By January 15, 2016 the military and entire nation would be celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Armed Forces Remembrance Day”. Apart from all the formations that would gather to lay writs and pay tributes to fallen heroes, it is time for sober reflections. While honouring the “unknown soldiers”, we should also cultivate the culture to celebrate the “known soldiers” in the course of our joint efforts to build a nation where no man is oppressed.
The Nigerian state inherited many things from Britain, let also emulate the former colonial masters’ culture to award cross, gold, silver and bronze medals to these fallen heroes posthumously as motivations. The world history is replete with revolutions and counter-revolutions in the processes of nation building. Britain our erstwhile colonial masters, had her own share of political crises through coup detat by General Oliver Cromwell who initially ruled England illegitimately from (1566-1593) for over 27 years until the Restoration in 1660. Britain built her legal tradition on non-complacency, trials, errors and corrections.
One prominent person whom Nigerian history seems to have forgotten is the late Lt. Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, the then military Governor of the defunct Western Nigeria. Col. Fajuyi’s role in the military and political history of Nigeria singled him out as a ‘star’. From the various accounts by authors, he was not linked directly or indirectly as a plotter or participant in the 15th January and 29th July 1966 coup. The records reveal that he tried with his own limited human ability –even with bare hands and raw courage to forestall the coup of 29th July 1966.
Obviously, the plotters never set out to kill him but only to abduct the then Head of State Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi. He could have played a coward: – just dive into the bush to disappear and obviously the plotters may not have pursued him. As a gallant soldier he casually took the decision to die in action. An Ekitiman to the core, he was fearless and stubborn to what he perceived as injustice.
The records also reveal that the security guards who were supposed to protect him and Ironsi caved in and both men were exposed to danger. Fajuyi was said to have roared to the assailants: – ‘’you want to kill him in my house? Why didn’t you kill him when he visited your place? And if you want to kill him, you must kill two of us?. With these heroic words, he was abducted with his guest, tortured and later assassinated.
The above facts undisputed in Nigerian history clearly marked Fajuyi as a soldier of distinction who died defending the Nigerian state and her unity. It is most uncharitable for some people to allege he died in defence of his master.
Secondly, he was a strong moralist who adhered strictly to the ethics that the host is under a duty to shut the doors to protect his guest.
Thirdly, his self-sacrifice proved that Ekiti tribe of Yoruba nation had no hands in the death of the first Nigerian Army General, although there is bound to be human imperfections. While the government of Nigeria had vigorously pursued the ‘post-civil war RRR – Reconciliation, Reconstruction and the Rehabilitation’ for 50 years now, there has been unfairness to Fajuyi and his family in spite of his supreme sacrifice.
His named was not amongst the medalists’ in the centenary celebration (1914-2014). In the area of the rehabilitation, the FGN has done nothing to compensate his family. While the former President Shagari and the retired Generals Adebayo, Obasanjo, Danjuma, Babangida, Abacha and others helped and appointed Ironsi’s, Belewa’s and Ladoke Akintola’s children into diplomatic service and ministerial positions, we are yet to hear of similar gestures extended to Fajuyi’s family?
In his home, even though the Ekitis had continued to mourn him as an illustrious son, they too did very little to rehabilitate his family. Apart from naming a recreation centre as Fajuyi Park with his monuments and statue as a fallen hero, the Ekiti State Government has not appointed his children into positions to compensate them. Even Governor Ayo Fayose has not been seen to appoint any of them into position. The old Ondo State empowered his children by electing one of them as Local Government Chairman.
The Ibo States – ethnic origin of Ironsi as the first Ibo Army General have done nothing for them. The Abia State (Umuahia) the home town of Ironsi should exhibit love, fraternity and extend hands of fellowship to Fajuyi’s children. It is not too late if Fajuyi’s children are appointed commissioners in Abia, Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states; afterall Governors Tinubu and Fashiola have proved to the world that it is reasonable and practicable for Ibos, Osun, Ekiti and Ogun States’ indigenes to be appointed commissioners in Lagos State.
Recently, Governor Nyeso Wike appointed an indigene of Imo State as commissioner into Rivers state government. The Governors of Enugu, Abia, Anambra, Imo, and Ebonyi should demonstrate solidarity with Fajuyi by naming some streets in Umuahia, Owerri, Awka, Enugu and Abakaliki after him. We have Patrice Lumumber and Adegoke Adelabu Streets in Port Harcourt in honour of the horeos of our political past.
They should also exhibit reciprocity and allocate residential plots of lands to Fajuyi’s children in the housing estates and industrial layouts in the Eastern Nigeria. At the War Museum in Umuahia, regrettably reveal the absence of the portraits, statue and monuments of Fajuyi.
These are the numerous ways we Nigerians can honour and recompense the labour of our heroes past and heal old wounds. Some unpatriotic persons may blame him for being stupid? Perhaps say he should have kept quiet? to get his promotions, boost his career prospects and wealth?
In spite of these cynical views, Fajuyi remains a very rare breed soldier – a hero in Nigerian history for the delicate role he played – a great Nigerian who saw death coming and dared it. Although he was killed in the process but his morality, gallantry, discipline and distinctive courage should not be forgotten.
The question now is how many of us in Nigeria can be like Fajuyi? The answer is either very few or none at all. He should be honoured posthumously. This is the only way other Nigerians whether soldiers and civilians would be encouraged to be like Fajuyi – to take the risk – to do and die for the right in fulfillment of our sacred duty to be our “brothers’ keepers”.
History is our guide for the present and lessons for the future as we strive diligently through trials, errors, corrections to build and gradually nurture to maturity, the Nigerian nation where no person is unfairly treated.
Prof. Uche Jack-Osimiri Faculty of Law Rivers State University of Science and Technology Port Harcourt (Tel 08033090021. Email- [email protected])