The political romance and possible defection of former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, to the ruling APC has generated controversies. In this report, WALE ELEGBEDE x-rays the PDP chieftain’s recent dalliance with opposition leaders and its twists and turns
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode is not your regular politician. His private and political life are colorful. On his good day, he dishes out complimentaries.
But on several occasions, he is unpredictable and the tip of his tongues is enough slice into two a huge mahogany tree. He enjoys a noble and privileged background; his great-grand father was one of the earliest Nigerians to be educated in England; his grandfather, a Cambridge law graduate; and his father, also a Cambridge law graduate, prominent politician and Deputy Premier of the defunct Western Region; Femi Fani-Kayode.
Like his grand-father, his father, and his elder brother, FFK, as he is fondly called, was at Cambridge University and read Law at the prestigious University. He subsequently went to the Nigerian Law School, and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1985. Born in 1960, FFK who was born in Lagos, though his family lineage originates from Osun, didn’t really have history of practicing as a lawyer.
FFK may not have been an elected public official but he wields much influence in politics with his cult-like followers and his opinions on issues, events and personalities usually create patterns for discourse. When it comes to politics, he has a chequered life.
He has severally jumped from pillar to post. In 1989, he was a member of the Nigerian National Congress (NNC), and became its national youth leader. Just one year after, he defected and joined the now defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), where he was appointed Chief Press Secretary to the National Chairman of the party, Chief Tom Ikimi.
Not yet satisfied, the former Minister of Aviation, in 1991, was made Special Assistant to Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, former head of the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO). During the military era, Fani- Kayode was a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). Like others, he fled the country in 1996 due to the killing and arrest sphere of the junta.
He returned to Nigeria in 2001 and joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and was appointed into the Obasanjo’s Presidential Campaign Team for the 2003 presidential election. He was subsequently appointed Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Obasanjo when he won the election.
It was in that capacity that he became the administration’s attack machine and he was breathing down the neck of opposition especially those opposed to Obasanjo’s alleged third term.
In 2006, Femi Fani-Kayode was appointed Minister of Culture and Tourism, but was later redeployed to the Aviation Ministry, as Minister. After Obasanjo exit office in 2007, FFK didn’t apparently get on with those handing the PDP affair and he became one of the dissenting voices against the administration of the late Umaru Yar’Adua especially when he was ill. All said and done, he found his way to the then coming together of the All Progressives Congress as a foundation member.
But he left the now ruling party in 2014 over what he called unholy religious agenda by some leaders of the then converging party. On his return to the PDP, he was one of the frontline captains for the former President Goodluck Jonathan reelection bid and was also handy in the 2019 presidential bid of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Fast forward to 2021, the media was awash last week with tales of imminent defection of the former Minister to APC, just about two years to the general elections.
This piece of information came to the fore after Fani-Kayode met separately with Governors Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Malam Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State who chairs the caretaker committee of the APC on registration and revalisation of party members at a Guest House in Wuse, Abuja. Though details of what transpired at the parley held behind closed doors were yet to be known, it is believed Fani-Kayode, may return to the APC fold soon.
Fani-Kayode, in his twitter handle, claimed that the parley between him and Buni was in the best interest of the country. “It was an honour to have spent quality time with my friend and brother, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State last night. We had a frank, candid, fruitful and productive discussion about the way forward for our country.
This is a clear case of politics without bitterness and of building bridges,” he said. Less than 24-hours after that parley, the opposition to such move gained traction with APC members insisting that FFK has derided the ruling party and the President too much and for long, thereby has no basis in their midst.
Personal Assistant to President Muhamamdu Buhari on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, stated that most members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) won’t welcome Fani-Kayode should he decides to return to the party. In a tweet last Monday evening, Ahmad said the former Minister may not be welcomed by the majority of APC members whom he attacked for several years.
“If he decides to join the governing party, I don’t think he will be welcome by the majority of the party members whom he made it a duty to attack and insult for several years,”
Ahmad said on his official Twitter handle Another strong opposition against his possible return to the party was expressed by the Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) Salihu Lukman, who warned that admitting the controversial politician will be counterproductive to the current registration and revalidation drive of the party.
However, FFK repeatedly denied dumping the PDP for APC, insisting his consultations, even with the former President Jonathan, was only on national issues. But on Wednesday, Governor Bello blew another version of the whistle when he said Fani-Kayode has joined the APC.
“I have the mandate to sanitize, mobilize and educate and woo Nigerians into the party, irrespective of their background,” Bello told journalists after revalidating his APC membership. “Our brother Chief Femi Fani- Kayode has joined our party in good faith. He is joining our party to add his own positive energy and make a contribution to ensure that APC is a party to beat.
“Remember that Fani-Kayode was a foundation member of this great party but due to misunderstanding, he decided to port elsewhere,” Bello said. “Now he has decided to join our party (APC).
He (Fani-Kayode) approached me and by the mandate given to me by the party, I must not segregate or discriminate against any individual even if he has a different opinion about the governing party before and he has seen the light, the reality and the need to join the All Progressives Party.
“You are free to join if you feel otherwise and you cannot understand what is happening before and now you understand and want to join we will welcome you with our arms wide open. So Chief Femi Fani Kayode you are welcome to our party, come and make your own contribution.”
With the claims and counterclaims, political analysts are asking how Fani-Kayode will be able to face President Buhari, if he eventually joined the APC. What will be his parting words to his former allies in PDP who are still stuck about the impending move? Only time will tell.