HISTORY FOCUS (47) – CHIEF REMI FANI-KAYODE
Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode (nicknamed “Fani-Power”), Q.C., SAN, CON (1921–1995) was a leading Nigerian politician, aristocrat, nationalist, statesman and lawyer.
Fani-Kayode hailed from a prominent and well educated Yoruba family who are of Ife stock from south-western Nigeria. His grandfather Rev. Emmanuel Adedapo Kayode was an Anglican Priest who had got his Master of Arts (Durham) degree from Fourah Bay College which at that time was part of Durham University in 1885 and his father Victor Adedapo Kayode studied law and graduated from Cambridge University in 1921, was called to the British Bar (Middle Temple) in 1922 and went on to become a prominent lawyer and then a judge in Nigeria. His mother was Mrs. Aurora Kayode (née Fanimokun) who was the daughter of the respected Rev. Joseph Fanimokun who had also been an Anglican priest, who had also got his Master of Arts (Durham) degree from Fourah Bay College and who later became the Principal of the famous CMS Grammar School in Lagos from 1896 to 1914. This was a missionary school that was founded by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
In July, 1958, he successfully moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in the Federal House of Assembly. He argued that independence should take place on 2 April 1960 (the minutes of Hansard, 1958; Richard Sklar’s “Nigeria’s political parties:Power in an Emergent African Nation”, World Press, p. 269; p. 269; Professor Onabamiro’s “Glimpses in Nigeria’s History”, p. 140). 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 1 October instead. This motion of amendment was passed and approved by Parliament and it was acquiesced to by the British and that is how the date for Nigeria’s independence, 1 October 1960, was finally arrived at.
After finishing at King’s College, Lagos, Remilekun Fani-Kayode went to Cambridge University (Downing College) in 1941 after which he did the British Bar examinations where he came top in his year for the whole of the British Commonwealth. He was called to The British Bar at Middle Temple in 1945 and he went on to be appointed Queens Counsel (Q.C.) in 1960 (he was the third and youngest Nigerian ever to be made Q.C) and later Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1977 (he was the third Nigerian to be made a SAN). He set up the first indigenous Nigerian law firm in 1948 with Chief Frederick Rotimi Williams and Chief Bode Thomas who were also both lawyers who had been trained at Cambridge and London University respectively. The law firm was called “Thomas, Williams and Kayode”. In 1970 he established another law firm called “Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo” with his old friend and partner Chief Sobo Sowemimo, S.A.N.
Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode played a major role in the struggle for Nigeria’s Independence. In 1952 he, together with Rotimi Williams, Bode Thomas and a number of others, were all detained by the British colonial authorities for the very active and passionate role that they played in the struggle against the British. He was elected the leader of the Action Group youth wing in 1954. He set up a youth wing for the party who wore “black shirts” and used the “mosquito” as their emblem to reflect their disdain for British colonial rule.
Again, in 1954, the Oloye Fani-Kayode was elected into the Federal House of Assembly on the platform of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group and he continued his fight for Nigeria’s Independence from there. He was the Assistant Federal Secretary of the Action Group and in that respect played a pivotal role, with the Federal Secretary, the late Chief Ayo Rosiji, in the organisation and administration of the Action Group. He, alongside Chief Awolowo, S. O. Ighodaro, E. O. Eyo, Adeyemi Lawson and S. G. Ikoku, represented the Action Group at the 1957 London Constitutional Conference.
In 1957 he led the team of Action Group lawyers who represented and fought for the people of the Northern minorities at the Willinks minorities Commission in their quest for the creation of a middle belt region which would have been carved out of the old Northern Region of Nigeria. In July 1958 he successfully moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in the Federal House of Assembly (the minutes of Hansard, 1958; p. 269; Professor Onabamiro’s “Perspectives on Nigeria’s History”, p. 140).
In 1959 Remilekun Fani-Kayode resigned from the Action Group and joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), an opposition party. In 1960 he was elected the leader of the NCNC in the Western House of Assembly. In 1963 he was elected Deputy Premier of the old Western Region of Nigeria under Chief Samuel Akintola on the platform of the Nigerian National Democratic Party. He was also appointed Minister of Local Government Affairs for the Western Region in that same year.
In the early hours of the morning of 15 January 1966, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, a Nigerian Army officer of Igbo extraction, attempted to effect the first military coup d’état in the history of Nigeria. The attempt, though ultimately unsuccessful, resulted in a lot of bloodshed and many senior members of the ruling party, the military and the government of the day were brutally killed. Early that morning the coupists, under the command of Captain Emmanuel Nwobosi, attacked and stormed the home of Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, the Deputy Premier of the Western Region. Fani-Kayode was brutalised by the mutineers in front of his whole family and in the presence of his son Femi Fani-Kayode, who was to become Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation 40 years later. He was then whisked away by them to an unknown destination. After leaving Fani-Kayode’s home the mutineers, with Fani-Kayode in their custody, went to the Ibadan home of Chief S.L. Akintola, who was Premier of the Western Region, stormed his house as well and murdered him in front of his whole family. They also wounded his grandson and daughter-in-law.
Chief Fani-Kayode witnessed the killing of his friend S.L. Akintola by the mutineers and from there he was taken to the military cantonment in Lagos where he was also scheduled to be executed by them. However, luckily for him, on arrival at the Ikeja military cantonment in Lagos the mutineers were overpowered, overwhelmed and killed by loyalist troops under the command of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon (who later became Nigeria’s Head of State). Fani-Kayode was freed by the loyalists and kept by them in a safe house until law and order was restored in the country. The coup attempt was effectively quelled by the loyalist forces and all its ringleaders were either killed or captured and detained. Out of all the key government officials and senior military figures that were attacked in their homes and that were apprehended by the mutineers and coup plotters that night, including Sir Ahmadu Bello (the Premier of the Northern Region), Sir Tafawa Balewa (the Prime Minister), Chief Okotie-Eboh (the Minister of Finance), General Maimalari (the Chief of Army Staff), Brigadier Ademulegun(Commander of the Northern Garrison) and so many others, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, together with Sir Kashim Ibrahim (the Governor of the Northern Region) were the only ones that were not killed.
Consequently, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi himself took over power from the remnants of the Tafawa Balewa government on 16 January the day after successfully foiling Major Nzeogwu’s mutiny and violent coup attempt. He then assumed the position of the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces. However a few months later he himself was toppled in a successful northern coup d’état which was effected on 29 July 1966 and which was led by Lt. Col. Murtala Mohammed and Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon (as they then were). During the coup General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was arrested in Ibadan, together with his host General Adekunle Fajuyi, by northern soldiers under the command of Major Theophilus Danjuma (as he then was). Both men were then whisked away and taken to a road side bush where they were both stripped naked and shot. Such was the brutality of the northern “revenge” coup of 29 July 1966 that no less than 300 Igbo army officers and non-commissioned officers were killed. This was due to the fact that, among a number of other grievances, the northern officers were of the view that General Aguiyi-Ironsi had been far too lenient with Major Nzeogwu and his fellow mutineers after the 15 January Igbo coup attempt in which many northern (Hausa – Fulani) and western (Yoruba) political leaders and senior military officers had been brutally murdered.
The suspicion by the northern officers that there was some kind of collusion and understanding between the Nzeogwu group and General Aguiyi-Ironsi was further fuelled by the fact that Aguiyi-Ironsi himself was of Igbo ethnic stock. Interestingly 40 years after his murder Aguiyi-Ironsi’s son, Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, was to become Nigeria’s Minister of Defence and ironically he took over that position from General Theophilus Danjuma, the man that had killed his father 40 years earlier. Many have said that the seeds of the northern officer’s counter-coup of July 1966, which witnessed the killings of General Aguiyi-Ironsi and many other officers of mainly Igbo extraction and which eventually led to the Nigerian civil war itself were planted on that fateful night of 15 January by the bloodletting of Major Nzeogwu and his men, most of whom were of Igbo extraction.
After the first ever attempted military coup in Nigeria on 15 January 1966 Remilekun Fani-Kayode together with a number of other notable figures were all detained by the military government of General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi. They were later released in July 1966, after the northern counter-coup, led by Lt. Col. Murtala Muhammed and Major Theophilus Danjuma. After Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon became Nigeria’s Head of State, Remilekun Fani-Kayode left Nigeria with his whole family and moved to the seaside resort town of Brighton in south eastern England. They set up home and lived there in exile, for many years. In 1978 he was one of those that founded and pioneered the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). In 1979 he was elected to the position of the National Vice-Chairman of that party and in recognition of his contribution to national development he was conferred with the honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (C.O.N) by President Shehu Shagari.
From 1990 until 1994 he was a member of the elders caucus of the National Republican Convention (NRC), one of the two political parties set up by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida during Nigeria’s third republic. After the annulment of Chief Moshood Abiola’s presidential election on 12 June 1993, Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode was one of those who openly wrote about and spoke out strongly against the annulment. He even went to court over the issue. In 1994 the government of General Sanni Abacha appointed him into the Justice Kayode Eso panel of inquiry which effectively probed and helped to sanitise the Nigerian judiciary and rid it of corrupt judges.
Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode was married to Chief Mrs Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode. The two of them had five children: Akinola Adedapo Fani-Kayode, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Femi Fani-Kayode, Mrs. Toyin Bajela and Mrs. Tolu Fanning. Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode also had four other children: Mrs. Aina Ogunbe, Mrs. Remi Nana Akuffo-Addo (they were later divorced), Tokunbo Fani-Kayode and Ladipo Fani-Kayode.
Source: Wikipedia and Google