Democracy in Nigeria: Fela’s Prophetic Critique and the Enduring ‘Demonstration of Craze’ in Nigeria

As Nigerians mark Democracy Day, it is a reminder that true democracy remains an elusive dream

2 mins read

Nigeria Artist Joy Eyitayo Alagbe commemorated Nigeria Democracy day with a painting of the iconic afrobeat legend. Alagbe describes “Nothing has changed since Nigerian Afrobeat music pioneer, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, known professionally as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, or simply Fela, gave his own epic and hilarious breakdown of Democracy [1980].

As Nigeria commemorated Democracy Day on June 12th, it is crucial to revisit Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s critique of democracy, coined as “Demonstration of Craze.” Fela, an iconic Afrobeat musician and outspoken critic, highlighted the inherent madness in the democratic system. His analysis remains relevant, as Nigerians continue to face the same challenges of corruption, inequality, and power concentration that plagued the country decades ago…

Fela’s Foresight: Unmasking the Facade

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fela fearlessly challenged the notion of democracy as a panacea for Nigeria’s woes. He saw through the facade of elections and political rhetoric, recognizing the deep-rooted corruption, inequality, and concentration of power that persisted beneath the surface.

With his signature wit and biting social commentary, Fela’s “demo-cree-cy” became a rallying cry against the chaotic and irrational nature of Nigeria’s political landscape. He exposed the disconnect between the promises of democracy and the harsh realities faced by the masses, where the poor cried while the rich reveled in their excesses.

Four decades later, Fela’s words remain relevant in the present day Nigeria, despite the transition to civilian rule and successive democratic governments, the fundamental issues he decried remain entrenched. The same political elites cling to power, perpetuating a cycle of corruption and exploitation.

Socioeconomic disparities have only widened, with the masses bearing the brunt of poverty, unemployment, and lack of basic services. The democratic process itself is tainted by electoral fraud, violence, and systemic corruption, eroding public trust and fueling disillusionment. The masses continue to suffer while the wealthy enjoy privileges, embodying Fela’s “poor man dey cry, rich man dey mess”

This lack of genuine political reform perpetuates a cycle of disillusionment and apathy among the populace.

A Call for Genuine Transformation

As Nigerians mark Democracy Day, it is a reminder that true democracy remains an elusive dream. The celebration rings hollow for many, serving as a stark reminder of unfulfilled promises and the enduring struggle for genuine political reform.

To honor Fela’s legacy and realize the true potential of democracy, Nigeria must confront the root causes of its democratic dysfunction. This requires a collective commitment to systemic change, driven by active civic engagement, transparency, and accountability.

Only by dismantling the entrenched power structures and addressing the deep-seated issues of corruption, inequality, and lack of representation can Nigeria transform its “demonstration of craze” into a true democracy that serves the interests of all its citizens.

As Nigerians all over the world remember and celebrate today – Democracy Day (June 12, 2024)” Alagbe’s  remind Nigerians of Fela’s words and definition: Democracy – demo-cracy, crazy demo, demonstration of craze, crazy demonstration. Poor man dey cry, rich man dey mess, democracy, crazy demo, demonstration of craze…”

Alagbe’s painting is created using acrylic and ink on canvas. The artwork measures 48 by 48 inches and was completed in 2023.

As Fela aptly put it, “God Help Nigeria”

Leave a Reply