otun is the first child of a former Minister of Health, the late Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti. He talks about his father’s ideals withGBENGA ADENIJI
Tell us about yourself.
I am Dotun; the first child of the late Prof. Olikoye and Mrs. Sonia Ransome-Kuti. I am a veterinary doctor. I have been in private practice since 1986 when I graduated from the university. I run a veterinary clinic in Lagos.
What were the memories you can recall growing up with your father?
My father was more of a hardworking professional when we were growing up. He was always going to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital at the time. He was a professor then and even on Sundays, he was always at work. We hardly spent much time with him. When we were much younger, he used to take us out for a walk around the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos. He was a loving father and loved to make people to stay focused. My father made us to know that education is important and that clothes and shoes are not too important.
Since he was so busy, did he not try to create time for his family?
Like I said, on Sundays, he always took us out. We used to go to Fela’s shrine in Kalakuta Republic before it was burnt. My father, the late Beko and Fela as siblings, were very close. They were lovely human beings.
Was Olikoye, the medical doctor, a different man at home?
My father lived a regimented life. One could predict what he could be doing at a particular time by merely looking at the time. By 6pm, we were sure he would be coming back from work. By 7pm, we knew he would be taking his dinner and by 9pm or 10pm, we could predict he had gone to bed. He did not belong to any social club. Nothing changed when he became the minister of health except when he was travelling on official assignments.
He was a quiet man. He loved classical songs like that of Ludwig Van Beethoven and others. He was, however, crazy about Fela. By the time he died, I inherited many records of the late Fela because he got a copy of every album Fela released. Fela autographed all the albums he released for him. My father was also a good dancer.
You studied veterinary medicine. Was your father the one who influenced your career choice?
My younger brother, Gboyega, is a medical doctor practising in the US, while my sister is a lawyer. My father and his brothers (Beko and Fela) had a philosophy that one should strive to be the best in whatever profession one chooses. There was a time my father asked me what profession I desired and I told him I would love to be a doctor of dogs. He approved it. My father really stressed my brother who chose to be a medical doctor. It is like somebody who wants to go to a secondary school and the headmaster of that school is the person’s father. That person is in trouble. The person must not fail or be lazy. I love animals so much and I am close to dogs.
Did your father love dogs too?
Of course, he did. He had a misty; a Yorkshire terrier, Texas; a golden retriever, Utah; an Alsatian mix; and Duchess, a lhasa apso, which was the one with him till his death.
When he became the minister of health how comfortable was his family?
Nothing changed at the time. When he became the minister of health we were living in Alaka in Surulere and he moved to Ikoyi. My mother’s younger brother, my brother and I refused to go with our parents to Ikoyi. We saw ourselves as Surulere boys and when we eventually moved to Ikoyi, we did not stay too long in the main house. It did not make any difference to us. My father was the kind of person that if anybody wanted to see when he was a minister, I would simply take the person to him. I did not have to tell him that a visitor was coming to see him.
Did he discuss with his family when the Ibrahim Babangida regime invited him to be a minister?
No, he did not. I knew that when he got a phone call, he thought it was a hoax. He thought it was his younger brother, Beko, who was playing a prank on him. He had to end the call and jokingly said, ‘‘Beko, you are stupid.’’ But Babangida called him again on the phone and it was then he knew it was not a joke. I felt he took the offer which was one of the easiest ways he could reach the people in terms of the provision of quality primary health care. It was an opportunity for him to do some of the things he wanted to do for his country regarding health care delivery even though his brothers were against it. Fela, in particular, was not happy that he accepted the offer. For the Kuti brothers, such a thing never affected their relationship. My father could have explained that he only wanted to accept the offer because of his vision for the health sector. His brothers would have also argued that he should not accept it for whatever reason. They would have accepted one another’s opinions and moved on.
Did he regret working for the military?
No, he did not. Like I said before, he used the platform to do some of the things he wanted to do in the health sector.
How did you feel that he worked for the military?
I was studying in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria then. I did not see anything wrong in it. We were only happy that we had a three-bedroom bungalow within the premises where he lived as a minister. He had many official cars, which he did not use. As a matter of fact, Babangida had to force him to use his official black Peugeot 505 because he was driving his Volkswagen Golf then.
How was he able to blend medicine with activism?
My father was really not an activist when compared to his two brothers. He only used his field; medicine, to shape many things in the society.
How did your friends and schoolmates treat you when your father became a minister?
We did not even know what it meant to be a minister during that time. There was no special treatment from anybody. The only thing people could relate to me was that I am Fela’s son even though I was a minister’s son. This was because I was part of the school’s music band and was very sociable. I organised shows too. I was more of a Fela kind of person than a professor’s child. I partied hard and read hard.
Was there a time your father beat you for wrongdoing?
The Kuti brothers did not use the cane or whip on any of their children. I felt may be because their father was a disciplinarian, they vowed never to use the cane on any of their children. But because I was troublesome, I forced my father to beat me few times. He used the cane slightly on me and not the way some fathers would. He studied me and knew I loved going out; hence, he decided to punish me by restricting my movement. It was worse than caning. He could also do same if I did not do well in school.
Did he ever visit you in school?
Yes, he did. I attended Igbobi College, Lagos and I was a day pupil and there was no way he could visit me. He visited me when I was in England. Before my Ordinary Level result was released, my parents sponsored me to go abroad and do Advanced Level. While I was there, my O’ Level result came out and he came to see me. He asked me if I wanted to go to Lower or Upper class. I chose the latter. After about a month, I told him I wanted to go to Lower and take all the courses. I did and a day after the school closed, he ensured that I was back in Nigeria. My parents valued education. They starved to give their children the best of education. There was a time I did not do well in a subject. When he visited me, he was annoyed and told me that he and my mother were living on N6,000 a year to send me to England to study. They sacrificed a lot for us to attend good schools.
Why didn’t you earn a degree in England?
I did not study for a degree in England because it was expensive. Also, I needed three A Level papers and a special paper. My brain could not assimilate that.
How has his name opened doors for you?
No, my father’s name has not opened doors for me. People often tell me that my father was a great man and that he was very honest. That is where it all stops. There is nothing as good as a good name. Everybody acknowledges that. People admire my father in me and that is where it stops. On our own as members of the Kuti family, we are trying our best to keep the good name.
What was his favourite food?
At a time in his life, he started eating cabbage, carrots and others. Generally, he loved everything because my mother cooked his meals. My father never ate outside the home.
How did he handle arguments with his wife?
I never saw them argue. If they ever did, they probably did not do it in our presence. My mother adored my father. Anything my father said was the way my mother would let it be. None could convince her otherwise.
What was his favourite drink?
My father took beer. He could drink a glass of beer for two days.
What was his favourite cigarette?
He loved the pipe cigar with its aroma.
When did he quit smoking?
My father stopped when he became a minister because he banned smoking in public places.
Did you ever sneak to the shrine to watch the late Fela?
Yes, when I was 14 years old. That was one of the few times my father beat me. We had to disagree to agree because the bottom line was that if I had to live with him, I must be ready to abide by his rules.
What kind of father was he?
My father was warm, understanding and very wise.
Does your father’s feats and name put any burden on you?
No. I do what I know is right, hence I carry no burden. I try to do the best in whatever I pursue. What was it that my father and his brothers did that Nigerians cannot do? They were only dedicated, hardworking, selfless and did what they knew was right. Everybody can do that but it seems tough because the society is filled with a lot of antics.
Was he into any sports?
My father loved football. He was a goalkeeper in his school days. Besides, he played lawn tennis.
What were those values you learnt from him?
I learnt honesty, dedication, firm trust in Nigeria and to do unto others what I want them do to me.
How did he feel when Fela died?
The way one would feel losing one’s loving, naughty younger brother. Remember, I told you that they were very close. He left the US for Nigeria when he heard that Fela took ill before his eventual death. The death of Fela was painful because I used to be close to him. I used to play in his band. Each time Fela visited our house, he was always with his wives and many other people. He usually came with them in two coaster buses and cars. We would be asked to go to our rooms as he narrated his escapades with the police, Customs officers and others to my dad.
Where were you when your father died?
At the time my father died, he did not know he was going to die. He travelled to the UK for a conference and died in his hotel room. We greeted warmly when he was leaving for the UK. The news of his death was a shock to me. It was the late Beko who broke the news to me. It was the last thing on our mind then. My younger brother had to fly to the UK from the US to arrange how to get his remains home.
How do you remember him every year?
We hold a memorial lecture for him annually. We also give out scholarships in his honour.
How did he like to dress?
My father loved safari suits.
Culled from: http://www.punchng.com/feature/famous-parents/fela-used-to-visit-dad-with-his-many-wives-olikoye-ransome-kutis-son/