By Emmanuel Ajibulu
On October 16, 2014, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation and PDP chieftain, celebrated his 54th birthday, coincidentally, with the inauguration of the governor of Ekiti State, Chief Ayodele Peter Fayose. For the love a friend like Fani-Kayode has for Fayose, he preferred to be in Ado Ekiti to felicitate with the new governor and defied the usual merry making, thanksgiving and prayers with friends, political associates and family members at his Abuja residence.
Fani-Kayode, just like his late father is a quintessential, dogged, irrepressible and indefatigable individual who has distanced himself from the erroneous notion that Nigerian politicians cannot say the truth to the constituted authorities. The story of Fani-Kayode is the story of courage and resilience. His father, Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode (of blessed memory), hailed from a prominent and well educated Yoruba family who are of Ife stock from south-western Nigeria. In July 1958 he courageously and successfully moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in the Federal House of Representatives.
He argued that independence should take place on 2 April 1960. Although in 1959 there was a further motion that was moved in the Nigerian Parliament asking for a slight amendment to the Fani-Kayode motion of July 1958. This new motion, which was moved by Sir Tafawa Balewa, asked that the 2 April 1960 date for independence which had already been accepted and approved by Parliament and which had been acquiesced to by the British colonial authorities, should be shifted from 2 April of the same year to 1st October, 1960 instead. Extolling the virtues of a respected leader like this is simply worthwhile.
In Fani-Kayode’s view, seeing Nigeria move to greatness in all fronts is a responsibility that must be fulfilled by all, irrespective of political leanings. His highly publicized articles and essays on visionary leadership, social justice, and fight against administrative indiscretion, accountability, probity and war against human right abuses among others, cannot be lost to all true patriots in our country. He had on many instances demonstrated his love for Nigeria above pecuniary interest and taught others to embrace same.
Impressively, Femi Fani-Kayode is a British trained lawyer, after the successful completion of his programme in law school in 1985; he worked in the law firm of Chief Rotimi Williams in Lagos after which he moved to his father’s law firm, “Fani- Kayode and Sowemimo”. There he worked under the direct tutelage of his father and his uncle, the late and highly respected Chief Sobo Sowemimo, S.A.N (whose older brother, the late Justice George Sodeinde Sowemimo, was the Chief Justice of Nigeria from 1983 to 1985). Other notable personalities trained in this great law firm include Chief Robert Clarke, S.A.N, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, S.A.N, Seyi Sowemimo, S.A.N, Justice Moni Fafiade, Justice Niyi Ademola, Chief Kunle Alex-Duduyemi (the wealthy businessman from Ile-Ife, who Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode mentored and trained), the Oxford-trained and brilliant Gbolahun Alastishe, the Cambridge-trained Abba Kyari (who later became the managing director of one of Nigeria’s largest banks), the Cambridge-trained Funke Aboyade, the Durham-trained Femi Lijadu and many other senior members of both the Nigerian Bar and bench. After working there for three years Femi Fani-Kayode was promoted to the position of a senior partner in 1989.
He went into self-exile and pitched his tent with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) Abroad, together with the likes of the Oxford-trained lawyer, Chief Tunde Edu. Apart from these rare virtues, he still finds time to commune with God. He is an evangelical Christian, essayist and a poet. He was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 to June 2006. He was re-deployed and appointed as the Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June to Nov 2006 and subsequently as Minister of Aviation from Nov 2006 to May 2007.
Looking back over the past 54 years, I am sure that you, your family and indeed your larger family of associates and admirers do have cause to be grateful to Almighty God for having granted you a life of great accomplishment and abiding fulfilment. Congratulations to you sir at 54. I wish you best of luck in political endeavours and may all your efforts work in your favour and that of your party.