Femi Anikulapo Kuti’s award-winning 1998 album Shoki Shoki remains one of the most interesting collection of songs in his Afro-Jazz genre. While this album earned the fair-complexioned heir of Fela a notable continental award for that year, here in Nigeria, one of its track, ‘beng beng beng’ was banned. Many grew curious. Why was this song unfit for our afro musical ears?
We all fully obeyed the censorial advice by not listening to the song on the Nigerian Television Authority and other public channels, but we equally exercised our intellectual rights as responsible patriots to engage the album’s rich artistic delivery and eclectic thematic range in our private studios. Now in 2019, with full knowledge of how the organised Christian conscience cancelled Timi Dakolo’s open truth, it’s so easy to understand why the phony prudes banned Femi’s song.
Femi sang about naked truth. He sang about a lady who he shared his bed with. He gave the lady a voice. He gave the lady a choice. Femi praised her alluring feminine physique, he expressed how he dutifully obeyed her intense orders. Femi sang about masculine desire and restraint; about a woman’s right to dictate who should love her and precisely how she should be loved. Femi was passive and his partner, like Shulamite, was active. That was Femi’s crime!
In that beautiful song that Femi clearly crafted for adult exchanges, he accorded that dignity to every woman which macho-centric cultures always lay waiting to rob her of. This same dignity of the fairer gender was it that Timi Dakolo defended vicariously, vigorously and victoriously on behalf of every girl child. Yet it is this feminine dignity that some crusaders for Jesus Christ in Nigeria are armed to degrade and destroy with all weapons of antisocial warfare.
Pastor Matthew, the tithe collector from England, came out to recklessly decree that this God-given honour in every girl child and grown woman should be defiled with ecclesiastical impunity by the pastor of KOSA in Abuja, because he was “called, committed, consecrated and covenanted by God” to rape and ruin the lives of Nigerian women.
Pastor Matthew preached from the Bible, the holiest book of Christians and admonished the sensible brothers of Jesus Christ gathered at KOSA from the book of Romans 8 verse 33, that anyone who is sexually abused by the KOSA pastor had no right to accuse him of the crime because he is the elect younger brother of God and eternal head of KOSA, Amen! Accuse him of his unconfessed sin and be damned in Hell! Amen! That is why they barred Femi’s song.
Femi sang of the tragic death of Truth. He cried: “Truth don die O!” He mourned with those who had reposed all their honour and hopes in this world in the Truth. In this first track of the same album, he cried relentlessly: “Truth don die O!”, meaning that Truth has died! Yet, when Femi’s sorrow fully melted into the music, it was not only because Truth had been killed. It was because Lie has now replaced Truth and reigns incumbent in the once hallowed courts of Truth. He sings on now, but his sighs get deeper, his breath comes harder and his words come faster:
Truth don die o…
Nah yesterday him talk
Him want to travel for the world
To teach him people him word
The true word of God
Make people stop to lie…
Na so the Molue jam am
Trailer mash am for head…
Nah so truth come die O
Him come clear road for lie
Nah lie lie full the world
Lie go dey jump from mouth
Like water rush from pump
The way people dey lie
Dem no dey fear dem God
The way people dey lie
Dem no dey fear dem Shrine
Dem just dey lie O…
Many Christian theologians and teachers may argue that Femi doesn’t know Jesus Christ as much as they do. But in this song, it’s hard to dispute Femi Anikulapo Kuti’s moment of epiphany. For every time Truth is tied and disgraced in the streets, Peter, His foremost apostle, begins to lie. When Truth is tried before human courts, Barabbas the criminal is spared and the innocent thrust with a judicial spear in the side. And when Truth finally dies and is hid from our eyes, the foremost priests in Jerusalem and Nigeria rejoice and reinforce the lie that Truth is gone forever.
Timi Dakolo has proven to be the genuine disciple of Christ through his fearless and faithful witnessing to the resurrected Truth. The Kingsway Storekeeper and his league of disturbed gospel traders know that the resurrected truths of their illicit sexual deals will throw them out of business. That is why they threaten anyone who dares to proclaim that the truth they tortured and killed is risen in greater glory. That is why they pay irresponsible graveside sentries and accursed public relations personnel to publish lies in newspapers and on social media.
Yet truth always rises from the grave of forced silence. Truth will rise in spite of the stone of seared consciences rolled against it in any place. Truth will rise again in spite of the sentries planted by the Christian religious establishment in Nigeria to keep it interred. Let Femi Kuti rejoice, truth will rise again as He had said. Let Timi Dakolo hold fast, truth will overcome before the end. Let Mother Mary rejoice, truth will rise in spite of the monies that have exchanged the hands of Jesus’ disciples to betray it. Let every heart that sighs rejoice, for Truth has risen. It has risen in spite of the honorariums being paid to a perverted Pulpit to deny it. Truth has risen in spite of a polluted Pew that has been swayed to reject it.
Femi Anikulapo Kuti hints, in his easily missed musical parable, that it takes two forces to successfully extinguish truth any day – a molue and a trailer. The molue is a commuter bus notorious for the overload of persons and goods. It was formerly the commonest means of public transport in Lagos, Nigeria. The trailer is the word in the Nigerian parlance for an articulated vehicle, especially a heavy-duty truck. While both were responsible for the fatal end of truth in Femi’s song “Truth don die O”, it appears the molue only succeeded in jamming and holding truth down for the trailer’s heavy tires to run over the head of truth.
Femi’s prophetic metaphor is a poetic psalm that plays out “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”. Here as well, like the molue, Santa Satan cannot single-handedly break the good conscience of a young Christian, he always needs a heavy-duty truck driver like Pastor Matthew Ashewo of Kingsway Logistics to smash a Christian’s skull of truth, which is that young believer’s active conscience.
Indeed, the father of lies can perpetrate lies and persecute those who worship God in Spirit and in truth, but he will always need a rogue agent of truth to finally help deactivate their moral sanity. That is where Al Shaiton finds Pastor Matthew and his establishment friends handy. Their mutant strains of truth are the fastest poison that will ultimately take down a naïve believer.
But sane minds, especially those outside the church’s stranglehold, stand in shock when they see Pastor Matthew Ashewo, the Captain of Kingsway Air Force stand behind KOSA’s pulpit to declare that women who are serially raped and repressed and the few who dare to report their private suffering in the hands of KOSA’s senior sexual predator and pastor are “Satanic accusers and Satanic condemnators”, while the sensible congregation at KOSA cheers him on.
For Timi Dakolo, a professed Christian, his headache is complicated by the fact that it’s the same book of Christian law that the likes of Pastor Matthew Ashewo of Kingsway Stores is twisting to condemn a female victim haunted by years of muted sexual horrors suffered in the hands of the younger brother of God and eternal founder of KOSA, Abuja. Timi’s heartbreak is compounded by the fact that it’s the same Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth that this funky punky-haired vicar of Christ from Ode Omu invokes to curse a wounded lamb, a struggling wife and mother on her road to full emotional recovery.
But Timi faces these traitor trailers alone. He faces these monsters in ministers’ cassocks alone. He battles their mutant truths alone. But why? The church’s inner light does not reveal anymore! Recent history has shown that until light comes from without the church’s orders, the church’s eyes no longer see the rot within, or they’ve simply chosen to be blind. For parishioners who don’t have a blind eye, the presbytery hastily gorges their brighter eye or takes out both eyes to simply prevent them from over-seeing the overseers.
In 2019, it took Kiki Mordi to beam her Christlike light on one of the sexual predators on the pulpit of a major Pentecostal church in Nigeria. Her righteous act makes one ask in retrospect of 2018, why it was only the Chicago Tribune that could exegete the resurrected truth of decades of sexual molestation of women by the leadership of a 24-thousand congregation south of Barrington, Illinois, U.S.A?
Again, why was it secular truth that was strong enough to force the exit of that unrepentant clergyman from the pulpit, a few months to his glorious retirement? The answer, as it is in KOSA in Abuja, Nigeria, is that the elders of that church had heard the truth from the abused and hurting women, but they refuse to hearken to their cries of distress. They show no pity for the wounded and bleeding sheep. They rise instead to protect their deadly and holy hyena.
These women who dare to speak out and reveal the truth used to be protected and respected as real lights. But that was long before Justices of Piss like Pastor Matthew Ashewo took over the sacred work of interpreting the Christian Constitution. These post-truth preachers have since amended the Bible and repealed this portion below (in Ephesians 5:3-13 NKJV) that clearly states that men as Timi Dakolo are the endangered but true lights of the world:
3. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;
4. neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
7. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
8. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
9. (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),
10. finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
12. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.
13. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
Clearly today, the church’s light no longer reveals the shameful acts within. The church’s lights no longer dislodge darkness. Instead, it venerates it. That is why Pastor Matthew Ashewo is bold to publicly torment the psyches of the daughters of light who dare to expose the shameful things done in secret in KOSA. That is why this only avatar of Kingsway and acclaimed fourth person of the Holy Trinity unleashes his mutant strains of truth to crowd out the remnant voices of reason.
For Femi Anikulapo Kuti, the greatest tragedy in our moral universe is when Truth is killed and Lie takes its place. But Timi Dakolo has found out, two decades after, that the killing of Truth is not the worst event. The younger singer faces a greater grief than the death of truth – the dearth of Mary Magdalene and the other women, the cowardice of the men, the threats of darkness and the silence of the lights.
Oluseyi Olufemi writes from Abuja.