It was never about the money for me but the love for my father because I couldn’t stand seeing him get embarrassed at every turn with people hurting him. It took me a decade to get there, especially because of the way I left. People need to understand this, that Fela was too big a voice to do any wrong to his base. And his base was my base, and when I left it was like, “how dare you fight Fela”? They didn’t want to get into the nitty gritty of why I left. I believe that I’m right and Fela also opposed his father in many respects. So for 10 years no one wanted to listen to me and when I had my first hit “wonder wonder”, people speculated that it was my father who wrote the song. Even though he came out several times saying that he would never do that. So it was tough but I didn’t expect it to be easy, I just didn’t think about the obstacles. If I had seen them, I probably would have been shy. But I knew it was time to leave. It wasn’t like I was angry with my father but there were many people -yes-men- who were only there to ruin his organization.. For example, we would go on tour and they would steal from the hotel and their names would never be mentioned. I remember one occasion at this hotel in Toulouse. We were on our way out and the manager ran down and said that all the towels were missing. My father asked, “Are you calling us thieves?” and the manager said that no one was leaving until all the towels were returned. My father was really upset and a lot of people came down and my father said, “Fine, if you are so sure that we took the towels, check our suitcases and if you don’t see your towels, you’ll be in trouble”. They opened one suitcase and saw a lot of towels. It was a four-storey building and they took all the towels and we ended up paying about 20,000 francs because it was either he paid for the towels or we brought all the luggage off the two luxurious tour buses and searched them one by one. We eventually got to the show late.
I understand their rationale, but there were a lot of problems. He once had a press conference with over 200 journalists from all over the world and his wife (at the time) began to insult him in front of the 200 journalists and you can imagine how you’d feel as his child. My father was a very intelligent and respected man and it was those closest to him that were embarrassing him in public. So I had had enough. It was too much for me and I couldn’t take it anymore. We were supposed to leave for America as soon as he got out and I left and people were confused , asking, ” why won’t you go?” You’ll be with your father and you’ll be making money.” They tried to double and triple my salary but I refused. It was never about the money for me but the love for my father because I couldn’t stand seeing him get embarrassed at every turn with people hurting him.
Excerpt from “The Reflective Rebelliousness of Femi Kuti” published by Genevieve Magazine in October 2017