“I don’t know or do you know of any lawyer / professional any politician or scholar in Nigerian, UK, Canada USA or elsewhere whose Grade A Quality Dad and Grade A pedigree of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode former Minister of Aviation who rarely talks about his Iconic Dad Chief Remi Fani-Kayode QC SAN himself a former Minister Former Deputy Premier of Western Region. Imagine if other Lawyers were trained in Cambridge up to the third generation still counting and Chief Femi Fani Kayode is silent about his Iconic Dad and Grand Dad both of whom Dad and Grand Dad Cambridge scholars plus Chief FFK himself”- Carol Ajie, LLM Georgetown University, Washington.
Today we remember Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, the ebullient, charismatic and colorful Balogun of Ife, who was one of the only two civilian politicians that wasn’t killed during the January 15th 1966 coup.
Many Nigerians have heard the name Femi Fani-Kayode but not many are aware of the roles his father or forefathers had played in the national development of the country.
A glance at their family historical background will no doubt leave you bewildered. They have such an enviable record. For the sake of this article, our focus will be on Femi Fani-Kayode’s father i.e Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode.
Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode lived between 1921-1995. He held the Queen’s Counsel, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Commander of the Order of the Niger titles. He was born on 22 December 1921 in Chelsea, England. He hailed from a prominent and widely read Yoruba family of Ile-Ife from the south-western part of Nigeria.
His grandfather by the name of Reverend Emmanuel Adedapo Kayode was an Anglican Priest who got his Master of Arts degree from Fourah Bay College, an affiliate of Durham University.
He acquired this in 1885. Remilekun’s father was Victor Adedapo Kayode, who studied law from Selwyn College, Cambridge in 1921, and called to the Middle Temple in 1922. Upon returning to the country, he became a prominent and well-sought lawyer and then a judge in Nigeria.
Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode had his education at King’s College, Lagos before studying Law in Downing College at the University of Cambridge in 1941. He emerged the best student in his British Bar examinations for the whole of the British Commonwealth. Called to the British Bar at the Middle Temple in 1945, and later appointed as Queens Counsel in 1960.
He became the third and youngest Nigerian ever to be made Queens Counsel. In 1977, he became the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, thus becoming the third Nigerian to become a SAN.
Alongside his friends i.e Chief Frederick Rotimi Williams, Chief Bode Thomas; he set up an indigenous Nigerian law firm in 1948. These friends received their law training at Cambridge and London University respectively. Their law firm was called “Thomas, Williams and Kayode”.
He had another one in 1970, which was called “Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo”. Chief Sobo Sowemimo SAN, was his old friend.
Politically, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode played an important role in Nigeria. Firstly, his role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence got him, Chief Rotimi Williams, Bode Thomas and a number of others arrested and detained by the British colonial authorities for his struggle against them in securing Nigeria’s independence.
In 1954, he became the leader of the Action Group youth wing. He was very active as a youth leader thus setting up a symbolic shirt with a mosquito drawn on it.
The mosquito-shirt showed their disdain for British colonial rule. He also got elected into the Federal House of Assembly on the platform of Chief Awolowo’s Action Group, from where he continued his fight for Nigeria’s independence.
He became the Assistant Federal Secretary of the Action Group and helped then Federal Secretary, Chief Ayo Rosiji in organizing and administrating the party. Alongside Chief Awolowo, S.O. Ighodaro, E.O. Eyo, Adeyemi Lawson, S.G. Ikoku, he represented the Action Group at the 1957 London Constitutional Conference.
The conference became necessary to chart out the course of the country. He also fought for the Northern minorities during their quest for the creation of a middle belt region at the Willinks Minorities Commission.
In July 1958, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in the Federal House of Assembly. He later resigned from the Action Group party in 1959, joining the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, an opposition party.
In 1960, he was elected the leader of the NCNC in the Western House of Assembly before becoming the Deputy Premier of the old Western Region of Nigeria under Chief Samuel Akintola on the platform of NNDP. He got appointed as Minister for Local Government Affairs for the Western Region in that same year.
In the wee hours of 15 January 1966, a Nigerian Major, Kaduna Nzeogwu attempted the first military coup d’etat in the history of Nigeria. This led to a lot of bloodshed where major political office holders got killed at gunpoint.
Captain Emmanuel Nwobosi attacked the home of Chief Fani-Kayode, the Deputy Premier of the Western Region. He was brutalised in the presence of his family members before taken to an unknown destination.
The mutineers, leaving no stone unturned, went to the Ibadan home of Chief S.L. Akintola, who was the Premier and murdered him in front of his family members.
This killing happened before the eyes of Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode before taken to the military cantonment in Lagos where he was expected to be executed by them.
Luckily, the mutineers were overpowered at the Ikeja cantonment and killed by the troops under the command of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. The loyalists freed Fani-Kayode while keeping him in a safe house until they restored law and order in the nation.
He married Mrs. Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode with whom he had five children: Akinola Adedapo Fani-Kayode, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Mrs Toyin Bajela and Mrs Tolu Fanning. He had four children Mrs Aina Ogunbe, Mrs Remi Nana Akuffo-Addo, Miss Tokunbo Fani-Kayode and Ladipo Fani-Kayode.
Chief Remi Fani-Kayode and one Sir Kashim Ibrahim (the Governor of the Northern Region) were the only ones not killed out of the attacked civil and military personnel. He later left Nigeria to settle down in Brighton in southeastern England before coming back home.
In 1978, he was among the people that founded and pioneered the National Party of Nigeria. He was later elected to the Vice Chairman position and conferred with the Commander of the Order of the Niger by President Shehu Shagari.
He was also a member of the Elder’s caucus of the National Republican Convention and spoke against the annulment of the June 12, 1993, election that saw Abiola emerging.
He was among the Justice Kayode Eso panel of inquiry that helped the nation probe and sanitise the Nigerian judiciary and rid it of corrupt judges.
He died in 1995 at the age of 74. May his soul rest in peace.
(Chief Ibidapo Abayomi, who wrote this piece for Vanguard Newspaper, is a historian and a lawyer.)