By: Dr. N. Tony Nwaezeigwe
The problem with a guest-mourner out-weeping the bereaved is that the former often loses touch of the emotional rhythm of the situation and thus often fails to notice when the situation changes to the mood of somber reflection. This is the situation Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode presently finds himself when the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola on Thursday 26 September, 2013, addressed the Igbo elite group Aka-Ikenga at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs(NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, finally resolving the impasse created by the unsavory deportation of Nd’Igbo to Onitsha.
To quote Governor Fashola at length:
The truth is that I do not have a problem with the Igbos, they know that because I am close to them and indeed, the largest herd of cattle I received during my father’s burial came from Nd’Igbo. But there were people who did not clearly understand me and they have misunderstood words said or misrepresented actions taken in the way that it has pleased them to do so. To these people, I owe explanation, not a defence of what has happened and that is partly why I am here. We have built a relationship based on tolerance, based on mutual respect, based on trust and love. That relationship was started by our ancestors, it was handed over to us. We have nourished it with a lot of trust, with a lot of understanding and with a lot of fidelity. Those who misunderstood that relationship, who think that there is no value in that relationship, I have come here to correct that because I value that relationship. And so, if those people have misunderstood me or they have misunderstood the actions taken by our government, here and today, I offer an unqualified and unreserved apology.
Although this position came quite belatedly, the damage having already been done in respect of the prospects of the All Progressives Congress (APC) among Nd’Igbo, the fact however remains that Governor Fashola needs to be highly commended for this singular and rare act of courage and humility quite alien to the Nigerian culture of leadership- a State Governor- whether sitting or out of office coming out to apologize for action already concluded.
But what is however obvious is that anybody who has had a bit of close interaction with the Lagos State Governor will no doubt be charmed by his uncommon carriage of superintending integrity woven in undefined humility and evocative urbanity. This was my first-hand observation when, as a Guest-Lecturer at the Coalition of Oodua Nationality Groups (COSEG) Guest- Lecture Series, held at the Ikeja Airport International Hotels in 2011, I was privileged to pay him a courtesy visit with the organizers.
The lesson of Governor Fashola’s apology raises one vital question- can Nigeria ever envision a situation where the Governor of Kano State will rise up one day to apologize for the countless and senseless massacre of the Igbo and other allied ethnic groups in his State? This question calls for sober reflection on the differing senses of one Nigeria.
The fact however is that at the on-set of the deportation quagmire, I had muted to a friend that I doubted if the Governor Fashola I met was the real author of that deportation saga, or that he was only playing the script of a higher political cabal who thought a conflict between Igbo and Yoruba could enhance their dwindling prospects of selling the All Progressive Congress (APC) to the highly ideologically conscious Yoruba. In fact, it was this cabal that created the addle-brained monster called Femi Abdulateef Kayode to play the now obvious sacrificial hatchet-man against the Igbo.
In my previous writing on Femi Fani-Kayode’s Nupe ancestry, I inadvertently misrepresented the Ikorodu and Epe to be Egba. I had meant “Ijebu” and not “Egba”. My unreserved apologies go to the good and hospitable people of Epe and Ikorodu. By way of further correction, the Egba elements include the Ikeja-Ogba-Ojodu periphery.
In his denial of his Nupe ancestry published in the website, Naij.Com, an on-line-news out-fit, on August 24, 2013, Chief Femi Abdulateef Fami-Kayode, in his usual namby-pamby exhibition of intellectual trumpery, goofed by describing the present writer as not just ‘some confused Igbo person who claims to be an academic”, but “the usual 419”. But that is far from the truth. The present writer is neither a confused Igbo person nor a fake academic.
He is a full-fledged Nigerian, historian by profession, of full Igbo extraction trained in both character and learning by the Department of History and international Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Beyond being a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies, at the same university, he is an Igbo of Ibusa extraction, a Deltan by political cartography.
Thus, as a citizen of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria and professional historian, he possesses the political and historical candour to not just contest the right of the Igbo to Lagos State with any Yoruba of no-native Lagos extraction, but stand by the immutability of Alhaji Abdulateef Femi Femi-Kayode’s Nupe ancestry.
One had expected Abdulateef Fani kayoed to address the substance of the issues raised regarding his Nupe ancestry on points of historical credibility, just as a lawyer would do when dealing on issues that demand points of law, to contradict a body of evidence. At best, he should have hired a competent professional Yoruba historian to contradict the urgent matter of his Nupe ancestry with incontrovertible body of evidence. But he chose instead by the usual influence of his generic paranoiac despondency to engage on a peripatetic intellectual dance of madness, that acutely places him right on the precipice of his political doomsday.
The fact is obvious. Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode’s problem is the problem of Nigeria’s fatalistic neglect of her history. It lies more on his fatalistic ignorance of the subject of historical studies in general and his personal history in particular, than his penchant for chronic garrulous naivety. Politically hypochondriac, with traces of morbid symptoms of schizophrenia, and imperiled by an audacious and impetuous historical imbecility, Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode by his ignoble denial of his Nupe ancestry appears destined for a cataclysmic course of his own history.
In a befuddling manner, that only speaks of a capitulating morass of identify complex laced with his usual cantankerous diatribes, Femi Abdulateef Fami-Kayode wrote:
I assure you all that there is not an iota of truth in the assertion that I have any Nupe ancestry or blood in me. I have traced my bloodlines back to 8 generations and order than having a little Fulani blood in me through my maternal great grandmother I am a pure Yoruba. I have ancestral ties with Abeokuta, Ilesha, Ife and Lagos but nowhere else. I have no Nupe blood in me and my great grandfather was not a Nupe or a Sierra Leonean. Neither was he a slave of the great Bishop Ajayi-Crowther.
First, if Abdulateef Femi Fani-Kayode denies any relationship with the family of Bishop Ajayi Crowther, he may well explain the relationship between Reverend Joseph Fanimokun, Principal of C.M.S. Grammar school, Lagos (from 1896 to 1914), the father of his paternal grandmother Mrs. Aurora Kayode, and the Bishop Ajayi crowther family.
The fact is that Reverend Joseph Fanimokun, from whose surname his grandson Remilekun adopted the prefix “Fani”, together with Reverend Thomas Babington Macaulay- Herbert Macaulay’s father and founder of CMS Grammar School, Lagos in 1859, was a very close family friend to Bishop Ajayi Crowther. It was based on this relationship and in line with the Saro tradition of arrangee- marriage of the time that Reverend Thomas Macaulay married Bishop Ajayi Crowther’s first daughter- Herbert Macaulay’s mother, and went ahead to encourage similar marriage between Reverend Fanimokun’s daughter and the son of Reverend Emmanuel Kayode- his ward Femi’s grandfather.
The further truth is that his paternal great grandfather, the respected Reverend Emmanuel Kayode was one of the Nupe Sierra Leonean students engaged by Bishop Samuel Ajayi-Crowther to help in the translation of the Holy Bible into Nupe language. This was revealed by the renowned ethno-linguist, Professor Robert G. Armstrong during his 1964 Inaugural Lecture at the University of Ibadan.
Abdulateef Femi Fani-Kayode further claimed that he could trace his bloodlines back to eight generations. Let him begin by stating his great grandfather’s kindred in Ife, and then to the nature of his claimed sancestral connections to Ilesha, Abeokuta and Lagos.
The fact however remains that Abdulateef Fani-Kayode knows that it was on account of his Nupe ancestry that the former military dictator, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida organized a private 50th Birthday Dinner for him at Lagos, on October 17, 2010, during which he was exalted by the former dictator as a worthy son of Niger State playing their eye in Yorubaland. The gospel truth about Chief Abdulateef Fani-Kayode is that, he is a Niger State indigene in the cloak of Yoruba identify. Every decent and patriotic Yoruba nationalist should watch him very carefully, for the leopard can never change its skin.
If Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode claims that he has some pints of Fulani blood in him, nobody would dispute him as the Nupe are ruled today by the Fulani. What remains is for him to further trace his Fulani blood to the ruling Etsu-Nupe dynasty to actualize his scavenging fortuitous political adventurism. May be, if he had claimed Oshodi-Tapa lineage of Lagos State, he could have been granted the leverage over those Igbo born and bred in Lagos like him.
It should be recalled that in the concluding sentence of the present writer’s previous research note on Femi Fani-kayode, the latter was described as a gambari par excellence – Gambari being the Yoruba term for the Fulani. Has this not been proved right by his recent claim of Fulani ancestry? He used this claim of Fulani ancestry win political patronage in 1991 from the former Director General of the defunct Nigerian Security Organization(NSO) Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, who subsequently rewarded him with the post of his Personal Assistant that same year.
Watch it! This time, by bringing up the claim of Fulani ancestry, this megalomaniac political chameleon may be subtly rooting for some political favours from the likes of General Muhammadu Buhari and co in the APC.
But most disgusting was his fatalistic attempt to engage in a murderous historical by misadventure when he turned into a befuddled lecturer on the subject of ethno-linguistics. In his usual eccentric and uncouth voracious quest for delusive intellectualism he had stated:
Unlike the Igbo writer of this fiction, I can trace my history and known my heritage. If I had Nupe roots I would be the first to say so and I would be very proud of that. This is because unlike the Igbo, the Nupe are very close to Yoruba and are actually part of us. The Northerners and the people of the South West and Midwest (Edo and Delta) are inextricably linked by history, marriage, trade, bloodlines and culture. They are collectively known as the Sudanese Nigerians because they migrated from North Africa down to where they are today. The Igbo and the people of the eastern Niger Delta (Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Calabar, Bayelsa) are known as the Bantu Nigerians and they have no ancestral ties or links with the Sudanese. They migrated to where they are today from East Africa and Central Africa hence the name Bantu. The Bantu and the Sudanese are very different in their outlook to life, and their ways. Unlike the Bantu the Sudanese have a long history of ancient kingdoms and empire sophisticated hierarchical structure, an all-inclusive liberal, tolerant and accommodating tradition, a refined and well educated nobility and ruling class, a rigid class system and a noble tradition of excellence and fair play.
This is the ethno-linguistic and historical thesis of somebody who parades himself as a product of one of the elite higher institutions of the world and, a Former Minister of the Almighty Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nigeria is indeed in trouble. A former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who does not know that Calabar is a State Capital and not a State, could only but bury his face in shame.
For Abdulateef Femi Fani-Kayode’s intellectual benefit, neither the Nupe nor the Yoruba belong to any modern linguistic classification called “Sudanese”, or do the Igbo belong to the Bantu language family. The Igbo, Edo, Nupe, Idoma, Gwari, Ijon, Igbira(Ebira), Igala, Bassa and Yoruba belong to the Kwa language sub-family, which is a branch of the wider Niger-Congo language family of Africa.
In terms to nearness to origins, the Nupe is far from the Yoruba, their geographical proximity notwithstanding. The nearest to the Nupe in this regard are the Gwari and Igbira. In the case of the Yoruba, their closest affinity lies with the Itsekiri and Igala. The Edo group, which includes Bini, Esan, Owan, Afemai and Isoko-Urhobo represents a transitional linguistic zone between the Igbo and Yoruba.
In general, both the Igbo and Edo are nearer to Yoruba in the matter of the year of separation from the parent Kwa than the Yoruba are to the Nupe, as revealed by the dating science of glottochronology calculated through lexico-statistics. On the other hand, while the Tiv represent the major concentration of Bantu-speaking people in Nigeria, the Semi-Bantu are concentrated on the Cross River basin, mainly represented by the Efik-Ibibio language groups.
One does not however need to go into the now out-dated mythology of migration from North Africa by some Black African groups, for who can convince the likes of Abdulateef Fani-Kayode that quite a number of credible body of evidence from archaeology, ethno-linguistics and autochthonous traditions have strongly questioned the veracity of such claims, which most probably border on the infamous hamitic hypothesis.
Be that as it may, Abdulateef Fani-Kayode’s laborious efforts to extricate himself from his Nupe ancestry have not been factually convincing and thus cannot be sustained by the evidence of history. If Abdulateef Fani-Kayode could serialize his anti-Igbo diatribes, he could in the same manner serialize his Yoruba genealogical tree of eight generations.
His claim that he would live and die for Yorubaland is as obvious as it is a con-man’s device to deceive the un-suspecting Yoruba patriots. The question is: where was Abdulateef Fani-Kayode when the June 12 1993 annulment called for patriotic sacrifice? Did he not flee the country only to resurface in 2001?
Today every Yoruba patriot and indeed all Nigerians who are conscious that the freedom and the democratic culture being enjoyed today is the result of a relentless sacrifice of June 12 heroes, both living and gone. The Igbo remain the largest troop of these soldiers of democracy only second to the Yoruba.
Today we pay unqualified tributes to the body and spirit of the likes of Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu(rtd), Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe(rtd), Okwadike Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Vice Admiral Alison Madueke(rtd), Senator Paulinus Nwite, Comrade Ubani Chima of blessed memory, Engr. Joe Igbokwe, Comrade Emma Ezeazu, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Jenkins Alumona, Henry Ugbolue, Senator O. A. Okoroafor, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe of blessed memory, Clement Nwankwo, Oliseh Agbakoba(SAN), Professor Pat Utomi, Charles Obi, George Mbah, Arthur Nwankwo, Ralph Obioha, Udenta Udenta, Chris Nwankwo, Jacob Nwokolo and Comrade Chris Ezeiyiaku among others, who stood firm for the actualization of June 12 while the likes of Abdulateef Femi Fani-Kayode fled to foreign lands.
May be, it would interest Abdulateef Fani-Kayode to know that the present writer, an Igbo, remains up till this moment an associate member of Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC). What can be more supportive of Yoruba interest than the sacrificial roles of the above “Heroes of Democracy”, to quote the title Joe Igbokwe’s book, or in an Igbo being part of OPC- the political crucible of Yoruba emancipation? Thus a deportation of the Igbo from Lagos out of Lagos would have been the least of any act of provocation any sensible Yoruba leadership would have engaged against the Igbo?
Although Governor Fashola’s reconciliatory approach remains highly commendable, there is still more to do in the area of a formal recognition of the Igbo sacrifice in the June 12 struggles, for the present Lagos State Government is a scion of that struggle. If Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not find such honour desirable throughout his eight-year stint in Alausa for unknown reasons, this time, being on the course of a “just history re-created”, Governor Babatunde Fashola is confronted with the rare opportunity of creating a “Roll of Honour for the Heroes” of the very democracy we enjoy today.
It is evidently regrettable that none of the South-West State Governments, right from the era of Alliance for Democracy(AD) through the successor Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) to Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN), and now the All Progressives Alliance(APC), in spite of their verbose pro-June 12 rhetoric, did remember that the ideological force behind the June 12 struggle was an Oduduwa concept, but Nigerian, for Moshood Abiola himself was not an Oduduwa partisan. When this is realized, the impetus for cross-ethnic political struggles, which was the bedrock of the June 12 struggles, will be strengthened for the benefit of a pan-Nigerian political consciousness. Once this consciousness is institutionalized, it would become extremely difficult for such uninvited political mega-mourners as Abdulateef Femi Fani-Kayode to thrive. May be, by then a project of “Back to Nupeland” would be his next option.
Dr. N. Tony Nwaezeigwe
Senior Research Fellow
Institute of African Studies,
University of Nigeria,