Date Published: 12/09/09
Re: Fani- Kayode: The Lies and Distortions of Owei Lakemfa By Chuks Akunna
The bitterness and hatred with which Owei Lakemfa penned his piece (titled “Fani-Kayode: Tales His Father Told Him,” The Vanguard Newspaper, Nov 25 th 2009) about a former minister of aviation, Chief Femi Fani- Kayode and his late and highly respected father, the Balogun of Ife, Chief R. A Fani- Kayode Q.C., S.A.N, C.O.N clearly exposes him, not as a columnist who is not seeking to establish the truth, but a jaundiced, venom- filled commentator ostensibly out to do a hatchet job for certain elements.
Let me start by stressing that, for a columnist, nothing could be worse than intellectual dishonesty. Attempting to foist such cheap, dishonest and prejudiced opinions on others by taking advantage of the medium of the column is to say the least, despicable. For, as the late Veteran American broadcaster Eric Severeid put it, "Most journalists tend to be dramatists at heart...That's their nature."
Perhaps seeking to dramatise by spreading falsehood and bandying age-old myths about some of our elder statesmen, nationalists and founding fathers, Mr. Lakemfa may have unwittingly interred them in the dustbin of history. What people like him fail to appreciate is the fact that a lie, no matter how often repeated, can never be the truth.
I elect to ignore the vicious comments Mr. Lakemfa made about the younger Fani-Kayode and the role that he played in Obasanjo's government. Needless to say I do not share his petty views or his resort to vitriol. Suffice it to say that in my view Femi Fani-Kayode was not only an effective spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo but also an excellent Minister who is presently facing all manner of persecution from the Yar'adua government due to his proximity to Obasanjo.
He also presents a very real threat to the ambitions of a former senator who was accused of the murder of Chief Bola Ige. This former senator, one can swear, sees Fani-Kayode as the only threat to his governorship bid for Osun state. Given that no proof of any wrongdoing has been established against Fani- Kayode’s tenure as minister of culture and tourism and then, as of aviation, it may not be out of place to safely conclude that the present administration may only be after him the same way they are seeking to destroy Obasanjo and some members of his so-called kitchen cabinet, particularly Mallams Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El Rufai.
Mr. Lakemfa would most probably remember very clearly how terrible it was to fly in this country and how many lives we lost before Fani-Kayode’s deployment to the Ministry of Aviation. Mr. Lakemfa was probably out of the country when we had five air crashes in just in one year. How come planes stopped literarily stop falling off our skies the moment Fani-Kayode was assigned the aviation ministry? In other climes, a man who achieved such feat would have been overwhelmed with national honours. Mr. Lakemfa thinks otherwise.
You may not have liked Fani- Kayode's style or even the nature of his job when he was at the Presidency but two things that you cannot take from him was his brilliance and sheer eloquence when it came to his submissions and arguments. Another thing one couldn’t take from Fani-Kayode was his positive impact at the Culture and Tourism and later, Aviation ministries respectively. That, however, is a matter for another day.
Now, it would appear Mr. Lakemfa’s believes Fani-Kayode has no right to tell the world the truth about his father’s role in moving the motion for Nigeria's independence. The onus rests on Mr. Lakemfa to tell the world how Fani-Kayode’s corroboration of preserved records in the Hansard of the National Assembly could have been a tale. The problem is that half education is the worst thing that can ever afflict anyone. As a matter of fact, it is better not to be educated at all than to be half educated and to think that you know it all.
Any columnist worth his salt would have, on the heels of Fani-Kayode’s very revealing interview, approached the National Assembly for records of legislative proceedings in the 1950s. Luckily, copies of the Hansard, I hear, are also preserved in Britain, our colonial master at the time, that is, in the very remote but not unlikely event that our copies have been destroyed by rain, termites or have out rightly misplaced! Only Mr. Lakemfa can explain his preference for folktales and beer parlour gist.
Hansard confirms that Chief Anthony Enahoro attempted to move the motion in 1953, but it failed. It also records that Chief S.L. Akintola successfully moved the motion in 1957 in Parliament, arguing that Nigeria be granted independence in 1959. The problem with Akintola's motion however was that it was not accepted by the British and consequently it failed as well and we did not get independence in 1959 as Akintola had sought.
It was not until 1958 that Chief Remi Fani- Kayode in the Federal House moved the motion for Nigeria's independence, proposing April 2nd 1960 as take off date. Not only was his motion accepted by Parliament, the British authorities acquiesced. Then, in 1959, Sir Tafawa Balewa moved a motion in Parliament that the April 2nd 1960 date be moved to October 1 st of the same 1960. Balewa’s motion was seconded by Chief Raymond Njoku and was accepted by Parliament and the British. These are the facts that Fani-Kayode reiterated in his interview with Pointblanknews.com and they are incontrovertible. He also challenged his readers to go and read Richard L. Sklar's book (the respected American historian who was an authority on Nigerian politics of the 50's and 60's) titled "Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation” (pg. 269).
With a mind obviously set on a hatchet job, Mr. Lakemfa conveniently forgot to cite that reference and source. As a matter of fact he completely ignored it. Now if. Now, if Mr. Lakemfa does not have faith in the Hansard, the official records of Parliament, or in Richard L.Sklar, perhaps the respected Professor Sanya Onabamiro's book titled "Perspectives on Nigeria's History" (pg 140 ) may be of assistance. A big player in the politics of the 50's and 60's, Prof. Onabamiro, in his book, corroborated these facts and sequence of events.
It is a pity that people like Mr. Lakemfa and, I daresay, countless others, would go out of their way to warp the truth and attempt to, as the respected Eric Severeid put it, become “dramatists at heart."
The most important point here is that Femi Fani- Kayode, if nothing else, in his celebrated Independence Day interview with Pointblanknews.com (which was fully reproduced a few days later in The Nation and Leadership Newspapers) has successfully deflated the erroneous notion that Chief Anthony Enahoro successfully moved the motion for Nigeria's independence, which sadly, is what most Nigerians believe. Even at that, Fani- Kayode was still very charitable to Enahoro by acknowledging the fact that he played a key role by beginning the process in 1953. Of course this was not enough for Mr. Lakemfa and his ilk. In his opinion, Fani-Kayode should just be taken to the cleaners for setting the record straight. Had the columnist stopped there I would have given him the benefit of the doubt. I would have been tempted to attribute his diatribe and warped submissions to nothing short of a crass display of ignorance by a misguided writer.
Pathetically, Mr. Lakemfa went the extra mile of a venomous path by resorting to the respected Professor Wole Soyinka's opinion of the late Fani-Kayode and the jaundiced accounts of a notorious murderer and coup plotter, Major Adewale Ademoyega. However, one expected Mr. Lakemfa to realise that Prof. Soyinka was a strong political opponent of Fani- Kayode, while Ademoyega had actually attempted to kill Fani-Kayode on the night of January 15, 1966, when he and his murderous gang slaughtered top government figures in the name of a coup de tat. Pray, how does Mr. Lakemfa expect anyone to take Ademoyega seriously? And when armed men storm a man's house seeking his life, is it an act of bravery for the man to tuck himself under the sheets or step outside to confront the assailants as Fani- Kayode did apparently without any hesitation whatsoever? Yet Mr. Lakemfa prefers to dub Fani-Kayode’s move to accost the murderers an act of cowardice based on the account of one or more of the mutineers; men whom have innocent blood on their hands? Has Mr. Lakemfa ever stumbled on the security term “disinformation?” Did it ever occur to him that mutineers the world over seek to justify their actions by using the tar brush on their victims? In other words, mutineers, seeking to justify their actions, naturally paint their victims as less than decent, honourable and courageous people? What could ever bring a columnist to believe such drivel?
In any case, those who knew Chief Fani-Kayode's can attest to his impeccable “Queen’s English.” It therefore remains to be seen how he could have deigned to speaking pigeon English to anyone and certainly not to a bunch of bloodthirsty, rag-tag mutineers who had butchered so many families that night. The worst aspect of Ademoyega's cock and bull tale is that he wasn't even in Ibadan on that fateful night simply because he had to be in Lagos to murder General Maimalari, his own Commanding Officer! Yet Femi Fani- Kayode, even though a young boy at the time, was by his father’s side and personally witnessed most of what that transpired that night.
Considering the maxim facts are sacred and opinions, cheap, Mr. Lakemfa ought to have been more circumspect when dealing with the accounts of politicians, particularly when such are in the opposite side of the political divide. If not, one could, by the same token, list tons of very wonderful things written and said about Chief Fani- Kayode in the 50's and 60's and publish them here. However, they are at best just the opinions of those that believed in him and that were on his side during those unfortunate political crises in the Western Region in the early sixties. It would certainly be infantile to seek to pass off these opinions as political and historical fact. Mr. Lakemfa should learn from that.
Again, there are tons of uncharitable and unprintable things said and written by people who do not wish to be fans of both Professor Soyinka and Major Ademoyega. That, however cannot and does not make such submissions necessarily true. It will be preposterous for anyone, no matter how uninformed, to regard such opinions as “facts
If Mr. Lakemfa Owei believes that Chief Remi Fani- Kayode was a murderer, arsonist, fascist, coward and everything else under the sun, so be it. At least, he is entitled to his opinion. But it would be ludicrous for him to everyone to share his view, just as he cannot expect Chief Fani- Kayode's most prominent and distinguished son to shy away from setting the record straight. Femi Fani-Kayode would surely be doing himself, his father’s memory, and Nigeria and global political discourse a world of disservice if he kept mum over his father's positive and commendable role in Nigeria's history.
Mr. Lakemfa knows he cannot abridge Femi Fani-Kayode’s rights to express himself on what he personally witnessed and religiously believes in. He also knows he cannot hush him or anyone else into silence, just as he cannot pass off lies, slander and falsehood in their most brazen elements as historical fact and expect Fani-Kayode’s son to douse him with accolades.
Is it therefore any wonder that Nigeria’s growth has been stunted? If people who fought so hard and sacrificed so much for our nation's independence are still being denigrated as a consequence of hatred and envy and an ancient political feud in the defunct Action Group, what kind of future do we as a people expect?
In my view Chief Remi Fani-Kayode was one of the greatest and most distinguished men that Nigeria has ever produced. A man who excelled in the legal profession and a man that represented the Action Group in Parliament throughout the 1950's, first as its National Youth Leader, before berthing in the NCNC and NNDP. Shortly after defecting to NCNC, he was elected Leader of the opposition in the Western House of Assembly. He later formed the NNDP Party with Chief S.L Akintola and from there he was elected Deputy Premier of the Western Region.
Of no lesser importance was the fact that Chief Fani-Kayode was locked up a number of times by the British Colonial authorities. The same fate befell him in the first military regime in Nigeria. I wish to implore Mr. Lakemfa to display some respect and decorum when commenting on selfless men that have paid such a heavy price and given so much to this nation, even if he belongs to the other side of the political and ideological divide. It is such a pity that I do not know who or what Mr. Lakemfa’s father is or was, (because I don’t think I ever stumbled on that name) otherwise I could have done a nice piece on him, too.
Historical revisionists and bitter men like Mr. Lakemfa should give peace a chance and allow the bitter wounds and political divisions of the past to heal. However, in the not very unlikely event his diatribe is an attempt to stop Femi Fani- Kayode from running for the governorship of Osun State in 2011, or to deter him from continuing to set the records straight about the noble role that his father played in the politics and legal profession of Nigeria from the 50's up until 1995 when he passed on, then Mr. Lakemfa has gravely miscalculated. He obviously does not know the man Femi Fani-Kayode, a man who never wastes precious energy in trying to recall an arrow after it has left the bow. His father was a lawyer, a great politician, a former Minister for Local Government Affairs in the government of the old western region and the powerful Deputy Premier of the Western region. Femi took after his father by becoming the third generation Fani-Kayode to earn a law degree from the best universities in the world.
Femi, like his father, is a great politician, has been a Presidential spokesman, a former Minister of Culture and Tourism and later, of Aviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is now aspiring to be governor of his home state, Osun. I challenge Mr. Lakemfa to dismiss these as a mean feat. Obviously, it would take more than a million Lakemfas and their venom-charged pens to set out on a Kamikaze mission to destroy that type of legacy. Just in case Mr. Lakemfa does not know, people nowadays have become too enlightened and educated to buy into that type of negativity and crap propaganda. My suggestion? Please stop wasting your time trying to destroy political dynasties and legacies. Instead, drain your pen of vitriol and bile so that you may gradually begin to scribble the truth. That, for sure, is a far more gratifying, productive and rewarding vocation. That is the least I expect from you and your entire ilk.