Regarding Race, Nation, and Our Future

Written Work by Graham T. Baden

Think Back Thursday — Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti

funmilayo-ransome-kuti-4

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a political activist and a champion of women’s rights in colonial and post-independence Nigeria. She was a leading force in women’s suffrage during the 1950s and she was popularly regarded as the “Mother of Africa” within Nigeria and across West Africa.

She was the mother of famed Fela Kuti, a musician and advocate against the neo-colonialism of the 70s. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was thrown from a third story balcony when 1,000 soldiers of the Nigerian army junta raided Fela Kuti’s compound in 1978 and died of her wounds. Listen to Fela’s “Unknown Soldier” to hear the story of her dramatic passing.

Lyrics to “Unknown Soldier”

Look o, look o

[Chorus]
Left, right, left, right, left, right, left!

One thousand soldiers them dey come
People dey wonder, dey wonder, dey wonder
One more time: people dey wonder, dey wonder, dey wonder

Stevie Wonder dey there too
Na one week after FESTAC too
And dey broadcast on American satellite
Around that time too now, I say to you

Where these one thousand soldiers them dey go?
Look o
Na Fela house Kalakuta
Them don reach the place, them dey wait
Them dey wait for…

[Chorus]
Order!

Now listen

[Chorus]
Left, right, left, right, left, right, left!

Them surround the place, kwam kwam kwam, them dey wait
Wait them helmet and them guns
And them petrol and them matches
Then again…

[Chorus]
Stand at ease!

Fela dey for house
Beko dey there too
Them mama dey there too
Beautiful people dey there too
Frenchman dey there too
Press man dey there too
One-fifty of us dey there too

Then suddenly, suddenly, suddenly, suddenly…

[Chorus]
Jaba, jaba…
Jubu, jubu…
Jebe, jebe…
Jawa, jawa…

Them dey break, yes
Them dey steal, yes
Them dey loot, yes
Them dey fuck some of the women by force, yes
Them dey rape, yes
Them dey burn, yes
Them dey burn, yes
Them dey burn, yes
Them commot one student’s eye, yes
Them break some some head
Them break some some head

Them throw my mama
Seventy-eight-year-old mama

Political mama
Ideological mama
Influential mama…

Them throw my mama out from window
Them kill my mama
Them kill my mama
Them kill my mama
Them kill my mama
Them kill my mama

Them carry everybody
Them carry everybody go inside jail

[Chorus]
Fall out!

Everybody dey inside jail
We dey wait twenty-seven days
Them lock us
Press dey shout
Radio dey ring
People dey talk
Them go burn Fela house

Wettin this Fela do?
This government e bad o
Wetin this Fela do?
Fela talk about soldiers
Flogging civilians for streets
Fela talk about government
Wasting money for FESTAC
Wetin this Fela do?
This government e bad o
People start to talk o
Government start to shake o

Then suddenly, suddenly, suddenly, suddenly…

Government bring instruments of magic
Them bring inquiry
Them bring two men
One soldier, one Justice
The name of Justice: Mr. Justice Agwu Anya
The other Justice: Mr. Justice Dosunmu

Them start magic
Them seize my house wey them don burn
Them seize my land
Them drive all the people wey live in area
Two thousand citizens
Them make them all homeless now
Them start magic
Them start magic

Them bring flame, them bring hat
Them conjure, them bring rabbit
Them bring egg, them bring smoke
Them dey scream, them dey fall
Them conjure, spirit catch them
Them dey fall, them dey scream
Them dey shout
Them dey, them dey say

[Chorus]
Unknown soldier!

Na him do am

Government magic
I get some information for you
I get some information for you
That my mama wey you kill
She fought for universal adult suffrage
That my mama wey you kill
She fought for universal adult suffrage
That my mama wey you kill
She is the only mother of this country
That my mama wey you kill
She is the only mother of Nigeria

Which kind injustice is this?
Wetin concern government inside?
If na unknown soldier
I said, wetin concern government inside?
If na unknown soldier
We get unknown police
We get unknown soldier
We get unknown civilian
All is equal to unknown government

We get unknown police
Them go kill nine students
We get unknown civilian
Them go kill two soldiers
We get unknown soldier
I say unknown police
And then unknown soldier
And then unknown civilian
All is equal to unknown government

Them turn green into red
Them turn blue into white
Them turn green into blue

I’m finished, mother

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