When Fela married 27 wives in a day

No one dreamt of it until when he made the announcement. Even when he made it known, no one believed it could happen. How would a man marry 27 wives in one day! It had never happened before. It was impossible!

But that was what Fela planned to do. He was on his way to Ghana on Saturday, February 4, 1978; but before boarding his flight he called a press conference and the newspapers were awash the following day with the news: Fela to marry 27 women.

The news went out that the founder and leader of the Africa 70 Organisation, Mr. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, had fixed February 18 for a proposed unusual customary wedding.

The Abami Eda would be getting married in one day to 27 women, all of whom belonged to his organisation and then everybody knew he was not getting married to strangers. Fela explained that his decision to wed the 27 singers and dancers of his band was to reward them for their loyalty and dedication to him and his organisation during the hard times.

And from this date onwards, he would make it a policy to marry deserving new female members of his organisation every two years.  He said, “We have lived together under the same roof for two to six years. We really understand each other and have gone through hell fire together. Now, I am going to make them my wives and queens because they are matured women and very hard working.”

Another shocker was that Fela said he was going to remarry his 36-year-old legal wife and mother of three according to native customs and rites.

“My first wife and I have been living in the unrealistic English system of marriage. Now, we want to live in the reality of African marriage.”

His marriage to these girls and women, whose ages ranged between 17 and 26 years, he said, would be officiated by an Ifa priest in the privacy of the house of his counsel, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite. “We are not making it public, but we shall invite a few good friends and my mother also will be there,” he told journalists.

Fela said during the ceremony, he would be joined in wedlock to each of the girls in order of their seniority in his organisation.

“I am marrying them in my established status as originator, exponent and King of African music on the first anniversary of Kalakuta inferno. And this is very important to me.”

When this was done, Fela was of the opinion that people who had been sneering at the girls would stop because they would then become his wives and queens.

 

But this announcement was expected to cause some ripples in the society, most especially at the home front. He had been married to Remilekun Kuti, who bore him Yeni, Sola and Femi. It was a white wedding and everyone around Fela knew that the only woman he respected apart from his mother was his wife, Remi.

Now, his father never married another woman, despite his belief in African culture and customs. And he had not divorced his wife and that was why many thought the press conference was rascality carried too far. “Mama Sola no go gree! Mama Femi no go take am!” That was the jeering around him, even as he rushed to his temporary base in Ghana.

But before he returned, there was a news flash on February 14, 1978: Fela’s wife okays mass wedding! And it read: “The only woman behind the 17-year-old married life of Afro Beat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, has given her blessing to her husband’s proposed mass marriage to the 27 members of his organisation.”

In an interview at her No. 2, Apongunba Street, Surulere residence, Mrs. Anikulapo-Kuti said, “Fela deserves every right to live like a free citizen in his country. He thinks faster than anyone can imagine.

“In fact, one needs an extra skill to catch up with his level of thinking,” she said.

Defending the proposed marriage, Mrs. Anikulapo-Kuti added: “Up till now, everybody has been labelling these girls as Fela’s girls or prostitutes and this breeds a kind of insult on them.

“But when he finally marries them, such an action would bring the normal air of respect around them.”

On the significance of the marriage, she said: “I think Fela thought it best to compensate them in such a way for their long standing loyalty.”

Asked if the marriage would not have both moral and financial effect on her, she said: “I don’t think Fela’s actions will have any adverse effect on me and my family.”

On her married life, Remi, who has five children for Fela, disclosed that there had been occasions when both herself and Fela had clashed on matters of policy, adding, “but invariably, Fela always emerges as the winner.”

From this day on and once the coast seemed to have been cleared, there was a feverish expectation among his fans, young and old, who were anxious to see how one man would be shared among 27 women on a daily basis. On February 16, 1978, Fela came back from Ghana, but a sad man.

On arrival, he was informed about his mother’s sad state in hospital. The old woman was in coma and had been off and on in hospitals since the day she was thrown down from the balcony of his son’s Kalakuta Republic on February 18, 1977. But now, she had been invited to be the special guest of honour at his son’s nuptial mass and she was actually waiting to see the day before she went into coma.

So, Fela, who was making history by his marathon wedding to his 27 girls, released a package of problems to reporters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, on his arrival.

Speaking with considerable force, he told them that:

  • He was broke as all his reserves had been spent
  • Ikeja Town Planning Authority had refused to approve his building plan for eight months
  • A leading recording company in Lagos had held up the release of seven of his works
  • His mission in Ghana had run into trouble, owing to shortage of vital equipment
  • Paid agents from Nigeria bribed his band boys to riot, a day after he lost his N25m suit and
  • There was a well-orchestrated plan to deny him rest of mind as a free citizen.

Fela, eyes red, described his mother’s condition as “one of the ironies in Africa.”

“Mrs. Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti did not deserve her present fate because of her contribution to Nigeria’s political development,” Fela said.

He said his mother was “dying” because she had been denied justice in the society.

Banging the table, Fela said he planned to go out with his band to campaign openly against brazen injustice in the Nigerian society if his mother died.

He hinted that his mother’s possible death would cause a change of strategy and lead to the intensification of his activities.

He described the loss of his N25 million suit against the government as “the biggest injustice to the African.”

Fela said he had spent nearly N1 million on his family and organisation.

But this catalogue of woes notwithstanding, Fela confirmed that he would still be going ahead with the planned wedding, though with less fanfare.

“It will be silent and solemn and there will be no invitations.”

He said that it was unnecessary to obtain the consent of the parents of his would-be wives because their parents had sacked them from home.

“We have been condemned as hooligans by such parents and there is no need for them to sanction it.”

He told journalists that his mother had sanctioned the marriage which, according to him, was to “liberate our minds from religious immorality and fraud over the centuries.”

He thought this marriage would make him settle down sufficiently for active politics thereafter.

So, with these preparations of mind and actions, his fans and the general public were expecting something similar to the recent festival of arts and culture. And it was for this reason that they amassed in hundreds in front of Fela’s lawyer, Tunji Braithwaite’s home. However, it turned out to be a bad day; a day Fela couldn’t marry his 27 ‘Queens’ this was against public policy.

This was the “sad news” related to Fela by his lawyer, Mr. Tunji Braithwaite, when every arrangement had been completed for the mass wedding.

Addressing the large crowd and 34 news and cameramen who had gone for the ceremony, Mr. Braithwaite said he had to advise Fela against the proposed marriage because it was contravening “public policy” vis-a-vis his present marital status.

He said: “We do not want to see Fela in jail. We also venture to warn that at his age, there is the probability of some of the marriages hitting the rocks for non-consummation.

“And if they are all to be consummated, it will take such physical toll of him that his life-span might conceivably be reduced by half through fulfilling that aspect of matrimony alone.”

The lawyer, however, held the view that Nigerians, who reacted to anything “Fela says or does, do greater harm to public tranquility and peace than Fela can ever attempt.”

According to him, Fela was merely living a life of an unusual and off beat musical genius.

 

Describing Fela’s proposed marriage as “strange amorous escapade,” Mr. Braithwaite said he was compelled to advise him because of his (Fela’s) legally existing marriage to his wife, Remi.

Before the news was broken, Mr. Braithwaite’s chambers, venue of the wedding that never was, received much more guests than it could accommodate.

People, mostly journalists and youths, had started arriving there by 8 a.m.

The chief priest to officiate at the wedding, Chief Fagbemi Ajanaku, the Araba of Lagos, arrived at about 10 a.m. with his entourage.

He brought along with him for the ceremony, Ifa followers and their worshipping materials for the great occasion.

Fela himself did not arrive until 12 noon. He was the driver of the 27 girls who arrived from Ghana late on the previous day.

Dressed in camouflage suit, Fela was not allowed to come out of the bus by the cheering crowd until whips were applied to threaten the teeming admirers.

Beaming with smiles and acknowledging his admirers’ cheers, Fela brought out his girls who adorned special dresses for the occasion.

No sooner had the girls were seated, ready for Chief Ajanaku’s blessing, than Mr. Braithwaite sent down a ‘wait a-minute’ message.

And the message brought an abrupt end to the much-publicised wedding which would have been the first of its kind.

Reacting to the cancellation announcement, the girls shouted: “This is a plan to dissociate us from Fela. It will fail. This present action is a slap on African tradition.”

Of course, the groom was not happy. Who could be, after such preparations and the high spirit his brides were exhuming since the day of the announcement. It prompted Fela, the vocal musician, to go philosophical. He said his sensational wedding that never was, was an ideological one.

Apparently referring to the Nigerian Marriage Law, Fela said: “I am here to carry out what I consider to be a true African tradition.

“I was thinking this marriage was possible but my lawyer has stepped in. I did not know that Alagbon can come and put me in jail if I go through it,” he told a crowded press conference.”

He said he was a full-fledged African and had planned his marriage to his 27 girls as such.

“But the law says I cannot marry my girls and I am obeying. I do not respect such a law. I am a law abiding citizen and an African.”

He said the law that was militating against his proposed marriage respected neither the ordinary citizen nor the African tradition.

“But I am marrying these girls as my queens because I want to live with them all my life. What I have done now is revolutionary.

“I am now marrying them in mind and ideology which make it more real to me and the girls.”

He said the hitch on his marriage was an attempt to ruin the force of the future.

“I am the only force that can move Africa into the future with my music,” he added.

He then announced that he would be receiving his blessing from Chief Ajanaku in place of the wedding.

Had he married again, Fela would have taken home 22 brides who showed up at the wedding.

 

 

They were Ogbenekewe Ogbomienor, Funmilayo Alejo, Alake Adedipe, Tejumade Adebiyi, Ngozi Olisa, Najite Mukoro, Adejuwon Williams, Adeola Williams, Fehintola Kayode, Ibasuyi Obotu, Emewaghewo Osawe, Ibose James, Kikelomo Oseni, Adunni Idowu and Olaide Babalaye.

Others are Tokunbo Sholoye, Ibe Agwu, Orode Olowu, Iyabo Chibueze, Omowunmi Afesume, Omolara Sosanya and Oluremi Akinola.

The Chief Priest, too, was not happy. Chief Ajanaku was the highest Ifa priest in Lagos and a symbol of African culture. It was because of the respect he had for Fela, his music and way of life that he had agreed to be the priest at the uncommon wedding.

He said it was high time Nigerian men stopped fooling themselves and mocking the rich African tradition.

In a short interview, condemned the attitude of some big Nigerian men who indulged in “keeping one wife at home and many outside, simply because the ordinance forbids marrying more than one.”

Chief Ajanaku explained that our forefathers used to have many wives so as to help them on their farms.

“It is in this light that Nigerian men should marry and bring to their homes as many as they could maintain. When you have six rooms unoccupied in your houses, what pleasure do you derive in renting houses for other wives outside?” he asked.

The chief believed that the campaign for cultural revival would have meaning in Nigeria only when those at the top in the society stopped polluting our culture by pretending to be unduly influenced by Western civilisation.

Commenting on Fela’s marriage, which he had specially come to bless, the Araba said, “The mass wedding was not against our tradition.”

He said he had agreed to bless the brides and the bridegroom because he had been reliably informed that the girls’ parents had given their consent to the proposed wedding.

“It is imperative that prospective husbands gain parents’ consent before any marriage can be performed,” he said.

Chief Ajanaku described Fela’s proposed marriage as the “first in Africa.”

He said the wedlock would have been a precedent if it had not been halted.

“I have heard of men marrying two or four wives in a day, but this is the first time I would hear of a man wishing to marry 27 girls in a day,” he added.

All this happened on Saturday, February 18, 1978 and everyone thought the matter had gone to rest, not knowing that Fela had planned to have the last laugh. It happened the following Monday morning, February 20 and Fela caught everybody unawares. He married all the girls. Unknown to many, he had imported another Ifa priest and all that people read the following day was: “Fela weds his girls;” it was reported in all newspapers.

And Fela Anikulapo-Kuti had his sensational marriage to 27 women solemnised. The women were all members of his Africa 70 Organisation.

The traditional marriage received the blessing of an Ifa priest, Chief Yesufu Olaleye, who came from Ekan in Ekiti division of the then Ondo State.

The venue was the lobby of Parrisona Hotel situated at Anthony Village, off Ikorodu Road, where Fela and members of his organisation, including his new wives, were lodging.

By 10 am, the hall was already set for the ceremony. Six native mats were spread out on the floor. On them were laid traditional bitter kola, kolanuts, honey and palm wine.

Also, there were pieces of sugar, sugarcane, native cake (aadun). There was the Ifa oracle itself, which consisted of the Ifa tray and beads, (opon-Ifa and opele).

At exactly 1 p.m, Fela’s brides filed in, in order of seniority and took their seats in front of the oracle and its priest. The priest was assisted by an Ifa worshipper, Mr. Olasupo Alamu, who came from Iwo in Oyo State.

First to come in was Funmilayo Onile-Ere, who was the leader of the brides and a dancer with the organisation.

Then followed by Alake Adedipe, who was the leader of Fela’s singers and Ogbomienor, Tejumade Adebiyi and Ngozi Otisa in that order.

Then came in Najite Mukoro, Adejuwon Williams, Adeola Williams, Fehintola Kayode, Ibasuyi Obotu, Emawaghewo Osawe, Bose James, Kikelomo Oseni, Adunni Idowu and Olaide Babalaiye.

The other brides –Tokunbo Sholeye, Ibe Agwu, Orode Olowu, Iyabo Chibueze, Omowunmi Afesume, Omolara Shosanya and Oluremi Akinola – sat at the back row for the ceremony.

The brides were 22 at the beginning of the ceremony. After some moments, the other five came in. They were Dupe Oloye, Folake Orosun, Omowunmi Oyedele, Chinyere Ibe and Idiat Kasumu.

At 1.10 p.m., the ceremony began with Chief Olaleye saying some incantations that lasted about five minutes.

“All souls belong to Edumare and by his power they were incarnated. So, whatever they do, Ifa, the servant and confidant of Edumare, must be consulted,” he said.

After this, the priest went into a long prayer, pausing at stages where Fela and the crowd or brides chanted “Ase”, meaning Amen.

At the end of this phase of the ceremony, Fela placed a sum of N20 offered to consult Ifa on the heads of each of his brides, before handing it to the priest for his divination.

After performing the divination rites, Chief Olaleye prayed for Fela and his brides, asking Ifa to grant them long life, understanding and peaceful cohabitation “as husband and wives.”

He consulted Ifa for a second time later, then he told Fela and his brides that Ifa had granted his request for them.

He told them: “You will live and grow old together in the conjugal relation of husband and wives like the bitter kola (orogbo). Your lives will be pleasant and sweet like the honey (oyin). And you will be in togetherness as the kola.”

But the priest went on to say that for the prediction to come true, Fela’s brides must not do one thing. None of them must relate to any other any dreams she might have had “for any reason whatsoever.”

This was necessary, he said, to keep out the evil intrigues and machination of enemies or detractors.

Turning to Fela himself, the Ifa priest told him: “You were created a strong man. You are a man with long life and you shall not die young. Your three children will not come by any mishap.”

To complete the rites, the priest asked Fela to offer as sacrifice to the gods of the land, “one white sheep with black patches around its eyes, two guinea fowls, 20 kolanuts and 20 pieces of bitter kola.

Neither Fela’s lawyer, Mr. Tunji Braithwaite, nor his wife was at the ceremony which lasted 55 minutes. But Alhaji J.K. Braimoh, a close associate of Fela, was the best man.

Fela declared after the ceremony: “I now feel a sense of fulfillment to my fatherland. I am particularly happy that I have not betrayed my conscience and fatherland.”

Of course, the government frowned at it, but there was nothing anyone could do since he was not in court or registry and his legal wife had not complained to anyone that she was dissatisfied with her husband’s African marriage. But most importantly was his mother, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome- Kuti, who blessed the marriage.

“God bless Fela and his new brides.” These seven words were the first to be uttered by the sick mum who had been on her sick bed for 13 days, unable to speak.

Chief (Mrs.) Kuti was admitted to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital two weeks before the marriage for an undisclosed ailment.

At her female surgical B1 Ward, a nurse was busy spoon-feeding and the tubes passed into her hands remained while the heavy plaster on her left eye had been removed. But when asked what she felt over Fela’s marriage to 27 new brides, Chief Kuti, under apparent strains, just murmured. “God bless Fela and his new wives.”

Fela, at the time he announced his engagement to his new “Queens”, had said, “My mother and my lawyer will be special guests at my marriage to these girls.”

But that Monday, when Fela finally wedded his girls, illness prevented his 78-year-old mother from being there.

But now that she had prayed, Fela believed his marriage would be a success.

And even till the present day Nigeria, the marriage remained the most unusual wedding ever conducted in any part of Africa. A group of 27 bevies getting married to a single man on the same day, on the same street, in the same hall, in the same hour and by the same priest! That record had not been equalled!

 

What Fela said about his marriage

 

“As you know, I am now ‘homeless’. But if I sleep, my wives will sleep. I have lived (with my entourage) in almost 10 hotels at one time or the other since my residence was burnt last year. Wherever I sleep, they will sleep and whatever I eat, they will eat. If I clothe myself, they will do likewise.  Polygamy is not new to Africa and as far as I know, one cannot be charged for bigamy in African tradition. Polygamy, like many other things in life, is a matter of understanding between the parties involved.

“When we decided to marry ourselves, it wasn’t a decision taken overnight. Each of these queens, or rather, my new wives, has been with me for at least two years. Up till 1974, I could make love to five or six of them daily. But nowadays due to other engagements, I can only cope with three per day. This is what we have been practising over the years and my ‘queens’ are satisfied, otherwise they would have opted out of my household long ago.

“The word LOVE is an hypothesis that has neither place nor significance in African traditional life. And I am an African. The crux of the matter is that some persons and things are just LIKED as a result of their utilities. Sterility is not part of African culture. Any marriage that is not blessed with children has not received the benediction of the gods. I will get as many kids as possible from my wives.

“My marriage is real. Since members of the mass media were present, how can someone regard the wedding blessed by the Ifa priest as a secret one? It is real. The relationship between the women now is as it had been before the marriage and it will continue to be like that.”

No one dreamt of it until when he made the announcement. Even when he made it known, no one believed it could happen. How would a man marry 27 wives in one day! It had never happened before. It was impossible!

But that was what Fela planned to do. He was on his way to Ghana on Saturday, February 4, 1978; but before boarding his flight he called a press conference and the newspapers were awash the following day with the news: Fela to marry 27 women.

The news went out that the founder and leader of the Africa 70 Organisation, Mr. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, had fixed February 18 for a proposed unusual customary wedding.

The Abami Eda would be getting married in one day to 27 women, all of whom belonged to his organisation and then everybody knew he was not getting married to strangers. Fela explained that his decision to wed the 27 singers and dancers of his band was to reward them for their loyalty and dedication to him and his organisation during the hard times.

And from this date onwards, he would make it a policy to marry deserving new female members of his organisation every two years.  He said, “We have lived together under the same roof for two to six years. We really understand each other and have gone through hell fire together. Now, I am going to make them my wives and queens because they are matured women and very hard working.”

Another shocker was that Fela said he was going to remarry his 36-year-old legal wife and mother of three according to native customs and rites.

 

“My first wife and I have been living in the unrealistic English system of marriage. Now, we want to live in the reality of African marriage.”

His marriage to these girls and women, whose ages ranged between 17 and 26 years, he said, would be officiated by an Ifa priest in the privacy of the house of his counsel, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite. “We are not making it public, but we shall invite a few good friends and my mother also will be there,” he told journalists.

Fela said during the ceremony, he would be joined in wedlock to each of the girls in order of their seniority in his organisation.

“I am marrying them in my established status as originator, exponent and King of African music on the first anniversary of Kalakuta inferno. And this is very important to me.”

When this was done, Fela was of the opinion that people who had been sneering at the girls would stop because they would then become his wives and queens.

But this announcement was expected to cause some ripples in the society, most especially at the home front. He had been married to Remilekun Kuti, who bore him Yeni, Sola and Femi. It was a white wedding and everyone around Fela knew that the only woman he respected apart from his mother was his wife, Remi.

Now, his father never married another woman, despite his belief in African culture and customs. And he had not divorced his wife and that was why many thought the press conference was rascality carried too far. “Mama Sola no go gree! Mama Femi no go take am!” That was the jeering around him, even as he rushed to his temporary base in Ghana.

But before he returned, there was a news flash on February 14, 1978: Fela’s wife okays mass wedding! And it read: “The only woman behind the 17-year-old married life of Afro Beat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, has given her blessing to her husband’s proposed mass marriage to the 27 members of his organisation.”

In an interview at her No. 2, Apongunba Street, Surulere residence, Mrs. Anikulapo-Kuti said, “Fela deserves every right to live like a free citizen in his country. He thinks faster than anyone can imagine.

“In fact, one needs an extra skill to catch up with his level of thinking,” she said.

Defending the proposed marriage, Mrs. Anikulapo-Kuti added: “Up till now, everybody has been labelling these girls as Fela’s girls or prostitutes and this breeds a kind of insult on them.

“But when he finally marries them, such an action would bring the normal air of respect around them.”

On the significance of the marriage, she said: “I think Fela thought it best to compensate them in such a way for their long standing loyalty.”

Asked if the marriage would not have both moral and financial effect on her, she said: “I don’t think Fela’s actions will have any adverse effect on me and my family.”

On her married life, Remi, who has five children for Fela, disclosed that there had been occasions when both herself and Fela had clashed on matters of policy, adding, “but invariably, Fela always emerges as the winner.”

From this day on and once the coast seemed to have been cleared, there was a feverish expectation among his fans, young and old, who were anxious to see how one man would be shared among 27 women on a daily basis. On February 16, 1978, Fela came back from Ghana, but a sad man.

On arrival, he was informed about his mother’s sad state in hospital. The old woman was in coma and had been off and on in hospitals since the day she was thrown down from the balcony of his son’s Kalakuta Republic on February 18, 1977. But now, she had been invited to be the special guest of honour at his son’s nuptial mass and she was actually waiting to see the day before she went into coma.

So, Fela, who was making history by his marathon wedding to his 27 girls, released a package of problems to reporters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, on his arrival.

Speaking with considerable force, he told them that:

  • He was broke as all his reserves had been spent
  • Ikeja Town Planning Authority had refused to approve his building plan for eight months
  • A leading recording company in Lagos had held up the release of seven of his works
  • His mission in Ghana had run into trouble, owing to shortage of vital equipment
  • Paid agents from Nigeria bribed his band boys to riot, a day after he lost his N25m suit and
  • There was a well-orchestrated plan to deny him rest of mind as a free citizen.

Fela, eyes red, described his mother’s condition as “one of the ironies in Africa.”

“Mrs. Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti did not deserve her present fate because of her contribution to Nigeria’s political development,” Fela said.

He said his mother was “dying” because she had been denied justice in the society.

Banging the table, Fela said he planned to go out with his band to campaign openly against brazen injustice in the Nigerian society if his mother died.

He hinted that his mother’s possible death would cause a change of strategy and lead to the intensification of his activities.

He described the loss of his N25 million suit against the government as “the biggest injustice to the African.”

Fela said he had spent nearly N1 million on his family and organisation.

But this catalogue of woes notwithstanding, Fela confirmed that he would still be going ahead with the planned wedding, though with less fanfare.

“It will be silent and solemn and there will be no invitations.”

He said that it was unnecessary to obtain the consent of the parents of his would-be wives because their parents had sacked them from home.

“We have been condemned as hooligans by such parents and there is no need for them to sanction it.”

He told journalists that his mother had sanctioned the marriage which, according to him, was to “liberate our minds from religious immorality and fraud over the centuries.”

He thought this marriage would make him settle down sufficiently for active politics thereafter.

So, with these preparations of mind and actions, his fans and the general public were expecting something similar to the recent festival of arts and culture. And it was for this reason that they amassed in hundreds in front of Fela’s lawyer, Tunji Braithwaite’s home. However, it turned out to be a bad day; a day Fela couldn’t marry his 27 ‘Queens’ this was against public policy.

This was the “sad news” related to Fela by his lawyer, Mr. Tunji Braithwaite, when every arrangement had been completed for the mass wedding.

Addressing the large crowd and 34 news and cameramen who had gone for the ceremony, Mr. Braithwaite said he had to advise Fela against the proposed marriage because it was contravening “public policy” vis-a-vis his present marital status.

He said: “We do not want to see Fela in jail. We also venture to warn that at his age, there is the probability of some of the marriages hitting the rocks for non-consummation.

“And if they are all to be consummated, it will take such physical toll of him that his life-span might conceivably be reduced by half through fulfilling that aspect of matrimony alone.”

The lawyer, however, held the view that Nigerians, who reacted to anything “Fela says or does, do greater harm to public tranquility and peace than Fela can ever attempt.”

According to him, Fela was merely living a life of an unusual and off beat musical genius.

Describing Fela’s proposed marriage as “strange amorous escapade,” Mr. Braithwaite said he was compelled to advise him because of his (Fela’s) legally existing marriage to his wife, Remi.

Before the news was broken, Mr. Braithwaite’s chambers, venue of the wedding that never was, received much more guests than it could accommodate.

People, mostly journalists and youths, had started arriving there by 8 a.m.

The chief priest to officiate at the wedding, Chief Fagbemi Ajanaku, the Araba of Lagos, arrived at about 10 a.m. with his entourage.

He brought along with him for the ceremony, Ifa followers and their worshipping materials for the great occasion.

Fela himself did not arrive until 12 noon. He was the driver of the 27 girls who arrived from Ghana late on the previous day.

Dressed in camouflage suit, Fela was not allowed to come out of the bus by the cheering crowd until whips were applied to threaten the teeming admirers.

Beaming with smiles and acknowledging his admirers’ cheers, Fela brought out his girls who adorned special dresses for the occasion.

No sooner had the girls were seated, ready for Chief Ajanaku’s blessing, than Mr. Braithwaite sent down a ‘wait a-minute’ message.

And the message brought an abrupt end to the much-publicised wedding which would have been the first of its kind.

Reacting to the cancellation announcement, the girls shouted: “This is a plan to dissociate us from Fela. It will fail. This present action is a slap on African tradition.”

Of course, the groom was not happy. Who could be, after such preparations and the high spirit his brides were exhuming since the day of the announcement. It prompted Fela, the vocal musician, to go philosophical. He said his sensational wedding that never was, was an ideological one.

Apparently referring to the Nigerian Marriage Law, Fela said: “I am here to carry out what I consider to be a true African tradition.

“I was thinking this marriage was possible but my lawyer has stepped in. I did not know that Alagbon can come and put me in jail if I go through it,” he told a crowded press conference.”

He said he was a full-fledged African and had planned his marriage to his 27 girls as such.

“But the law says I cannot marry my girls and I am obeying. I do not respect such a law. I am a law abiding citizen and an African.”

He said the law that was militating against his proposed marriage respected neither the ordinary citizen nor the African tradition.

“But I am marrying these girls as my queens because I want to live with them all my life. What I have done now is revolutionary.

“I am now marrying them in mind and ideology which make it more real to me and the girls.”

He said the hitch on his marriage was an attempt to ruin the force of the future.

“I am the only force that can move Africa into the future with my music,” he added.

He then announced that he would be receiving his blessing from Chief Ajanaku in place of the wedding.

Had he married again, Fela would have taken home 22 brides who showed up at the wedding.

They were Ogbenekewe Ogbomienor, Funmilayo Alejo, Alake Adedipe, Tejumade Adebiyi, Ngozi Olisa, Najite Mukoro, Adejuwon Williams, Adeola Williams, Fehintola Kayode, Ibasuyi Obotu, Emewaghewo Osawe, Ibose James, Kikelomo Oseni, Adunni Idowu and Olaide Babalaye.

Others are Tokunbo Sholoye, Ibe Agwu, Orode Olowu, Iyabo Chibueze, Omowunmi Afesume, Omolara Sosanya and Oluremi Akinola.

The Chief Priest, too, was not happy. Chief Ajanaku was the highest Ifa priest in Lagos and a symbol of African culture. It was because of the respect he had for Fela, his music and way of life that he had agreed to be the priest at the uncommon wedding.

He said it was high time Nigerian men stopped fooling themselves and mocking the rich African tradition.

In a short interview, condemned the attitude of some big Nigerian men who indulged in “keeping one wife at home and many outside, simply because the ordinance forbids marrying more than one.”

Chief Ajanaku explained that our forefathers used to have many wives so as to help them on their farms.

“It is in this light that Nigerian men should marry and bring to their homes as many as they could maintain. When you have six rooms unoccupied in your houses, what pleasure do you derive in renting houses for other wives outside?” he asked.

The chief believed that the campaign for cultural revival would have meaning in Nigeria only when those at the top in the society stopped polluting our culture by pretending to be unduly influenced by Western civilisation.

Commenting on Fela’s marriage, which he had specially come to bless, the Araba said, “The mass wedding was not against our tradition.”

He said he had agreed to bless the brides and the bridegroom because he had been reliably informed that the girls’ parents had given their consent to the proposed wedding.

“It is imperative that prospective husbands gain parents’ consent before any marriage can be performed,” he said.

Chief Ajanaku described Fela’s proposed marriage as the “first in Africa.”

He said the wedlock would have been a precedent if it had not been halted.

“I have heard of men marrying two or four wives in a day, but this is the first time I would hear of a man wishing to marry 27 girls in a day,” he added.

All this happened on Saturday, February 18, 1978 and everyone thought the matter had gone to rest, not knowing that Fela had planned to have the last laugh. It happened the following Monday morning, February 20 and Fela caught everybody unawares. He married all the girls. Unknown to many, he had imported another Ifa priest and all that people read the following day was: “Fela weds his girls;” it was reported in all newspapers.

And Fela Anikulapo-Kuti had his sensational marriage to 27 women solemnised. The women were all members of his Africa 70 Organisation.

The traditional marriage received the blessing of an Ifa priest, Chief Yesufu Olaleye, who came from Ekan in Ekiti division of the then Ondo State.

The venue was the lobby of Parrisona Hotel situated at Anthony Village, off Ikorodu Road, where Fela and members of his organisation, including his new wives, were lodging.

By 10 am, the hall was already set for the ceremony. Six native mats were spread out on the floor. On them were laid traditional bitter kola, kolanuts, honey and palm wine.

Also, there were pieces of sugar, sugarcane, native cake (aadun). There was the Ifa oracle itself, which consisted of the Ifa tray and beads, (opon-Ifa and opele).

At exactly 1 p.m, Fela’s brides filed in, in order of seniority and took their seats in front of the oracle and its priest. The priest was assisted by an Ifa worshipper, Mr. Olasupo Alamu, who came from Iwo in Oyo State.

First to come in was Funmilayo Onile-Ere, who was the leader of the brides and a dancer with the organisation.

Then followed by Alake Adedipe, who was the leader of Fela’s singers and Ogbomienor, Tejumade Adebiyi and Ngozi Otisa in that order.

Then came in Najite Mukoro, Adejuwon Williams, Adeola Williams, Fehintola Kayode, Ibasuyi Obotu, Emawaghewo Osawe, Bose James, Kikelomo Oseni, Adunni Idowu and Olaide Babalaiye.

The other brides –Tokunbo Sholeye, Ibe Agwu, Orode Olowu, Iyabo Chibueze, Omowunmi Afesume, Omolara Shosanya and Oluremi Akinola – sat at the back row for the ceremony.

The brides were 22 at the beginning of the ceremony. After some moments, the other five came in. They were Dupe Oloye, Folake Orosun, Omowunmi Oyedele, Chinyere Ibe and Idiat Kasumu.

At 1.10 p.m., the ceremony began with Chief Olaleye saying some incantations that lasted about five minutes.

“All souls belong to Edumare and by his power they were incarnated. So, whatever they do, Ifa, the servant and confidant of Edumare, must be consulted,” he said.

After this, the priest went into a long prayer, pausing at stages where Fela and the crowd or brides chanted “Ase”, meaning Amen.

At the end of this phase of the ceremony, Fela placed a sum of N20 offered to consult Ifa on the heads of each of his brides, before handing it to the priest for his divination.

After performing the divination rites, Chief Olaleye prayed for Fela and his brides, asking Ifa to grant them long life, understanding and peaceful cohabitation “as husband and wives.”

He consulted Ifa for a second time later, then he told Fela and his brides that Ifa had granted his request for them.

He told them: “You will live and grow old together in the conjugal relation of husband and wives like the bitter kola (orogbo). Your lives will be pleasant and sweet like the honey (oyin). And you will be in togetherness as the kola.”

But the priest went on to say that for the prediction to come true, Fela’s brides must not do one thing. None of them must relate to any other any dreams she might have had “for any reason whatsoever.”

This was necessary, he said, to keep out the evil intrigues and machination of enemies or detractors.

Turning to Fela himself, the Ifa priest told him: “You were created a strong man. You are a man with long life and you shall not die young. Your three children will not come by any mishap.”

To complete the rites, the priest asked Fela to offer as sacrifice to the gods of the land, “one white sheep with black patches around its eyes, two guinea fowls, 20 kolanuts and 20 pieces of bitter kola.

Neither Fela’s lawyer, Mr. Tunji Braithwaite, nor his wife was at the ceremony which lasted 55 minutes. But Alhaji J.K. Braimoh, a close associate of Fela, was the best man.

Fela declared after the ceremony: “I now feel a sense of fulfillment to my fatherland. I am particularly happy that I have not betrayed my conscience and fatherland.”

Of course, the government frowned at it, but there was nothing anyone could do since he was not in court or registry and his legal wife had not complained to anyone that she was dissatisfied with her husband’s African marriage. But most importantly was his mother, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome- Kuti, who blessed the marriage.

“God bless Fela and his new brides.” These seven words were the first to be uttered by the sick mum who had been on her sick bed for 13 days, unable to speak.

Chief (Mrs.) Kuti was admitted to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital two weeks before the marriage for an undisclosed ailment.

At her female surgical B1 Ward, a nurse was busy spoon-feeding and the tubes passed into her hands remained while the heavy plaster on her left eye had been removed. But when asked what she felt over Fela’s marriage to 27 new brides, Chief Kuti, under apparent strains, just murmured. “God bless Fela and his new wives.”

Fela, at the time he announced his engagement to his new “Queens”, had said, “My mother and my lawyer will be special guests at my marriage to these girls.”

But that Monday, when Fela finally wedded his girls, illness prevented his 78-year-old mother from being there.

But now that she had prayed, Fela believed his marriage would be a success.

And even till the present day Nigeria, the marriage remained the most unusual wedding ever conducted in any part of Africa. A group of 27 bevies getting married to a single man on the same day, on the same street, in the same hall, in the same hour and by the same priest! That record had not been equalled!

 

What Fela said about his marriage

 

“As you know, I am now ‘homeless’. But if I sleep, my wives will sleep. I have lived (with my entourage) in almost 10 hotels at one time or the other since my residence was burnt last year. Wherever I sleep, they will sleep and whatever I eat, they will eat. If I clothe myself, they will do likewise.  Polygamy is not new to Africa and as far as I know, one cannot be charged for bigamy in African tradition. Polygamy, like many other things in life, is a matter of understanding between the parties involved.

“When we decided to marry ourselves, it wasn’t a decision taken overnight. Each of these queens, or rather, my new wives, has been with me for at least two years. Up till 1974, I could make love to five or six of them daily. But nowadays due to other engagements, I can only cope with three per day. This is what we have been practising over the years and my ‘queens’ are satisfied, otherwise they would have opted out of my household long ago.

“The word LOVE is an hypothesis that has neither place nor significance in African traditional life. And I am an African. The crux of the matter is that some persons and things are just LIKED as a result of their utilities. Sterility is not part of African culture. Any marriage that is not blessed with children has not received the benediction of the gods. I will get as many kids as possible from my wives.

“My marriage is real. Since members of the mass media were present, how can someone regard the wedding blessed by the Ifa priest as a secret one? It is real. The relationship between the women now is as it had been before the marriage and it will continue to be like that.”

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