I met Lucky Dube, one of the world’s best reggae artistes of all-time in October 2006 in Lagos as a newshound. The encounter was during Felabration, an annual music fiesta in memory of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Today, that memorable meeting still lingers. This is so because it afforded me the opportunity of interviewing this unusual artiste and revolutionary. Dube was indeed, a great musician who lifted spirits across borders with inspirational songs. And among many people of colour, especially with their wide-ranging experiences, he remains one of the most naturally gifted musicians that ever lived.
Nevertheless, that chance meeting, I must confess, had a very strong effect on me. Apart from an aura of mystery which was heightened by his prolificity and prodigious talent as a brilliant composer, performer and recording artiste, what struck me the most, was Dube’s humanity. This rugged reggae legend whose influence extends far beyond South Africa, his birth place, also told me that one of his regrets was that he never met Fela. However, he added that he was happy about Fela’s transformation and the fact that the Afrobeat king’s music and extraordinary life are keeping him alive.
Like Fela, Dube lives.
Last week, the world stood still in remembrance of the unforgettable Dube who earned a folk hero status in his lifetime. He was murdered 14 years ago in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosetenville, South Africa.
Some weeks ago, the world also murdered a Nigerian patriot, Dr. Chike Akunyili, spouse of Professor Dora Akunyili, a woman Nigerians will never forget.
Prior to her appointment as Minister of Information and Culture, Professor Akunyili had served as Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) where her accomplishments remain unequalled.
Without a doubt, this world is a killing field. Every year, nearly 1.7 million people worldwide, lose their lives to violence. The fact that global deaths are from homicide should ordinarily worry everyone, particularly those who rule in the affairs of men. But no one appears to be paying attention to this nightmare of recurrent violence and death, every day and everywhere.
On 17 January, 1961, the world murdered Patrice Lumumba in Lubumbashi. At different times, the human race also killed the dreams and possibilities of many progressive people like Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara, Indira Ghandi, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Benazir Bhutto, Akintunde Ojo, Steve Biko, Dele Giwa, Chima Ubani, Amadou Diallo, George Floyd and others.
On one occasion, this evil world of violence and death brutally attacked and raped Njeeri, wife of Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the renowned African novelist and playwright. This African writer of great masterpieces was also attacked the same night by the hoodlums who broke into their Nairobi home in 2004. Before then, Ngugi had suffered persecution in Kenya for his liberal beliefs.
In 1977, he was jailed by depraved Kenyan politicians for writing and pushing for a better society. At a point, crazy soldiers working for President Daniel Arap Moi, razed a theatre where one of his plays was being staged.
What a demonstration of pure insanity!
In spite of everything, Ngugi remains a committed patriot who has devoted his entire life to serving his country and humanity. He is even prepared to die for Kenya. “There is a saying that we should not let people who do not like what we are doing kill our spirit”, he once noted.
So, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, like Lucky Dube, Akunyili, Lumumba, Che, Kennedy, Sankara, Ghandi, Bhuto, Biko, Diallo, Ojo, Ubani, Giwa, Floyd and others, will live forever. They have already booked a place in the hearts of many with their goodness and sacrifice.
When we die, who remembers us? Like the scoundrels and influence peddlers today in politics, Sani Abacha, the despot, also bought loyalty and adulation. But when he died, Nigerians poured onto the streets to rejoice at the death of an uncommon dictator. This is strange and a taboo in most African societies but it happened in our country. Even some war criminals (combatants and commanders) in the Second Division of the Nigerian Army during the Civil War who were rewarded for crimes with roads and other public infrastructure, are now in the court of public opinion. As they say, the wheels of justice turn slowly but surely. Unless they change, the same fate awaits the unfeeling rulers of Nigeria and their counterparts all over the world who make life unbearable for their citizens. When they die, they will surely be mocked by everyone, including those who cheered while they floundered. And for betraying their countries and citizens, their families and associates will also live in eternal shame.
We know those who will escape the harsh judgement of both God and man. They are the ones we celebrate today and always: our cherished patriots who gave us life and a voice through their exemplary lives and struggles. Many of them are actually unsung but they are unforgettable because they are the heroes of our time. We salute all of them: artistes, artisans, the youth, teachers, activists, writers, caregivers, revolutionaries, philanthropists, genuine ministers of God and others who dared.
We know them, and they will always be remembered for good.