It’s been 18 years since Fela died but his music is as relevant and ever. The following four songs are eerily apt at describing the Nigeria of yesteryear and today.

Shuffering and Shmiling (1977)

Every day my people dey inside bus
Every day my people dey inside bus
Forty-nine sitting, ninety-nine standing
Them go pack themselves in like sardine
Them dey faint, them dey wake like cock
Them go reach house, water no dey
Them go reach bed, power no dey
Them go reach road, go-slow go come
Them go reach road, police go slap
Them go reach road, army go whip
Them go look pocket, money no dey
Them go reach work, query ready

In Shuffering and Shmiling, Fela sings about life for the average Nigerian, who experiences strife in almost every area of life but continues smiling, believing they will receive their reward in the afterlife because of the teachings of religious leaders, who themselves are enjoying plenty of the world’s earthly pleasures.

Apart from the absence of a military whip, things haven’t changed much.

Authority Stealing (1980)

Authority people them go dey steal
Public contribute plenty money
Na authority people dey steal
Authority man no dey pickpocket
Na petty cash him go dey pick
Armed robber him need gun
Authority man him need pen
Authority man in charge of money
Him no need gun, him need pen
Pen got power gun no get
If gun steal eighty thousand naira
Pen go steal two billion naira

Thief, thief thief!
Rogue, rogue, rogue!
Robber, robber!

You no go hear them shout
You no go hear them shout at all
You no go hear them say
You no go hear them say response at all

Na different way be them way
Na civilize style be them style

Yes, yes, yes, yes!

“Oh yes, of course, contract, have some money back in hand, ha ha”
Hear the words them dey take deceive the people:

Make I remember another one wey them dey use
Public inquiry

In Authority Stealing Fela compares the crimes of an armed robber to a person in authority stealing. The armed robber would be lynched or thrown in jail for stealing a petty amount, meanwhile the man in authority would get away with it. Or even be praised.

Today government corruption has reached eye-watering and unbelievable figures with Goodluck Jonathan’s administration believed to have been the most corrupt in history. Alison-Madueke Diezani, the former petroleum minister arrested in London recently, is rumoured to have stolen £13 billion from the Nigerian state.

Yellow Fever (1971)

Who steal your bleaching?
Your precious bleaching?
You buy am for shopping
For forty naira
You self all yellow
How you go find out?
Your face go yellow
Your yansh go black
Your moustache go show
Your skin go scatter
You go die o
You go die o
You go die o
You go die o

You dey bleach, o you dey bleach!

You dey bleach, o you dey bleach
African mother
You dey bleach, o you dey bleach
Sissi wey dey go
Yellow fever
Stupid thing
Yeye thing
Fucking thing
Ugly thing
Yellow fever
You dey bleach, o you dey bleach
African mother
You dey bleach, o you dey bleach
Sissi wey dey go
Yellow fever

1971’s Yellow Fever saw Fela criticise the growing prevalence of skin lightening among Nigerian women as a result of the ‘colonial mentality.’ Today, according to WHO, Nigeria has the highest number of women in the world who use skin-lightening products.

Coffin for head of state (1981)

I waka many business anywhere in Africa
I waka many business anywhere in Africa
North and South them get them policies
One Christian and the other one Muslim

Anywhere the Muslims them they reign
Na Senior Alhaji na him be Director
Anywhere the Christians them they reign
Na the best friend to Bishop na him be Director

It is a known fact that for many thousand years
We Africans we had our own traditions
These moneymaking organizations
Them come put we Africans in total confusion

Through Jesus Christ our Lord
(Amen, Amen, Amen)

Waka, waka, waka
So I waka, waka, waka
I go many places
I go government places
I see, see, see
All the bad bad bad things
Them dey do, do, do

In one of his saddest songs, Fela critiques the hypocrisy of political and religious figures and the presence of preferential treatment in the allocation of positions based on religion.

All things that are still common practice in Nigeria