Femi Fani-Kayode: Fathers and Sons By Tatalo Alamu

imageimagePoor boy , even after suffering an electoral catastrophe on the scope of Hiroshima the wicked Yoruba enforcers will not leave him alone. They will not allow him to lick the wounds of rejection in silence and solitude. Even an attempt to honour his illustrious departed father has met with fierce resistance. The whole thing backfired and boomeranged in his face. Yet is a Yoruba axiom that honoring one’s parents is the ultimate filial compliment. If so, why must his own be different?
We are of course talking about our very dear aburo, Femi Fani-Kayode, Deacon in a remote incarnation, lately presidential bull terrier and illustrious scion of illustrious ancestors. But before this engrossing tale of fathers and their sons, and of the punitive politics of the Yoruba people and its retroactive severity race ahead of the griot, let us dispense with some customary formalities.
Despite the deep ideological chasm between us and our even deeper abhorrence of his politics, readers of the column would have noticed a cagey reluctance to come down hard on Femi. Rather than excoriate him for his political impieties, snooper often passes over the matter in stony silence and deeply felt regret.
The reason for this is a rather odd and awkward sense old charity and obligation. Femi holds snooper in almost reverential admiration. By his own written admission, snooper ranks near the very top in Femi’s pantheon of literary avatars. Even when one stoutly disagrees with or is working at political cross-purpose with him , one always thought that it will be rather graceless and mean to publicly castigate somebody who holds you in such high public esteem, no matter the affront.
But in commemorating his father and eulogizing him as a former deputy leader of the Yoruba, the younger Fani has raised a matter of public interest which should be addressed in the light of history and Yoruba politics in its military and post-military phases. The ire and flak from some commentators are predicated on the conduct of the father during the pre-military and military period and of the son during the military and post-military phases. We must now look critically at the fact.
During his eventful lifetime, Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode ,SAN, QC,CON, Balogun of Ile-Ife, aka Fani-Power, cut quite a dash through the country’s legal and political circles. Tall, good looking and extremely charismatic, the supremely self-confident and brilliant lawyer was a man of magnificent presence. Born into wealth and distinction, the son and grandson of Cambridge graduates, there was something of a classical snob about the old patrician.
This disdain for the rabble and the masses was to lead his politics inexorably in the direction of fascism and his ideology towards Social Darwinism. Who are the odoriferous and hygienically challenged masses to protest when a body of men of superior intellect and superior breeding has volunteered to rule them? Tani baba won gan? It was straight out of the political manual of Benito Mussolini.
But this fascist mindset was going to be out of sinc with the radical populism and Black nationalism which was the driving ideology of the dominant Black intellectual and political elite of the decolonizing period. Up to a point, Fani Power was being true to his elitist roots. One’s personal insertion in a social and political milieu often determines their ideological outlook.
Having been where only few Black people dared, having brilliantly excelled and beaten the White man at his own intellectual game, it was possible that Fani-Kayode no longer regarded himself as a Black person not to talk of being a Yoruba man, an African Aryan so to say. It was even noted that during their students’ days in England, what Fani considered to be Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s ill-fitting trousers and thick Remo accent were the butt of savage jokes and derision from the upper class, impeccably attired aristo with his Buckingham County glass cut vowels. This elitism and in your face reactionary conservatism may well be driving the younger Fani in the same direction.
In the event, Fani senior was as colourful as he was controversial. Tales of his political derring-do abound and abide. For snooper, the most hilarious, possibly apocryphal, was when the great “Fani Power” was said to have walked into a live WNTV newscast completely soused and sodden to felicitate with his beau, the delectable Ms Toun Adeyemi. Chomping at his custom made cigar, and unaware that the news was being beamed to the world, the legendary hell-raiser was said to have bawled at the former Mrs Onibokun: “Ah ah, O chop life? Enh, o ni lati chop life niiii”. The entire station went off the air. The rest is history.
But fair is fair and it is sometimes good to set the record straight however much the facts inconvenience us. The truth will let us see the ways of history and the strange turns of elite conduct in moments of dire emergency . Femi Fani-Kayode’s efforts to romanticize the memory of his father posted on this Facebookaccount has met with blistering scorn and apoplectic disavowals. Many will have none of that nonsense. In the old West there seems to be no statute of limitation to injury done to the race.
Enter the inevitable Hardball. Hardball is the witty, irreverent, brilliant and entertaining meta-column on the back page of The Nation newspaper. It is a reader’s delight any day, that is if you are not on the receiving side of its nettling scorn, and as the name suggests it is hard and packed with cujones. If Hardball was grudgingly willing to concede Fani’s deputy leadership of what is widely considered as an occupation government, the column took fearsome umbrage at what it considered the attempt by the son of Fani Power to leverage this dubious distinction and promote his father as a one- time deputy Yoruba leader.
Hear, hear Hardball: “ But to romanticize [Fani} as a force for public good, with all due respect to the loving memory of his relations, is pure balderdash. That was what FFK tried to do by dubbing him as “deputy Yoruba leader”. He was absolutely nothing of the sort”.
Absolutely? Snooper must now enter judgment against Hardball. At the first gathering of the Yoruba people after the second coup of 1966 and under the chairmanship of the then Colonel Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, the recently released Chief Obafemi Awolowo was unanimously named as the leader of the Yoruba people. But to mollify the powerful conservative rump of the old reactionary tendency, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode was also named as deputy Yoruba leader.
It was a tense and fraught arrangement. The hard line, radically progressive Francis Adekunle Fajuyi would have had none of that. But Adebayo was of a more liberal and integrationist outlook. This cosmetic patch up left bitter wounds to fester. Quick-witted and wonderfully survivalist, Fani himself knew that there was unfinished business in the air. Whether it was Chief Awolowo’s icy stare of disdain or his legendary scorning glare that did it remains to be seen. But soon thereafter, Fani packed up his things and relocated to England seemingly for good.
Future historians will have a lot to chew about this intriguing episode in Yoruba history and post-colonial politics. But as it was in that turbulent period, so it is in this equally tumultuous conjuncture. Yoruba politics continues to be riven by elite division and bitter polarities which often spill unto the national canvas with dreadful consequences. Snooper will not follow many in concluding that Femi has merely taken off where his father left, but it is useful to remind this gifted young man that if a man chooses to be on the wrong side of his people, no matter how high he climbs in the ladder of vindictive preferment, he can never be on the right side of their history. Case dismissed.

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