One of the most important foundations of any civilization is history. If we do not know our own history, who we are, who and what our forefathers were and where we came from then we are truly lost. In the film production of J. R. Tolkien’s famous book titled ”Lord Of The Rings” one of the most compelling yet tragic lines reads as follows- ”Thousands of years passed by….history became legend and legend became myth”. Few words are as profound as this and the import of those words resonate nothing but the deepest wisdom. The lesson that we can draw from this insightful truism is simple. If you do not learn and continue to remind yourself of your history as a person, as a family, as a people, as a nationality, as a tribe and as a nation the likelihood is that what is historical fact gradually pales into an intangible and unlikely legend and then it eventually turns into nothing but an ephemeral myth. And once such sacred historical facts become nothing but myth it destroys the soul and the foundation of your very existence as an individual, as a family, as a people and as a nation. When you do not know, care to know or care to learn and remember what your roots are, no matter how humble or seemingly inconsequential those roots may be, you become a nothing. It is to avoid the possibility of history turning into legend and legend turning into myth that I have chosen to put on record the facts about one of the most distinguished and well-educated Nigerians that ever lived by the name of Victor Adedapo Kayode.
Rev. Emmanuel Adelabi Kayode, was an Anglican priest who studied theology at Fourah Bay
College in Sierra Leonne and who graduated with an M.A. (Durham) in 1892. He was of the Yoruba tribe and came from the ancient town of Ile-Ife in the old Osun province of south-western Nigeria. He was educated by the Anglican church from a very young age and after graduating from university and finishing at the seminary he rose through the ranks of the church and served as an Anglican priest throughout his life until he died in 1932 at the age of 58. He built, planted, established and pastored some of the earliest Anglican churches in Ile-Ife itself and in Osun province, Ondo province and Ijebu province as they then were. Rev. Emmanuel Adelabi Kayode married Miss Sophia Cole who was from Igbore in Abeokuta and who was the sister of the famous Rev. M.S. Cole. They had 13 children out of which only 9 survived. The first of those children was Victor Adedapo Kayode who is the subject of this essay and who was born in 1899.
The first son of Rev. Emmanuel Adelabi Kayode and Mrs. Sophia Kayode, Victor Adedapo Kayode, was educated at the famous Kings College, Lagos which was established in 1909. After finishing at Kings College he became a teacher and taught at Methodist Boys Grammar School (MBHS) where his students included Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe. The bond between the teacher and the pupil endured and when Zik finally returned home from America after graduating from university in 1933, Victor Kayode was invited to be the special guest of honour at a ”welcome home” dinner that was hosted by the Igbo community in Lagos for him. In 1917 Victor Adedapo Kayode left Nigeria and went to the United Kingdom where he matriculated at Selwyn College, Cambridge University. In 1920 he graduated and was awarded his M.A. degree in law. He did his masters at Cambridge as well and he graduated and was awarded his LLB masters degree in 1921. Victor Kayode enrolled at the Middle Temple and was called to the English Bar in 1922. He came top in his exams at both Cambridge University (both the first and second year tripos) and at the Middle Temple.
This remarkable feat was repeated by his son Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode over 25 years later when he followed in his illustrious father’s footsteps by doing very well at Cambridge University (Downing College), by graduating from there with honours in 1945, by completing his masters in 1946, by enrolling at the Middle Temple Inns of Courts and coming top during the English Bar exams for the whole of the British Commonwealth before he was called to the English Bar in 1947. Remi Fani-Kayode (as he was commonly referred to) went on to become one of the most brilliant lawyers of his generation. In 1948, he, Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams (who graduated from Selwyn College, Cambridge in 1942 and who was called to the English Bar in 1943) and Bode Thomas established the first fully indigenous Nigerian law firm which was known as ”Thomas, Williams and Kayode”.
Victor Adedapo Kayode got married to Miss Aurora Fanimokun in Chelsea, London in 1920. Aurora Fanimokun came from a very distinguished and illustrious lineage. She was the first daughter of the respected Rev. Joseph Fanimokun of the Lagos Colony (as it then was) and he was the Principal of the famous CMS Grammer School, Lagos from 1896 till 1914. Like his colleague in holy orders and future in-law Rev. E.A. Kayode, Rev. Joseph Fanimokun also graduated in 1892 with an M.A. (Durham) from Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone. After graduating Rev. Fanimokun married Miss Bucknor of the distinguished Bucknor family of Lagos. Miss Bucknor’s mother, whose name was Lydia Savage, was from the Savage family who were also from Lagos. Mrs. Fanimokun (nee Bucknor) was the sister of the famous lawyer A.J.E. Bucknor who was called to the english Bar in 1895 and who was also a friend of Sir Kitoye Ajasa. Apart from Aurora, Rev. and Mrs. Fanimokun (nee Bucknor) also had a son that graduated from Glasgow University as a medical practitioner in the early 1920’s.
The Savage family of Lagos had enormous clout and were highly respected. Josiah Savage was the father of Miss Lydia Savage who married a Bucknor and who gave birth to Mrs. Fanimokun (nee Bucknor). She was first cousin to lawyer William Akinlade Savage (who was called to the English Bar in 1906) and Dr. Richard Akinwade-Savage who, with Sir Kitoye Ajasa, Dr. J.K. Randle and Dr. Orisadipe Obasa, established the conservative People’s Union in 1909. This was Nigeria’s first political party and they were opposed to Sir Herbert Macaulay’s more radical approach to political issues in the Lagos colony. Macaulay later established the NNDP and cultivated the support of the largely illiterate Lagos masses whilst the elites gravitated towards the Peoples Union. The NNDP was to later metamorphosise into the NCNC which turned out to be one of the greatest and most powerful forces in the politics of south-western and southern Nigeria in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. In 1945, whilst on his deathbed, Herbert Macaulay handed over the leadership of the NCNC to a rising young igbo star that had been resident in Lagos for many years and that was educated at Methodist Boys High School (MBHS), Lagos before going to attend Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America. That star’s name was Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe and he was to later become Premier of the Eastern Region and ceremonial President of Nigeria.
All these families, including the Savage’s, the Bucknor’s, the Cole’s, the Fanimokun’s and the Kayode’s constituted the cream of Lagos high society in their day. It was by dint of fate and providence that the son of Rev. Emmanuel Adelabi Kayode and the daughter of Rev. Joesph Suberu Fanimokun, both of whom were contemporaries at university and illustrious Anglican priests, ended up getting married in 1920. The first child of that marriage was Babaremilekun Fani-Kayode (Remi Fani-Kayode) who I referred to earlier in this essay and who was born in Chelsea, London in 1921. At that time London was the most affluent city in the western world yet 30 per cent of Londoners were living below the poverty line. This shows that even the most developed cities and nations in the world once went through very hard times as well.
After being called to the British bar in 1922 Victor Adedapo Kayode went back to Lagos, Nigeria where he set up one of the most successful legal practices of his day. He specialised in criminal law. He occasionally intervened in the politics of the day in Lagos colony but his forte was law and because he was acknowledged as one of the best lawyers of his day he was appointed as a magistrate in 1940. In those days there were no Nigerian magistrates and judges. They were all British.
Olumuyiwa Jibowu was the first Nigerian to become a magistrate in 1931 and then Adebiyi Desalu followed him in 1938. Adetokunboh Ademola was the third in 1939 and then came Victor Adedapo Kayode, F.E.O. Euba and George Frederick Dove-Edwin in 1940. F.O. Lucas was appointed in 1941. These were the first Nigerians to become magistrates and virtually all of them went on to the higher bench and did exceedingly well. Adetokunbo Ademola rose up to become the first indigenous Chief Justice of the Federation in 1958. Sadly Victor Adedapo Kayode did not have the opportunity to achieve his full potentials on the Bench because in 1941, just one year after being appointed as a magistrate, he died whilst presiding over an important land case. He was only 42 years old when this happened.
A few of years after her husband’s death Madame Aurora Kayode remarried. Her second husband was Ernest Ikoli, a well-known and very prominent Ijaw man that had been resident in Lagos virtually all his life. Ikoli was a journalist by profession and he was the editor of the Daily Telegraph and later the Daily Service newspapers. He was very active in politics, he was a member of the Nigerian Legislative Council, he was one of the founders of the Nigerian Youth Movement (which later metamorphosed into the Action Group) and he was the man that was credited as being the mentor and benefactor of Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo and that actually funded his education in the United Kingdom when he went there to study law. Obafemi Awolowo was called to the English Bar in 1946. He went on to become one of the most formidable and respected political leaders that Nigeria ever had. It is an irony of fate and history that Ernest Ikoli, an Ijaw man that was resident in the Lagos for most of his life, was the mentor and benefactor of Awolowo, the future Leader of the Yoruba and a future Premier of the old Western Region.
Ikoli was part and parcel of Lagos high society and he was best of friends with Adeyemo Alakija and many other prominent and powerful Lagos elites in his day. Madame Aurora had no children for him but she had five sons and three daughters for her first husband, Victor Adedapo Kayode. The first of those children was Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode (Remi Fani-Kayode), the man who successfully moved Nigeria’s motion for independence in the Federal Parliament in 1958, the Minister of Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs and the Deputy Premier of Nigeria’s old Western Region. Victor Adedapo Kayode and Madame Aurora Kayode were also the grandparents of Remi Fani-Kayode’s third son, David Oluwafemi Adewunmi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode (Femi Fani-Kayode) who became Minister of Culture and Tourism and Minister of Aviation respectively. His mother was Mrs. Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode (nee Sa’id), the youngest daughter of Sheik Nurudeen Sa’id, a respected Muslim cleric and civil servant who hailed from Ilesha and Alhaja Agbeke Sa’id (nee Williams), whose father was the famous businessman and community leader Alhaji Isa Williams who hailed from Lagos Island.
It was as a symbol of the deep affection that Chief Remi Fani-Kayode had for his mother, Madame Aurora, that he added the prefix of her maiden name, (which was ”Fani”) to his surname (which was ”Kayode”) and hence the name ”Fani-Kayode” was created. It is my intention to ensure that this legend does not become myth and that that name continues to go from strength to strength.