•What He Told City People When He Turned 80
When he clocked 80, threeyears back, Dr. Frederick Fasheun, the Founder of Oodua People’s Congress spoke to City People about his life. Expectedly, he celebrated his birthday big. It was one week of celebration.
Afew days to his birthday, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, spent qualitytime with this grand old man and activist inside his Century Hotel office,along Ago Palace way in Okota, Lagos. For 2 hours, City People grilled thisLondon-trained Medical Doctor who is also a Human Rights Activist about hislife.
How do you feel turning 80?
I feel great and thankful to God Almighty for his grace because the average life-span of any Nigerian is 52. So anyone that turns 80 has to show gratitude and that’s the way I feel.
Looking at your life, what are the lessons you have learnt?
One has to be guided by principles and I didn’t give up easily on principles so I would rather suffer for the principles I believe in. I am not saying I’m right all the time but I stick on to whatever I believe in.
I have suffered most times for such principles but I have no regrets. I believe in honesty but in this our society you would suffer for being honest. Listening to what youths do say about me makes me feel good because I have been able to influence them in a way. When I started the OPC many people challenged me but current affairs seems to vindicate me that the Yoruba people need some back ups and I don’t think any leader should have been subjected to it.
How has the 21 years in the OPC journey been for you?
Anybody that believes in Democracy should expect problems and difficulties, I am citing examples from Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, even Obafemi Awolowo, we take this hoping that democracy will arise in Nigeria though some people are enjoying the way things are. But some believe in true democracy and I am also expectant of this true democracy.
Many Yoruba people who have castigated me and chastised me for my decision have come back to tell me that they didn’t realise it was so and it took me writing on why I took my decisions. During the last government, I took my decision because I felt ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was doing well, though I am not a PDP member but I supported him. I can’t commend PDP but certain characters have to be corrected. In this country there has been free education especially those of us that find the delight in educating people and where you compare Jonathan with any of the previous leaders of this country none of them has embraced education like him, he his someone that has founded 10 universities which other leaders can’t boast off and he spent more than 5 years without jailing any critic quite unlike previous leaders and he enjoyed listening to critics because he believed they are best friends of government. A critic calls the government to order when they are doing something wrong, a critic does not have to be hostile.
In a soccer pitch, those on the spectators side see the mistakes of the players though the players might not see their mistakes. I have enjoyed being a critic not minding what people have to say about me.
Is there a possibility of you reconciling with some past governments as an elder?
At the age of 80, I am ready to reconcile with everybody because I am not getting younger to be hostile to anyone, if they come we would settle and if they don’t come I would pardon them for their wrong doings.
You don’t look 80, how have you been able to maintain yourself?
Why I don’t look 80 is because I like doing things in moderation, I watch what I eat, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke but some people think I would look weird and horrible but I exercise and I take plenty fruits and vegetable and I pray to God always.
God? Many people believe that for you to lead OPC this far, you must be using Juju or local charms or some sort of voodoo?
I believe in God. All powers come from Almighty God and I don’t indulge in such thinking and thoughts and I don’t believe in any other power except God.
What does it take to lead a powerful organisation like OPC?
I have led OPC for 21 years and even when I wanted to give up last year, people insisted that I continue and its no joke. I guess my age is a factor. Yoruba culture has a principle not to contradict things and I have that as a factor supporting my leadership in the OPC and I am a principled and disciplined person and I believe in the truth and my members don’t find it easy to disagree with me because I speak the truth always.
What is your attitude to the current President, being someone you didn’t support?
I respect him as the head of country because the Bible condemns those who go against leadership, I don’t enjoy going against leadership except I have to do so and from his antecedent, we know he can do better. Though we expected true change from him when he was not in government yet but I think he has been taking advise from people which he shouldn’t take and some of us were expectant of his discipline, as our people are not disciplined and they are corrupt. I just want us to have a leader with correction and we have not felt his impact as he has been there for over 100 days and we are not expecting him to be jailing people because we are in a democratic era but we would have loved him to bring in discipline to this lawless and indisciplined country. We would be very happy if he wants to probe and unless you show an example in leadership, Nigerians won’t turn away from their indiscipline. We have wasted so much time on probe and it is really embarrassing and it is not stopping him from his governance. We are looking at Buhari as a chameleon that would never change our country.
You belong to UPN, yet you adopted Jonathan of the PDP, why?
We adopted him because we are a registered political party and have the legal rights to participate in elections and since there were only 2 choices, you cannot be neutral, so you take a position, the views, manifestos, constitution are in terms with that of UPN.
Why didn’t UPN pick its own candidate?
Because we were registered only 18 months before the elections and there was no way we would flex muscles with those that have been around for 16 years and we didn’t have the finances and I was a sole supporter of this administration and didn’t want to be the sole administrator too and we could not afford the time of election Nigerians want every 4 years, it is an exercise of cash and carry.
At what time did you see the need to step back from the election?
It was shortly before the elections and I felt there was too much money being thrown into the elections and I didn’t think it should be so. Nobody wants to do anything about our corrupt society and there should be a leader that would say no to that. The legislature started demanding for high cost which we had to cut down on.
Any regrets at 80?
My only regret is that, what has been aspired for in the 20s are not attained. We are struggling for true democracy and we only have seeming democracy and civilian government and we hope and pray a new leadership will come to Nigeria.
There is a popular adage that “the bird does not fly with only one wing”.
Most people who interview you often ask questions about national issues and your involvement with OPC. Very few ask you about how and where you were born. Can you take us back memory lane?
The journey of 80 years is not a short journey. I was born in Ondo town, on September 21, 1935. Because I was always ill as a child, my mother abandoned me with her own mother, an old lady, she was an illiterate. Nobody thought it was good investment to send me to school. So, I was left growing up in illiteracy, superstition, until I was 13. At the age of 13, I had to take my own life in my hands. I told them if I don’t go to school like my age mates, then I won’t eat. I won’t go on errand for granny, and the family council met and they said this young man wants to go to school, who will bell the cat? Someone said suppose you educate him to age 15 and like he did in the past, he dies away. The bottom line is that at the age of 13, I went to primary school, the age I should have been passing out of secondary school.
I went to a very unpopular school called Salvation Army. If you told anyone that was the school you attend you were viewed as not going to school at all. That is because that school didn’t have the popularity. After 2 years in that school I had to look elsewhere, and I was admitted into another school called St. Matthews Roman Catholic School. I was there for just 21/2 years. I did well.
Of course, I was old enough to do well, I was matured. I took entrance examination to Kings College. I passed the written but failed the oral. And in those days you could not take 2 entrance exams to 2 schools. You were allowed to take only I and once you miss that one you had to wait for next year.
That was what happened to me. So instead of having to wait for one year, I decided on going to a Teacher Training College. Unfortunately I was admitted into a Roman Catholic School then. St. Augustine’s Teacher Training College in Akure, which is now St. Peters.
In my 2nd year, we went to the Cathedral. Those who were Roman Catholics were expected to go for the Holy Eucharist on Sunday. So this Sunday came, 49 of us went to the altar to receive the Holy Communion and I sat down because I wasn’t a Roman Catholic. The teachers noticed I didn’t go the next day, a Monday, they summoned me to the principal’s office and asked why I didn’t go for the Holy Eucharist yesterday, I told them I am an Anglican. They were shocked. They said how did you find your way to this school, I told them I took the entrance examination and I passed and I came for the interview and I passed and I was admitted. They held that against me. About 8 weeks later, we had the 2nd term examination and I came 1st. So the principal came to announce the result of that examination he told students the person that came 1st in year 2 is Frederick Fasehun and the hall went up in uproar clapping. I was there strutting about happy. The principal now said but he has been expelled.
The students were confused how can somebody come 1st in a class of 50 and yet he was expelled. I was confused myself since I had not committed an offence. I left the school for another school. The then Rev. Emmanuel A. Odusanwo who was then the principal of Ondo Boys High School, I went to him. He asked what I did. I told him nothing. He said I should go back to that school to collect my testimonial, if it is commendable, he will admit me. I did. I collected it sealed it. The other principal received it and read it and he saw that the testimonial was good. He said My God, I am admitting you. But there is a problem. Yours may just be a passing phase because the coming exams is just in another 7 to 8 weeks and if you fail you will go back.
There were many secondary schools subjects I had never studied like Latin, Literature, Geometry, Algebra , Fragmentary. How will I cover all these in just 2 months? But I have no option, I applied myself to it. At the end of that term, I came first. Everybody was astounded including Chief Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere. He was instrumental to my being admitted on the 1st of June 1965.
A brother of mine had received my records all along and he said if you pass with good grades I will send you above to read Medicine. Of course, I made a good grade and I came to see him in Lagos. I told him. He said wao! With only 3 years in a secondary school. I will send you abroad. But you must first obtain your passport. I did. He said ok go and fund your fare. At that time, you either travel via British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) or MV Aurioel. BOAS was 78 Pounds. Where will I find that amount. So, I sought a teaching job at Christ School, a primary school. We were paid 4 pounds, 6 shilling, 8 pence. I kept every penny. At the end of about 8 months, I knew I was missing going to Britain. I went to my grandmother and told her, she said how much do you have? I said 38 Pounds and I was looking for 78 pounds. She turned over her pillow and gave me 40 pounds to complete it. So I went to Marina and paid 78 Pounds for my fare. So I went to my brother to tell him.
So I went to Britain and I got admitted into the Blackburn College of Science and Technology so as to do pre-medical science. I did that in one and a half years and got admitted to the University of Aberdeen to read Medicine. I studied Medicine to the post graduate level.
I came back after graduation and I sought a job with Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria. That was the beginning of my tendency to criticize. Every face you saw was white. I went to ABU because one of my Lecturers had referred me there.
What really pained me was that there was somebody who was a year my senior in the university who was already an Associate Professor and I said my God! Is it so cheap here to become a Professor? He was bossing me. He is from Britain. He was just a year my senior at the Medical school.
So I left ABU to come to LUTH and I decided to change my specialty from Obs and Gynae to Anaes sinology. When I got to LUTH, they saw my records and they were impressed, I went to do postgraduate abroad. I was to spend 4 years for the programme. My Grannie who gave me money to go and study Law was about 100 years and I wanted to show her. So instead of 4 years I finished in 18 months. LUTH was then astounded they said I should come back immediately. When I came back they said I should be made a Consultant. I then said No. Those who taught me in the higher college were still lecturers. LUTH protested vehemently. I stood my grounds.
How can I be made a Professor when those who taught me are still lecturers. So, I continued my work, teaching in LUTH. WHO wanted a doctor in LUTH to go read Acupuncture in China. They asked me to go to China for 6 months. I came back to LUTH and things had degenerated. For instance, instead of saving lives, we were virtually losing more. The percentage loss was
So, I resigned from the Teaching Hospital to set up my own private hospital. We thank God my own hospital boasts of 6 doctors and 30 nurses. It is called Best Hope Hospital. I left the teaching hospital because I didn’t want to be part of the rot that had set in. Instead of becoming a centre of excellence it was becoming a morgue.
How did you now become radicalized?
It was in a bid to change all the rot that had set in, in the system. I also became close to late
That was when I became active politically. I also imbibed activism from Beko, Gani, Alao Aka Bashorun etc.