By Jude C. Ndukwe
Femi Fani-Kayode has been in the news in recent times not only because of his role as Director, Media and Publicity of PDP’s Presidential Campaign Organisation, but also because of his antecedents which a few consider to be unstable and laced with allegations of corruption, therefore, unfit to hold such a sensitive position as he currently does for Mr. President. Since, as Director of Media and Publicity, he is bound to speak to the press on a regular basis on behalf of his Principal, Femi Fani-Kayode is naturally bound to receive reactions from all and sundry who are politically concerned for our great nation. Men are bound to do a check on who this man who speaks with the confidence of an angel is. What is the force driving him? Why does he speak so courageously when he has a case with the EFCC hanging around his neck? Why did he jump ship from PDP to APC and then back to PDP? Could that be attributed to his search for pecuniary gains and parochial considerations? People are bound to ask, did he run back to the PDP just to get the protection of the powers that be? Or did he do that as a matter of strong personal conviction? And so many other issues which appear controversial and seem to put the Osun State-born former Minister of Aviation on the wrong end of the stick. Yet, he has not relented, and against the tide of the whirlwind, he seems to be climbing higher and cutting for himself the image of an icon who can neither be cowed nor tamed.
Yes, Fani-Kayode cannot be tamed, nor does he look tamable. He has defied every attempt at demystifying him and shown uncommon courage where men dread while standing with the last iota of strength in his vein at any point in battle, no matter how ferocious. This has been Fani-Kayode’s lot since he was a boy. He was well known in his university days as a young man who stood for what he believed in and so spoke to those concerned without batting an eyelid no matter whose ox was gored. That is the reason why one of his friends, Araba Ayodeji, once described him back then as “…a combination of the Great Gatsby and Steve Mcqueen. Rebellious and learned, wrapped up in one energetic combustible engine”. This declaration by Ayodeji about Fani-Kayode was made when the Presidential Campaign Organisation spokesman was in his late teens/early twenties. That shows that Fani-Kayode did not just pick up any of his virtues for political reasons or financial patronage as some may want us to believe. It is simply that the man is courage, and courage is the man. He seems to have been born into it and bathed with it until he was grown enough to fend for himself. These are virtues that have been with him from when he was a boy, virtues he has nurtured to maturity by the constant exercising of them.
Agreed that FFK as he is fondly called is courageous and outspoken, the questions many are still asking are, what are his motivations for deploying his God-given gifts in situations? In short, what does Femi Fani-Kayode really want? Why did he go from PDP to APC and then back to PDP? What was his scorecard as Minister of Aviation in terms of the financial running of the ministry? Did he use his position to corruptly enrich himself? An attempt will be made in this piece to try and figure the motivation behind his political roundabout drive and other issues in order to put the records straight.
Let us begin with his case at EFCC. Some have alleged that he went back to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as an easy way out of the corruption charges leveled against him by the anti-corruption body. But that assumption is not only wrong and merely presumptuous, it is very preposterous. Going by his antecedents, Fani-Kayode does not need anybody’s protection to prove his innocence in a case that he is very sure he has done nothing wrong. If he was to be looking for such protection, he would not have contemplated leaving the ruling party in the first place. He left because he was convinced it could be better at the other side. And that’s human. Leaving the party that could give you protection from a life-threatening case is suicidal. To pursue his convictions, Fani-Kayode was ready to commit suicide, figuratively speaking, he was ready to die. If he rejoined PDP to have the corruption case against him quashed, the question then is, why has the case not been quashed since his return? Why has he been made to pass through the troubles of defending himself with its attendant cost in time, money and efforts? He has submitted himself to the investigative and court processes, and PDP, as a law-abiding body, too, has allowed the process to run its full course without let, hindrance or influence. By the way, if FFK was corrupt as APC apologists would want us to believe, why did they welcome him warmly when he defected to their party?
However, on getting to the APC, he observed as an insider, the insidious plans of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) to field a Muslim/Muslim ticket for the forthcoming presidential election. He knew that the plan was very thick and that it could take only a miracle to have it aborted. Knowing that the plan had reached an advanced stage, almost to a point of no return despite all attempts for the party to see reason, and since that would offend the religious sensibilities and convictions of a majority of Nigerians (a fact FFK has never hidden), he had no choice but to leave for a party that would be more tolerant and more sensitive to the realities of religious biases in our nation even if it meant going back “home” to PDP. But for his relentless and vigorous campaign, working together with other stakeholders of like-minds against such ill-advised move by the APC, the opposition party would have committed political hara-kiri by fielding an absolutely unsellable Muslim/Muslim ticket. The APC, if for nothing else, rather than vilify him, should be thankful to FFK for preventing them from self-induced political implosion as they eventually heeded his advice and allowed some reason to prevail.
Apart from this, FFK was also miffed by the tactless determination of the powers that be in the opposition party to make Muhammadu Buhari their presidential candidate in spite of the baggage of political liabilities he was coming to the table with. As a man who had made statements unbecoming of an elder statesman and has shown his incurable knack for publicly promoting one religion and its tenets over another, Femi Fani-Kayode repudiated that idea and would call the party to work for the emergence of a more moderate Muslim as their presidential candidate, a Muslim who would be tolerant and accommodating to all religions in the country. Knowing full well long before the party’s presidential primaries that the system had been set up to favour the emergence of Buhari as the preferred candidate of the opposition, the former Minister of Culture and Tourism, had no other option but to just walk away. So, rather than denigrate him for his outspokenness, Fani-Kayode should be commended. The seemingly endless controversies trailing Muhammadu Buhari today is an eloquent testimony to the fact that Fani-Kayode saw deep into the future, and he saw well. In fact, what he saw while sitting, others could not see even while standing on the long PHCN electrical pole.
Furthermore, the allegation of corruption leveled against the former Minister, has gone from prosecution to persecution. This is a man who was charged with some frivolous 47-count charge and eventually reduced to a 40-count charge all in a desperate bid to nail him. Although Femi Fani-Kayode had all the opportunity to run away from the shores of the country just like some who were facing corruption charges had done in the past, he has rather chosen to stay put and clear his name in the court of law. That is the right thing any sensible man who has no skeleton in his cupboard should do. After all, the courts have already quashed 38 out of the phantom remaining charges. Those who are persecuting him on the pages of newspapers should know that court cases are not won that way but on the strength of evidence proven before the courts. In our land, everyone is deemed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. To deny anyone his/her rights or appointment into public or private offices because of any case yet to be concluded in any court of law is the height of corruption and injustice. To criticize anyone who appoints a Nigerian into any office based on any on-going case is an act of wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man. It is on this basis that men of goodwill have roundly condemned Festus Keyamo’s recent statement on Fani-Kayode’s appointment by President Jonathan into his Campaign Organisation. Like Femi himself said recently, the February 14, 2015 presidential election is not just another election; it is a battle for the soul and future of our nation. What Femi wants is nothing but the safety of our nation, the continued restoration of her soul and the guarantee of her future, and for this, he is ready to do battle. No more, no less.
* Ndukwe writes from Transpharm Plaza, Jabi, Abuja