Between Peter Okoye and Seun Kuti, By Ayo Adene

Only one of these is an actual musician.
In the way music and musicians are rated, you have to have proficiency in at least one instrument. Otherwise, you may be more appropriately called a performer, or an entertainer.

In that sense, only one of the two men has been known to perform live on an instrument, even since childhood.
In particular, the globally acclaimed ensemble of other professional musicians, who had earlier played instruments for Fela, called Egypt 80, elected Seun Kuti as its bandleader, when he was just 14 years old.

I have had the good fortune, at several different times, to see P Square, the duo that includes Peter Okoye, and Seun Kuti, outside Nigeria.

I must confess, that the audiences that attend both types of events are different, one from the other.
I will not say much more than that.

What differentiates the two audiences may be the different ticket costs charged, hence the social class of those who may attend.
Elite venues are associated with one of these 2 artistes in particular, not the least, the premises of the Swedish committees for the Nobel Prize ceremonies.

One has observed that only one of these 2 artistes regularly graces such exclusive venues where people of rare and refined tastes adjudge what is music, and what is a little less.
And that artist is not, Peter Okoye.

In fact, in these sophisticated gatherings, patrons might be forgiven for believing only one of the two artists is a musician,
and the other mistaken for an aspiring mathematician probably seeking mentorship about finding square roots.

In 2019, Seun Anikulapo-Kuti was nominated in the ‘World Music Award’ category of the 61st Grammy Awards. As Grammy magic goes, he was not the winner: but he was a featured performer on the usually tight roster, and the only Nigerian artist to perform.

It is not known whether the Grammy organizers are aware that P Square or Peter Okoye exist. On the other hand, Seun Kuti’s current single African Dreams is already charting worldwide on at least 5 US & UK radio stations.

On a final note.
It has been alleged that Seun Kuti has fallen far from the footsteps of his father.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Unlike some other artists who only perform for politicians, the Kuti family perform against politicians.

They go one step further: the Kuti family is not collecting money from politicians, but spending money on politics.

Let’s go back 3 generations.

In 1944, Seun’s grandma, a sophisticated schoolteacher & businesswoman named Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti organized the first feminist political party: a group of 20000 young girls and women into the Abeokuta Women’s Union.
Under ruthless colonial rule, the new party challenged colonial rule, opposed price controls and imposition of direct taxation.
They engaged in press campaigns and mobilized public opinion.

By 1947, Seun’s grandma was arrested by the British forces as she led the Abeokuta Women’s Union in laying down plans for a systematic programme of mass protest.

Tear gassed and beaten, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti began teaching women how to protect themselves from the effects of tear gas and how long they had to throw the canisters back at the authorities.
Kuti’s fearlessness emboldened more women to join, and doubling her movement, Seun’s grandma led 50, 000 women to the palace of Alake of Egba, Oba Ademola, who was a colonial stooge.
She confronted the dreaded all-male Ogboni cult, and deposed the King.

By 1947, Ransome-Kuti had outlined the AWU’s aims and objectives in a document, called The AWU’s Grievances, one of the sub-headings in which was “Stripped Naked”.

Seun’s grandma often spoke to British district officials with the AWU slogan “no to taxation without representation”.
At the meetings, she would speak in the Yoruba language, leaving officials scrambling for an interpreter.
Under Ransome-Kuti’s leadership, the AWU snowballed into a more national Federation of Nigerian Women’s Union (NWU).

Then, Nnamdi Azikiwe of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), who would later become Nigeria’s first president, invited Ransome-Kuti to travel to Britain to meet the secretary of state, Sir Arthur Creech Jones.
She was the only woman in the seven-person delegation on board the Almanzora, which set sail from Lagos on June 26.

The British wanted voter suffrage to be a male-only affair, and their Executive Council was populated with British officials, excepting only one Nigerian, who was an unofficial member.
But under Kuti’s leadership, the right to vote, which we now take for granted, was expanded to women in the MacPherson Constitution, and to her credit, only applied in southern Nigeria.

Seun’s grandma was the only woman to deliberate on the proceedings at the provincial level of the General Constitutional Conference that produced the 1951 MacPherson Constitution.

On the eve of independence, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti stood in the primaries for a federal parliamentary seat and won, to the chagrin of the authorities.

She was later knocked out at the intermediary level by the controversial, northern dominated three-level electoral college.

She contested a second time but was thwarted by the NCNC party’s male dominated caucus.

Defiant, she quit the NCNC that same year and registered her own party, the Commoners’ People’s Party.

Following her prodigious footsteps, Funmilayo’s famous son Fela, formed his own political party, The Movement of the People, or M.O.P, in 1979.

Fela’s party was the first Nigerian left-wing pan-African political movement, rallying indigenous principles of Nkrumahism and Africanism. For Nigeria’s first elections after the deadly civil war, the MOP nominated Fela as its candidate, with wide grassroots support, but the powers that be refused his candidature.

And, while some other artists sang songs from the comfort of their studios, the scion of the 100 year old Kuti tradition, Seun Kuti, recently revived MOP to support the Nigerian End SARS protests in October 2020.
Since then, Seun’s MOP has rallied both local and continental recognition, among its target population of ideological active youth, even allying with the similarly designed Economic Freedom Front (EFF) in South Africa.

This is a present day historical reality that people who talk what they can’t back up need to provide counter receipts for or take several seats and mind their music.

Seun Kuti puts his money and time where his mouth is, and where the mouth of every Kuti has been since his great grandfather Josiah Jesse Ransome Kuti, under Warner Music Group, became Nigeria’s 1st Recorded Artiste in 1925,
or since his Uncle Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti publicly diagnosed the first case of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, in a 13-year old girl in 1986,
and since his other uncle Dr Bekolari Ransome-Kuti, resisting military dictatorship, helped form Nigeria’s first human rights organisation, the Campaign for Democracy, in 1993.

But Seun doesn’t rely any of these credits: he is easily recognized on a first name basis, even though as he himself said, there are thousands of other Seuns in his locality.
One seriously doubts whether the contender can lay solitary claim to the name Peter.

One has often been reminded that there are at least 3 Nigerians you mustn’t talk anyhow to: Daddy Freeze, Bobrisky and Seun Kuti.
Anyone who incites their ready answers will likely have themselves to blame, and retire in shame.

On the other hand, where Seun comes from, the revered cultural ideology of omoluabi demands us to engage debate with deep thought and ready answers.

To be Ọmọlúàbí means asserting Ọ̀rọ̀ Sísọ, that is, spoken word, the predilection for intelligent and expert use of language, as well as ọpọlọ pípé, or erudition as expressed by sharp wit.

The classy factor is how we are able to be witty without being rude, countering brash sentiment with factual point after factual point, unlike some others who actually have the word ‘rude’ in their brand as a moniker.

Intelligent rọ̀fọ̀rọ́fọ̀ is the hallmark of a true Kuti, and Seun has never fallen far from the oak, whence Grandma Funmilayo once clapped back at a sitting monarch:
“Aláké! for a long time you have used your penis as a mark of authority; you say that you are our husband.
Today we shall reverse the order and use our vagina to play the role of husband!”

Because I share the Kuti family preference for clear ideology and thorough consideration of difficult systemic issues, I am willing to concede that the Labour Party candidate is not ideologically distinct from the APCPDP class he seeks to replace.

Peter Obi is the least wasteful, and most prepared member of a long standing capitalist elite. I can tell what the standard for African politics ought to be, & still vote for him, as a practical bridge to a possible future where our politics has matured to take on structural changes & ideological positions.

Forever and ever one thing will distinguish Seun Kuti above any traducer:

Tried & tested, unwavering & consistent in a clime where the predominant brand of politics is bread & butter, volatile partisanship, dense machismo & hunger-exploiting sentiment.

When the one-dance wonder is ready with an enlightened answer, not one retrieved from the low vibrations & dizzy gyrations of their base chakra, let them bring it on, and return to the ring, intentionally, professionally, and personally.

-Adene is a public affairs analyst

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