Chief Alex Akinyele is a childhood friend of the late legal icon, Chief Ganiyu Fawehinmi. In this brief interview, Akinyele explains that he also had cancer, prostrate that is, the only difference between him and his late friend was that his was detected very early and immediately operated it.
By Bilesanmi Olalekan
WHAT kind of relationship existed between you and the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi?
I and Gani have been friends since childhood until he died. We had breaks in between those times though. I remember our first break was when his passport was seized and, being my friend coupled with the fact he had health problems at that time, and I being the government spokesman, I went to President Babangida so that the passport could be released to him.
I then went to Colonel Akilu who then released the passport. I informed him that I had collected his passport but before I could reach my office, Gani had called a special press conference almost immediately where he said their dog had brought his stolen passport and that the passport was his bonafide property and those who seized it merely stole it.
The government was not happy about that remark and I, as an individual to be described as a dog when all I was trying to do was to assist a friend. So, we had that break which went on for about two years. One day, we met at a conference and we started calling each other names. We didnâ€™t generally, as a rule, get a third party to settle us. Our friendship was a very active one. There was a great understanding, affection and admiration mutually between us. That was one break.
Another one was when my wife, Yvonne, died in 19998. Instead of my friend to come here to pay me condolences, he went to the press to say now Aleco is finished, Yvonne was the angel behind him, we will now see the colour Aleko himself is made of. I was very sad about it.
In fact, I didnâ€™t see it in time, it was a friend who bought the paper and brought it to me. So, we went our different ways, quietly. But when Stella Obasanjo died, he made a very uncanny statement about Stella and President Obasanjo.
I felt that this was exactly what he did to me when my wife died, this was an opportunity for me to pay him back, so I took him up viciously and vigorously. But you know Gani, if you gave him one, he would give you 10 of it. He dressed me down and I took it upon myself to dress him down as well. The exchanges were going on until it got to a climax that the late Osemawe of Ondo kingdom called the two of us to Ondo.
He got to the palace five minutes before I did, and as we were exchanging pleasantries, the king was shocked, he said but they told him that the two of you were fighting. We said the fighting was on the pages of the newspapers. He said he would not ask the two of us anything, he just prayed for us and we left the place. After that, we left the place.
I felt deep in my mind that this was the man who made his own statement. It was his own statement. He had the right to make whatever statement he wanted to make, so, I decided to adjudge myself guilty, so I went to him and apologised, he embraced me and we started calling each other names. That was how we ended the hostility.
About seven months ago, I went to his house when he returned from London and we had a very useful chat. We had been great friends since 1966. He did a lot of good things for me. My first two plots of land, he was the one who did the conveyance for me free of charge. Our social life was quite good. People like us, I am where I am, he was where he was. The common topic to discuss was women. I remember when the Sociology Department of the University of Lagos invited the two of us. We were on the high table. All along, Gani and I were discussing women on the high table.
What in particular were you discussing about women?
Well, you are asking too many things now. Later now they will say Akinyele has said this. If you asked Gani, he wonâ€™t tell you. So because of that I will not tell you also.
What was the feeling like when you had cancer?
This is very funny, when it was discovered that he had this cancer, it was discovered too that I had prostrate cancer. I had prostrate cancer. He went to London and I went to London. The difference was that mine was detected very early at the Lagos University Diagnostic Section. I went there for the normal check up. Some of us believe in going abroad for the normal check up but I do mine twice every year, once at the LUTH and the other somewhere else. When I got there, the doctor said, â€˜Chief, I think there is something developing in your anusâ€™, and I replied that what could be developing in my anus. She said she should be allowed to have a second opinion. She called in a consultant, his hand was very big.Â Even though he wore gloves, it was not easy, he went in and he came out and said yes, there is something developing there. They now said I should go for a PSA which I went through.
It was confirmed. Immediately I went to England. But in the case of my dear friend, may his soul rest in perfect peace, he was misled by the opinion of doctors that attended to him here in Lagos.
Let me also say that whatever you may say, these teaching hospitals are better than the private hospitals. It was a tragic mistake and they are lucky that he is dead. He would have taken them to court. He was just going up and down until the thing deteriorated. It was in London that he was told of the problems. He cursed the doctors who misled him. We will have to put more confidence in our hospitals, especially LUTH.Â Meanwhile, there is a lot of frustration going on in most of these teaching hospitals.