‘Why we need to engage in dialogue over our oppressors’
Seun Anikulapo Kuti is the son of the late music legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. In this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE, the convener of Nigerian Resistance Movement (NRM) disclosed his plan to use his new organisation to dialogue with the Nigerian masses and the professionals that constitute the middle class how to achieve real freedom in Nigeria.
What is the motivating factor behind your new initiative?
Nigerian Resistance Movement (NRM) aims to serve as an answer to the oppressive state in the Nigerian society. It is targeted at educating the people on how we can address our challenges collectively by bringing forward different ideas and strategies we can use to counter our oppressors. The organisation is not aiming at making our oppressors feel comfortable with what they are doing, but will create an avenue where ‘we’ the disenfranchised of this country, could truly realise our power, strength and purpose. Every generation that exists is called for a purpose and it is the choice of that generation to either embrace or ignore its purpose.
Do you intend to intervene through your music or is this going to follow the human rights approach?
I’m an African and no matter your background; this is another thing that the Nigerian Resistance Movement wants to establish in the psyche of the Nigerian people. This is one of the things our organisation really wants to tackle in our own psyche as a people of Nigeria, and not only here but in Africa and those in the Diaspora. It is not our profession that truly defines us as a people that must be engaged; our profession does not have to define how much we engage with our society and the structure that governs our existence. We African people, more than any other group in this world, are products of sacrifice.
I mean, in this capitalist globally system running the world today, black people are the only group that are never invited to the table for anything. For some reasons, it pays our leaders or rather our ‘mis-leaders’ and oppressors, who are the business and political elite, to completely misdirect the attention of the people from these facts to make us feel as if we are part of a big happy family that we are back benchers in this world; but we are just excluded. We as black people started as commodity in this system; our lives and that of our children are commodity. So, it took a lot of sacrifice to bring us out of that level to where we are now. And I say to people that it is not until we understand that every single step that we are taking as a black people is as a result of struggle.
For instance to go to school, we struggle to get education, to gain vote, to get transportation, to be lawyers, doctors and anything that exist in this system. Even this our land, for us to sit down like this in our land as free men conducting interview as a journalist with a musician, was a struggle. Without the late former President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkruma, no African man can sit down as we are now in Africa. That’s the reason we have boycotters in every building where they use to put us in those days. For me, it is not about what I do for a living that inspires my engagement with the society; maybe I’m fortunate enough to come from a family that has instilled such understanding of my position in me in this world. I think that’s what is missing in a lot of Africans; we are all too lackadaisical about our existence. We are not deliberate enough with our existence and I feel that is such a shame because as African people a lot have been done and a lot of blood have been spilled for us to be here today.
Can you define the enemies you are referring to?
In Nigeria, our primary oppressors are our businessmen and political elite; be it in the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Our elite are in the banking, oil and gas, real estate and others. Everybody controlling anything in this nation is an extractor thereby making them an oppressor.
How do you intend to use this organisation to engage them?
The first thing is that I want Nigerians to realise that it is the day you decides to become the enemy of your oppressor, that’s the day you stop being his victim and that is what is necessary in this country. For example, have we asked ourselves in this country why since 1960, the more legal practitioners we create into our society, the less justice we have? The more doctors we create the worse medical healthcare we have? People are nostalgic about the 1970s when it comes to health care, how come we have more doctors now and less healthcare? How come we have more police and less security, how come we have more schools and less education? These are the questions we want to post to the system; we want to analyse this system as a dialogue with the Nigerian people.
I don’t want to approach Nigerians with the slogans and rhetoric or my vision, no. The Nigerian people must have a dialogue among ourselves, excluding those that are anti dialogical as Paulo Freire said in the book titled, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. As people, we must come together to create our dialogue on how we want to move our lives forward and this is important because, it is no longer a joke watching millions of Nigerians suffering. Many Nigerians today have no future and their children are dying. So, this is also a dialogue we want to engage not only with the grassroots, but also with the professionals. It baffles me that Nigerians professionals have not been able to engage the government because poor people cannot feed their children. The Nigerian professionals have not gone on strike because poor people cannot send their children to school, though we all claim to be Nigerians. Where is the allegiance to the people? That is one thing that makes the African elite different to the whites because they don’t owe any allegiance to the people. The allegiance that we the professionals ought to have shown to the people is unfortunately been shown to the oppressors. We are wiling to serve them because the pay the bills, helping them to cover their evils and laundered looted funds and things like that. These are the things we professionals in the country must answer for and say within ourselves that from now on, we want to align with the people and not with the oppressors of the people.
If you take into consideration what has happened to those who embarked on this similar engagement you are about to start, do you factor in the likely consequences?
As I said earlier, I’m a product of sacrifice, so where do I draw the line? What did my grandmother do before the military threw her out of the window? The woman that freed Nigeria, that was how Nigeria paid her back. This is the woman that handed the letter of independence of this country to our white oppressors, to our colonial masters to say we are fed up of being under you. And less than 29 years after she did that, the military trained by these white oppressors, threw her out of the window. Many people don’t see the connections and understand that the Nigerian military is the black people that were willing to kill other black people to further western interest in Africa. They are the people that we inherited as military and they became our leaders.
The same people, who just less than 50 years ago working as the protectors of white people against black yeaning for liberation, became our leaders. The West African Frontier Force decimated black people following British orders and quelling anti colonial oppressors in all of Africa. Now, 20 years after they did that, the same military became the political rulers in all of Africa and not only in Nigeria. For me to now sit down and say that they will throw me in jail does not matter. They did worse to the late Nkrumah of Ghana and they did the worse to my father, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti and I told you that they threw my grandmother out of the window. In terms of saying safety and things like that is not really in the equation. I use to tell people that, even if you are not engaging in struggle, the fact that you are a Nigerian makes your life to be at a risk. Many Nigerians are dying as we speak just to get their daily bread, so, it’s all about what you value.
Have you also put into consideration the possibility of being betrayed by those you want to engage?
Well Thomas Sankara was betrayed by Campore, who was his best friend and almost his brother. You knew what Sankara said when he was confronted with the fact that Campore wanted to betray him? He said, ‘If my brother decides to betray me, what can I do?’ The issue is that many people were programmed in the Western epistemology and they have the platonic mindset. In the recent past, I have been trying to reprogram my own mind away from this platonic way of reasoning because winning is very important for the platonic thinker.
Do you foresee a violent revolution happening in Nigeria if the present situation persists?
I think there is already violence in Nigeria; there’s already violence against the poor in Nigeria, it is just the way its been handled. Unfortunately, we have a complicit media and then the religious and education institutions are all also on the side of our oppressors. If not, revolution is not conflict but change. Resistance is the conflict; resistance is what creates conflict when the oppressors push and the people pushed back then is resistance and that is what the oppressors doesn’t want.
They want to push and you just take it. And for Nigerians to continue to be afraid of violence means we don’t really respect our lives. For instance, the way the telecommunication industry operates in Nigeria is violence against the masses; the price of Internet compare to what we earn in Nigeria is a violent act. The conditions banks attached to loans that they give to the middle class people for whatever purpose, that will nearly turn them to slaves of the bank, is a violence act. The lacks of home and the fact that there are no public houses in the 21 year of democracy of this Fourth Republic, is a violence act. The massive corruption in education in Nigeria is a violence act against Nigerians. Violence is not until blood is spill, but it is an act of aggression. So, for the government to suddenly hide under the lie that Omoyele Sowore is calling for a violent revolution is part of the violence against the masses. It is not revolution they are afraid of, but the resistance. To avoid these kinds of situations is reason behind my creating Nigeria Resistance Movement. For instance, there’s nothing greater than salary in Nigeria and we must find a way to get something that is greater.
How do you incorporate the agitation for the restructuring of Nigeria into your movement?
The idea of restructuring or not is a part of the issue dragging this country down. When some people say that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable it is a ‘coon speak.’ You know what the Americans call a ‘coon? Someone that shakes in front of a Whiteman. It is coon speak for what the Whiteman has put together let no black man put asunder. How many black people were involved in the creation of Nigeria? How can we continue to live in a country where I don’t know why it was created? The blueprint is not in our hands and we that know why Nigeria was created to extract resources and exploit labour we are saying that Nigeria is doing that which it was created for. This machine call Nigeria did not exist until a 100 years ago and it was created for a reason because every creation has purpose.
Nigeria is a special black African country and the whites know exactly what they are doing. We should be discussing the actual viability of Nigeria and not only restructuring, the actual historical purpose of Nigeria and that is why Nigeria cannot be developed but only be modernised. Let me tell you, modernisation simply makes the white man richer. For example, no matter the number of highways you constructed, if the people of that country don’t know how to build it, the road doesn’t exist.It is not only about restructuring, but the totality of what is wrong with Nigeria and we as a people is what NRM is about to engage the professionals and other in dialogue.