Friday, September 24, 2021 12:02 am
By Chris Anyokwu
At first, when the story of his defection from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC) broke on 16th September 2021 on social media, everyone had dismissed it blithefully with a wave of the hand as the latest in the round of unprovoked muck-raking by Nigeria’s ever-busy hordes of mischief-makers. After all, we all know FFK, as he is known to most people, has a lot of folk who do not fancy him very much, being as he is,a very colourful and charismatic personality. To be fair, when you think of him, you are easily reminded of Chinua Achebe’s Chief Nanga in A Man of the People. You would sell yourself to Nanga and give him your daughter or even wife for the night. Such is his likeability, his clubby sociability and bonhomie. A fetching personality, charming, suave and affable, Chief Nanga is a past-master of political chess-game. Thus, you might say like Chief Nanga, like Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
Born David Oluwafemi Adewunmi Abdulate
ef Fani-Kayode on 16 October, 1960 to Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode and Chief (Mrs.) Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode, FFK is described by Wikipedia thus: “ A Nigerian dishonourable politician”. He is also described therein as “an Ile-Ife chieftain of Yoruba descent”, a father of eight children, FFK is said to have married, so far five wives at different periods of time, to wit: 1. Saratu Attah (1987 – 1990); 2. Yemisi Olasunbo Adeniji (1991 – 1995); 3.Regina Amono (1997 – 2002) and, 4. Precious Chikwendu (2014 – 2020) and Nerita (2021 -).
A man of many parts, FFK is a politician, essayist, poet and lawyer. Given his very privileged family background, FFK had attended elite educational institutions right from childhood including schools in the United Kingdom, notably University of Cambridge where he studied Law. Born, as they say, with a silver spoon in his mouth, his privileged parentage and genealogy pedestalled him on a plane higher than that of the common run. A true Nigerian in every sense, FFK has coursing through his veins pan-Nigerian blood. Let him tell his story himself: “My maternal grandfather was a great and powerful Muslim cleric and scholar by the name of Sheik Nurudeen Said. He was from Ilesha … His father, that is my maternal great-grandfather, was a pure Yoruba man from Ilesha. However, his mother, that is my maternal great-grandmother, was a pure Fulani woman from Sokoto….”
Thus, given his illustrious biography, it’s clear that Femi Fani-Kayode has been cut out for great things. He has had destiny thrust upon his shoulders. Small wonders, as it so often happens around the world, a background of privilege is nearly always a divine imprimatur of greatness. By the same token, FFK had early on followed in the footsteps of his no less colourful, if equally controversial father by joining partisan politics. He was appointed Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2008 until June 2006. He later got appointed the Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism from 22 June to 7 November 2006. And, finally, he had assumed office as Minister of Aviation from 7 November 2006 to 29 May 2007. Like his fictional precursor, Chief Nanga, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode knows and understands the inner workings of Nigerian politics. He knows more than most that politics in post-colonial Africa has absolutely nothing to do with the fine minutaie of ethics and morality; it has absolutely nothing to do with principle; it’s all about amoral expediency for self-aggrandisement.
Typically FFK, a former member of the APC until June 2004 had returned to the ruling PDP. He later renounced the PDP, for which he was its poster-boy and mouthpiece, until the 16th of September, 2021 when he was happily welcomed back into the cosy fold of the ruling APC by President Muhammadu Buhari himself. It’s been rumoured that there is an on-going war of attrition in the sylvan universe between the Chameleon and the Leopard over who has the greater right to our Man of the Moment. We shall bring the readership the latest news as it breaks on that score. As it is, things are still in a state of flux and every moment is taut and fraught with expectation in ‘the build-up to Destination 2023.
So no one has the gift of clairvoyance or possesses any crystal-ball or has groomed another Octopus Paul to divine tomorrow. Nostradamus is useless in this regard. But for whatever it is worth, we can reflect on and, then, speculate over the particularism of history, the specificities of lived experience. As it is, politics is a matter of public activity, not necessarily, of public service. Thus patriotism, for the self-aggrandising man of action, is proximity to the cookie-jar. So the man of action, the politician must sedulously cultivate media spectacularity. He mustn’t be too far from the headlines, for good or for ill.
Accordingly, in his slack moments of desuetude, FFK had reached for the opium of the people – religion. Given Nigeria’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition, religion has always been a ready tinderbox that mischief-makers, not least politicians, love to ignite in order to spark disaffection and division between the Muslim north and the Christian south. It was not an act of genius, therefore, that FFK had decided to toe this dangerous line as he had sought desperately to return to a semblance of political relevance. He became the self-appointed PRO of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). And for many years, he passed himself off as a hell-raising and fire-eating defender of the faith, traducing in equal measure, sundry opponents of the Christian faith. A lone voice in the wilderness and an irascible thorn in the flesh of the north, FFK had ceaselessly cast the Buhari administration in the unenviable and venal mould of Boko Haramites.
He had amplified the deafening decibels denouncing the federal government as harbouring a Fulanisatian and Islamisation agenda. The government at the centre itself did not help matters with its nepotistic appointments, pro-Boko Haram body language and excessive cosying up to rampaging Fulani herdsmen. RUGA, cattle routes and allied Fulanocentric issues merely added fuel to the raging Foolanisationdebacle. Space constraints will not allow us to go into all the details regarding this. But suffice it to say, Femi Fani-Kayode had made himself Enemy Number One to the Muslim north as well as being PMB’s nemesis, what with his social media attacks on the President, the vice-president and other public office-holders. His interviews, speeches and write-ups and tweets on his apparent Christian proselytization and Islamophobia are legion. Until his sad passing, Mr Abba Kyari, Buhari’s former Chief of Staff was always at the receiving end of FFK’s irenic vituperations.
But at his death, FFK executed a pirouette in his volte-face, draping Kyariin celestial stoles. FFK and Abba Kyari were bosom friends until death claimed the Shuwa-Arab technocrat and Buhari’s “best gatekeeper”. Furthermore, beyond making himself the Man Friday to OBJ and the PDP mouthpiece, FFK had in recent memory embarked on guided tours of PDP-controlled states, ostensibly with the aim of helping in burnishing the fading glory of the biggest political party in Africa, a party that once boasted of remaining in power for 60 years.
On his extensive guided tour of Governor Ben Ayode’s projects, FFK had scheduled a press briefing in Calabar on 20 August, 2020 in order to regale the media, and, by extension, the Nigerian populace, with his findings and put himself and his party in good reckoning. As the briefing progressed, Charles Eyo, a Daily Trust reporter had asked innocently: “Sir, please you did not disclose to us who is bankrolling you…” Thereupon all hell was let loose in the aftermath of that simple enquiry. FFK had let fly an acidic torrent of verbal assault on the poor, hapless reporter. He had raged uncontrollably: “I know that you, a hungry-looking, brown envelop journalist, you are sponsored to ask me such [an] insulting question …” The tirade had gone on and on, ad nauseam, like a Stone Age dictator haranguing his crew of hangers-on. FFK even toyed with the risible idea of suing Daily Trust newspapers and demanding N6bn for defamation, allegedly committed by a columnist, IliyasuGadu over an opinion article.
The controversial piece was a response to Chief FFK’s verbal attack on Charles Eyo. Dr Ugoji Egbulo in his article captioned “Femi Fani-Kayode: The Epitome of Nigerian Politics” reveals that FFK was turbaned by a Zamfara Emir as the new Saduaki of Shinkafi, thereby making him – the native son – a defender of Fulani hegemony in Nigeria’s geopolitical
affairs. Egbulo points out the telling irony of it all, namely: by assuming this lofty ethnoreligious position, FFK has effectively dashed the hopes of secession-seeking Igbo youths led by FFK’s friend and fellow-activist, Maazi Nnamdi Kanu. The foregoing scenario amply puts in bolder relief the curiously complex nature of our subject matter, “a man of character” like Michael Henchard, hero of Thomas Hardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. Chief Obasanjo was famously quoted as saying: “Give Femi food and he will do your bidding”, or something along those lines.
We shouldn’t stand on the niceties of precision, the gist should suffice in this regard. But most people have always wondered why government, notorious for muzzling dissent and hounding real and imagined opponents, has left FFK alone. What’s behind this intriguing love-hate tango between FFK and the Buhari regime? This Sherlock Holmes’political whodunit teases with infinite possibilities, a pot of plenty for both mischief-makers and conspiracy theorists. Great thinkers and philosophers of power have theorised upon the nature of power, thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Niccolo Machiavelli and world-historic politicians. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once famously declared that: “politics is more dangerous than war, for in war you are only killed once”. For a character who once dismissed his own country as “corpocracy” (i.e. a country governed by a corpse), following the rumoured demise of PMB in London a few years ago; for a dissembling politician comfortable with inciting division and violence; for a political arsonist who foregoes “moderation in speech and action” and still gets rewarded with recognition and preferment, the Ides of 2023 seem to have brought out his deepest ethical and moral frailties which embody all the recurrent neuroses of the postcolony.
It is not, however, given to mere mortals to understand the maddening aphrodisiac called power, a potion that turns otherwise prim and proper people into megalomaniacal monsters. For how else does one rationalise FFk’s recent Dance of Shame? Is it a case of addressing a cow politely because of your craving for beef? Is it all about “stomach infrastructure?” Doesn’t Wole Soyinka in Death and the King’s Horseman tell us that: “Life is honour, where honour ends, life ends”? Is it such a big ask to require a teeny-weeny bit of honour from our political elite? On a lighter note, trust Nigerians for their farsightedness.
See below some of the first suite of assignments for FFK, predicted by some Nigerians: (1) Attack Lagos/Rivers on VAT, (2) Attack Open Grazing ban, (3) Demonise Oduduwa Republic, (4) Attack IPOB, (5) Praise Buhari forborrowing, (6) Attack Igboho and Kanu as terrorists, (7) Exonerate Fulani herdsmen as very peaceful pastoralists and (8) Trace his lineage to Uthman Dan Fodio.
I do not envy whoever wishes to join issues with FFK. The guy has the gift of the gab; he is suave, debonair and loquacious. He comes across as the portrait of the politician (in his own words) as a prostitute or a coward. But let us give the Devil his due. Let us cut FFK some slack. Who are we to presume to judge him, being all-too-human ourselves? Indeed, show me one Nigerian politician who has not hunted with the hounds and run with the hares. Virtually all PDP politicians were once in APC and vice versa. When Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers defected to the ruling APC and lauding PMB to high heavens, Nigerians had gone to town denouncing him, calling him names. Other high-profile politicians in PDP have defected to the ruling APC. Some of these defections generated media hype, some didn’t. Yet they are all guilty of the same “crime”, right? So, why crucify the poor FFK? He is completely within his
rights to cross-carpet from one party to another. That’s his funeral. So let FFK be. What remains to be said is that the days, the weeks and the months ahead in the build-up to the 2023 elections are surely going to be interesting and momentous. So, folk, kick back, relax and grab your soda and popcorn and get ready for the mother of all political theatre in Nigeria.
*Chris Anyokwu writes from the University of Lagos