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Tunde Fagbenle: “Give me Oduduwa Republic or let me die”

by Tunde Fagbenle


A few days ago, I received by email a long diatribe written by none other than the irrepressible enfant terrible Femi Fani-Kayode, chief and Cambridge-educated lawyer scion of the stormy petrel politician of Nigeria’s first republic, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, aka Fani-Power.

These are trying times indeed. Trying and sad times. It wouldn’t be the first time Nigeria came to such crossroads by her citizens (other than those who at such points were feeding off the malaise) in a state of abject despondency, wishing they had another country.

Oh, we’ve had a couple such in my memory. There was the Biafra civil war time when a section of the country felt too repulsed, too nauseated, too traumatised, too brutalised, to want to remain in the same country. Though they asked for the hell they got (they asked for it first by the rash, selective, and biased killing of key political and military leaders of another section by young military rascals from theirs, and second by the widespread triumphal mocking of the decapitated section by folks of their own ethnic group) yet they felt the reprisal they suffered was inordinate, by far over-the-top and unwarranted. The result was a 30-month long civil war of secession that failed.

The second time, which is more recent, was in the General Sani Abacha years when another section of the country felt humiliated, deprived and unwanted. The result was a few years of “intellectual warfare” and “guerrilla media” combat that ended in counterfeit political appeasement of the angered section.

In both instances the cry was for balkanisation of the country or, at least, secession by the angered section or ethnic group.

By cruel fate such time is here with us again. The cry for balkanisation or secession is rife. The “Biafrans” who truly have neither forgotten nor forgiven Nigeria secretly long for their utopian Biafra; the Oduduwas are back wondering for how long more would the tottering and ailing behemoth Nigeria hold; eager for a nation of “freedom for all, (and) life more abundant,” where their individual and collective potential can be fulfilled unimpeded.

A few days ago, I received by email a long diatribe written by none other than the irrepressible enfant terrible Femi Fani-Kayode, chief and Cambridge-educated lawyer scion of the stormy petrel politician of Nigeria’s first republic, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, aka Fani-Power. [READ HERE] It bore the above screaming title. Being out of the country at the moment, I am not sure if any Nigerian newspaper has (dare) published the article as of the time of writing this column.

It is a pained cry by Femi, a cry of disillusionment, disappointment and disavowal. It began with an evocation of the greatness that Nigeria once was, wondering, “Is this the country that once nationalised BP and that gave Margaret Thatcher sleepless nights over apartheid South Africa ? Is this the nation that once stood up to the mighty Boers and whose ancestors studied at Oxford and Cambridge?”

Then he queried: “When did we turn into a laughing stock and a reference point for incompetence, stupidity, cowardice, ignorance, evil and all that is bad to the rest of the world?”

He then laid the blame, not unexpectedly, squarely on some section, or their leaders, saying Nigeria “is plagued and cursed with one particular sub-nation whose ruling elite are dangerous and unyielding, whose guile and deceit is second to none… Those people have killed Nigeria.”

And then hangs the present horrors besetting the country on the neck of leaders from that section, saying he “will never accept the idea of living in a nation with religious extremists who slit the throats of children, who habitually slaughter the innocents and who abduct and rape small girls…”.

Finally, he raises the ante with a call to “freedom” for his Oduduwa nation: “Let those of us from the West establish Oduduwa and let us celebrate and enjoy our freedom from the bondage and ineptitude of a cruel failed state that has no soul and that lacks humanity and compassion…”

Femi’s is a call to arms, if need be, rather than settle for a country of bondage. And he sees Wole Soyinka (“our only true sage and great thinker”)’s recent lament on BBC “Hardtalk” — that “if we don’t find the (Chibok) girls, then for me it will be better we sit down and decide that Nigeria is too much to manage. That it is easier, for instance, to manage a crisis of this kind or to prevent it if we were a smaller nation” — as an endorsement of his position.

To be sure, this would not be the first time Fani-Kayode has expressed such thoughts and sought for an Oduduwa nation. He wrote a piece in 2001 titled “Goodbye Nigeria, Hello Oduduwa”, to which one respondent, Ahmed Ibn Hussein, wrote: ‘‘I agree with you completely sir, even though I’m not a Yoruba man. We all have our dreams and aspirations and reserve the right to see to their realisation within legal boundaries. If we cannot live together as siblings in our pursuit of happiness, then we should begin to think seriously of living apart and maybe we would do better as neighbours and international business partners. I can only hope and pray for a clean break if that is where we are headed. May God give us the direction we require. Ameeen.”

And that’s saying it the way it is.

Raph Uwechue: Goodbye, uncle

I first met Ambassador Raph Uwechue, OFR in 1978. He was in London, England, atop his publishing empire in whose stable were acclaimed and authoritative journals, including: AFRICA magazine, a monthly political and general interest magazine on Africa, whose editor then was the inimitable writer, Peter Enahoro; and the encyclopaedic series: AFRICA WHO’S WHO; MAKERS OF MODERN AFRICA; etc – all voluminous, high quality reference works on Africa and her peoples.

I was the managing editor of TRAVELS (a monthly business-travels and tourism magazine), on 19th Floor, Western House, Lagos, and had communicated to Raph (he would rather, than Ralph) my interest in yielding that to work for AFRICA. He asked to meet me.

His impressive office (on three or four floors) was all of Kirkman House, on a close off Tottenham Court Road. I was overwhelmed; I trembled. But the man who sat regally behind the huge glistering oak desk had a gentle mien and a smile to calm my nerves.

“Are you by anyway related to the late Bisi Fagbenle?” He asked.

Touched and overjoyed at some link to ‘fame’, “Yes, sir. She was my sister. My mother and father’s first child,” I enthused.

“Bisi and I were together at UCI (University College Ibadan). I knew her. A beautiful, brilliant lady. Her death was a calamity.”

Yes, my late sister is Fagbenle family’s first claim to fame. She was the Vice-President of UCI Student Union, and Vice-President of World Universities Student Union — incredible feat for a female in those times. In that capacity, she formally welcomed Queen Elizabeth to UCI on her first visit to Nigeria in 1956.

From that moment, Raph Uwechue became my “uncle,” and it was a joy being part of his AFRICA briefly as Tourism correspondent.

Uncle Raph is the epitome of gentlemanliness. He spoke little but knew much. And he was truly accomplished: as an ambassador, a publisher, and a leader of men. He was Nigeria’s first diplomatic envoy to France, where he opened the Nigerian Embassy in Paris in 1966. However, in the course of the Biafra civil war, the Ogwuashi-Ukwu born diplomat shifted sympathy, understandably, to the Biafra side and underwent internal turmoil leading to his moving to London to establish his publishing empire.

He was once a minister in President Shehu Shagari’s second republic government, and later was President-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze. He died, aged 79.

Goodbye, Uncle Raph — and thank you.


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