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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Nigerian star slams 'lack of change'

By Dan Isaacs
BBC, Lagos

Nigerians go to the polls on 19 April and the jobs of the president, senators, governors and other politicians across the country will be on the line.

Femi  Kuti
Femi Kuti has the ear of young voters
But who are ordinary Nigerians listening to as they decide how to vote?

One man who is not a politician, but whose political message has the ear of young Nigerians in particular, is the hugely successful musician, Femi Kuti, son of the late radical star, Fela Ransome-Kuti.

His music is Afrobeat. High energy and hypnotic.

Femi Kuti's club, the Shrine, is pulsating. His brass section, trumpets and saxophones crank up the volume, and stage dancers shake their bodies in a way that sends the young men in the audience wild.

Half naked

After the build-up, Femi himself takes centre stage, saxophone around his neck.

Stripped to the waist and sweating heavily in the humid Lagos night, he starts to sing and as always the message is angry and radical.

Fans being entertained by Femi Kuti
Young Nigerians are urged to get involved with politics

His message is of suffering and poverty in a land of riches. Of corrupt politicians and staggering greed that have brought a potentially great country to its economic knees.

And nothing, Femi tells me after the performance, has changed even though the military dictators have gone, and the civilians are back in power.

"It touches me, beggars on the streets. And there is nothing, nothing," Femi says.

"So it's frustrating.

"Do you think the country is going in any sort of positive direction?

"No, No, No, it's the military, they're all military," he says.

Money back

Femi believes that "the objective of this democratic change was not genuine" and goes on to say that a lot of money is being spent on winning the elections.

I think everyone is politically motivated whether we like it or not
Femi Kuti

"To become president or governor, you want your money back, you want 10 times that money back," he says.

The message is subversive, and yet tolerated by the government.

Gone are the days when Femi's father the late, great Afrobeat star Fela Kuti, suffered repeatedly at the hands of the military.

Femi's fans

Bukola Falaye is an admirer of the young Kuti: "I think Femi is a pan-Africanist. He sings about the eradication of corruption and bad government which is really good and he sings about morals, things that give you a kind of inspiration".

Femi Kuti's dancers
Femi's dancers drive audience wild

This is a message that strikes a chord particularly among Nigeria's younger potential voters.

"The common man on the road they are paying salaries that doesn't measure up with living standards. So if people are hungry and you entice them with money, they will vote for you," a fan said.

Femi is shouting loud, and even if the politicians are not listening, his fans certainly are.

"I think everyone is politically motivated whether we like it or not. You can close your eyes and don't care... but whether you like it or not, every political decision, like a boomerang will always come back," he says.

Femi Kuti's clear message is this: if you do not engage with politics, and make your voice heard, you will never change the system.




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