Felix Ashimole: A LONE RANGER By Val Obienyem

My unedited campus piece on Mr. Felix Ashimole, Che Onyinatumba, now a Legal Practitioner. Re-posted as a fitting commemoration of his marriage.

My last two articles had something about Felix in them. The reason is not far-fetched: certainly not because I admire him, but for the fact that his name has become a by-word for radicalism. Felix has since become a phenomenon; we can love and hate him but cannot ignore him.

The love and hatred of Felix was the subject of my last article. For those of us who read it, we saw two factions who enjoyed themselves describing Felix as controversial, confrontational, troublesome; and as altruistic, fascinating and just. But which of the above faction commands the variety of knowledge and skills required to judge accurately so multiple a student? Can I say without tongue -in-cheek that I can judge him either.

When I sampled my intention to write about Felix to a friend he took time to advise me. He said, inter alia: ”Val. how can you who fret at the pinpricks of private tribulation, understand a student who bears in his mind and person the storm and stress of Lasu’s opposition. If you should judge him, bear in mind that his other name is controversy. There is no way you can write about him without inviting controversy in every paragraph. If you insist, good luck to you!”

But I know that it is not the work of writers to avoid controversies. I will largely interpret Felix as accurately as my limitations permit. Nobody should be put off if my judgment contradicts his. My method has been to understand Felix in the context of his activities.

What is he like, this lusty voice of his time, this peak of Lasu’s radicalism? He has no advantage of appearance to re-enforce his activism. He is about five feet five inches tall but confidence makes him appear taller. He has a slim frame, a head proportional to his body, drawn somber face that appears pugnacious whenever disturbed, dull and small pin holes for eyes, they are spectacled.

Athletically, Felix is an ideal youth. He is not the greatest long-distance runner, javelin thrower, footballer, table tennis player, and judoker, he is merely the student who is all these together and in each rivals the best. None can challenge him.

In terms of humour, none can challenge him either. No one has as much as his wits and perhaps, he has too much. His sense of humour sometimes passed out of control, often it is coarse, and occasionally it verges on buffoonery.

Felix with Prof. Yurokun, Dean Faculty of Law when we were in school

It is not strange to see Felix dance humorously or play pranks. Just last week, precisely on Tuesday, we recalled with nostalgia the memories of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. One girl lamented that “Fela would have released” for her if he were still alive. We all understood what she meant. In his characteristic way, Felix asked her to explain what she meant by “Fela releasing for her.” This is a typical Felix‘s humour. He carries this humour even into his moral life.

Felix morality, just like my own, is near imperfect – he is no stranger to passion. He is infinitely tolerant of the sexual irregularities that seem to most undergraduates a necessary course to manhood. Thus, he exclaims “without women this world will be monotonous.”

Once with me, a girl Felix loves came, he held her hands, danced few steps with her, held her in his arms with elegant cordiality. These are peccadilloes readily overlooked by lusty Lasuites. Make no mistake about this: whenever Felix is pursuing a course he believes in, mostly those that verge on oppression and injustice, he forgets women and follows his course as if he is under a hypnotic spell.

This is where Felix “troubles” start. He does not look back when he feels that justice is threatened. With this rather careless tactics, I feel that he steps on many toes, this is equally the feeling of many. Sometimes, despite the attractiveness of the course he pursues, this his method makes the entire thing to lose relish.

At this point I will counsel dialogue. But again, it has been proved that most past dialogues have been a “dialogue of the deaf.” Despite all shouting, it has never been heard. Felix believes that revolution should be the answer: he demonstrated this to me in one of our many meetings.

In the said meeting, I had already made up my mind to discuss church/salvation and student activism with Felix. I started with the discussion of church/salvation – both are inter-related. But theology was a minor issue in his own discourse, his consuming passion was revolution. To my many theological questions, he replied by handing me books on great revolutionaries. Without asking him, he promised to give me more. He finally advised that I should model my life after those great revolutionaries who saw something worth dying for. To him Che Guevera is the way. He takes people like Gani as among Nigerian saints.

On further attempt to convince him on certain points, he hurled philosophical quotations at me. Really, he knows great philosophers and sages and seems to have digested their ideas. Strangely again, I was face to face with a student who thinks like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle but acts like Machiavelli. Like Machiavelli, because he desires justices, the means does not matter to him.

As we near the end, let me ask this question. Does Felix virtues outweigh his vices? Yes, and even if we do not place in the scale his intellectual with his moral qualities. Against his opposition we must place his ideology; against his confrontational posture we must place his subtle and underground persuasion that escape our grasping; against his bluntness we must place his reverence for the truth. For the umpteenth time, one wisdom Felix lacks is moderation. He should endeavour to be less confrontational.

But is he confrontational because he so much likes confrontation or for the sake of justice? Answer for yourselves. Felix is consciously or not, the agent of Lasu’s greater need for unity and justice. He embodies and serves the Zeitgeist; the spirit of time. Such people are always great and potent force for growth and change, even when misunderstood by his obtuse colleagues.

The foregoing is why I can confidently shout, even from the roof tops, that Felix is a LONE RANGER as far as Lasu’s fight against injustice is concerned. He is the major stream all other streams are mere tributaries. But them, let his enemies join hands with his friends in advising him to soften his method otherwise the battle will boomerang on him. When this happens, though I do not pray for that, Felix will discover, strangely again, that his so-called supporters will be the very first ones to desert him.

Val, 400 Level Law

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