By Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti and Yinka Kolawole
The National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu; Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), were among dignitaries that yesterday paid their last respects to the late Afenifere leader, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, whose remains were buried in his country home at Iye Ekiti in Ilejemeje Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
Fasanmi, who was a Second Republic senator, died last Wednesday at 94.
The casket carrying Fasanmi’s corpse was conveyed in a motorcade to the funeral service at Saint John’s Anglican Church, Iye Ekiti.
Tinubu and the governors described Fasanmi as one of the country’s unsung heroes, saying his demise has robbed them of a “godfather and counsellor.”
Fayemi described Fasanmi’s contributions to the development of democracy as immeasurable, particularly his role in the formation and operation of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that fought against the military.
He stated that his government was constructing a secondary school to honour the deceased for his contributions to Ekiti State.
“My only regret was that he has now left us before the school will be officially inaugurated for academic activities when schools finally reopen,” he added.
Fayemi, in his speech entitled: ‘Tribute to a Man of Integrity,’ said what he admired in the deceased was his integrity, which bore eloquent testimony to his immaterialist life and added more respect to his incorruptible nature.
“His death has, therefore, robbed me of a godfather, counsellor, an advocate and a father. A good man has left us. We will miss him but we are consoled that Baba’s entire adult life was dedicated to selfless service,” he stated.
Fayemi added that Baba belonged in the class of the youths of the 1950s when the nationalist movement was at its feverish peak and got indoctrinated into nationalism struggle through the forceful writings of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his contemporaries who used the instrumentality of the media to etch an indelible impression on the minds of the young students of that era.
He said: “He proved his political mettle in 1964 when he was elected as a member of the Federal House of Representatives before the military struck in 1966 and he got imprisoned in Agodi Prison before he was later released.
“By the time democracy returned in 1979, he was a major participant in the politics of that time in the old Ondo State. He offered to serve as governor of the old Ondo State in 1978 and slugged it out with Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin who defeated him in the primary.
“He eventually went to the Senate along with other iconic Ekiti bests such as Prof. David Oke and Prof. Banji Akintoye where they distinguished themselves and became exemplars.
“One legacy for which Baba would be fondly remembered was his credential of incorruptibility. He was a man of tall integrity and honesty. It would be recalled that he was the first to start the Anti-bribery and Corruption Committee in 1973 under Col. Oluwole Rotimi of the Western Region.”
As part of the COVID-19 protocols, the Osun State Government had earlier officially handed over the remains of the late Afenifere leader to the Ekiti State Government, for his interment at Iye Ekiti.
The short farewell ceremony took place at Itawure, the border town between the two states.
The handover followed a well-coordinated commendation service held in the deceased’s honour amid strict safety protocols supervised by the Osun State Ministry of Health at All Saints Anglican Church, Osogbo, and hosted by Oyetola.
Osun State was represented at the ceremony by the Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode; Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Adebisi Obawale; Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Health, Dr. Siji Olamiju; and Special Adviser to the Governor on General Administration, Mr Niyi Idowu, among others.
At the handover, the representatives of the two states lauded the late elder statesman who they described as humanist par excellence and a good support system in the polity of both governments.
Oyetola, represented by his deputy, Mr. Benedict Alabi, was part of the eminent personalities who thronged Ekiti State to pay their last respects.
Oyetola in his tribute noted that but for the late Fasanmi’s wish to be buried in Ekiti State, Osun State would have concluded all the burial rites and buried him in the state.
In his sermon during the burial, the Bishop of Ekiti Oke, Anglican Communion, Reverend Peter Olubowale, said Fasanmi was not a noisemaker and troublemaker during his time, adding that his transition on earth corroborated that “life is not important except it has impacts on others.”
He urged the people to continually do good to humanity, the way Fasanmi did to his family, political associates, friends and companions, by making himself available at the most critical and challenging times.
He said: “We need to be available to ourselves and be committed to God and set goals. Nigeria is in the position it is today not because we don’t have material and human resources, but we lack the commitment to ourselves, set goals, and the welfare of the people.
“Nigerians are the number one people in the world that are easy to govern. They have patience, zeal and elastic in endurance. When you think they will fall, they will just stand and be looking and I think our political leaders will not play too much on this.
“Many of us no longer have trust in this nation. No trust in ourselves, no trust in our leaders. Baba has told us that all these monies you are spending and the one you are keeping inside bullion vans and the ones being stashed in bank accounts- all is vanity.
“The suffering in town is much. Use the position you are occupying very well to develop humanity. This is the only way you can gain eternity, the most important reward for all of us because materialism will lead you to hell fire.”
Tinubu, who was represented by a former Lagos Deputy Governor, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, said Nigerians should learn from the late politician, who lived a modest and Spartan lifestyle.
Tinubu described Fasanmi as a civilian revolutionist and a politician of outstanding mien, civility and character, who is worthy of emulation.
Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, represented by his Special Adviser on Civic Engagements, Princess Aderemi Adebowale, said Fasanmi’s influence became more pronounced by his incorruptible nature.
Speaking on behalf of the South-west governors, Akeredolu said the news of the passage of the icon was a loss to the Yoruba race and Nigeria at large.
“Baba living long for 94 years was not what we are celebrating, but we are celebrating how many lives he had impacted. He lived an impactful life.
“He was not petty but he spoke truth to power. He lived a remarkable life and he was one politician who became a senator and came home to rest later. Let politicians of today learn how to be contented and allow this remarkable conduct to guide us,” he said.