Beast of No Nation is the first song Fela wrote in 1986, after he was liberated from prison—serving two years from a five year prison sentence for trumped-up foreign currency violation charges. Everywhere he went after his release, people were asking him what he was going to sing about: ‘Fela wetin you go sing about? Them go worry me!”. People wanted to hear him sing about his prison experience, like he had done with the songs like: Alagbon Close, Kalakuta Show, and Expensive Shit. Finally, he decided to sing about the world we live in—with particular reference to Nigeria. He said when he was in prison he called it ‘Inside World’, out of prison he called it ‘Outside World’. But for him it is actually ‘Craze World’. Otherwise, what name can one give a world with: police brutality, army oppression, courts without justice, magistrates who are supposed to uphold the law, obviously seen bending the law to please some special interest. As further proof of the craze world, he sings about the judge who sent him to jail for five years on a trumped up charge, only for the same judge to visit Fela in a prison hospital two years after. The judge apologized, claiming he was under pressure from the government to convict. This could only happen in a Craze World, Fela reasons. It can only be in a craze world that people sit and watch governments shoot down protesting students with impunity, like in Soweto(South Africa), Zaria and Ife(Nigeria). Bearing in mind that Nigeria like all craze world countries, condemn the apartheid regime in South Africa, yet committing crimes against humanity in their respective countries. Turning to another aspect of craze world policy of the Nigerian government. In 1983, the Buhari/Idigabon military regime launched a public campaign dubbed ‘War Against Indiscipline’. This was the regime’s solution to corruption inherent in the Nigerian society. To justify this campaign, the Nigerian head of state, General Buhari and his deputy General Idiagbon publicly used words like: ‘…my people are useless! My people are senseless! My people are indisciplined!’ to describe Nigerian People.For Fela, only in a craze world can such remarks be made. Moreover, such statements could only have come from an ‘animal in human skin’. How could these two animals use such words to qualify a people who feed them? This being so, other leaders from other countries must either be animals themselves to associate with, or accept to co-habit under such an umbrella as the United Nations with a head of state that considers his people useless. Turning to the United Nations, Fela saw it as a majorly unhealthy organization that suffers major inadequacy in its organizational principles. It is absurd to organize the UN principle bodies; the Security Council and the General Assembly, in such an undemocratic manner as one member’s cote can veto the decision of the majority. Is this Democracy? “What is United about the UN?” Fela asked. Thatcher went to war with Argentina over Falkland—yet both counties are members of the world body. Reagan and Libya were at war. Israel versus Lebanon. Iran versus Iraq. East-West cold war. It looks more like a group of disunited nations, so how can such a body work to promote and encourage respect for human rights? For Fela, that is another kind of animal talk. How can people talk about ‘individual’ rights? No one has the right to deprive someone else of what belongs to the individual—only an animal would try to take away another person’s legitimate rights. People who hear Fela say things like this reminded him that he was sent to prison for having such opinions of government. He, in his defense, said it was not him who called members of the UN animals. It was Pik Botha, the former South Africa President at the peak of the anti-apartheid struggle, in reaction to the persistent riots against the racist regime. He came out with a statement that his regime would act more brutally if the riots did not stop: “…this uprising will bring out the beast in us”. Fela’s reminded us that President Reagan advocated: “..constructive engagement with the apartheid regime” among member nations of the UN. The same policy as Mrs. Thatcher – an indication that they were sharing the same friendship and animal characteristics as Botha. If this is so the UN can only be an assembly of Beasts of No Nation.
Over a decade after his death, vindication has come to Fela Kuti, Africa’s musical genius. AfroBeat, his gift to the world, is now an international staple on his own uncompromising terms, social content intact.