“There cannot be a better way than martyrdom to describe the sacrifice which Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi made exactly 50 years ago when he voluntarily laid down his life to protect his personal integrity as a way of avoiding inter-tribal suspicion, especially between the Igbo and the Yoruba races in the country.
That was during the counter coup of July 29, 1966, during which a section of the Nigerian Army carried what can best be described as a reprisal coup against what to them looked like a tribal coup in January 1966.
That was when the then Head of State, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, made a State Visit to the Western Region in Ibadan, where Colonel Fajuyi was his chief host.
Fajuyi, as a true and patriotic Yoruba man, mustered enough courage to challenge the choice of Ibadan for the coup, more so when the Head of State had visited the North where he was warmly received without any molestation.
To Fajuyi, the only option for him to save the Yoruba from any complicity in the coup was to surrender his own life even when the plotters were not after him. All they demanded from him was a cooperation to surrender Aguinyi-Ironsi to them.
From whatever angle one looks at it, Fajuyi’s sacrifice was not only for the Yoruba but also for the country as a whole. It was the sacrifice that enabled the Yoruba play a neutral and a balancing factor during the Hausa-Fulani/Igbo mutual suspicion, which later led to civil war in 1967.
The story of the country could not have been the same had the Yoruba joined the suspicion polemics at that time. Perhaps, there may not be a Nigeria today. It is on this basis that the martyrdom is beyond Yoruba irredentism. It is indeed a “keep Nigeria
One” martyrdom. That is why Fajuyi deserves to be respected and be remembered as a national hero and be duly acknowledged.
The question to ask is: to what extent do other sections of the country appreciate that gallantry on the part of Colonel Fajuyi?
To some people, it was purely a Yoruba affair; whereas the country in the case. He should be better remembered as the symbol of Nigerian Unity”.
*Oba Adeyemi is the Alaafin of Oyo.