On December 18, 2021, Unchained Vibes hosted the second edition of the Freedom Vibes Series, its advocacy event where artists, creative sector stakeholders, cultural activists and members of the civil society converged at the Freedom Park in Lagos to amplify advocacy for freedom of assembly, using music, poetry and conversations to sensitize and mobilize the artistic community, and build public support for freedom of assembly in Nigeria.  The event featured Afrobeat musician and activist Seun Anikulapo Kuti, and Lagos lawyer and seasoned political activist Dele Farotimi, as keynote speakers.

Seun Kuti, in his keynote address, dissected the multiple challenges that have made it very difficult for the Nigerian masses to assemble and demand for their rights. While questioning the recent tendency of Nigerians becoming more obsessed with the idea of waiting for artists and celebrities to lead them in peaceful protests, he acknowledged the trust deficit and loss of confidence in the organized labor and trade unions who have become compromised in the struggle for justice, a trend that began during the anti-fuel subsidy removal protests in 2012. He urged Nigerians in the middle class to act as the bridge in the emancipation of the downtrodden and by extension, the entire citizenry from the shackles of bad governance and complicity of the elite.    

Lagos lawyer and seasoned political activist Dele Farotimi, lamented the impunity and lack of respect for rule of law by Nigerian authorities as the greatest challenge to artistic freedom and freedom of assembly in Nigeria. He articulated that Nigeria has laws in abundance and is a signatory to regional and international laws that guarantee freedom of assembly.  Citing the blacklisting of veteran rapper Eedris Abulkareem as an example, he acknowledged that censorship by government and private sector’s deliberate boycott of politically conscious artists, have been weaponized in silencing artists who are challenging authorities and demanding accountability.  He urged artists to intensify solidarity as a way of overcoming the economic deprivation.

Participants discussed the innovative role that artists played during the #EndSARS protests and how they contributed to strengthening Nigeria’s democracy. Through conversations, performances and artistic showcases, participants addressed the attacks and threats that followed the #EndSARS protests and asserted citizens’ inalienable right to freedom of assembly. The conversations were moderated by veteran journalist and culture advocate Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo.

The event was filled with civic education and advocacy, using music and poetry. Poet Iquo DianaAbasi showcased the December theme with a performance titled Answers That Will Not Be Swallowed, highlighting the issues that led to the #EndSARS protests, the violent response by the military and a reminder to those in position of authority that young Nigerians had woken up and would no longer be silenced. There was also a performance by a fast rising Spoken Word Poet Victory Ashaka who charged the atmosphere with invigorating message of freedom.

The Artist of the Month spotlight segment celebrated Seun Kuti in recognition of his contributions to the advocacy for good governance in Nigeria. The event was anchored by Nollywood Actor Sam Uche Anyamele.


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