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With friends like these: Fani-Kayode and Osita Chidoka at a court hearing in Abuja

Why no sane Igbo (or indeed any other Nigerian) should take Femi Fani-Kayode seriously

1 November 2017

Naijiant.com has studiously ignored former aviation minister Femi Fani-Kayode for the past two years or so. A cursory glance at his commentary should reveal that he hardly engages his disturbed brain before running his potty mouth.  While it is quite easy to ignore his inconsistency, irrationality and intellectually-challenged rabble rousing, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that, since Fani-Kayode hitched himself to the Biafran separatist cause then fronted by Nnamdi Kanu, many Igbos have started to view him in some sort of favourable light.

Fani-Kayode has been lately presenting himself as some kind of “honorary” Igbo, including getting an unknown Igbo “group” to present him with two Igbo titles (“Odogwu n’agha of Southern Nigeria” and “Odum-Agu of Christendom” – allegedly for his “outspokenness”, or maybe for a small fee) and appearing in traditional Igbo attire at a recent court hearing in Abuja on the Kanu case. This has drawn the admiration of many Igbos on social media who can’t look beyond the surface, with some claiming that Fani-Kayode has shown more “bravery” than many Igbos in challenging the misrule and iniquities of the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari.

As a matter of fact, Fani-Kayode is a virulent critic of the ruling All Progressive Party (APC) on mainstream and social media. But is that really “bravery”?  His criticism actually undermines the cause of opposition to Buhari’s misrule because Fani-Kayode doesn’t possess a single shred of credibility.  After his stint as aviation minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Fani-Kayode left the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the APC in May 2013 declaring in a Facebook post: “I had a meeting with Gov. Kayode Fayemi afterwards and I have just publicly and formally declared for the APC. For me this is a great and historic day. Goodbye forever PDP.”

He would later claim that the PDP was “irredeemable” and didn’t have the capacity to deliver good governance to Nigeria. He also claimed he was joining APC to be “with those that my spirit has been with long ago”. For good measure, he blamed the “rascality” of then President Goodluck Jonathan for his departure from the ruling party. That “goodbye forever” lasted just one year. He was back with the PDP by 2014, castigating the APC as a “haramite” party, suggesting they were Boko Haram sympathisers.

Femi Fani-Kayode with Goodluck Jonathan at a campaign rally in Ibadan in 2015

Despite being consistently inconsistent, Fani-Kayode was rewarded for his disloyalty by becoming the director of media/publicity for the Jonathan re-election campaign. It’s hard to tell whether having such a loose cannon fronting a presidential campaign organisation contributed to Jonathan’s defeat, but it sure didn’t help the cause.

Fani-Kayode has since Jonathan’s exit as president been charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with money laundering and diversion of 4.6bn naira ($12.7m) of public funds. Since he was first arrested by the anti-corruption agency in May last year, Fani-Kayode has embraced pro-Biafran separatists, demanded “give us restructuring or give us [Yorubas] Oduduwa Republic”, alongside feverish attacks and all manner of abuse against the Buhari administration. The EFCC case against him is the context for his current stance.

Fani-Kayode – a “customer” of the EFCC

Taking account of his previous turncoat behaviour, he would be singing a different tune if Buhari ever ordered the charges against him to be dropped. If that were to happen, the very unstable and very unreliable Fani-Kayode can be trusted to revert to the Igbophobia of his very recent past.

In September 2013, following then Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola’s unconstitutional act of “deporting” beggars to Anambra State and the governor issuing a half-hearted apology when put under pressure, Fani Kayode wrote: “There can be little doubt that the relocation of the 19 Igbo destitutes from Lagos state a few months ago was a lawful exercise and that it was done in the interest of Lagos State.

“Consequently I do not believe that Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola ought to have tendered any form of apology whatsoever to the Igbo for what he did.” No matter what Fani-Kayode believes in his troubled mind, the constitution is clear that every Nigerian has a right to reside in any part of the country, so Fashola’s act was illegal.

But a man like Fani-Kayode, who allegedly treated 4.6bn naira of public funds as personal property, has little time for legal niceties. He continued on the Fashola shouldn’t apologise demented trip: “The only redeeming factor is the fact that the apology was obviously designed simply to calm frayed nerves and I commend Fashola for that gesture if nothing else.

“I say this because my understanding is that he apologised NOT for the deportation itself but for ‘the misunderstanding that arose from it’. There is a world of difference between the two.”

“If I were Governor of Lagos state I would never have apologised for the execution of a legitimate and lawful exercise which was absolutely necessary and which was done in the interests of my state and my people, no matter how many cows I had been offered or given by the kinsmen of those affected.

“What Fashola has done, albeit inadvertently, is to betray those amongst his Yoruba kith and kin that stood by him and defended him when he took that historic and controversial decision to deport the Igbo destitutes.

“He has also fuelled the erroneous impression that is held by most of the Igbo that the Yoruba people and their leaders are bumbling and inconsistent cowards that cannot stand firm when put under pressure and when faced with threats and hardship.”

“You don’t apologise for government policy just to appease a certain group of people no matter how bellicose, violent, loud and aggressive they may be.

“It is better to lose a million elections outside Yorubaland than to concede even one inch of Yoruba territory to those that seek to lay claim to that which is not theirs. A word is enough for the wise.”

This is the same Fani-Kayode with many Igbo fans on social media, who hosted Nnamdi Kanu when the Biafran separatist was released from detention and called him a “Lion of the East”. But in 2013 Fani-Kayode was more interested in running battles with people from the East over who “owns” Lagos.

Kanu and Fani-Kayode: Besties for a while before the weather changes

He wrote in an article that year which he called “The bitter truth about the Igbo”: “The Igbo have not only taken us [Yorubas] for granted but they have also taken liberty for licence”.  He also blamed Igbos for the pogroms that preceded the Nigerian civil war, painting them as the authors of their own misfortune: “It is that same attitude of ‘we own everything’, ‘we must have everything’ and ‘we must control everything’ that the Igbo settlers manifested in the northern region in the late 50’s and early and mid-60’s that got them into so much trouble up there with the Hausa-Fulani and that eventually led to the terrible pogroms where almost one hundred thousand of them were killed in just a few days”.

With barely-concealed bigotry, Fani-Kayode suggested Igbos were ungrateful in the face of Yoruba generosity: “Yet instead of being grateful the Igbo continuously run us down, blame us for all their woes, envy our educational advantages and resent us deeply for our ability to excel in the professions and commerce. Unlike them, we were never traders but we were (and still are) industrialists and when it comes to the professions we were producing lawyers, doctors, accountants and university graduates at least three generations before they ever did”.

What you have here is boneheaded ignorance, prejudice, thoughtlessness and ethnic stereotyping that would be conduct unbecoming of an “area boy”, let alone a former government minister. But rather than feel resentment towards Fani-Kayode, as he alleged Igbos do towards Yorubas, his erratic nature and pattern of disturbing behaviour suggest he is more in need of pity and understanding. That understanding should come with the health warning that you take him seriously at your own risk.

Goodluck Jonathan considered him serious enough to be director of media/publicity of his presidential campaign. Look how that ended.

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