.

Fela was arrested on September 4 at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja where he and his group were bound for a musical tour of the United States.

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