Lessons from French president’s visit to Fela Kuti’s New Afrika Shrine in Nigeria

By Valentine Amanze

Early July 2018, the French President Emmanuel Macron paid a two-day visit to Nigeria with a stop at the New Afrika Shrine, a concert hall founded in Lagos by the late music legend, Fela Kuti, where partying Nigerians gather.
The visit was not for the usual gyrating dancers and marijuana smokers. They were absent, while Macron enjoyed the sweetest Afrobeat music of Fela, the African music legend.
Macron, who was an intern in Nigeria at age 23, used the colorful evening at the Lagos nightclub to launch the 2020 Season of African Cultures in France.
“What happens in the shrine remains in the shrine,” Macron said told the crowd.
The French leader also held talks with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on security in Africa’s Lake Chad and Sahel regions as the extremist threat grows from Boko Haram and groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State organization.
“We have to increase the pressure and operations against jihadists. France will remain present in the Sahel as long as necessary,” Macron assured.
Macron’s visit also highlighted economic issues, with a $475 million agreement signed for France to fund projects in three Nigerian states including Lagos, the commercial capital.
Though Macron has since left Nigeria, the significance of his visit abounds.
At age 23, he worked in the French embassy in Lagos. Therefore his visit was a home-coming to a familiar ground.
But Macron’s visit to the Shrine was also a wake-up call for the Nigerian government to value and appreciate the natural talent that abounds in the country - the shrine was an effort of a Nigerian in the private sector, who saw tomorrow.
The French president did not visit it for fun, but to have empirical knowledge of how it will benefit his country. No doubt, he went home with ideas that would boost the French economy through tourism, curb the activities of the jihadists and other criminals.
The shrine was a typical a example of where people of different characters gather and therefore was a perfect place for the French president to visit.
Also remember that Fela’s crusade against corruption began in the shrine.
For Fela, music was often a life-threatening fight against corrupt military dictatorship.
In Nigeria, no government has visited or known the cultural and economic value of the shrine since its inception in the 70s.
No wonder
over 1,000 Nigerian soldiers on February 18, 1977, destroyed its former place, Kalakuta, Fela’s abode at No. 14A Agege Motor Raod, Idi-Oro, Mushin, Lagos.
During Macron’s stay at the shrine no official of the federal government came to showcase the potential of Nigeria’s tourism industry.
Over-dependence on oil cannot sustain the rising population. The music industry and the Nollywood, which create jobs for the youth had been left in the hands of the private sector without government assistance.
Fela’a African shrine attracted French president; may be he would have visited the music hall of the late freedom fighter, Sunny Okosuns, in Ogba, if the place was tailored towards meeting tomorrow’s needs.
Until the nation’s leaders stop their over-dependence on oil and diversify, it would be difficult to grow the economy.
Tourism fetches countries like Morocco and Tunisia millions of dollars; why can’t Nigeria do the same.

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