Forty-one years after ‘Unknown Soldiers’ razed Kalakuta Republic in 1977, musician cum instrumentalist, Duro Ikujenyo has opened up on how he narrowly escaped the conflagration that culminated in the wanton destruction of property worth millions of naira belonging to the late Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The ex-Fela pianist recalls: “It was the worst experience of my life. I should have been there because Young African Pioneers (YAP) had an office in Kalakuta. On that day, one of Fela’s boys had his Okada burnt because he was driving one-way so soldiers stopped him and beat him up before burning his bike.
“Fela’s boys retaliated by beating up a soldier and burning his bike too. Later that same day, the soldiers struck with over 1000 of them armed to the teeth, marching to Fela’s house.”
Duro reveals that at the time of the strike, he was in a studio rehearsing when he received news of the invasion. “I called Lemmy Gharioku (Fela’s album designer) and we rushed to the scene. It took us one hour to get to the front of the house because of the crowd. All of Fela’s cars, generators, music instruments, everything Fela had was burning. It was total mayhem!
“There was a side road that led to Abati Barracks. I walked down the road and that was when I saw Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti sitting down on the road and dazed! I stood with her and tried to console her, and then I saw soldiers dragging people out of the burning building and beating then up. They brought out Fela, Beko, Fehintola, Najite and Fela’s bodyguard who was stabbed in the stomach with his intestines sticking out. They were all covered with blood and bruises and were stark naked, as they dragged them to Abalti Barracks. Beko was bleeding from his head and Fela was limping with a broken leg. It was like a scene from hell!”