Wednesday, June 16, 2021

I would have been Fela’s wife: Onyeka Onwenu

Fela kept a harem of women, many of whom are his band members, during his time.

• January 16, 2021
Fela Kuti and Onyeka Onwenu
Fela Kuti and Onyeka Onwenu

Ace singer, Onyeka Onwenu, has narrated how she turned down a marriage proposal from late Afrobeat crooner, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. 

In an excerpt of her autobiography published by, Mrs. Onwenu described late Fela as a brave, creative and courageous man who spoke truth to those in power. However, she opted not to marry the legend when he expressed interest in her.

“After Fela was released from prison, he sent a mutual friend, the journalist Onuorah Udenwa who is now a U.S.-based pastor, to bring me to his club.

I thought that he probably wanted to thank me for speaking up for him, but that was not it.  He never even mentioned the article I had written in solidarity with him,” Mrs. Onwenu said. “Fela wanted to marry me, and I was flattered.  I reminded him of the first time we met at Falolu Street and his invitation to visit his club.  I thanked him for the honour of wanting me to become his consort, but I turned him down all the same.” 

Mrs. Onwenu, the ‘One Love’ crooner, said she turned down Fela’s proposal knowing she is a possessive lover and would not be able to cope with Fela’s many wives. 
Fela kept a harem of women, many of whom are his band members, during his time.

“While I wanted to see him, I had noticed that his Queens—the euphemism for his numerous dancer-wives—had been looking at me with scorn.  They passed by often, whispering comments about me. They were downright hostile and quite obvious about it”, Mrs. Onwenu said. “I pointed this out to Fela and told him that I was a possessive lover and would not be able to cope as an appendage to his harem.  Fela laughed. He seemed to enjoy the idea that the women were ‘fighting’ to keep his affection.  He did not persist with the marriage proposal, however.” 

Anikulapo died in 1997 at the age of 58.  He is remembered as Nigeria’s most radical musician who deployed music in vehement activism, criticising and speaking against military dictatorship in the country. 

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