LATE Lt Col Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, Military Governor of the Western Region, is on his way to official recognition, 47 years after he gave up his life in service to his country.
On August 24, while his widow, Mrs Eunice Fajuyi, was being laid to rest in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State Government announced that it had perfected preparations to institute a public holiday in honour of one of Nigeria’s finest military officers.
Born on 26 June 1926, Fajuyi joined the Royal Nigerian Army in 1943 as a non-commissioned officer. After assisting to crush a mutiny, he was awarded the British Empire Medial in 1951 and sent for training at the OCS, Eaton Hall in Britain.
As a commissioned officer in 1961, he earned the Military Cross for his gallantry in rescuing his unit from a deadly ambush during the United Nations military campaigns in Congo.
On returning to Nigeria, after a brief stint as the Commander of the First Battalion in Enugu, he was appointed by Nigeria’s first military ruler, General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, as the Military Governor of the Western Region.
Fajuyi earned his eternal place in the pantheon of chivalry when, after the crises trailing the first coup, Gen Ironsi, on a nationwide tour to calm frayed nerves, landed in Ibadan to address a conference of traditional rulers and leaders of thought.
The propagators of the counter-coup, led by then Major Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, demanded he gave up Gen Ironsi for elimination. Fajuyi, in the true cherished African tradition of protecting one’s guest, offered to pay the supreme price rather than betray Ironsi. Both were killed, and remain among the least sung of their generation of officers.
Nearly 50 years after this unusual act of bravery, self-sacrifice and exemplary patriotism, Fajuyi’s memory is green in the minds of individual Nigerians and Africans as an exceptionally brave officer. Official recognition eluded him.
Fajuyi could have taken the easy path, handed over his leader and guest and probably gone ahead, after the war, to become one of the oil well owners and multi-billionaire generals who descended on Nigeria’s oil wealth like swarming, rapacious vermin.
We applaud the gesture of the Ekiti State Government. It is important to encourage Nigerians, especially the youth, to serve this nation with all their strength as Nigerians would in time remember the sacrifices. It is one of the ways of restoring the fading value accorded patriotism.
One day, we expect that Fajuyi will be given his rightful place among genuine architects of a Nigeria that would never mind that “tribe and tongue”, as old our national anthem stated, may differ. We are still waiting for that reality.