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56th memorial: How Tinubu built house for Fajuyi's widow

Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi

Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi

It is exactly 56 years today that Lt Col Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, Military Governor of Western Region, was killed in a revenge coup, led by Theophilus Danjuma, Joe Garba and others. Fajuyi lost his life along with General Aguiyi Ironsi, the Head of State in Ibadan.

Apart from his efforts at reconstruction in the West (after the Operation Wetie crisis), Fajuyi and officers like him then will forever be remembered for their integrity. As a reporter with Tempo, my editors sent me to interview Fajuyi’s wife, the late Eunice, in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital

That day, the woman had been granted countless interviews and was tired of another. But this reporter persisted and, like a desperate news hound, told her in Ado-Ekiti dialect: “Omo Ado ni mei ha, (I am from this town mama).”

She smiled and greeted me, okun kee momi (my son, you are welcome). That day, she granted an interview and gave this reporter a book gift, the biography of Fajuyi, entitled, A Great Hero, written by Prince A.G.A Ladigbolu.

The late Mrs Eunice Fajuyi
The late Mrs Eunice Fajuyi

The visit provided an opportunity for the reporter to see the building the woman lived in.
The woman who, out of love for the husband, refused to marry after his death, lived in a one-storey structure (with a staircase and the first floor made of planks, not concrete). As you moved, your steps would make sounds, reverberating everywhere. That was the only house built by the late soldier; he had no bank accounts in Switzerland or those remote Islands in the West Indies like the current pot-bellied brass hats…

This writer also experienced the same shock in Umuahuia, Abia State capital when he met Ironsi’s late wife, Victoria. Orji Uzor Kalu was still the governor.

“Is this the bungalow your husband left for you?” the reporter asked.
“Yes oh, my son,” she replied. “During my husband’s time, senior army officers did not steal money!”

She told the reporter that day that one of her daughters, Loisa, was also a journalist in Tell magazine.

For Mrs Fajuyi, it took the intervention of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu later to build a modern house befitting Fajuyi and his wife.

In a piece, Tinubu: The Asiwaju of Hearts, Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser on Political Affairs at the Presidency, narrated: “In 2007, Life published an interview with the wife of late Col. Adekunle Fajuyi. The story was illustrated with the dilapidated building left behind by Fajuyi and where the woman lived. Visiting Asiwaju in his Ikoyi residence he asked me if I have seen the publication and I said no.

He brought it out and asked me to read it. After a while, he said, Femi people who have served and sacrificed their lives for this country should not be allowed to suffer in this manner. Rhetorically, he asked, what is the Ekiti State government doing while this woman is living in a house that could collapse on her head at any moment? He asked me to look for an architect to design a simple but decent house on the site.

“ I did and three months after Asiwaju came to Ekiti to hand over the new house to Fajuyi’s widow. It will be instructive to note that at this time late Fajuyi’s two sons, both lawyers were members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For him when it comes to giving he does not discriminate. A human being in need is simply a human being. Not a PDP or ACN member, not a Christian or a Muslim, not a Lagosian or a Bachama. Whether he belongs to his party or another party hounding him does not matter.

Even when someone has wronged him before and he comes back to seek assistance, Asiwaju is always there to give a helping hand. I remember sometime when some aides came to complain to him that a PDP chieftain was on the verge of picking up a contract in Lagos and he should stop the process. He asked if he qualified to take the job. They said yes. Why then should I stop the job from being given to him, he asked. Do you want him to die of hunger because he is PDP? That is Asiwaju for you who will give to a Hausa…”

Fajuyi was born on 26 June 1926 in Ado Ekiti. He attended St George’s Catholic School where his mates nicknamed him “Theobroma Cacao” (Cacao for short). In the account of Ladigbolu, when Fajuyi saw that a visiting soldier was better paid than a teacher, he dreamt of joining the Army. His first attempt was thwarted by his family but he finally joined in 1943 in Ilorin. He later rose to a Sergeant in the Nigeria Signal Squadron, Royal West African Frontier Force.

According to was trained at the Eaton Hall Officer Candidate School in the United Kingdom from July 1954 until November 1954 when he was short-service commissioned. On completion of Congo operations, Fajuyi became the first indigenous commander of the 1st Battalion in Enugu, a position he held until just before the first coup of January 1966 when he was posted to Abeokuta as Garrison Commander. It was from there that he became governor and met his death.

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The late Mrs Eunice Fajuyi;s book gift
The late Mrs Eunice Fajuyi;s book gift

Ladigbolu, in his book, A great Hero… provides more biographical information on Fajuyi:

Enlistment

On 16th November 1943, he enlisted in the Nigerian Army at Ilorin and was posted to No. 2 Primary Training Centre, Zaria for Basic Military Training. He was placed on a salary of1:10 pounds a month. After he had enlisted in the army, the typing job which he learned when he was in the Forestry Division became an asset. When his mother learnt that he had enlisted in the army, she became upset and wept for many days. His parents did not see him for three years but he kept on writing letters to comfort them. On joining the Army in 1943 he did not realize that he was embarking on a career which was to last twenty-two years, eight months and thirteen days and which was to take him to different parts of the world as well as earn him remarkable honours and positions. After the basic military training at Zaria, he was posted to the Signal Training Centre as a non-tradesman. He later attended courses at the Army Clerks Training School, Yaba and on successful completion of the course, he became clerk class iv in January 1945. He was later upgraded to class 1 in November 1945.

In Ghana

His military training was extensive and was by no means confined to Nigeria. Not long after he joined the Army, he was sent to the Command Training School in Teshi, Gold Coast (now Ghana). There, he received a mixture of military and secondary education. For twenty years after his return from Ghana, his engagements were on two major fronts – home and overseas. On the home front, he served in different parts of the country in numerous capacities – Private Soldier, Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Signal Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel and later Military Governor. In each capacity, Francis Adekunle Fajuyi distinguished himself by his honesty, gallantry, and infinite capacity for hard work and talents.

During his Other Rank “Service, he had several promotions”. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 13th February 1945, Corporal on 2nd November 1946, and Sergeant on 1st December 1947. He was promoted to the post of SQMS on 1st December 1952. On 29th November 1953, he proceeded to the West African Training School at Accra on Potential Officers course at the Officer Cadet School and was granted Commission in the Rank of Lieutenant on 20th November 1954.

In Europe

At the Officer Cadet School, he was the first Nigerian to be appointed an Under-officer while still undergoing a Cadet’s course. Whilst in Europe, he was attached to the British Army on the Rhine in Germany and served there with the 60th Rifles. He returned to Nigeria in February 1955 and was posted to Third Battalion Nigeria Regiment as Platoon Commander.

As an Officer, he attended the Platoon Commanders’ Course in England in 1957. He was also sent to attend a 3″ Mortar course in Netherawon in 1959. Fajuyi was sent to attend Senior Officers Tactics Course in Pakistan in 1964. He was promoted to Captain on 13th July 1957. On 5th November 1960, he was promoted to Major. On 15th January 1963, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.

Fajuyi as a dedicated and hard-working Officer served in various Units and held many appointments with distinction. He served as Military Adviser, HQ ONUC, Congo from 22nd August 1961 to 21st December 1961. He also served as follows: – Second in Command 3rd Battalion Nigerian Army, Kaduna from 9th April 1962 to 18th October 1962. Commanding Officer 1st Battalion Nigerian Army, Enugu from 23rd October 1963 to 23rd November 1965. He was appointed Commander Abeokuta Garrison from 26th November 1965 to 17th January 1966 and Military Governor, Western Nigeria on 18th January 1966 to 29th July 1966.

In The Congo

Fajuyi as an Officer in the Nigerian Army was an Officer of peace, no wonder he was sent out on the mission. His peace-keeping experience which served him so well in Western Nigeria had been enriched by the operations in the Congo where he was drafted with the Fourth Battalion of the Nigeria Army. It was his first taste of battle. The Company went into action against dissidents of the Congolese army barely three days on arrival. His performance during these operations were superb and excellent which earned him the award of the Military Cross (MC) for personal courage and gallantry. He was the first Nigerian Officer to be given the award and the formal presentation was made at the State House, Lagos.

His other military awards included the 1939-45 War Medal which was awarded in 1950, BEM (King’s Birthday) 1951; Nigerian Independence Medal, 1960; So outstanding was his performance during the Congo operation that he was appointed a Military Assistant to General McEcon, Supreme Commander of the United Nations Forces in the Congo. After his first return from the Congo operations, he was thrice reposted there, because of his excellent and outstanding performances to continue his good work.

Other Assignments

On assuming duty as Military Governor of Western Nigeria, he brought into his office all the qualities which had distinguished him as a great soldier. ‘It was a call to duty’ according to him, and he further explained militarily – ‘Quite honestly, I don’t feel like a Governor, I feel more like a soldier – a soldier of peace. Essentially, I am a soldier. This is merely an extra–regimental duty as far as I am concerned. I would be happier in the barracks with my soldiers than in this palatial Government House’”

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