The striking resemblance between Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, former Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Minister of Aviation and his late father is enough to convince anyone of his biological paternity. However, when the Yoruba hail a person as a ‘husband’s child’ it is not necessarily, nor limited to, a confirmation of DNA.
Perhaps more than anything else, it means they stood up for the count when it mattered, usually in matters of family honour. As I said in an earlier write-up, Femi Fani-Kayode is a fearless exponent of his opinion on just about everything, especially matters that concern the Yoruba, in a situation where many of our other so-called elders and leaders shirk the responsibility. In that, Femi is demonstrating that he is a chip off the old block.
On a graduation day at the University of Ibadan, I observed as a mounted police officer rudely caused a small group of dignitaries to scamper in different directions on the forecourt of Trenchard Hall. All, except a rather tranquil gentleman in immaculate suit who appeared totally unconcerned with the mounted officer’s antics. Instinctively perhaps, the mountie backed his horse away.
I recognised the handsome man in tailored because I had met him on one and seen him on at least two other occasions previously. He was Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, aka Fani-Power, former Deputy Premier of old Western Region, father of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
The senior Chief Fani-Kayode was attending the graduation of Lola Fani-Kayode, Femi’s sister, then a casual acquaintance. I hasten to add, in view of recent avoidable gaffes, not intimately.
Chief Remi Fani-Kayode did not have any bodyguards and there were no police escorts around him but he stood his ground. His calm comportment (a far cry from the mindless thug of Femi Aribisala’s recent malicious portrayal) was enough to check the impudent horseman. It reminded me then of a Yoruba saying, perhaps originated from Hausa, that even when shorn of all adornments a prince never loses the bearing of a Dan-Zaki.
Save for a precious few, the current debate of Lagos State government’s deportation of a number of destitute individuals to their states of origin is fast becoming absurd. This is mainly because many commentators, deliberately or ignorantly, sidetrack the real issues.
It is abhorrent that politicians would pass the buck of caring for a highly vulnerable group of Nigerians, not to talk of physically toss the individuals, between themselves. On the other hand, it is exceptionally bad manners when non-natives call the abode of their host communities a no man’s land, as some have dubbed Lagos.
It is also clear that essentially only our Igbo brethren exhibit this discourteous habit. Other ethnics usually show appreciation for generosity and show respect for host traditions and ancestry. It is even more important to note that the Igbo do this usually, only in matters pertaining to the Yoruba.
While it is true that Fani-Kayode has a habit of stirring (actually, he throws IEDs at them) Nigeria’s political hornet nests, it is dishonest to suggest, and wicked to pretend, that he started these ethnic exchanges. Short of hypocrisy, there is no basis for accusations of boorishness by Chika Ezeanya, of vulgarity by Regina Askia despite her implausible denial, and of bigotry by Femi Aribisala, to name just three.
Insolence is not a virtue and must not be condoned. Those who lack it, Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said concerning Nigeria’s rude neighbours in Cameroun, Chad and Niger, ought to be taught good neighbourliness.
The ferocity of the revenge military coup of July 1966, they say, is to ensure that the Igbo will never again dare to think, let alone plan or carry out against the North, the kind of cowardly murders of 15th January 1966. Whether intended or inadvertent, the lesson appears to have sunk home, as even people like late Chinua Achebe sheepishly resorted to castigating only the ‘soft touch’ Yoruba.
In 1983 Achebe was presidential running mate to the late Alhaji Aminu Kano, a man on record for actively directing pogrom against the Igbo in Kano. Any notion that his 1983 political choice was an attempt to bury the hatchet of Nigeria’s civil war was subsequently dispelled twelve months ago by Achebe’s contentious swan song, There Was A Country.
Secondly, since the natives of Port-Harcourt demonstrated that they would defend ownership of their little corner of Nigeria with everything they have, including permanently dispossessing the Igbo of properties the natives believed they (the Igbo) acquired through unjust clannish devices, the Igbo have learnt to tread carefully in the South-South.
Thirdly, when our Igbo brothers, typically, started the parasite-and-host debacle by ignorantly alleging that the Fulani-led North were parasites, they did not expect the response they received. The North retorted that the Igbo are actually the parasites on the rest of Nigeria.
They pointed out that nearly all of successful Igbo prospered outside of Igboland and that, statistically as at 1966, ninety-eight per cent of Igbo leaders were either born in the North, lived in the North, or spoke Hausa. They (Northerners) concluded that despite propaganda to the contrary the Igbo have never worked to have a country of their own but usually, only wanted to ride on the back of other ethnics.
Biafra, they said, was an opportunist attempt to coerce unwilling nations, including the highly educated and sophisticated people of Cross River and Akwa Ibom and their oil-rich land, into a would-be Igbo dominated country. Loud noises about ‘northern parasites’ have since muted.
Anyone who bothers to read the substance of Femi Fani-Kayode’s submissions will find that the foregoing are the key points he tried to make, in his own way. Unfortunately and for a trained lawyer, Femi Fani-Kayode can be disappointingly inarticulate. For a Cambridge University graduate and someone whose father is on record for graduating top of his law class at the same Cambridge, it is sometimes painful to read Femi’s brash, arrogant commentary.
However, before we all decide to bury Femi for his delivery, let us remind ourselves that salvation of Nigeria is beyond literary courtesies and delicate wordsmith. If it were not so, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Niyi Osundare, Mohammed Haruna, Adamu Adamu of the Daily Trust, Okey Ndibe, and other artful and scholarly exponents of the finesses of English language would have saved Nigeria by now.
Our Igbo brethren have shown a habit to start things they cannot finish. To put it in another way, as soon as they realise the truth is not what they would like it to be, they revert to timeworn diversions of victimisation and imagined supremacy. Initially, many Igbo commentators continually asked for a debate of Nigeria’s civil war, pretending there were no factual records, but it soon became clear that what they wanted was for the rest of Nigeria to adopt Chinua Achebe’s versions. No sooner that others started to point out Igbo roles in bringing about, and Igbo leaders’ criminal treatment of Biafra children during, the civil war, than they no longer wanted to know.
What Nigeria needs presently, perhaps more than ever, is truth raw and naked. This means truth derived from facts. And just because some of our Igbo brethren do not like to hear the truth, it does not mean that others must not speak it.
By Olaitan Ladipo