How and Why ‘Unknown Soldiers’ Invaded Fela’s Home (Kalakuta Republic) in 1977

Kalakuta Republic on fire
Kalakuta Republic on fire

Kalakuta Republic was the home of the late musician and political activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, his family and band members. The commune which was located at no. 14, Idi-Oro, Mushin, Lagos, enclosed Fela’s recording studio, entertainment outfit and a private clinic operated by his brother, Beko Ransome-Kuti. The name ‘Kalakuta’ was a parody of Calcutta prison in India where Fela served a sentence in 1974 for possessing marijuana which many believed was politically motivated.

Fela declared Kalakuta an independent republic from Nigeria due to his detest for the then military government which he believed ruled Nigerians with dishonesty. Fela was never in good terms with the military government. His relationship with the government deteriorated when he released a best-selling track titled ‘Zombie’ which mocked Nigerian soldiers who he claimed follow orders blindly.

Fela and band members during a dance rehearsal at Kalakuta Republic | TheNetNG
Fela and band members during a dance rehearsal at Kalakuta Republic

Their already strained relationship got severed on a fateful day when two of Fela’s boys got in a heated argument with a military police officer for driving one of Fela’s vehicle which had no plate number at the front. It was on the 18th of February, 1977, Fela’s boys, identified as Segun Adams and Segun Ademola, argued that since there was a plate number at the back, they would not let the officer impound the vehicle. The argument got heated and Fela’s boys drove away. Some military men chased them to Kalakuta Republic but were not allowed to gain entrance and take the boys away. This infuriated the military men and they set fire to the generator that powered the commune and cut its electric fence also, then called for back up to fully invade the commune. Shortly after, soldiers numbering up to one thousand arrived at Kalakuta Republic with machine guns and mortars some of which were even fired. Stampede ensued in Kalakuta Republic as the soldiers mercilessly beat its occupants including Fela and his brother, Beko who claimed they were almost killed. Women were beaten and molested. Fela’s mother, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was thrown from an upstairs window and eventually died from the injuries she sustained. The soldiers set fire to the commune which razed to ashes in no time. Properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed and hundreds of people were left injured and homeless. It was indeed a horrible day for Fela and his family. People believed that Fela’s beef with the military government culminated in the attack on Kalakuta Republic.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Fela Anikulapo Kuti

However, the Kutis won’t let the military men go away with their assault, they filed a N25 Million lawsuit against the Nigerian military. The Kutis’ lawyer, Mr. Tunji Braithwaite, handled the case brilliantly but eventually lost to the military government on the ground that the soldiers who attacked Kalakuta Republic were unknown soldiers. Thus the case was dismissed!

An infuriated Fela who lost his mother in the gruesome incident took a replica of her coffin to the Dodan military barracks and dropped it off. He later released a song titled ‘Coffin for Head of State‘ in 1980 which detailed the attack on Kalakuta and the death of his mother.

Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo

The military government of Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the Kutis’ Certificate of Occupancy of the commune which is today used as a school named after the Kuti family.

Thanks for reading,
OldNaija

References-

  •  Fela Anikulapo Kuti- OldNaija
  • 14 Agege Motor Road, Idi-Oro, Mushin: the Kalakuta Republic- Dr. Beachcombing
  •  Mrs Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti- OldNaija
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