By Femi Fani Kayode
In a post titled ‘One child too many. A history of death, tragedy and sorrow and the terrible price of power in Nigeria’, Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode chronicled the tragedies that have befallen most politicians that have ruled or attempted to rule Nigeria. He hinged his article on the recent death of the first son of APC National leader, Bola Tinubu. Read below…
In the early 1960′s Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the Western Region, lost his first son and years later his second son and second daughter were cut short in the prime of their lives.
Chief S.L. Akintola, his bitter political rival and the second Premier of the Western Region also lost his first daughter in the early 60′s and a few years later lost his third and youngest son. His second son was also cut short in his prime a number of years later.
Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode, the Deputy Premier of the Western Region, who was a close ally and second in command to S.L. Akintola, lost his second son.
Sir Adesoji Aderemi, who was the Ooni of Ife, a close ally of Awolowo and the first ceremonial Governor of the old Western Region, lost his first son. Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Premier of the old Eastern Region and Nigeria’s first and only ceremonial President, lost his first wife.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s second democratically-elected President lost four wives and one son many years ago whilst Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Region, lost two sons and one daughter. Awolowo and Obasanjo went to jail for three years each whilst Ahmadu Bello went to jail for three months.
S.L. Akintola was killed in the prime of his life just as were Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first democratically-elected leader and Prime Minister. As a matter of fact they were all killed on the same night- the night of January 15th 1966.
President Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s second democratically-elected leader and first executive President lost four children whilst he was in power and was locked up for over two years after he was toppled.
Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12th 1993 Presidential election, lost two wives, was locked up for 4 years and was eventually killed. Chief Bola Ige, the first democratically-elected Governor of Oyo state and the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federation lost his first son and he himself was later murdered.
Chief Bisi Onabanjo, the first democratically-elected Governor of Ogun state lost his first son. Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first democratically elected Governor of Lagos state, lost his first daughter. Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, the second democratically-elected Governor of Oyo state lost his son.
Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the first Minister of Finance of Nigeria was killed. Chief Alfred Rewane, one of the founding members of the Action Group and a leading figure in NADECO, was killed. The list is endless and I could go on and on.
Alhaji Musa Yar’adua was Minister of Lagos Affairs in the First Republic. He was blessed with a long and peaceful life. However two of his sons were not so lucky.
His first son, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, who was number two to General Obasanjo when he was military Head of State and who for many decades was one of the most powerful men in the country, was murdered whilst he was in prison.
His second son, President Umaru Yar’adua, was cut short in his prime by a strange and inexplicable ailment after he had been President for only three years. He was succeeded by his number two, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan lost his brother and his mother-in-law one year after the other after he became President.
Worse still those that he had been deputy to throughout his political life, either as Deputy Governor or Vice President, always suffered one form of misfortune or the other, whether it be death, shame, incarceration or impeachment, and he would end up stepping into their shoes and taking their place.
When it comes to our military rulers the story of consistent tragedy is no different- General Aguiyi-Ironsi, our first military Head of State was killed.
General Yakubu Gowon, our second military Head of State, was toppled from power, exiled, lost his brother and his first son was jailed.
General Murtala Mohammed, our third military Head of State, was killed and lost both his son and son-in-law. General Olusegun Obasanjo was our fourth military Head of State and we touched on his misfortunes earlier.
General Muhammadu Buhari, our fifth military Head of State, was toppled from power, locked up for three years, lost his mother whilst he was in detention and was not allowed to attend her burial, lost his number two (General Tunde Idiagbon) in very strange and suspicious circumstances and later lost two daughters.
General Ibrahim Babangida, our sixth military Head of State, was eased out of power and compelled to ”step aside” amidst massive controversy and turmoil and later lost his wife.
His number two, Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, lost his first son, Chief Ernest Shonekan, our first and only Interim Civilian Head of State, was badly humiliated and toppled from power.
General Sani Abacha, our seventh military Head of State, lost his son, was removed from power and was killed. General Abdulsalami Abubakar, our eighth military Head of State, as far as I am aware is the only exception and appears to have escaped any misfortune.
Yet the picture is very depressing. This is indeed a catalogue of tragic events. Sorrow and pain just appears to be following sorrow and pain. It is a vicious cycle of misfortune and calamity.
Yet the most curious phenomenon and bizarre series of events of all is the fact that every single Head of State or President that has ruled our country from the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock, Abuja for three years or more has either ended up dying whilst there or has lost a spouse before leaving office.
Babangida did not stay in the Villa in Abuja for up to three years so he and his wife escaped what has come to be known as the ”Villa curse”.
It was the same for Chief Ernest Shonekan who, wisely, never stayed at the Villa at all but who chose to preside over the affairs of the nation from Aguda house next door and who remained in power for barely six months. General Abdulsalami Abubakar stayed at the Villa but he remained there for less than a year.
However Abacha, Obasanjo and Yar’adua were not so lucky- each of them stayed at the Villa for three years or more and before the end of their tenure they either lost their own life or the life of their spouse whilst there.
The story is that once the three year mark is passed the curse sets in and the clock begins to tick. At the end of the day only one of the two spouses comes out alive.
Permit me to conclude with the following observations which I believe are curious and relevant.
During the course of the three years before the 2015 presidential election President Muhammadu Buhari lost another daughter whilst Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state, who is being groomed as his heir and successor, lost one daughter, one son and one nephew.
Finally one year and six months before the 2019 presidential election, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the former Governor of Lagos state, the National Leader of the APC, Buhari’s closest and most powerful ally in southern Nigeria and a man who, it is rumoured, himself has presidential ambitions lost his first son.
The curse of power is frightful and real. May God deliver us from it and may the souls of all those that were cut short before their time rest in peace.