By Chioma Gabriel
It is often said that a man has a twin somewhere or a person of like qualities. Likewise, there are parents like none other who may not be biological parents. When I met Dr Fredrick Fasehun years ago at the time I was learning the ropes of journalism practice, I thought he was just one of those people a journalist encounters. I was a part-time journalist and still at school but used to produce a magazine programme at Radio Nigeria during the holidays. I was doing a social story somewhere around Mushin and needed a medical confirmation to the story. Somebody directed me to Hope Hospital somewhere in Mushin and that was the first time I met Dr Fredrick Fasehun. I had cause to interview him again on two other occasions and then lost contact. Then, he was just a medical practitioner and his hospital was always full. I knew there was something about him that made people to cluster around him. Then, I lost contact.
When next I saw him, it was no longer the same person. He had become the man of the people with a large youth follower ship. I made to approach him and greet him at an event after he helped my budding journalism career but the boys around him would not let me. And they were the unusual kind of boys known by the name Oodua People’s Congress, OPC. Fasehun had become another person with a huge crowd often around him.
But he was a man who never forgot faces of people he met before. He told his boys then, leave her alone, she was the first journalist to interview me. And that was a term he used on several occasions as his popularity with OPC soared. The boys were always around him and they always tried to stop me and he would always say, leave her alone.
He was soon to become a ‘family member’ to many non-indigenes who would meet with him at Century Hotel to resolve issues. And did he ever help solve my issues in Lagos? On several occasions, he did.
The house where I used to live at a time was attacked by robbers around 2am one night. We were scared to our pants and families huddled up inside their homes praying as the night visitors tried to force the gate open. Some made frantic calls to police and relatives who could help with the situation. As we couldn’t seem to get help, I decided to try his number by that late hour and he picked, calmed me down and assured me that help was on the way. And help just came as the robbers broke down the gate and began to knock people’s doors. A counter force of OPC vigilante services came in their droves in buses and the robbers fled. They chased after them in the night while we huddled up in fear in our homes.
He called back to say the robbers were gone and would not return. I noticed the OPC soon opened a vigilante services around my place. When I visited him the next day to thank him, he introduced me to some of the members that came to our rescue that night. I started noticing some of them around where I lived who would often ask,’ madam we hope there is no problem.’
I remember meeting some of his children and his wife. He narrated a story of how robbers gave his daughter a hot chase from somewhere in Lagos. Like him, she is a medical doctor who just returned from the United Kingdom. The robbers noticed a young lady driving a fancy car and went after her and she proved to be her father’s daughter. She lured them into Century Hotel and the robbers were caught and handed over to the police.
Soft-spoken and tough, he would always give wise counsel, never being flippant or given to ostentatious living. Till his death, ethic nationalities across Nigeria always met at Century Hotel to resolve ethnic issues, landlord/tenant issues, seek personal counsel and he always had answers for all.
Just before he died, I noticed he no longer climbed the two floors to his office and his PA tried as much as possible not to let people bother him.
‘Baba is old,” he said to me. “Don’t bother him, I will tell him that you came.” I was looking up to the staircase leading to his office but the PA was going by another route leading to the swimming pool. I decided to follow him and as he was whispering to him, Baba looked up and saw me standing before him. He told his PA to let me be. What his PA didn’t know was that he called someday and requested to see me. That was sometime in November last year when he granted me his last interview. The next time I heard about him, he was gone.
Dr Fredrick Fasehun was a great man who had a soft spot for the youth. He was a peace-maker and affected positively those who got close to him. Completely detribalized, Dr Fasehun was always eager to broker peace amongst ethnic groups and would stick out his neck to those he perceived as friends. Till he died, he always called me daughter and he was a father to me and always looked out for my well being.
May his gentle soul rest in peace.