Remi Fani-Kayode – When telling the truth means betrayal

I have always wondered about the opinion of the elders of the past and how they dealt with the local crisis. I want to know if there were any significant differences in the way that the educated elders and the illiterates of the past handled disputes around social issues that we still struggle with today.

I appreciate whenever I am lucky enough to be in the company of elders that witnessed some of the events of the past first hand and did their own documentation of it so generation to come could have something to reference.

The event of the early 1950s when Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode returned to Nigeria from Britain that caught my interest. Being born and raised in Britain, I wanted to know how he felt about Ile-Ife adamant on letting go of 300 years *Isakole imposed on Modakeke. This was during the time of Oba Adesoji Aderemi, whereby there were relative peace however, there were numbers of local Senior Chiefs at the time who grew up on being fed on the hard work of others, the elders were harder to please however, Oba Aderemi managed his ruling years with grace as he knew better.

In 1954 Chief Fani-Kayode got involved in politics to represented Action Group in Ile Ife. It was during this time that the Chief was able to see first hand the injustice going on underground between Ile-Ife and Modakeke. This was alien to him and could foresee future with no meaningful development in Ife if the mentality towards their close neighbours did not change.

Chief Fani-Kayode education both at King’s College, Lagos and his law degree from Cambridge University was not lost on him. As a young black man studying in Cambridge during his time, he must have spent considerable amount of time learning a lot about himself, country and humanity in general. Chief refused to be content with what was going on underground of Ile-Ife.

Chief’s political campaign was well received  in his town however, he met heavy resistance from the rigid-minded elders. Modakeke at the time appreciated Fani-Kayode’s honesty so they rally round him. It was because of the chief’s insistent that no one should pay Isakole as it was not only unlawful but also outdated that lead to AG in Ile-Ife to split into two – Erin and the youths groups. Erin being the elders group. Youths from both Ife and Modakeke were his major political supporters.

How could any Nigerian grew up in Britain of the 1920s, studied and being active part of Nigeria readiness for independence be ever content with injustice in his own small town? This was difficult for the chief because he knew better and stuck to his gun.

Ile-Ife chief branded him as a betrayal for the ideals and did not vote for him as AG leader in the 1959 general election.

Story like this refreshes my faith in my elders that after all we have many in the past that remain on the side of justice even when their career suffered as a result.

Sixty years on after Chief Fani-Kayode made it clear that collection of isakole has no place in modern time, that with this mindset, neither Ife nor Modakeke will move forward in a meaning way – Modakeke no longer pays isakole that came about through plenty of blood shedding, however, land grabbing goes on underground by the great ground children of those that believed 300 years lease must continue, this was led by Oba Okunade Sijuade when he was crowned on December 06 1980.

Perpetual killings because of land grabbing goes on underground till today.


*Isakole is a form of lease imposed on Modakeke from Ile-Ife for being on the land. This started more than 300 years ago and some people still want the lease with the same condition to continue today.