3 Times Fela’s Music Activism Impacted #EndSARS

Music is one of the expressive mediums that has given a voice to the long-overdue struggle to end the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

“For many years, SARS has become identified with a dark cloud of terror as a series of well-documented cases of abuse including extortion, torture, harassment and extra-judicial murder have moved from being whispers to yet another ill for Nigerians to grapple with. If you listen closely, there’s a pushback and it is soundtracked by shouts of defiance, angst & a slew of pop culture insertions,” Franklin Ugobude writes.

Artistes such as Runtown, Falz, Femi Kuti, Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy to mention a few, have been at the forefront of the resistance. This resistance, some have claimed, reminds them of the Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Fela, the pioneer of Afrobeat, is an icon that stood in the gap with his music, as he consistently highlighted the ills of those in authority and sought to put an end to it even if it meant constant torture from the incumbent governments. He continued to remain true to his words and gave a voice to the people.

With countless songs such as “E no go finish,” “No Agreement,” “Shuffering and Shmilling,” “Authority stealing” in his repertoire, he laid siege to any and every misconduct at the helm of leadership and was unapologetic for it. Fela went down being an adherent revolutionary. But besides this, it appears that he may also have had an enormous influence in being the voice of this generation for his songs seem to have foretold the present happenings or did it?

No agreement now, later, never, never and ever
No agreement never, no agreement never
No agreement today, no agreement tomorrow

Starting on the Nigerian youths who have taken to the streets to protest the non-negotiable end of SARS, no reform, no leniency, just the direct scrap of the unit, protests have been held in Abuja, Osun, Ogun, Anambra, Delta, Abia, Enugu, Kaduna and the centre of the protests; Lagos. The government had given plans on how they hope to address this foresight by ensuring the rogue offenders face the full arm of the law and creating hotlines for citizens to report excesses of uniformed men but the lyrics of Fela Kuti’s song explain the unbending disposition of the Angry Nigerian Youth- no agreement at all.

Make you hear this one
War against indiscipline, ee-oh
Na Nigerian government, ee-oh
Dem dey talk ee-oh
“My people are us-e-less, My people are sens-i-less, My people are indiscipline”

Fela in this song eulogises the age-old patterned response of the government contextually. Youths have been the target on the basis of committing cyber fraud with this police unit stopping and searching phones without a warrant. You can almost expect these rehearsed answers when people question the ideology behind this.

EndSARS protests. Credit @_thegramboii

Baba Fela talk am
But e no finish e no finish e no finish oh oh
When e go finish
Baba Fela talk am
But e no finish e no finish e no finish eh eh
My brother when e go finish

An excerpt from “E No Finish” from the Album Moral Instruction by Falz shows that in our time, some individuals have become proactive and imbibe the fighting spirit of the great Fela. From hits like “This is Nigeria,” “Talk” and “E no Finish,” Falz has stayed true to by upholding truth wherever he finds it.

Music is finding greater purpose than entertainment in the hearts of the young. Placards are being raised high chanting the words #EndSARSNow. Once upon a time, Fela said about Nigerians, “my people are scared of the air around them, they always have an excuse not to fight for freedom” but something has changed with our generation and history will tell it began with the lives and chants screaming #EndSARS now.

So when will the problems we keep talking about end? Will our voices ever be heard? The answer is the question in itself. When our voices are heard.

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