Fasehun: Exit of an Activist

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As preparation for his funeral, which holds in Lagos and Ondo states in January gets into top gear, Fredrick Fasehun, the founder of the O’odua Peoples’ Congress, is one man a great number of Nigerians are going to miss

By Olu Ojewale

Although he was a doctor, the history of Nigeria’s activists cannot be completed without mentioning Fredrick Fasehun, the late founder of the O’odua Peoples’ Congress, OPC, who died on December 1. He was aged 83.

According to the family, Fasehun will be buried on January 10, 2019 in Oke Aluko, Ondo, Ondo State. Kayode Fasehun, the son of the late activist, announced the funeral arrangement in Lagos on Saturday, December 8.

In any case, the nation has lost a gem in Fasehun. Nigerians attested to this in their pour of emotional messages to the family of the late Yoruba leader.

President Muhammadu Buhari in a condolence message by Femi Adesina, his special adviser on Media and Publicity, in Abuja on commiserated with his family and the government and people of Ondo State.

Buhari recalled the prominent role the late doctor played as a member of the defunct National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, which campaigned against military rule in the country.

The president prayed that the Almighty God would comfort all those who mourn the octogenarian and grant peace to his soul.

In a similar message, Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, described the late OPC leader as a renowned pro-democracy and good governance activist, committed democrat, tested political player, and Yoruba nationalist who left behind fine legacies.

He encouraged Fasehun’s family and other associates of the late leader not to allow his fine legacies to die. “He was known for his Yoruba nationalistic fervor. Like an Afenifere chieftain that he was, he fought stridently for the Yoruba cause,” Tinubu said.

“He canvassed true federalism and political restructuring. He fought as well for the cause of the Nigerian nation. The good thing about Baba is there was never a time that he sat on the fence. Although trained as a medical doctor, he was very active politically. We were together in the forefront of the agitation for the de-annulment of June 12. He founded the Oodua Peoples Congress to actualize June 12 but espoused non-violence.

“Nonetheless, he remained a torn in the flesh of the military. It was therefore no surprise that Dr. Fasehun was imprisoned for 19 months from December 1996 to June 1998 by the General Sani Abacha regime.

“And when democracy fully returned to the country he participated actively. From being an Alliance for Democracy sympathiser in 1999 to 2003, he moved to the front stage,” he recalled.

According to Tinubu, one of Fasehun’s last political acts was an attempt at reviving the Unity Party of Nigeria formed by the late Obafemi Awolowo, by giving the same name to the party he later formed

“There was also something remarkable about Baba: his love for Lagos. Though born in Ondo in Ondo State, he spent the most part of his life in Lagos. It was here that he situated his medical hospital, the Best Hope Hospital and Acupuncture Centre, and his hotel business-the Century Hotel.

“He was an extremely humble and modest man. I will miss him dearly. The Southwest, particularly Lagos and Ondo states, will miss him. Nigeria will miss him also.”

Afenifere, a Yoruba cultural group, in which Fasehun was an active member until his death, also mourned him. Yinka Odumakin, its National Publicity Secretary, in a statement, described the famous doctor as a dogged fighter, who played active role in the agitation against the annulment of the June 12 elections as well as the emancipation of the human race.

Afenifere noted that the death of Fasehun came at a crucial time in the nation’s life, adding that it “is a big blow to the struggle he devoted most of his life to…

“As we cannot question God for taking him when it pleased Him, we pray that his soul will find a comforting resting place. We console with his immediate family, his fraternal family in OPC and the Yoruba Nation in general on the death of this great soul. It shall be well with all that he left behind,” Odumakin’s statement said.

In his reaction, Gani Adams, the Aare-Onakakanfo of Yoruba and Fasehun’s onetime closest comrade at arms and the national coordinator of the OPC, described his death as a great loss to the Yoruba race, Nigeria and the world at large, adding that he left behind a worthy legacy.

Adams said he received the news of his death with “shock and disbelief,” even as he stated that Fasehun made outstanding contributions to the progress of the nation in many capacities, and no doubt, left behind a worthy legacy through his careers as a renowned medical doctor and politician among others.

According Adams, “Baba deserves all respects, because he acquitted himself so diligently, and will also be remembered as a distinguished leader in all ramifications, and one that was greatly admired by the general public and his peers as a straight forward and complete gentleman.

“On behalf of my family and the entire Oodua Peoples’ Congress, I extend on our sincere condolences on the transition of our beloved leader and father to his family and pray that the Almighty God grants the bereaved family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace,” the statement said.

In the same breath, Olabode George, a former deputy national chairman of the PDP, similarly lamented the passage of the OPC founder and described him as an “embodiment of a true Yoruba man.”

George said Fasehun was a “quintessential embodiment of principled and unswerving advocate of the protector of the weak and the defender of the trampled.

“He was a Yoruba elder with the complete attributes of the Omoluabi culture. But he was also a Nigerian patriot, who fought for justice, truth, fairness and the democratic ethos.

“He was a good man; effortlessly friendly, always calm and unruffled even amid the greatest provocations. He will be sorely missed wherever honesty is cherished, wherever honor, kindness and sincerity of purpose are treasured. May he find solace in the bosom of his Lord,” he prayed.

A renowned activist, Fasehun was imprisoned for 19 months in December 1996 to June 1998, by the General Sani Abacha regime and participated actively when democracy eventually returned to the country, first as an Alliance for Democracy sympathiser between 1999 and 2003.

Fasehun died on Saturday, December 1, at the intensive care unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital Ikeja, LASUTH.

He was born in on September 25, 1938 in Ondo State. He began his education late, entering primary school at the age of 13 at Saint Matthews Roman Catholic School, Ondo.

He later moved to Saint Peter’s Teacher’s Training College, Akure, also in Ondo state. But he was expelled from school, because of his non-conformity with Catholicism. Fasehun was then admitted to Ondo Boys High School, where he completed his secondary education in less than three years, with a Grade One distinction.

His brother offered him a scholarship to study science at Blackburn College in the UK. He furthered his education at Aberdeen University College of Medicine. He also studied at the Liverpool Postgraduate School after which he had a Fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons.

In 1976, he studied acupuncture in China under a joint World Health Organisation, WHO, and United Nations Development Scholarship Programme.

Back home in 1977, he set up an Acupuncture Unit at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, LUTH. But he resigned in 1978 because “too many people were dying (there at LUTH) ….. and my standard of medical practice was not feasible in LUTH.”

Thereafter, he set up the Best Hope Hospital and Acupuncture Centre in Lagos. His Acupuncture Centre once earned a reputation as Africa’s first for the Chinese medical practice.

Fasehun was also a friend of Realnews magazine. He granted two cover interviews with the magazine in the past three years. Despite his busy schedule, the late octogenarian still found time for his profession. When the Realnews reporter asked him about this, he retorted: “Once you are a doctor, you are always a doctor.” His being in politics, he said was to improve the life of the ordinary Nigerians. Let’s hope somebody steps in Fasehun’s shoes to continue with the fight.

As for those who have had an encounter with the late doctor, he will surely be missed.

– Dec. 21, 2018 @ 00:15 GMT |

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