In this interview, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, tells Kemi Lanre-Aremu of t, about his early days, marriage and family
You come from a prominent Nigerian family, how has this impacted on your life?
I am always conscious of who I am and where I am coming from. It is a noble heritage and it comes with great responsibility. My great-grandfather, Rev. Emmanuel Adedapo Adebiyi Kayode, was an Anglican priest who studied Theology at Durham University in the United Kingdom in the late 1800s. He dedicated his life to his ministry and made great inroads on helping to establish, spread and build the Christian faith and the Anglican Church in Nigeria. He was indeed one of the first Angican priests to take Christianity to his hometown, Ile-Ife. He pastored the first church there for many years before he was posted to the old Ondo province, and later the old Ijebu province to pastor the Anglican Church there.
My grandfather, Justice Victor Adedapo Kayode, studied Law at Cambridge University in the early 1920s and he went on to be one of the best criminal lawyers of his generation in the old Lagos Colony. In those days, all our judges were British but he went on to join the Bench and became the third Nigerian to become a judge. The first was Justice Adetokunboh Ademola, and the second was Justice Coker. They were all appointed as judges in the mid-30s. Justice Ademola went on to become the Chief Justice of Nigeria but unfortunately my grandfather passed on at the tender age of 38 and not too long after he became a judge. I have no doubt that had he lived longer, he would have ended up in the Supreme Court as well just as his best friend Justice Coker (who was at Oxford University) did. My father, Chief Remilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode, studied Law at Cambridge University in the early 1940s. He did very well and he came tops in the Cambridge Tripos exams and again, he came top at the English bar exams for the whole of the British Commonwealth! He was absolutely brilliant with a razor-sharp mind and he was deeply courageous. He came back to Nigeria and set up the first indigenous Nigerian law firm with his two closest friends, Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams, and Chief Bode Thomas.
He was the third Nigerian to be made a Q.C. (this took place in the early 1960s) and he was the third Nigerian to be made a SAN (this took place in the mid-1970s). He went into politics in 1951 and he successfully moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in Parliament in 1958. He went on to become the Deputy Premier of the old Western Region in 1963. He played a key role in Nigerian politics and continued to practise law until he passed on in 1995. So that is my heritage and lineage; great, courageous and distinguished men who made their mark in their generation in their chosen fields of endeavour. This guides me and I am mindful of the fact that I must build on that noble foundation. That is why I chose to go into politics after studying Law at London and Cambridge University. I have tried my best to build on their foundation and do them proud. Each day, I remember that I must always face my challenges and the challenges of my nation with the courage and fortitude that my forefathers did in their time. That is how much my lineage and heritage has impacted on my life and on the way that I think.
What do you remember about your father?
My father was everything to me and I remember him very well. He was strong, courageous, fearless and a man of honour and truth. He was well ahead of his time in many ways and he was passionate about Nigeria. He was a kind, loving and gentle father who believed in the old British Victorian values of discipline, chivalry, courage, fortitude and class. He was very polite to all those around him and exceptionally humble. A great husband and father who cherished his beautiful wife, my mother, Chief Mrs. Adia Aduni Fani-Kayode (nee Sa’id) and who loved each and every one of his children and gave them the very best in life.
…and your mother?
My mother was love personified. She was everything to me and without her I would not have made it in life. She stood by me through thick and thin and most importantly, she introduced me to the Pentecostal church and taught me the ways of God. She was a great Christian, a kind and loving wife and mother.
What do you remember from growing up amid so much affluence?
I grew up appreciating the fact that with wealth and privilege comes great responsibility. I also learnt that class, a good upbringing and education is far more important than money. Money has its place, wealth, good fortune and prosperity are only some of the many blessings and gifts that God can give to men. There are other gifts that he gives too and many of them are far more important than wealth and affluence. I never judge or associate with people based on the size of their pocket but rather on the content of their character. That is the way that I was brought up. Wealth and affluence do not move me and they are not the most important thing to me.
You schooled overseas from a young age. How did that affect you?
I never went to school in Nigeria. From the age of seven, I went to the very best private boarding schools in England. I was at Brighton College, Holmewood House, Harrow School, Kelly College, London University and Cambridge University. My education shaped my entire life and thinking. My thinking, attitude and approach to most issues is very different to that of most Nigerians. I always knew that I was different and it stems from the fact that I was educated at excellent institutions, some of which have existed and have been educating the British upper classes for hundreds of years.
Were you forced to study Law?
The truth is that I was never really interested in reading or practising Law. My first love and my initial choice after finishing at Harrow and Kelly, was not to go to university but to go to Sandhurst and join the British Army. Sadly, my father refused to accept that proposition and the rest is history. I love the army though and deep down, I have always wanted to be a soldier. The regiment of my choice was the Blues and Royals. They go back hundreds of years and they are great warriors.
As a young student in England, did you foresee a life in politics and public service?
My father groomed and prepared me for politics. I knew from a very early age that I would end up in it. It was my destiny to do so and it is my calling. I love it and I will be in it till the day I die.
You also studied theology at the Christian Action Faith Bible Seminary in Accra, Ghana, gaining a diploma in theology in 1995. Did you also have plans of becoming a pastor?
Pastoral training is the greatest education that anyone can have. It is far more important and gratifying than secular education. I was not called to be a pastor but I was called to carry my faith into everything I do. My faith is my strength and my education at the Bible seminary was not only liberating but also empowered me and brought me closer to God. Without Him and His word, we are nothing and with Him, we are everything. As a matter of fact, my view is that anyone that claims to be educated and does not know the word of God or His ways, is nothing more than an intellectual barbarian. God is everything to me and because He is with me, I fear nothing. He is a great deliverer and He has delivered and blessed me over and over again. It was when I was at the seminary that I had my first encounter with Him and my testimonies are numerous and powerful. I loved the seminary, I love God and without Him, I am nothing.
How do you feel courting so much controversy?
Every man or woman that seeks to make a difference in their generation is both misunderstood and deemed as being controversial. It is part of the price you have to pay for greatness. I do not shy away from either because in the end, I know that history and posterity will be very kind to me and that I will be vindicated. I have risked all for my nation including my life and liberty. Where others have sat on the fence and kept quiet out of fear, I have spoken truth to power and I have become the voice of the voiceless. I am a servant of truth and I am the champion of the oppressed. All I say and write is from the Spirit of God and not from me and it is for His greater purpose. Over one million people read my articles and columns on the Internet every week, all over the world and that is a lot of power and influence. God made it so and I have a duty to resist evil and stand up for the weak and the defenceless. That is my calling and you can’t do all that without being misunderstood and controversial because the forces that I oppose and stand against, are very rich and powerful.
Tell us about your wife, Precious?
I love Precious very much. She is everything to me. She is focused, clear-thinking, dependable and totally fearless. She is far more than just a pretty face. She is a woman of class, distinction, courage and integrity who constantly manifests the traditional qualiites that are expected of the biblical virtous woman: loyalty, compassion, love, dedication and patience. She is a great mother and a wonderful wife. She has also done Nigeria proud by winning the Miss United Nations (World) pageant in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2014 where she defeated contestants from 115 other countries and was crowned queen. She is an actress by profession and has played roles in quite a number of Nollywood productions and films. She has just started her own film production company and clothes line and she works exceptionally hard. When it comes to politics, she is a real firebrand and has very strong views too even though she only shares them with me. In her, I have found a good wife, a worthy friend and a dependable soul mate and I am very proud of her. I am also very proud of our beautiful son Aragorn. He is my first son and he is my life. He is my strength, my pride and my joy and after I am long gone he will carry the Fani-Kayode name and flag till he passes it on to his own son. I am proud of all my beautiful daughters as well and I love them all. Their names are Folake, Temitope, Tobiloba, Tumininu and my darling Princess Remilekun. God has been very good to me and He has blessed me with a wonderful family, healthy and happy children. I may have had my differences with one or two of them in the past, but they remain my children and I will always love them. No day passes that I don’t pray for them.
You are also a poet, how often do you compose poems for your wife?
Poetry is my first love. I have written as many poems as I have essays. And yes I have written poems for my wife. The fitst is titled “Snowhite” and the second is titled “My Precious”. They are both on my website just as my other poems are.
I met FFK when I had given up on love –Precious
An actor, fashion entrepreneur and phhilantrophist, Precious Femi Fani-Kayode, aka Snowhite, is the beautiful wife of Femi Fani-Kayode. In this interview with Kemi Lanre-Aremu, she talks about their life together, family and other related matters
What schools did you attend?
I attended Makurdi International Nursery and Primary School. I had my secondary education at ECWA Secondary School, Makurdi, and studied for a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Sciences, at the University of Calabar,
Where did you spend your childhood?
I had a humble and fun childhood. I grew up in Benue State, which is a very peaceful and decent place with beautiful people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I grew up enjoying every bit of Benue State; from listening and even dancing to the native Tiv Kwagh-hir and Swange dance, the Idoma Ogirinya dance , to the various native meals and not forgetting friends that made growing up beautiful.
Why did you go into pageantry?
I was this little colourful butterfly as a child. I loved to play dress up, loved to look good at all times and with a perfect model figure I just wanted to be the next supermodel. And when I did get a shot at it, I explored both the pageantry, runway and commercial aspects of modelling.
You used to be an actress…
I’m still an actress, working on a lot behind the scenes which will be brought to light soon .
What else do you do?
I run a fashion house called Glowria Snow . It’s a creation of myself and my best friend, Effi Gloria . I also run a skill acquisition academy called Lady Leticia Skill Academy, where we train domestic staff and empower people that would love to develop themselves in different fields to meet up with their various needs in the society. I am currently working on setting up an entertainment production company..
How have you coped with being married to a man as controversial as Femi Fani-Kayode?
Whom the Lord calls, He equips . I’m coping very well.
How did you meet your husband?
We met at the airport in Owerri, Imo State. I had just visited my grandparents in Umuahia, and I was heading back to Abuja.
Was it love at first sight?
For him, it was love at first sight but for me no. Firstly, I didn’t even notice him till one of his aides started stalking me the moment I got off the flight. Even at that, I just couldn’t be bothered by this man whom to me was just like every other male walking on the surface of the earth.
How was your first conversation?
Generally speaking, I have always been wary of politicians, so it was difficult for me to conduct a conversation about politics because I felt his views and opinions would definitely be all for the party he belongs to. It was a lot easier to talk to him about other thing like the arts , poetry , movies , culture, history and the usual norms. With frequent conversations, I got to know him better even though I found him to be so direct and naturally persuasive.
Why did you agree to date and then marry him not minding the wide age-gap between both of you?
I met my husband at a time I was done with relationships and was focused on my world title as Miss United Nations and what comes after it. He was direct about his intentions but I wasn’t on that page. We built a relationship over time and got fond of each other the moment we found understanding. As for his age, it’s never been an issue because we have a very deep relationship and no matter what, we still have a way of laughing over things that should naturally break us up.
How did you deal with the reaction of family and friends to the age difference?
I am the captain of my ship and the master of my soul. As long as I am happy, I don’t care what anybody thinks or says. On this sail, I have to be happy.
How about those who think you married him for money and fame?
Before I met him, I had already established myself and was successful in all that I chose to do in terms of my work and calling. I had a very good job after graduation and some fame too as “Snowhite” before my husband came along . And with my husband on board, it’s an even better ride. Everyone is entitled to their views and I am entitled to live my life the way I choose and whoever I choose to live it with.
How did he propose to you?
In the weirdest manner ever. He just couldn’t figure out my ring size and he didn’t want anyone else to find out for him, so he asked me to follow him to fit an outfit he wanted to buy for me. I had no idea he had been there before and just wasn’t sure of which of the rings I would like the most. So the girl in the store asked me to help her pick out one out of the three things. I picked one out and he asked me to try it on. He said it would look nice on my finger and that I should try it on. Under normal circumstances, I definitely wouldn’t try on someone else’s ring but with the manner at which he kept insisting, I really had no choice. It was a really beautiful and stunning ring and it looked fabulous on me. Then he said “Don’t take it off” and went on to say “I just wanted to make it official”. Really? Who does that? Only FFK could do it like that!
What convinced you that he is the man for you?
I had a number of experiences that caused me to have a clear idea about what I wanted in a man, so I knew it when I saw it . I wanted peace of mind, understanding, loyalty, humour and firmness and here we are .
Were you not bothered that he had been previously married twice?
Like I said, I had unpleasant experiences with people of my age given my gentle nature, young age and early exposure to life, so finding peace of mind was the most important thing to me.
Do you have a cordial relationship with his former wives and your step-children, some of whom are older than you are?
His only daughter that is around my age is Folake who is his first child. The rest are younger than me. I have an excellent relationship with his youngest daughter Remi and her mother, Aunty Regina. I call her MummyG. She is like no other. I love her so much . She is ready to go to war when it comes to Aragorn (my son) and I. She is one person I call whenever I’m at my wits end. Remi(my husbands youngest daughter) is our priceless princess and we love her dearly.
How would you describe the years of being married to him?
Awesome, thrilling, educating. I’ve grown with each day and with every experience.
What kind of reaction do you get when you introduce yourself to people as his wife?
I really don’t pay attention to reactions . But since you raised it, I think I only get positive reactions when I am introduced as his wife and I am very proud of him. Most people are in awe of him and they have immense respect for him and that is very good.
You have suffered some backlash concerning some of his controversial behaviour. Can you recall anyone that hurt you the most?
Backlash? Who did the lashing ? I never noticed maybe because I was busy living my life and making every moment count.
Have any of the incidents like the one in Ekiti State make you feel like quitting the marriage?
I wake up every day appreciating my marriage and thanking God for incidents like the Ekiti saga. I’m not one of those that tremble at the slightest intimidation or persecution. How could it possibly affect my marriage? It was an attempt to intimidate me and humiliate my husband and it failed. I love my husband and nothing can come between us. That incident brought us closer together and strengthened the marriage .
How romantic is your husband?
Extremely romantic. The poems, roses, waking up to see him staring and smiling at me, singing to me even when I consider them funny and old school. He’s always offering too much care, protection and so much more than I can mention.
What are your pet names for each other?
I call him Khal Drogo and he calls me Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons.
How do you spend time together as a couple?
We pray together, watch movies, travel, argue on who does what better and who doesn’t .
What is the best gift he has given you?
Our son, Aragorn.
What is it that people don’t know about your husband?
Like a lion, he is an introvert and spends a lot of time on his own.