Femi Fani-Kayode was born in Lagos, Nigeria on 16th October 1960 to Chief Remilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode and to Chief (Mrs) Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode in Lagos state. He is an Ife of Yoruba ethnic stock. His great-grandfather, The Reverend Emmanuel Adedapo Kayode, attended the famous Anglican Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone and got his Master of Arts Degree (Durham) in the 1880s’ after which he went into Christian ministry and was ordained as a minister of the Anglican Church.
The Reverend Kayode is credited with bringing Christianity to Ile-Ife and together with colleagues, helped the spread to other parts of south-western Nigeria where he served as a pastor. Chief Adetokunbo it was who added Fani, his mother’s name to prefix the family name.
FFK wears many hats.
He is a lawyer, evangelical Christian, essayist and poet. He is perhaps best known for his political career, having served as Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to former President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. FFK was appointed Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006 after which he was moved to the Aviation ministry. He was appointed director of media and publicity at the Jonathan/Sambo presidential campaign organization.
Femi Fani-Kayode began his primary school education at Brighton College, in the United Kingdom and proceeded to have his secondary education at Holmewood House Preparatory in Kent. He moved to Harrow School in Harrow on The Hill and later to Kelly College in Taavistock, UK where he completed his high school education.
In 1980 Femi Fani-Kayode gained admission to the School of Oriental and African Studies and graduated with an LL.B degree in 1983. He followed a family tradition that dates back to his grandfather and secured an LLM from Cambridge. At Cambridge, FFK matched his father’s score in his final exams. He returned to the Nigerian law school and in 1985, was called to the Nigerian Bar.
FFK worked in the law firm of the legendary Chief Rotimi Williams in Lagos before moving to his father’s firm, Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo, where he was tutored by his father and uncle, the late Sobo Sowemimo S.A.N, younger brother to the late Justice George Sodeinde Sowemimo, who was Chief Justice of Nigeria from 1983 to 1985. After three years, Femi Fani-Kayode was promoted to the position of a senior partner.
The year was 1989.
Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo was home to many other ranking members of both the Nigerian bar and bench including Chief Robert Clarke S.A.N, Alhaji Femi Okunnu S.A.N, Seyi Sowemimo S.A.N Justice Moni Fafiade, Justice Niyi Ademola, Chief Kunle Alex-Duduyemi, Gbolahun Alastishe, Abba Kyari, Funke Aboyade and Femi Lijadu to mention just a few.
In 1987, FFK set up a group called the “September Club,” a national entity made up of so called new breed politicians and young professionals and was elected leader of that group a year later. He was one of the most prominent members of the Nigerian National Congress (N.N.C), one of the largest political organizations in Nigeria in 1989 and was elected national youth leader that same year.
In 1990, FFK was appointed Chief Press Secretary to Chief Tom Ikimi, the first national chairman of the National Republican Convention (N. R. C) and later in 1991, was special assistant to Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, former head of the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO) and the party’s leading presidential aspirant.
In 1993, after a brief illness, Femi Fani-Kayode found God and became a devout and practising Pentecostal. At this time, he was shadowing Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams from Ghana. FFK credits this incident with having a profound effect on him and completely transforming his lifestyle and worldview. This prompted a decision to enroll for Theology studies at the Christian Action Faith Bible Seminary in Accra, Ghana.
Disturbed by the massive oppression and persecution that the people of Nigeria were subjected to by Gen. Sani Abacha’s vicious military junta, FFK went into self-exile. pitching his tent with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) abroad where he alongside Chief Tunde Edu and some other prominent players, played an active role in the fight against Abacha, and for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.
FFK eventually came back to Nigeria in the year 2001 and in that same year, through his friend; Chief Akin Oshuntokun who was then Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo, met the president, who rekindled his faith in the possibility of a new and truly united Nigeria. In 2002 Femi Fani-Kayode helped to establish and became one of the pioneers of the Progressive Action Movement (PAM); a political movement of young, new and dynamic politicians.
At the start of 2003, FFK was invited by President Olusegun Obasanjo to join his presidential campaign team for the 2003 presidential election. After Obasanjo emerged victorious. FFK was appointed as the first ever Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As aviation minister, FFK was known to insist on full compliance with safety and security standards from flight operations in the country and imposed strict sanctions when this was not done. He moved his team of personal staffers to the ministry of aviation. He would later claim that the ministry received divine intervention as a consequence of continuous and deep intercession by a most dedicated and selfless group of prayer warriors.
FFK is credited with increasing the capital base of domestic airliners in order to ensure bigger, safer and stronger airlines in the country. He helped expose a 6.5Billion Naira fraud in the ministry, thus earning some anti-corruption bonafides.
Fani-Kayode was arrested on December 2008 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and was charged with 47 counts of money laundering. He has maintained his innocence, claiming that the monies were funds received from his own private businesses and legitimate concerns.
FFK was discharged and acquitted by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on the two-count charge of money laundering levelled against him by the EFCC. The court held that the EFCC was unable to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt. The allegedly laundered sum was reduced to 2.1million Naira after Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, dismissed 38 out of the 40 counts levelled against him for want of proof.
Femi Fani-Kayode has had a colourful domestic life.
His first marriage was to Saratu Atta in 1987 and this lasted only three years, ending in divorce. They have one daughter; Oluwafolake. The second marriage was to Yemisi Olasunbo Adeniji in 1991 but they were divorced by 1995. They have three daughters; Oluwatemitope, Oluwatobiloba and Oluwatuminu. His third marriage was his 1997 wedding to Regina Patience Amono. The union bore one daughter, Oluwaremilekun. He is now married to Precious Fani-Kayode (nee Chikwendu) and they have a son.
Femi Fani-Kayode has been honoured with several awards both before and during his service in government. These include the City People Magazine Minister of the Year Award in 2007; the certificate of Merit Award by the Southern Youth Foundation in 2006; the Preservation of Cultural Values of Nigerians Award by the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism in collaboration with Festive Friends in 2006 and many others. He was with the All Progressive Congress (APC) until June 2014 when he returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Oluwatosin Adeshokan is a freelance journalist and writer reporting stories about West Africa. He was previously the Culture Editor for YNaija. He tweets at @TheOluwatosin