Call 10 persons separately and ask them this simple question: “The friend of your enemy is who?”. You’ll likely get the same response but if Fredrick Isotan Faseun were among those people, his own response would stand out. While most people see the friend of their enemy as their enemy, Faseun saw things in a different way and this could be seen in his relationship with Hamza Al-Mustapha, ex-chief security officer to Sani Abacha, former military dictator.
Although he was among those who Abacha sent to prison, Faseun maintained a cordial relationship with Al-Mustapha whom many believed actively partook in the atrocities that the infamous regime was known for. Al-Mustapha himself spent over 13 years in detention after the military handed over power but that is a story for another day.
Today is for Faseun, medical doctor, activist, politician, academic and the list goes on. He took his last breath at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja in the wee hours of Saturday. Like a cat with nine lives, Faseun glided through the rocky path of life to establish himself as a prominent voice in the country.
Having survived drowning in a river at infancy, a suicide attempt, 19-month imprisonment and betrayals, the founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), can be said to have accomplished his mission on earth. He was an outspoken personality who stopped at nothing to achieve his goal.
EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL, YET GRADUATED WITH DISTINCTION
He was born in Ondo town on September 25, 1935. Columbus Akindojumi Faseun, his father had 14 wives, including Comfort Olakufojomu, his mother. Faseun started his education at St. Matthews Roman Catholic School, Ondo, at the age of 13. He moved to St. Peter’s Teacher’s Training College, Akure, where he was said to have been expelled due to his non-conformity with Catholic doctrines. He later completed his secondary school education at Ondo Boys High School with distinction.
Faseun’s brilliance had earned him scholarships to study at Blackburn College, England, and he continued his education at Aberdeen University College of Medicine, while he also studied at the Liverpool Postgraduate School. He earned a fellowship to study at the Royal College of Surgeons. After his study of acupuncture in China, he set up a medical centre in Lagos. The centre was renowned as Africa’s first for the Chinese medical practice.
SURVIVED DEATH IN A RIVER
While speaking about his childhood in an interview with Vanguard, Faseun said he got so sick as a baby that his mother threw him into the river to die, yet survived by luck.
“My mother took me along on a 10-day journey from Agbadu in Ondo State to Lagos. My sickness developed on the second day of the journey and I was told my mother attracted a lot of sympathy from other co-travellers who flocked around us in the boat,” he had said.
“My mother had done everything she could to nurture me back to health but to no avail. She didn’t seem to understand what was wrong because I wasn’t born like that. Rather than watch me die on her laps, she sprang from her sitting position and dashed to the side of the boat and flung me into the river, my body making a loud splash on the water.”
After he surfaced from the river, flapping his hands and legs, he was rescued by his step mother. Faseun recounted that after the “water baptism”, he became very strong.
CONQUERED SUICIDE AND BETRAYAL
In an interview with PUNCH, Olumuyiwa, one of the sons of the late OPC leader, said his father faced so many difficulties in life but survived all.
“When he was studying in Aberden, he told us that he suffered racism. Even though he was on scholarship, he still needed to work to offset his bills. Those who were supposed to help failed to do so. This plunged him into hardship while abroad,” he had said.
“It got to a stage he almost committed suicide. In his flat, he switched on the gas and closed all the windows. He said he was determined to suffocate himself. Not being able to fend for himself in a strange country compounded his problems. Also, he narrated the betrayals he suffered in his political journey. When he contested the presidency, the people working with him then were not straightforward and only interested in collecting his money. But there was one person that stood by him despite the odds. The person is a former deputy governor of Nasarawa state.”
JAILED BY ABACHA
Faseun ventured into politics in 1989 when Ibrahim Babangida, former military head of state, lifted the ban on politics and was made the presidential candidate and chairman of the Nigerian Labour Party.
In 1994, Faseun formed OPC and joined forces with other pro-democrats to found the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), under which he made agitations for the recognition of Abiola and the June 12, 1993 election.
He was imprisoned for 19 months (from December 1996 to June 1998) under Abacha. In 2013, Faseun began to canvass for the revival of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), a party formed by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the 1970s, where he later served as a national chairman.
BUHARI’S FOREMOST CRITIC
On different occasions, Faseun would criticise President Muhammadu Buhari administration over his performance.
In 2015, speaking at his Century Hotels, Okota office, he said Nigerians would regret if Buhari becomes president.
“I have been under the military before. Leopards don’t change their spots. What baffles me is Buhari has guts to attempt governing Nigeria again. It will not come to pass,” he had said.
“I don’t want to experience Buhari again. Four years of Buhari will be four years of nightmares.”
In January, he said the president needed to perform above expectation or be kicked out.
ADOPTED AL-MUSTAPHA AS SON
After the court of appeal released Al-Mustapha, alleged killer of Kudirat Abiola and former chief security officer of late Abacha, Faseun said the allegations levelled against Al-Mustapha were concocted and he subsequently adopted him as his son.
At a public lecture organised for Faseun in Akure, Al-Mustapha said Faseun has become his adopted father after he lost his parents while in incarceration.
“It was while in detention that I lost my father and mother. My parents died after being tortured when I was in detention. But God has replaced them for me with Dr Frederick Faseun who is now my father and his wife, my mother. The two of them are playing the roles of parent for me and I am proud to have them as my adopted parent,” Al-Mustapha had said.
When reporters caught up with him later, he was asked to explain his relationship with Al-Mustapha.
“I have no apology to make in the choice of my friends and that I travelled with him to his hometown after his 14 years absence from such a town, ah! Please, we don’t need to make a mountain out of a mole hill. This is one Nigeria, are we at war? Is Nigeria at war?” he had asked.
THE RIFT WITH ADAMS
Among those who tackled him over this was Gani Adams, factional leader of the OPC, then. Although Adams was among those Faseun groomed, both men fell apart.
Adams had accused Faseun of being a traitor.
“While professing to fight for the rights of the Yoruba race, Faseun had always been a mole eating from both sides of the mouth. For the benefits of those who do not know the genesis of the crisis, it started after a large portion of our members realized that Faseun was trying to use the group as a platform to join Abacha’s five political arrangements in 1998,” Adams had said at a press conference.
“In those dark days of the battle for the restoration of the June 12 mandate, most of us were always surprised that Abacha and his men always seemed to know much about our strategies and plans. But we are now convinced that the source of those leaks was no other person but Faseun.
“What this means is that Faseun’s unholy alliance with Al-Musapha predates his trial for the murder of Kudirat. No wonder then, that in 2008, after visiting the Abachas, Faseun came out to say the late dictator was the best president for Nigeria.”
Faseun subsequently filed a N10 billion suit against Adams. But all that is now history. In his tribute to the deceased, Adams described the death of Faseun as great loss to the Yoruba race.
“This, no doubt, is a moment of great grief for the entire family of OPC, Yoruba nation, Nigeria and the world at large. I see him as a father, and I passed through him for a period of five years,” he said.
“Baba deserves all respect because he acquitted himself so diligently, and will also be remembered as a distinguished leader in all ramifications.”
Adams is not a lone voice. Tributes have been pouring in from the high and mighty.