Femi Fani-Kayode showed signs of rare courage and distinct traits of leadership very early in life. This was particularly manifested by the fact that in 1987 he set up a group called the “September Club” which was a truly national group made up of many new breed politicians and young professionals in Nigeria and he was elected leader of that group in 1988.
He was one of the most prominent members of the Nigerian National Congress (N. N. C), a major political association and undoubtedly the largest political organization in Nigeria in 1989. He was elected the national youth leader of N. N. C that same year. In 1990, he was appointed as Chief Press Secretary to Chief Tom Ikimi, the first national chairman of the National Republican Convention (N. R. C) and then later in 1991 as Special Assistant to the highly respected Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, former head of the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO) and the leading presidential aspirant of the party.
In 1996, disturbed by the massive oppression and persecution that the people of Nigeria were being subjected to by Gen. Sani Abacha’s vicious military junta, Femi Fani-Kayode went into self-exile and pitched his tent with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) abroad where, together with the likes of the Oxford-trained lawyer Chief Tunde Edu and others, he played a very active role in the fight against Abacha and for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. He eventually came back to Nigeria in the year 2001 and in that same year, through the auspices of his friend and former Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Akin Oshuntokun, he met President Olusegun Obasanjo who encouraged him about the future of Nigeria and rekindled his faith in the possibility of a truly united and new Nigeria.
In 2002 Femi Fani-Kayode helped to establish and became one of the pioneers of the famous Progressive Action Movement (PAM), a very strong political movement of young, new and dynamic politicians. At the beginning of 2003, Femi Fani-Kayode was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo as a member of his presidential campaign team for the 2003 presidential election. After President Obasanjo won that election Femi Fani-Kayode was appointed as the first ever Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Since then he has been highly celebrated in the country for his total loyalty and commitment to President Olusegun Obasanjo and his courageous verbal and written submissions and commentaries. Femi Fani-Kayode is also widely acknowledged as being one of the most brilliant and formidable debaters of his generation. He is a powerful, passionate and persuasive public speaker.
In 2006 he was appointed as the Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism. That same year after a minor cabinet re-shuffle he was re-deployed to the Aviation Ministry as the Honourable Minister of Aviation where he did an excellent job by bringing to an end the terrible cycle of plane crashes (five in one year) that took place in Nigeria just before he came into that office. He put this achievement down to firstly, insisting on full compliance with safety and security standards in flight operations in the country (and imposed strict sanctions when this was not done)secondly, an excellent, dedicated and loyal team of personal staffers whom he took with him to the Ministry of Aviation when he went there and thirdly (and most importantly of all), divine intervention, which he claims came as “a consequence of continuous and deep intercession by the most dedicated and selfless group of prayer warriors that I have ever come across in my life. They prayed for those horrific crashes to stop and they stopped. God answered those prayers and the blood of innocent Nigerians stopped flowing in unnecessary and avoidable plane crashes. Considering the forces that wanted the crashes to continue, this was a miracle that was second to none. We must give thanks to God”(The Christian Explorer Magazine,2007). He increased the capital base of domestic airliners in Nigeria in order to ensure bigger, safer and stronger airlines in the country and he also fought corruption by exposing a massive #6. 5 billion naira ($55, 000, 000 usd) fraud that took place in the aviation sector just before he came in. For this Femi Fani-Kayode was widely acknowledged and commended but he also earned himself many powerful enemies. As Minister of Aviation he also insisted that Nigerians should be treated with dignity, fairness and respect by all foreign airline operators. He did this with ruthless zeal and they complied fully whilst he was in office. Again as Minister of Aviation he ensured that the largest, most advanced and most sophisticated domestic airport terminal (MM2 Domestic Airport Terminal in Lagos) which is owned and was buit by his colleague, Cambridge-trained lawyer and multi-millionaire businessman, Dr. Wale Babalakin s.a.n, was not only built and completed but was also fully commissioned and made functional under his watch as Minister of Aviation. This was despite immense opposition to the project from the more retrograde and conservative forces within the aviation sector and the country. This was a great achievement on the part of Fani-Kayode and an excellent example of the public and private sector partnership policy which was one of the hallmarks of the Obasanjo administration. This airport terminal is undoubtedly the largest and the best equipped domestic airport terminal on the African continent and is certainly the best terminal (whether it be international or domestic) in the whole of Nigeria. On June 30th 2008 Femi Fani-Kayode was invited to appear, together with all the other former and serving Aviation Ministers in Nigeria, before the Senate Aviation Committee to defend, explain and give an account of their tenure as Ministers of Aviation. Femi Fani-Kayode was articulate, factual and accurate at the public hearing, substantiating his forceful assertions with facts, figures, documents, bank statements and due process certificates for every contract that he awarded. He also proved that he left an unprecedented and staggering
N7. 2 billion ($60, 000, 000 usd) in the accounts of the ministry’s special intervention fund by the time he left office.
He submitted a detailed analysis and report on the problems of aviation in Nigeria (see memo titled:”My Mandate at the Ministry of Aviation” http://www.aviationsquare.org) to the committee and his submission shed a lot of light on the workings of the aviation sector and even exposed what he referred to as “a vicious blood cult” within that sector.
Femi Fani Kayode assisted the Senate Committee in it’s admirable work by providing essential documents and explanations on virtually every question that he was asked. He did an excellent job at the public hearing (see C. D. of the Senate Aviation Committee public hearing 2008) and was given commendation and applause by many of those that witnessed the proceedings. Since the end of the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on may 29th 2007, Femi Fani-Kayode has gone back to the private sector and to his legal practice.