Friday, 5 June 2009

Has Fela's Shrine been closed down?

On the eve of Femi Kuti's tour, which begins in NYC next week, Nigerian authorities have just shut down his Africa Shrine club, much as they often did to Femi's father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The Kutis say the shut-down is retaliation for the criticism Femi has launched, in posters all over Lagos, calling for the return of electricity in his impoverished neighborhood and inciting his neighbours to revolt against the ever-deteriorating conditions prevalent in their increasingly precarious lives.

From Agence France Presse: LAGOS (AFP) Authorities in Nigeria have shut the new Africa Shrine, a music venue built and owned by Femi Kuti, a son of the Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, the family said Thursday. A letter from Lagos authorities dated Monday, accused the Shrine of breaching the state's environmental laws citing “noise nuisance, illegal street trading, indiscriminate parking, blocking of access roads and obstruction of traffic.” Yeni Kuti, a dancer and the eldest child of Fela Kuti, who co-manages the club with Femi, said the state government gave the Kuti family 48 hours “to abate the nuisance and restore the land to a conducive environment” but closed the club less than 24 hours after the delivery of the letter. “I'm shocked, indignant. They dropped the note on Monday evening and the next day at 9:00 a.m. they had closed the place,” she told AFP.

This position is confirmed by today's report in The Independent newspaper.

However, there are conflicting reports which suggest that although the Shrine was shut down by the Nigerian authorities last week, it is now slated to be reopened this weekend. This report goes further to describe the closure/reopening as an example of the "whimsical state of affairs in Nigeria".

What I find irksome is the hypocrisy of the authorities in Nigeria, who rather than address the very real issues that Femi Kuti was trying to highlight, such as erratic electricity supply, seem more concerned with suppressing the expression of discontent.

It is these same authorities who under the pretext of rooting out militants in the oil producing Niger delta region of the country, have callously destroyed entire communities, burned entire towns and villages, deployed helicopter gunships against innocent Nigerian civilians, caused untold suffering to thousands and caused them to abandon their homes and flee into the mangrove swamp and creeks; innocent Nigerians have been killed indiscriminately, thousands of women, children and the elderly.

And yet, the unreliable electricity supply situation that was the subject of Femi Kuti's criticism continues to get worse and the standard of living of the ordinary Nigerian continues to deteriorate. I would be ashamed if I held a position of leadership in the Nigeria of today.

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