The current travails of Femi Fani-Kayode in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had long been expected. In fact, with developments leading to his arrest, Fani-Kayode thinks the EFCC came too late. This is because owing to the current administration’s aversion to criticism even of the slightest and lightest type, Femi Fani-Kayode knew, with his relentless criticism of the Buhari administration for their gross inadequacies and obvious crass incompetence leading to a near-total absence of security of lives and property, and the irredeemable erosion of our socio-political and economic life, had put himself in the line of fire.
Since the defeat of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the 2015 presidential polls, Fani-Kayode has carved a niche for himself as one who is among the very few who are looking Buhari in the eyeball and telling him to shape up, something the president obviously detests.
From the vengeful incarceration of Sambo Dasuki to the vindictive detention of Nnamdi Kanu, Fani-Kayode has made himself a voice for the voiceless and victims of executive over-reach. His essays and commentary on the incessant and unchecked invasion of communities in the north central, the south eastern, the south southern and south western states respectively by the marauding Fulani herdsmen was a nightmare to Aso Rock and all the sympathizers of the Fulani herdsmen militia which is rated the fourth most dangerous terrorist group in the world. That rating was not for nothing, yet, our federal government is yet to take any decisive action against them!
Despite the open support shown by some powerful and well connected northern leaders to the killer Fulani herdsmen, Femi Fani-Kayode was not cowed and continued criticizing loudly the mishandling of the crisis.
He rose stoutly against the controversial religious bill introduced in Kaduna and which northern governors plan to adopt across board. He spoke out against President Buhari’s continued lopsided appointments in favour of the north against the south. He expressed genuine fears and called the attention of the world to the deliberate policy of Islamisation going on in Nigeria.
He condemned the use of security agencies to intimidate, harass, incarcerate, torture and kill citizens wantonly just for political reasons. He stood above others in his condemnation of the Shiite massacre, the needless killings of innocent, harmless and armless members of IPOB/MASSOB at Aba and Onitsha among others.
The social media was one of his most effective tools. He was always on Twitter and Facebook, making his opinions known without fear or favour. His positions on matters generate a lot of interests among the citizens and have the immense capacity to shape perceptions, enlighten the ill-informed, illuminate the darkened mind, lighten a burdened conscience, free the mentally enslaved and singularly redirect a national discourse.
That is how powerful the former minister of aviation’s writings are that his traducers at Aso Rock started seeing him as one that must be taken out of circulation.
In the days leading to his being invited by the EFCC, some top government officials and sympathizers of the current administration had approached Femi Fani-Kayode telling him he had become a target of government because of his writings which the authorities view as being caustic and too critical. His phones would ring endlessly from officials who would advise him to desist from writing or speaking against the policies and actions of government in his “own interest”.
Series of meetings with Fani-Kayode were called by these government agents, mostly at odd hours where they pushed their agenda to have him keep quiet or face retribution from government. They would remind him of how unpleasant the consequences of his arrest would be to his family and the stress it would bring to them especially his four-month old baby, all in a bid to have him back down on the struggle.
Fani-Kayode would return home at times with heavy burdens, thinking of what next to do. He would ask, “Do I abandon the struggle and watch people suffer, women raped, children killed, communities devastated by Fulani herdsmen, and say or do nothing about it? Do I stand and watch as security agents murder innocent Nigerians in cold blood in their hundreds with reckless abandon and not say anything? Do I stand and just watch as the federal government works assiduously to promote one religion over the other in a multi-religious and multi cultural society like ours? Do I sit and watch as Nigerians are indiscriminately locked away and humiliated by state agents just because they belong to another political divide or because they criticize government policies? Do I sit and watch how the judiciary is being intimidated, harassed and lampooned just because they choose to be on the side of law and not politics in the discharge of their duties? Do I abandon the struggle simply because of the threat of harassment, humiliation and torture?”
“Who stands for the people if everyone is cowed? Who speaks truth to power if everyone recoils into their shells?”
After these questions, Fani usually decides that the way to go is not to be intimidated or betray the trust of the people but to stand tyranny in the face and speak fearlessly to power in order to save our people and country from the stranglehold of one man.
So, when the EFCC finally invited him, it was not a surprise to many who are abreast of happenings around the former minister of aviation. In fact, it was considered an invitation that came too late considering the barrage of pressure mounted on him to soft pedal on his criticism of government. One was, therefore, not surprised at the over-zealousness and flagrant display of naked power displayed by the EFCC operatives when they came for FFK as he is fondly called.
First, on Friday, the 6th of May, operatives came to his residence to leave a letter from the anti-graft agency inviting him to their office the following Monday being the 9th of May. However, to prove that they were on a mission of vindictiveness and vendetta, they returned about two hours later that same Friday with a detachment of heavily armed policemen, a coaster bus and a Toyota Hilux vehicle, brandishing weapons in commando style and laid siege to his house for about 6 hours before leaving empty-handed, saying they had instructions to whisk him away.
He eventually honoured the invitation as scheduled and after holding him beyond the constitutional time of 48 hours allowed to detain anyone, the EFCC told Fani-Kayode’s family members and lawyers that they had obtained a remand warrant from an Abuja court to hold him for another two weeks even though they did not show any one a copy of such warrant. Shortly after then, nearing the expiration of the purported remand warrant, they whisked him to Lagos where they also applied to keep detaining him for another thirty days even though the magistrate eventually granted them a remand warrant for three weeks.
This was after the EFCC had been served a court notice for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights in Federal High Court, Abuja; for the EFCC to have taken the same matter to a magistrate court amounts to abuse of court processes. But in the current administration, it seems our constitution has been suspended and the rule of force elevated above the rule of law. All these show that it is not about corruption but all about silencing the opposition.
So, when Femi Fani-Kayode eventually reported at the EFCC office and was detained and remain detained even after he has met his bail conditions, one knew it was going to be a long walk to freedom. Freedom, not necessarily for him as a person, for he has always told those close to him that enslavement is a thing of the mind: there are many who are walking free but are slaves while there are many more who are in chains but are actually free in conscience.
But the freedom he yearns for is freedom for Nigerians; freedom for that man who was allegedly shot six times and humiliatingly wheeled in a barrow while his members are killed in their hundreds simply because he belongs to a different sect of Islam; freedom for that woman who was callously raped right before her helpless husband by Fulani herdsmen who seem to enjoy the protection of their political kith and kin in high places; freedom for that innocent child who was wickedly snatched away from his mother while he suckled and had his throat slashed by the bloody swords of the Fulani militias; freedom for those whose farmlands are destroyed and whose lands are forcefully occupied while the murdered owners are forced to bury themselves in the sands watered by the blood of kinsmen mowed down by mindless cattle rearers; freedom for those who have been incarcerated for so long despite court orders granting them bails and are in chains for expressing themselves and associating with fellow Nigerians etc.
Fani-Kayode believes that he is a free man once these ones are free even if he is in chains. He believes he is a free man once those murdered could find their voice in his even if he is incarcerated. To this extent, he is unruffled.
This is just to let the world know that the war against the Ife-born chief is not about corruption but about the deliberate and calculated agenda to silence members of the opposition while the sinister motives and the incompetence of this administration that are fast plunging our dear nation into a state of anarchy and anomie go applauded by sycophants and unchallenged by critics. It is an ignoble fight against the voice of good conscience wrapped in the smokescreen of fight against corruption.
Nigerians must speak out louder than they are doing now. Things must not be allowed to get worse than they currently are. All of us have the responsibility to defend the oppressed and help entrench democratic principles in our country. If these executive acts of despotism are allowed to fester, everyone would be in the danger of being silenced, sometimes through the use of “extreme measures” as Fani-Kayode was once told.
The time to act is now. It is Femi Fani-Kayode today, whose turn will it be tomorrow? Nigerians arise!
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He is a member of The Trent’s Elite Columnists. His column is published every Friday. He tweets from@stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.