By Femi Fani-Kayode
Your editorial of September 24th 2010 titled: “The Balewa Saga” raised some interesting issues and frankly amused me. This was especially so when the writer asserted that “at five” I “was too young to have known what happened” and that I am relying on what my father told me “to refute Mbu’s story”.
I really do wonder whether the writer of that editorial even bothered to read the full text of my two articles on this matter? Since the debate on the death of Sir Tafawa Balewa began I have never said or written anywhere that I relied on the testimony that I heard from my father as the basis for my assertions and to suggest that I did is simply not
The timing and slant of this editorial is relevant and interesting but aside from that the question that I have for the board is this: does the fact that I had a father that was actively involved in the politics of that time in any way preclude me from making an informed contribution to this vital debate?
Should it stop me from commenting on anything that transpired during that period or sharing my knowledge of those events without being accused of simply spouting stories that I heard from my father? That is surely an inappropriate and inexcusable assumption to make and it is most unfair to me.
At the age of 50 am I not capable of doing my own research and coming to my own conclusions? The truth is that I never even discussed the murder of Sir Tafawa Balewa with my father before he himself passed on in 1995. Not once. That episode was just too painful for him to discuss with me given the fact that the late Prime Minister was his friend and a man for whom he had the deepest affection.
May I suggest that your editorial board reads the two essays which I wrote on this subject, both of which were fully published without being edited in the Leadership newspaper, if they really want to know what I based my assertions on.
I also took note of the remarks about my person in that editorial and this being the editorial of a newspaper that I love, admire and respect and that I regularly wrote articles for between 1998 and 2001. If I remember correctly my monthly column was on page 8 of your Sunday edition and I was nicely sandwiched between the two great literary giants of Prince Tony Momoh and Douglas Anele.
The truth is that it says a lot about our society if it takes someone as inconsequential as me who, according to the Vanguard Newspaper editorial board, “most times throws himself into issues before realising he did not understand them” to point out the truth about such a vital aspect of our history.
This is especially so when it is clear that, for reasons best known to themselves, some in our midst appear to be hell bent on distorting that history and revising it. I will always respect the opinions of the Vanguard but I do not honestly believe that any of us needed to have personally witnessed World War 2, the Nigerian Civil War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the birth of Shakespeare, the murder of Tafawa Balewa, the rulership of Usman Dan Fodio or
the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 to know that these, and other monumental events actually took place in the history of the world.
And neither did we have to be above five years old at the time that they took place to be able to discuss, analyse or comment on the details and intricacies of those events many decades later. That is precisely why we go to school, do our research and read history books.
In the light of this seeming historical confusion I hereby challenge the respected elder-statesman Chief Matthew Mbu, his representative or anyone else that disputes my version of history on this critical issue to an open and public debate on this matter, anywhere and at anytime. Perhaps once the vital details, literary sources, eyewitness testimonies, personal accounts of the major players of that time, documentary and oral evidence and other pieces of information which go to prove the fact that the Prime Minister was indeed shot to death and left to rot and certainly did not “die of asthma” or enjoy the luxury of being left with a “fresh body” are in the public realm, Nigerians will finally get to know the truth about the bitter, brutal and tragic end of their first and only Prime Minister. They certainly have a right to know. As they say in your revered profession, “facts are sacred and opinion is cheap.” I sincerely hope that you will find it in your heart to publish my response in full in your newspaper. My very best regards.