As I watched Femi Fani-Kayode, and Akin Osuntokun swear by the name of Iyiola Omisore and PDP during a press briefing supervised by Musiliu Obanikoro, the minister of defence, to round-off PDP campaign for their candidate, in Osogbo last Thursday, the memories of yesterday brought the past to pain. It was like history repeating itself all over again. Their forebears, driven by passion for power employed similar tactics in the first republic. It only encouraged desperate federal government power mongers to impose a culture of impunity and a regime of injustice on the Yoruba people who by their culture always want the best for others as they want for themselves.
But it must be admitted from the onset that minus their politics, the Fani-Kayodes and the Osuntokuns, as leading light in education are a pride of the Yoruba race and a gift to Nigeria. Femi’s great grandfather Rev. Emmanuel Adedapo Kayode earned Master of Arts (Durham) degree from Fourah Bay College, an arm of Durham University in 1885. His grandfather, Victor Adedapo Kayode earned a law degree from Cambridge University in 1921, and his brilliant father Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode, ‘born in London, bred in Lagos” (apology to Aiyekoto), like his illustrious father, earned a law degree coming on top of his class in Cambridge University in 1945. Femi the scion of an illustrious family is also a phenomenon. Born with a silver spoon in London, where he acquired all his education, he admitted feeling fulfilled for matching his father’s record in Cambridge.
The Osuntokuns produced the late Professor Olukayode Osuntokun, a world celebrated neurologist, Prof Akinjide Osuntokun, a respected intellectual, eminent historian and a diplomat, who was described by Dr Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti State during his recent 70th birthday celebration as “one of the greatest examples of the famed Ekiti integrity and honour”.
Of course, there was Oduola Osuntokun, Akin’s father, a resourceful man and an Awo protégée who became a minister in his 30s and served without blemish between 1955 and 1963 when according to Akin, he “took sides with Akintola and stoically grappled with the negative fallouts attendant on this choice all his life”. He was an honest man who after serving as a minister for 10 years, returned home to become a school teacher to sustain his family Akin himself, from his brilliance and exploits as a journalist, there can be no doubt he is a true scion of his illustrious forebears.
Awo celebrated the brilliance of young Remi Fani-Kayode who rose rapidly from the leader of the youth wing of the Action Group to become the Assistant Secretary General of AG. He along with S. O. Ighodaro, E. O. Eyo, Adeyemi Lawson and S. G. Ikoku, teamed up with him to represent the Action Group at the 1957 London Constitutional Conference. But the late Olabisi Onabanjo, a veteran journalist alias Aiyekoto, who chronicled the events of the period, told us how Fani-Kayode took a gamble in 1959, when he joined NCNC as leader of opposition in the House. According to him, Fani-Kayode, “born in London, bred in Lagos, who went home only when ambition for political office was ripened”, lost the Ife Constituency 1 election in 1959 and lost the Ile Ife constituency in 1961. He thereafter embarked on a battle to bring down the regional government. Following the prosecution of some members of his militant youth wing for criminal activities in 1960, he called on the prime minister and the federal government to take over the West because of what he described as ‘breakdown of law and order’. He repeated the call in 1961 and in fact staged a walk-out in the House.
His appeal to the federal government to take over the West finally found expression in 1962 when following the throwing of chairs by some NCNC sympathizers of embattled Premier SLA Akintola, the federal government declared an illegal state of emergency and clamped Awo and members of the ruling AG into detention. At the end of the emergency, Akintola was imposed as premier without election while Fani-Kayode became deputy premier. Emboldened by this act of injustice and impunity by the federal government, Fani-Kayode called the bluff of Yoruba voters by predicting that their new party, NNDP would win the 1965 regional election ‘whether the people voted for them or not’.
They went on to award themselves a pyrrhic victory. According to Akin Osuntokun, “many of the NNDP candidates were returned unopposed because the candidatures of their opponents were invalidated fraudulently. Everyone knew that Akintola had stolen the election”.
But the Yoruba, who sometimes first welcome evil perpetrators with talking drum, swore that those who sowed the wind would reap the whirlwind. When he was arrested in the wee hours of January 31, 1966 by the coup plotters, it was Fani-Kayode’s lot to lead the plotters to the premier’s lodge where he witnessed the brutal murder of SLA Akintola. He later relocated to London only to emerge in 1978 as a founding member of NPN. But the brilliant lawyer never again found the rhythm after becoming an accessory to the destruction of the ladder with which he climbed up.
Aiyekoto, writing about Chief Remi Fani-Kayode in Daily Express of August 8, 1961, also says “he has the courage of a mischief maker and knows how to exploit a situation”. He, according to him first warmed himself to the hearts of the people through a series of powerful articles and later by fighting conservatism only to return to those he fought to get the limelight…” It was as if Aiyekoto was writing about the Femi, the scion of an illustrious father. Femi not too many seasons ago took on the gab of a Yoruba irredentist, dished out powerful articles to propagate and celebrate the values, character and integrity of his Yoruba people. As the nemesis of PDP in the South-west in the last two years, he even helped in building APC into a formidable opposition. But like his illustrious father did in 1959, he has now shifted his allegiance to the centre.
Speaking at the said press briefing as if there was no yesterday, he boasted PDP would win the election. He went short of adding his illustrious father’s infamous phrase “whether the people voted for (NNDP) PDP or not”. He did not say why Omisore with all his celebrated character flaws is the leadership Osun State deserves. Obviously, like his late illustrious father, all that mattered was the raw power of the federal government who often fraudulently claim to know what the people want without asking them.
Oduola Osuntokun was brilliant and honest, a man of character like most of his Ekiti compatriots of his day. He was the apple of Awo’s eyes. He was a trusted minister saddled with supervising the building of Bodija and Ikeja GRAs, the task he carried out without blemish. But in 1962, he betrayed his party and Awo. He teamed up with Akintola who Akin admitted in the above quote as having stolen the people’s mandate. He chose to take sides with injustice, a vice abhorred by his Ekiti people who according to Akin ended up burning the Osuntokun family houses in Okemesi.
The only plausible explanation for an acclaimed man of culture and character to side with injustice is greed for power. And now Akin has said publicly he has no regret embracing the politics of his illustrious father despite wise counsel from his respected uncles. And the only plausible explanation for a man of good breeding taking sides with those alleged to be deficit in honour, integrity and character is greed for power. His detractors for instance alleged he turned his back on AD to join Obasanjo because he couldn’t secure a senate ticket.
Welcome. First Republic, lost through the perfidy of illustrious fathers, swept away for choosing to swim against the tide. It is a new dawn for their illustrious scions who think they can repeat the same mistake and get a different result. As the scions publicly identify with those who proclaim night as day, history repeats itself