Banji Ojewale extols the virtues of Frederick Fasehun as he marks his 77th birthday
In 1992, as Nigeria’s ex-dictator Ibrahim Babangida tottered to his fall through fraudulently tinkering with his own transition programme, it was suggested to him by a presidential candidate that an interim demilitarised government of national unity be installed to usher in the genuine democracy the nation had been searching for all this while without success.
Babangida did not heed the call. A year later, his bag of tricks and political subterfuges empty, he reached belatedly for that interim national government idea, but giving no credit to its patriotic originator.
He “bastardised” it by installing a puppet continuity of his regime while scampering off the scene (stepping aside, as he called his exit!).
Dr. Frederick Isiotan Fasehun was the man who proposed the idea as a short term solution to the political impasse engendered by the military junta of Babangida. Then a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, Fasehun, an alien to smear politicking, would not stand the horse-trading and campaign of calumny that was the imprint of the day. Later, newspapers ran headlines of Fasehun screaming: “IBB stole my idea and bastardised it!”
This soft-spoken man was born on September 21, 1935 in Ondo town and put in the care of a grandmother who was uneducated but who, nevertheless, was a disciplinarian of the Spartan school. Starting education late at 13 years at Saint Matthew’s Roman Catholic School, Ondo, Fasehun was a “man” among kids. This was the very reason he strove to excel and be a man rather among fellow men. He moved up rapidly.
After about a year at Saint Peter’s Teacher’s Training College, Akure, (Second Republic Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Akin Omoboriowo was his classmate), Fasehun was thrown out because he didn’t succumb to Catholicism’s creed. But he was top of his class all the same.
He was admitted into form Two at Ondo Boys High School in 1956. After only two and a half years, Fasehun sat for the final examination and passed simultaneously grade one and earning distinction in English Language. It was a record not set since the school was created in 1919! You either had distinction in English and scored grade two or less, or no distinction in English but an overall grade one rating.
Fasehun’s brother redeemed a pledge to sponsor the young student to the United Kingdom to further his studies if he passed. And so on September 30, 1958, Fasehun went to London, where he studied science at Blackburn College and later proceeded to Aberdeen University College of Medicine for six years. He was also at the Liverpool Postgraduate School and the Royal College of Surgeons for his fellowship.
Later in 1976, he studied acupuncture in China under a joint World Health Organisation and United Nations Development Programme Scholarship.
Back home in 1977, he set up an Acupuncture Unit at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH). But Fasehun resigned in 1978 because “too many people were dying (there at LUTH) ….. and my standard of medical practice was not feasible in LUTH.”
He immediately set up the Besthope Hospital and Acupuncture Centre in Lagos. It was once reputed to be Africa’s first for the Chinese medical practice.
Fasehun has found more than ample time to devote impartial attention to his age-old calling (health management) and politics (his inner stirrings). It is from this perspective that late Moshood Abiola used to address Fasehun as “political doctor.”
Indeed, Fasehun himself says that he is in politics because he wants to improve the life of the ordinary Nigerians. According to him, the medical profession shows you the end result of want, hunger, poverty, suffering, ignorance, superstition etc, etc. He says he was once a victim of all these and wouldn’t want fellow Nigerians to suffer the same fate.
He is an executive member of the Campaign for Democracy (CD). In the thick of CD’s crisis in early 1994, several factions put pressures on Fasehun to assume chairmanship. He declined, asserting in characteristic humility that “one can work effectively and successfully for the uplift of any organisation by being in the background.” He then campaigned for Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti to be returned.
Fasehun in 1993 founded the Movement for Social and Economic Justice (MOSEJ), emerging as its national chairman. He is the founder of Oodua People’s Congress whose agitation against injustice and extrajudicial killing as well as resistance to perceived ploy to waste the Yoruba nation has become legendary. A noiseless but adroit negotiator, Fasehun pointedly rejected Head of State Sani Abacha’s request to have him serve in his military dictatorship. Fasehun says he “is a patriotic democrat who should be seen struggling against those who have continued to wrench sovereignty from our people rather than join them.”
His relationship with labour has remained excellent. In 1989 when Babangida lifted the ban on politics, Nigerian workers put together the Nigerian Labour Party and had Fasehun as their presidential flagbearer.
Although this man of eternal youth is no longer in active politics, he still contends for justice and democracy, having been in and out of detention countless times for his front-row role in street and undercover agitation for good governance. He was one of the three leaders of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) who staged the rally for Abiola after the latter claimed his mandate as President of Nigeria.
Fasehun is married with children. His hobbies are walking, reading, dancing and listening to classical music.
• Ojewale is head writer at WriteConsult, Ota, Ogun State.