Home Movies Articles FELA YABIS AND HIS ANTI CORRUPTION FIGHT WITH AUTHORITY STEALING ALBUM

FELA YABIS AND HIS ANTI CORRUPTION FIGHT WITH AUTHORITY STEALING ALBUM

Former NTA producer Chris Ngwu sent in this Fela hit of 1980 to remind us of how the Afrobeat superstar fought against corruption, but the authorities carried on unabated

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Fela dropped his 1980 blockbuster AUTHORITY STEALING as he took his anti-corruption war to the next level. That was when the culture of corruption in Nigeria took a new dimension. Imagine if Fela had the support of the Nigerian authorities at the time when the roots of corruption was being consolidated just after the military regime handed power to Shehu Shagari.

General Olusegun Obasanjo was the President then, and Moshood Kashimawo Abiola was at the peak of his ITT communications corporate display of influence in the military, government and private sector. The monstrous level of corruption in Nigeria today would have been curtailed tremendously if anyone in government listened to the lyrics of the Authority Stealing album. The problem of corruption has now brought Nigeria to its knees and no one has any clue how to tame the monster, even President Muhammadu Buhari.

Fela was jailed for absolutely no good reason and there was no option of fine. The long history of animosity between Fela and the authorities beclouded the government officials of the day and the leadership of the country as well, and thus allowed corrupt practices to permeate into the fabric of society. The top musician had just finished a tour of Europe that rounded up in Berlin and there was rumbles within the band’s top echelons. Drummer Tony Allen would not return to Nigeria with Fela after the heavy concert in Berlin.

It was in reaction to the growing trend of massive looting of Federal and state treasuries across the country that Fela wrote the song Authority Steeling while he left the task of managing the band to Lekan Animashaun, his distinguished baritone saxophonist. The rumpus in the Africa 70 band that led to the departure of drummer Tony Allen ended in 1979 and in 1980, the Egypt 80 was born and Fela took the new band on tours around Europe and North America.

This was the period that Fela’s recognition as a top international entertainer was sealed because he got tremendous air play around the world and he no longer had time to play Nigerian shows such as his regular Fela Shrine Showcase of Afrobeat in. It was the song that Fela postulated that THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD, concluding that armed robbery is not corruption’s biggest foe but those who steal with their pens in government offices.

In Authority Stealing, Fela highlights the corruption and theft endemic among Nigeria’s ruling elite and no one cared to listen to the philosophical lyrics: “Authority people them go dey steal public, contribute plenty money, na authority people dey steal, authority man no dey pickpocket, no petty cash him go dey pick; armed robber him need gun, authority man him need pen, authority man in charge of money, him no need gun, him need pen, pen got power gun no get, if gun steal eighty thousand naira, pen go steal two billion naira”.

Wherever Fela is today, he will not be surprised that the level of stealing public money by Nigerians today has increased tremendously. When he wrote that explosive Authority Stealing, the Nigerian government at the time cared little of the damage that corruption was going to do to the wellbeing of Nigerians and the country’s economy.

As the sleeve note on Authority Stealing released in 1980 noted, ‘it is a ferocious and lyrically exalted attacks on the abuse of state power. The album straddles the cusp of the break-up of Africa 70 immediately after the Berlin visit, and the formation of Egypt 80 in spring 1979’.

-ToniDay Column

3 COMMENTS

  1. Nkumogu Obadiah Mbila

    We’re always missing the opportunity of appreciating those who work to transform society. Fella lives!

  2. Fela kuti had said it all even the leaders no the truth! but can’t do the right thing.

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