Fredrick Fasehun, doctor, social critic and politician
The founder of the Yoruba militia organisation, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Fredrick Fasehun was known for many parts. He was not just a famous medical practitioner during his time, his success also extended into politics, culture and humanity. In addition, his determination to preserve cultural values of the Yoruba nation was second to none. On the national front, he was one of many Nigerians engaged in the drawn-out agitation for restructuring of the country’s political system, although he did not live to achieve or witness this until he breathed his last on December 1, 2018.
Not only did Fasehun excel in the medical field, but he was also one of the privileged Nigerians to have the best of quality education during the Colonial era and short-lived First Republic.
His commitment to repositioning the Yoruba race in the larger Nigerian context earned him the name ‘Papa’ among thousands of his followers in OPC, a group he founded not only to defend and protect his people’s interest and integrity, but to also preserve their culture.
Struggle To Get Military Out Of Power
THE late OPC founder was among prominent Nigerians that put their lives on the line to confront and fight military dictatorship in the country to a standstill, especially during the regimes of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and the late Gen. Sani Abacha.
When it became obvious that Babangida was not serious about relinquishing power to a democratically elected government after annulment of June 12 Presidential election result in 1993, which was acclaimed to have been won by the late Chief MKO Abiola of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Fasehun was among those that challenged military might to demand the actualisation of Abiola’s mandate and exit of soldiers from government. Unlike others that made media noise, but chickened out in the face of military intimidation, Fasehun joined the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to demand for civil rule, even at the point of death.
In the process, he founded OPC as the militant wing to basically defend Yoruba Interest. In the end, Babangida was forced to step aside on August 3, 1993, while he set up an Interim National Government (ING), headed by Chief Earnest Shonekan. Thereafter, Fasehun and others did not rest, but went ahead to contend the legality of the interim government until it was declared illegal, which gave room for Gen. Abacha to hijack government.
When Fasehun and his colleagues in NADECO realised that Abacha was not ready to declare the result of June 12, 1993 election, they started another phase of struggle to send the military back to the barracks. He was in the struggle till Abacha’s death in 1998, when erstwhile Head of Sate, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar took over government and was compelled to commence a transition programme.
Abacha imprisoned Fasehun for 19 months from December 1996 to June 1998. This ended 18 days after Abacha’s death. Fasheun and other pro democracy agitators sustained the democratic struggle till 1999, when the Abubakar-led government hurriedly put a transition programme in place.On May 29, 1999, Nigeria eventually returned to democratic government formed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But upon noticing that Obasanjo was also not ready to look in the direction of restructuring, which was the wish of most pro-democracy agitators, as they believed the 1999 Constitution was not just a unitary type, but was completely devoid of autonomy for the regions as contained in the First Republic Constitution, Fasehun and others returned to the struggle to compel Obasanjo to organise a national conference.
Although the then ruling PDP insisted Nigeria’s unity was a no-go area, even though it agreed to dialogue, the OPC founder did not lose focus of what he felt Nigeria deserved, which according to him should be autonomy for all federating units.
This culminated into the 2005 National Conference, where the Yoruba nation was said to have prepared the best manifesto, which Obasanjo allegedly truncated, using executive might.
Nonetheless, Fasehun did not relent in the demand for Sovereign National Conference until former President Goodluck Jonathan convened the 2014 conference, which was adjudged to be one of be best dialogues the country ever had. It was one of the reasons that made Fasehun to support Jonathan’s second term ambition in the 2015 presidential poll. But unfortunately, PDP lost to the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC).
Just as he demonstrated courage to challenge Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo’s governments for not attending to the critical issue of returning Nigeria to true federalism, Fasehun, since 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari’s-led APC administration came to power, never stopped calling for a return to the First Republic constitution that granted autonomy to the federating units.
He ventured into politics to contest for the presidency on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He did this to see whether he could be elected to achieve his dream of restructuring Nigeria. Born on September 21, 1935 to the illustrations family of High Chief Columbus Akindojutimi Fasehun, the Lomofe of Ondo Kingdom, he was before his demise, the High Chief Odunwo designate of Ondo Kingdom, and a scion of the Jomu Warlord family of Ondo Kingdom.
He attended St. Stephen’s Primary School, Ondo, the Ondo Boys High School, Ondo, the oldest community secondary school in West Africa, having been founded in 1919 by Ondo community with the input of government and missionaries.He also attended one of the oldest medical colleges in the World, the University of Aberdeen. There he bagged his MB.ChB. He later became the first African to bag a PhD in the Chinese medicine of Acupuncture from the University of Nankin, China. He was a foremost anaesthesiologist, gifted with the ability to supervise a surgery without putting the patient to sleep, said to have happened for the first time at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital LUTH), Idi Araba, in Lagos in 1977. He was a Fellow of Royal College of Surgeon, Fellow of Royal College of Pathology, Fellow of West African College of Surgeon, a teacher and mentor of many professors of anesthesia. He was the author of ‘The Complete Book of Acupuncture.’
Upon annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election, together with Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti and Fasehun founded the National Democratic Coalition, (NADECO). Others include Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu.
He was Nigeria’s first presidential candidate of the Labour Party. He was the founder of the Movement for Social and Economic Justice (MOSEJ.) He was the founder of the Yoruba Education Trust Fund, together with Chief Ade Ojo of Elizade University and Elizade Motors. He was the founder of the Nigerian Health Vouchers.
He was on the Advisory Board of the Luther King Centre, Nigeria, and was responsible for ferrying the late Anthony Enahoro through the NADECO route in the heydays of Abacha. He and Ransome-Kuti began their civil rights activism at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria, to resist neocolonialism by expatriate doctors-in-residence. They had to move to LUTH, when they could no longer stand it. He moved into private medical practice, when he could no longer withstand bureaucratic discrepancies.
Before the passage of Oba Okunade Sijuade, Ooni Olubuse of Yorubaland, Fasehun acquired a large expanse of land, where he founded the Oodua World Centre.
His Challenges With NADECO, Obasanjo
When Obasanjo wanted to contest election in 1999, the former president reportedly invited Fasehun to Ota, to deliberate on how he could secure Yoruba support. He honoured the invitation, but was later accused of collecting N20m from Obasanjo, a development that led to crisis in OPC, which brought about formation of the Gani Adams faction.
When speaking on the issue, Fasehun wondered if Obasanjo could give anyone that amount of money. Consequently, the Pa Enahoro-led NADECO summoned a meeting in the U.S., where he was verbally queried on why he (Fasehun) was hobnobbing with Obasanjo. The late OPC founder responded that, whereas NADECO was for national interest, the OPC was to take care of any Yoruba man, irrespective of his political affiliation; and that insofar as Obasanjo was a Yoruba, OPC, to him, must be interested in what became of him. Professor Bolaji Idowu supported that stand, the report said.
In a tribute to Fasehun, the Director General of Raymond Dokpesi Centre for Media Development, Dr. Christopher Ebuetse said: “He was a man who identified with all shades of people— the rich, the poor, semi literate and literate. He was a down to earth man, who was very brave and resolute in what he believed. He was a great defender of the oppressed.
“When I first heard through an online media that this great patriot of Nigeria was dead, I told myself it was not true, as his death was never envisaged. He left us when we needed him more. He was a man of wisdom and knowledge. He was selfless and was ready to lay down his life for the oppressed.”
In another condolence message, legal practitioner, Kayode Ajulo said Fasehun shaped his view on standing up for what he believes, and championing a cause of collective good, among many other things. He said: “If you could ignore everything about Pa Fasehun, his gentle mien, smartness, doggedness and being grounded were some of his traits you could not help, but notice and admire.”
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