By Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour
Today, 14 years on, we reflect on the brutal assassination of Funsho Williams, one of the foremost indigenous politicians Lagos has produced. 8years after his assassination, Justice Adebajo released the 6 suspects accused of his murder most of whom were security attachés and domestic servants of the deceased. Justice Adebajo held that the prosecution had not established a prima facie case against them. He said the charges of conspiracy and murder against the defendants were “weak and superficial.”
So the painful question still echoing across Lagos, omo eko still desperately listening for a response goes unanswered!!
WHO KILLED FUNSHO WILLIAMS?!!!
Long before the myth of a Jagaban , an un-take able Lagos or the proliferation of the notion that Lagos is a no mans land; our politics was dominated by the likes of Herbert Macaulay, Crispin Adeniyi-jones , Eric Moore, Adeyemo Alakija, Kitoye Ajasa , Kofo Abayomi, Prince Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, Oba Adeniji Adele, Pa Lateef Jakande, S.O. Gbadamosi, Femi Okunnu, Tunde Edun, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Ladega Adeniji-Adele, Dapo Sarumi, Arc Lanre Towry-Coker, Prof Agbajobi. Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, Chief Rasheed SHITTA-Bey, Dr Wahab Dosunmu and cut from the same cloth Engr Funsho Williams. A political gladiator so intimidating he had to be brutally assassinated.
Funsho Williams fondly called ‘captain’ was a man who stood above men – literally and figuratively. He stood above six feet and usually wore a serious look. Unlike some, he had no controversies about his certificates or degrees, a proud Gregorian; he proceeded to University of Lagos earning a degree in Civil Engineering and then added a Masters from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
In deciding to join the Lagos State Civil Service, Williams only towed the path of leadership through public service for the betterment of our Lagos and for the next seventeen years of his life, he was part of a larger team that oversaw the construction of over half of the roads, streets and bridges erected across Lagos State, including the golden era of Alhaji Lateef Jakande. Retiring as a Permanent Secretary, he went into private business, serving on the boards of construction giants such as Julius Berger and Cappa and D’Alberto before being called upon again under the tenure of Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola to serve as a Commissioner for Works.
On entry in to politics, Funsho Williams organized a political structure so formidable and entwined around himself that to stop it required the cutting down of the man himself by those who felt threatened by the moving train that he was and who could not withstand him in the field of true politics or intellectual engagement. His group, the Network Alliance had such a strong grassroots following that everyone accepted it as a forgone conclusion that Funsho Williams would become the next Governor of Lagos State. But fate had other plans as the Abacha transition died with Abacha and Williams along with his group joined the Alliance for Democracy where he vied to be the nominee of the party, this time with the backing of old stalwart, Alhaji Ganiyu Olawale Dawodu. He was indeed declared winner of the primaries but the results were manipulated and both he and Pa Dawodu were persuaded to allow Senator Bola Tinubu run for Governor instead, as one of those who had been a part of the anti-Abacha movement via NADECO. A few elders dispute that involvement – but that’s a story for another day.
Funsho Williams understood the art of statecraft as a means of service to the people rather than a means to wealth and understood that the pursuit of power must never be at the expense of the blood of anyone else. Unlike some politicians that seek to grab, control, milk and convert public service and political sits into family heirlooms. Funsho Williams was offered the senatorial seat of Lagos East but he ceded it to Adeseye Ogunlewe who indeed won the seat but soon defected to the PDP along with Funsho Williams when it became clear that Gov. Bola Tinubu was not going to honour the agreement that had been reached when Williams conceded the gubernatorial ticket. Funsho Williams bid his time but soon defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2001 providing a rallying point for the party in the state.
Williams was the candidate of the PDP but Bola Tinubu became more of a frontline campaigner for Obasanjo than Funsho under the guise of Yoruba solidarity. A meeting was arranged by the gubernatorial candidates of the party across the Southwest including Olusegun Agagu, Gbenga Daniel, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Ayo Fayose, Rasheed Ladoja and Funsho Williams along with Chief Bode George and some other party stalwarts where Obasanjo clarified that his alliance with the AD was only to shore up support but the PDP gubernatorial candidates still had his backing. The PDP swept all the other SW states, except Lagos, where Bola Tinubu deployed every tactic in the book to prevent a Funsho Williams victory in 2003. Again Funsho Williams was offered a National ministerial position but true to form, he declined, keeping his eye firmly fixed on Alausa.
Towards the gubernatorial contest of 2007, Funsho Williams was set to run again and this time he was even more formidable and a massive threat to those who wanted to use Lagos State as a springboard for ethnic domination of the Yorubas with an eye on federal power. He had to be stopped and he was stopped so brutally – bound, strangled and stabbed to death in his own home in Dolphin Estate on the 27th of July, 14 years ago, today.
Those who killed Funsho Williams are still among us today but so is the spirit that moved the man Funsho Williams whom his close friends called Captain, admirers called Omoluabi Eko and whose politics was so gentlemanly efficient that those who were his rivals felt they had to kill him in order to thrive. With this murder, the gentleman politician became a liability, in its place thuggery was glorified, election violence and the elevation of reformed touts to the highest levels of governance.
To be a politician, it was no longer about your education, ideas, vision, integrity or pedigree; it was about the number of thugs you have and how many thugs you can deploy to suppress voters and disrupt otherwise peaceful elections.
They murdered him physically but his spirit continues to live on in the hearts of our generation who did not really know him but continue to honour his memory with a vow to rescue Lagos from the mercantilist, Chicago mafia-type government that has plagued the state for way too long.
Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour (writes from lagos) was the PDP senatorial candidate for Lagos West in the 2019 elections.