By Bashir Adefaka
The patriarch of the Fawehinmi family, Chief Olusola Ademiko Fawehinmi, 85, spoke to Sunday Vanguard in his GRA, Ondo home on Monday, June 11on the conferment of honours on his late brother, Gani, the late Chief MKO Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Arogbo of Ondo Kingdom said, “I cannot thank Buhari enough”.
Mohammed Fawehinmi, son of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, just wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari, to accept the honour done to his father. As the head of the extended Fawehinmi family, what is your reaction to the presidential honour?
The presidential honour has raised the entire Fawehinmi taller and we are proud! We are happy! We are immensely grateful to Buhari.
Do not forget that Olusegun Obasanjo was there for eight years and PDP was there for 16 years. Nobody thought about it. Those who must open their mouths to talk anything just to show they do not appreciate good intention, they call it a political game but I call it a political masterstroke!
President Buhari has done the right thing and put Nigerians among civilised people across the world because that election of June 12, 1993 was the first and the only of its kind in Nigerian electoral history. It was so free and fair but the military dashed Hope ’93 and deprived Nigerians the opportunity to be ruled by the President they voted for.
And former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was in power for eight years doing nothing, has been going up and down talking anyhow. Why has he not kept quiet and allow the man that God has put there now (Buhari) to do his job? Abdulsalami was also in power, up till now, have you heard him say a word? Instead, he goes about appealing for peace. That is an elder. That is a good citizen of Nigeria!
Still on Gani
To Buhari, I say we are grateful. He made us proud. Fawehinmi is a great name but Gani attracted 40 per cent more popularity to it. We cherished him. We miss him. A dogged fighter, there was a time he stood in front of an army tank and said, “Start shooting!” And he was always ready to go to prison as he always packed his bag because he always thought they would soon knock on the door. And I doff my hat for the wife, Ganiyat, who stood by her husband wholeheartedly and has been keeping the flag flying since after his passage to eternal glory.
Now people will look at us and say, “Oh, at least, Gani working for the people is not in vain”. For those criticising the honour conferred on Kingibe, well, don’t forget that during Abacha regime, he went to take a position as minister. But, like my people would say, when you work with good people, you eat with good people. But he was never against the struggle.
There is this claim about you being a potential Osemawe in the Fawehinmi family. How true?
I am a senior chief as the Arogbo of Ondo Kingdom. It is not a high chief but it is the next to high chief and hereditary because you must be the descendant of a female child of an ex-Oba to get that title. It is different in the sense that only in Ondo that the daughter of Osemawe who marries, her children cannot be Osemawe. Only children from the male line can be.
Okay, besides that fact, you would have qualified for the Ondo highest seat
More than qualified! In fact on both sides, mother and father, I am a royal person.
So it is a pity you have royal blood that cannot put you on the throne?
No. I am not going to say it is pity because, indeed, it narrows down to who can be Osemawe. If you have it from female and male sides, then you have the choice to pick but now that it is narrowed down, you have limited people who can be an Oba in Ondo. That is the problem. There are so many eminent people borne by female children of ex-Osemawe who can be Oba but because their links to the throne are female, they cannot be.
Let’s quickly touch on your person having lived all your years as a Lagosian….?
I am a confirmed Lagosian. And our slogan, ‘Eko Onibaje, Obaje ti!’, stands (Laughs). But some 13, 14 years ago, I decided to go back home to Ondo and I have continued to find peace with myself, my people and my environment. You can see the serenity of my compound; breezy, cool and trees all around, no noise. How I wish it is like that for everybody so that at your old age, you move to somewhere peaceful.
I am asking this question because people like you who are from other states are now political godfathers in Lagos.
Does your moving back home to Ondo mean your disinterest in struggling for the control of Lagos with those who are actually Lagos indigenes?
No. When I was there as a young man, for all the National Assembly, State Assembly members, councillors and other political players in our part of Lagos, we were leaders because they would come to us for advice and they respected and still respect us.
This is why forever I will always respect Bola Tinubu. He is dutiful, intelligent and he is a tactician. He is a statesman par excellence not a politician. What a lot of people don’t know about Bola Tinubu is that he wants the best for the Yoruba people.
Awolowo did wonderfully well and he would, therefore, win an election anytime, any day in the South-West but he had problem connecting to the North. Even in the days of yore when he was doing his free education, he had a percentage for the North. That was the South-West money. So, he meant well for Nigeria but he just couldn’t link up with the North. Tinubu has improved on the legacy of Awolowo by his ability to link the politics of the South-West with that of the North.
So, all these people making noise and there about restructuring saying if we don’t have restructuring now we will die are just making empty threat.
Would the South-West actually die if there is no restructuring?
We won’t die. You see, no Yoruba man would say he does not want a change or improvement on existing structure, but it is not by war. We want change but there is residual power given to each state, if you release some of the things we can do for ourselves and we share the money equally. But it is not by war.
If you say ensuring restructuring should not be by war, during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government of Goodluck Jonathan, the 2014 confab that he organised was said to have planned a peaceful way of restructuring without war. Why would you say that also failed?
Jonathan’s way of restructuring is not what we want. He picked his political friends and despite the fact that they gave him the report one year before he left office, he could not sign it! Now this man, President Muhammadu Buhari, got there and the same people are agitating saying, ‘If you don’t restructure now, we will die.’ Tell me how we are going to die now if they didn’t die under the same man who should have been able to do their bidding.
Some Afenifere leaders are working with the Igbo to achieve restructuring. What if they achieve it?
Yoruba had worked with Igbo before now. We did it with Zik during Awolowo time but they disappointed us. That is what they always do. It is not new. That was when Ogunde came in to say “Yoruba Ronu”, that is, think deeply.
Those Yoruba leaders talking are complaining that the Buhari administration has not been fair to them and that is why they are going to team up with the Igbo and even following Olusegun Obasanjo to unseat the President come 2019. What about that?
But there is no reason for that. I mean this is the best time for Yoruba in any government of Nigeria so far. What else do we want? We have got the Vice President, we got power, works and housing minister, we got communications, we got health, we got finance. And if the Yoruba don’t mess up, come 2023, if a Yoruba man comes out and wants to become President, the whole North will rise up and back him. Of course, it pays them and this is what Bola Tinubu is working for. But those who are agitating don’t know what is good for the Yoruba. Ayo Adebanjo, Falae and others in Afenifere. They don’t know.
Afenifere was not a political party but a regional elders’ forum. But now they have turned it to political party and they are the ones who choose who they want and lord him on the entire Yoruba race and then they will say, ‘This is not the way Obafemi Awolowo used to do it.’ But Awolowo had done his bit and he left his footprints on the sand of time, gold! We can never forget him and his policies will keep coming to us. What did you do to improve on the existing legacies of Awolowo? Go and ask them. This is what Bola Tinubu saw and they will never see it. They didn’t see because they didn’t want it.
Those in the Afenifere, don’t you think they go political bent on removing President Muhammadu Buhari because of the claim that they have seen no change since he came to power three years ago?
If you say things have not changed or are not changing, it means you are either a joker or blind. To take bribe now you have to think more than twice. President Buhari is fighting corruption and they say, ‘Oh! His anti-corruption war is one-sided!’ Come to think of it, they say you are a thief and you say, ‘The man sitting by me is also a thief.’ But you are the thief we have got now. Answer for it! Leave this man. We will get him also if he is truly a thief.
And they come again to say, ‘Ha! It is only PDP you are prosecuting, so this is not prosecution but persecution.’ Look, bring your facts about members of the other party who were not part of your looting during the time your party was in power. But in the meantime, you come and answer your own first of all. They can’t bring their facts.
Haven’t we now seen in Buhari administration how a court judge has been convicted? Haven’t we seen how former governors have been sentenced to years of imprisonment? Serving and retired generals have been arrested and tried for corruption. Even the number three citizen in the country is being questioned. Yes! Nobody ever thought Nigeria would ever grow to doing anything like that. And you say things are not changing? I don’t really understand how some people think sometimes.