AMONG those Nigerians whose words or actions hardly thrill me is Femi Fani-Kayode who, until last year, was former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s garrulous Minister of Transport (Aviation). For record purposes, Fani-Kayode is one of Nigeria’s failed politicians who was not only rehabilitated and elevated by former President Obasanjo but also became one of his ‘bread and butter’ foot-soldiers, especially, during his (Obasanjo’s) self-destructive 3rd-Term and allied antics.
Expectedly, Femi never failed Olusegun, his master. Then, so pointed and pungent were Fani-Kayode’s attacks that he was ever prepared not only to cry more than the bereaved but also to fight with his diarrhoea-infested mouth anybody – and everybody – all in the defence of his master’s policies, however draconian; and his ambitions, however undemocratic.
A man of many words but, certainly, not a man of his words, I got to know Fani-Kayode in the 1990’s during his vitriolic press wars with Fr. Matthew Hassan Kukah; and, since then, the man has never disappointed those of us who know what havocs he can wreak, especially, with his mouth. Only the likes of Wole Soyinka and Abubakar Umar can relive their vituperative ordeals in the hands of a desperate Special Adviser.
But time and tide have changed: the arrester of yesterday has suddenly become the arrested and the talker of our immediate past is now (afraid of) being talked about.
Well, the aim of this piece is not to comment on the whats, the whys, the wheres, or the hows of Fani-Kayode’s arrest and subsequent arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on corruption-related charges; more so as it would be prejudicial to comment on an issue that is already before a court of competent jurisdiction.
Not that alone, since everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion, however genuine, or germane, or obtuse, or opaque, it would be unnecessary to take seriously an issue concerning Fani-Kayode’s history, in self-defence; or story, in self-adulation. Nonetheless, my duty here is to, among other things, alert Nigerians on the ethnic colouration being peddled by Fani-Kayode to paint his well-deserved trial.
In my own view, since corruption as an ailment transcends the bounds of religion, creed or race, its treatment should of necessity rise above racial, religious or cultural interests.
Now to the meat of this piece! A few weeks ago, Fani-Kayode was at the palace of Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the ‘Ooni of Ife’ on a ‘Thank you’ visit. In the “fulsome synopsis” of his speech at the Ooni’s palace, exclusively reported in ‘New Focus’ an Ile-Ife, Osun State-based newspaper, Fani-Kayode allegedly remarked that his arrest by the EFCC was ethnically motivated.
According to him, the new occupants of – or tenants in – ‘Aso Rock’ were after the Yoruba race and that was why they have, in recent times, been ‘victimising’ one Yoruba leader after the other. Hear him: “Why is it that all started with a Yoruba woman who was arrested and arraigned? Why is it that they moved on to Iyabo Obasanjo, arrested and detained her? Why is it that they arrested former President Obasanjo’s in-law next … and Femi Fani-Kayode? Who is next?”
He did not even stop there: “They have seen eight years of President Obasanjo in office, as a Yoruba man; … but now … it will be the turn of other tribes and that they are going to treat Yoruba race badly.” He then warned his erstwhile colleagues in power to treat “Yorubas as a race with the respect they deserve.”
As I have stated earlier, everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion, however disconnected or disjointed. So, nobody can crucify Fani-Kayode for being what he has chosen to be. The only caveat is that such an opinion should not be injurious to others; or capable of igniting distrust among the people. And that is where the problem in Fani-Kayode’s vitupeations, or campaigns, lies.
In all sincerity, gone should be those days when some ethnic and religious irredentists would capitalize on the gullibility, or insensitivity, or perceived weakness of the people to script relevance, court attention, or win onto themselves undue recognition or undeserved sympathy. From all intent, what has race got to do with the prosecution of a public office holder who was alleged to have betrayed the trust reposed in him by the people?
I have argued in one of my previous interventions that Nigeria’s dilemma as a nation state is primarily her clashing contradictions. Her other undoing is that the memory of her people is short; indeed, too short! In other words, since we tend to forgive and forget the past so easily, it has become difficult for the sinners of, especially, our immediate past to either repent or be treated to the real wages of sin. For instance, Yakubu Gowon, with all his geo-political absurdities and socio-economic silliness is now Nigeria’s chief prayer merchant.
The same Murtala Muhammed who, in addition to disrespect for constituted authority, once declared that there was basically no need for a Nigeria where the component nationalities could live together as a people bound together by a common destiny, is the same man who has eventually become Nigeria’s hero extraordinaire. Theophilus Danjuma who murdered Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi and Adekunle Fajuyi for no reason other than secessionist tendencies is the same elder-statesman that Nigerians now worship.
The duo of Mohammadu Buhari who once so derided democracy that he clamped into detention its practitioners and Ibrahim Babangida who, apart from banning, unbanning, and rebanning politicians, annulled a free and fair election, are now the voices of democrats in a democracy, where democrats have willingly mortgaged their voices. and, Sani Abacha, the maximum dictator, is now better celebrated in death than Obasanjo, the maximum democrat; while the maximum democrat is already comparing his place in history to Abraham Lincoln’s.
Even, Emeka Ojukwu, who had allowed personal ambitions to dwarf national pursuits, was the same man who eventually became “the voice of the injury of the Easterners” during the program of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. And, Alfred Diete-Spiff, that military governor, who once humiliated professionalism, is the one whose voice now sounds and serves as the ‘beacon of hope’ for the oppressed, the repressed and the depressed people of the Niger Delta.
Fani-Kayode’s assertion that “Yoruba race is not corrupt” is practically escapist in nature, particularly empty in content and pathetically ridiculous in context. It is nothing other than the disconnected excuse of an unfocussed mind. Of course, if we have forgotten so soon the era of the ten percenters, is Tafa Balogun, that former Inspector General of Police, not a Yorubaman? Should Peter Obasa, Folorunso Kila, the late Sunday Afolabi, Julius Makanjuola, Ayodele Fayose, Adenike Grange and Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello forgo their Yorubaness because of their embarrassing acts against motherland?
Or, can this latter-day ‘defender’ of Yoruba race tell Nigerians that he truly supported the late Lamidi Adedibu’s kind of politics? Further, I knew of one or two prominent people of Yoruba descent who, on the eve of the Year 2003 elections, were financially induced in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, just to vote for a particular candidate who still sits in power as if he is on the people’s true mandate. I know of a highly-respected traditional ruler in Yorubaland who in the same year made [of] himself the campaign officer for the party at the centre.
Siemens and Schneider scandals are also still fresh in our minds! And, does corruption have any other name by which it is called? I think otherwise!
Further, that “Yorubas still have fathers” is incontestable and that “Obasanjo tried his best” is indisputable. But, when did Fani-Kayode transmute into a spiritualist to be invoking “the spirits of God, the earth, winds, water and the fire … and all that lives to stand up and defend the Yoruba race”?
For God’s sake, who made him [a] prophet over us? True! Obafemi Awolowo and Oba Adesoji Aderemi we knew; but who is Obasanjo and what are his antecedents? Indeed, what are his legacies? Who are the others mentioned in his off-the-track sermon? Without doubt, the Yorubas know who their fathers are. Yoruba as a race associates with leaders with sound minds whose policies are encapsulated in an optimistic vision of Nigeria’s future, certainly not those sartorial gladiators, unrepentant propagandists, mere thinkers and rapacious riggers who mortgage the interests of their people for pecuniary innuendoes.
On Obasanjo’s performance, at least, we are all living witnesses to how the former president ‘developed’ his home-front and his state of origin! We can recall the ‘development’ in the Bakassi Peninsula, the ‘stability’ in power supply and the ‘thriving’ of the industrial sector. Indeed, we can see with our very eyes how Obasanjo has so ‘tamed’ corruption that, less than one year after leaving office, the hen is sooner than later coming home to roost.
The seizure of local govt Funds to Lagos State, in spite of Supreme Court’s ruling to the contrary, was it not (as a result of) a Yorubaman’s ‘benevolence’ to a Yoruba State? For God’s sake, if this is the kind of ‘development’ which Fani-Kayode wants to bear as governor on Osun State, a project that has turned him into an unrepentant desperado, then, he is already on a failed mission. Interestingly, I am from his senatorial zone and I am yet to see any meaningful development he has either brought or influenced into the zone all through his sojourn in power.
Surely, we know the antics of Fani-Kayode’s ilk: they religionize the absurd and ethnicize the spiritual. They set men against men, brothers against brothers, and nations against nations. And, in this they joy! Thank God, Femi did not invoke on Yoruba race the spirit of Remi, or Fani Power, his father. Else, the Yoruba nation in particular and indeed the Nigerian nation in general had better prepare for tougher and rougher times.
Though it may be too early in the day to talk about the Year 2011 and the impact it will have on Nigeria, we need to appropriately situate the past. We need to know where we are coming from and what we need to do to get out of where we are in order to get to where we are headed. We need to formulate policies that can stand the test of time as well as properly put in place alternative measures, should our cherished policies disappoint us. Doomsday prophecy apart, who says Pakistan or Sudan cannot happen in Nigeria?
Who says Abacha cannot resurrect and again enlist the consciences of gladiators, meanderers and clappers like Ojo Madueke, Ibrahim Mantu, Ebenezer Babatope and, of course, Fani-Kayode in another orgy of ‘One Million Man March’? Who is that man who declares that Nigeria has survived the resurgence of Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos, Robert Mugabe, or even our own Obasanjo?
In truth, if Nigeria will want to forget her sad past, Nigerians should be prepared for a big treat, a kind of revolution that may practically have nothing to do with arms struggle, but certainly one that will help in confining the Fani-Kayodes of this world to where they appropriately belong. In other words, Nigerians, irrespective or their affiliations, must be ready to work together as a people or be ready to perish as fools. They must be prepared to see and treat governance, not as the politics for the next elections, but as the governance for the next generation. After all, “wherever self-government has worked out, it is because men have fought for it and valued it as a thing they had won for themselves, feeling it to be the true remedy for misgovernment.”
• ABIODUN KOMOLAFE wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.