Anyone who knows about Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and Thomas Sankara cannot help but be awestruck by the only two surviving photographs showing two of the most influential, and inspirational African legends in each other’s company.
It is intriguing just imagining what their conversations must have been like.
There was a dynamic magnetism of sorts which pulled these two extraordinary Africans together.
As we continue to ponder the tantalizing details of their many musings, here are five fascinating commonalities which no doubt brought the two together, and fostered their friendship.
1: BOTH OF THEM WERE REVOLUTIONARIES:
FELA used his music as a voice for the downtrodden, and oppressed citizens of his native Nigeria against their corrupt government leaders, and police brutality.
Never known for subtlety, he blatantly called out government officials by their names; “na Obasanjo be the biggest thief ar don sing about, and Abiola…” translation from Pidgin English: President Obasanjo is a big thief referring to the then President of Nigeria.
He also came up with an acronym for corrupt government officials; ITT meaning ‘International Thief Thief’.
This put him at odds with the government who arrested him over 200 times.
He was beaten mercilessly by government authorities, and imprisoned many times he had several of his ribs fractured whilst in custody.
SANKARA was revolutionary with his vision of divorcing Burkina Faso in particular, and Africa in general from what he deemed an unfair partnership with the western world.
He wanted Africa to be independent.
He condemned imperialism, and insisted his countrymen grow their own foods, and wear their own clothes.
He was defiant about not accepting foreign aid
or paying back loans from the IMF, but most importantly not being in debt with them in the future.
2: BOTH HAD NAME CHANGES:
FELA was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti.
He later changed is name to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
He dropped the Ransome from his name because he deemed it to be a slave name.
He instead took the name Anikulapo which means “he who carries death in his pouch”.
A reminder to him that death, dissent, and revolution sometimes go hand in hand.
SANKARA changed the name of his Country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso which means ‘land of the incorruptible people’.
He understood the psychology of people living up to titles, and labels, and he wanted his people to know that they can be virtuous, and upright citizens.
3: BOTH LOVED MUSIC AND PLAYED INSTRUMENTS:
FELA played many instruments including trumpet, electric guitar, solo drum, keyboard.
There is a story of him falling out with his saxophonist, then spent 17 hours teaching himself how to play the saxophone, and later performed to a full audience.
SANKARA played the guitar. He loved music.
His hobbies were listening to music, playing his guitar, and riding his bicycle.
4: BOTH FORMED POLITICAL PARTIES:
FELA formed the Movement of the People party, and ran unsuccessfully for President.
SANKARA took power after a bloodless coup, and formed his own government.
5: BOTH CREATED LASTING LEGACY FOR THE OTHER:
SANKARA ordered the main TV station in his Country to make a documentary about the life & trials of Fela for the world to see.
FELA wrote his longest song, ‘Underground System’ as a tribute to his most admired friend, Sankara.
The song was 28 minutes long.
He touted Sankara as the only Leader in Africa at that time who spoke the truth, was incorruptible, and had the best plans for Africa.
Before he completed the song, Sankara was assassinated in 1987 aged 33 years old during term as President of Burkina Faso.
He mourned him, and rewrote the end of the song asking what will become of Africa now after Sankara’s assassination?
Fela himself passed away on August 3 1997.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
These pictures convey the unshakeable friendship, loyalty, and admiration of two like minded Revolutionaries.
May their legacies continue to live on.