Pa H.A.B Fasinro was born on September 13, 1919, to the family of Buraimoh Asani Falana Fasinro who was not just one of the Lagos elites of his time but also a Civil Servant and a member of white cap chieftaincy families in Lagos particularly, the Aromire, Oloto, Onitana, Onisemo and Ologun Agbeje. His mother, too, Alhaja Ramotu Abeke Fasinro, was a Princess of Owu Royal Family in Abeokuta. More importantly, H.A.B Fasinro’s grandfather, Oloto Baalo was a great friend of Eshinlokun, Kosoko’s father. Baalo was also one of the warriors and martial men who accompanied Oba Kosoko to Epe during his odyssey.
Pa Fasinro attended Ereko Methodist School, Lagos, and the prestigious Methodist Boys High School in 1942, a school described as the nursery of future Nigerian leaders and one which had produced such renowned names as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Justice Atanda Fatayi-Williams, Prof. Ola Rotimi, Olusegun Osoba, Prof. Fatiu Ademola Akesode, Brig. Gen. Mobolaji Johnson among others. It was at the Methodist Boys High School that he partly imbibed the culture of selfless service non sibi seda alis.
After his secondary education in 1948, H.A.B Fasinro proceeded to London to study Law. He was admitted to the Bar by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in 1951. On 19 July, 1952, he enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigerian which was then located at Tinubu Square, under the Lordship of Chief Justice Sir John Verity. Seven others who were enrolled along with him on the same day were Akinola Aguda, F.O. Anyaegbunan, M.O. Oseni, A.N. Aniagolu, L.M.E. Emejulu, L.N. Achike and A.O. Erolewu. From 1952 onwards, Fasinro embarked on Party politics. He was in the practice with several lawyers of his generation. He cut his political teeth under Chief Obafemi Awolowo led Action Group and was, in fact, the Second Assistant General Secretary of the party in 1953. Well loved and respected by the party hierarchy, Fasinro contested the 1954 bye-election to the Lagos City Council. Other Councillors also elected at the time were M. Animashaun, K.B. Shomade, N.A. Taiwo, Mrs. E. Femi Pearse and S.I. Martin. Of the lot, H.A.B. Fashinro was the only University graduate.
From politics, Fasinro went into legal practice in the public service. On Monday, 29 August, 1955, he joined the Legal Department of the Western Region Public Service Commission. The Commission consisted of Mr. Justice Practice Brooke and Prof. Oladele Ajose while Mr. T.O. Ejiwumi served as the Secretary. Fasinro’s other colleagues include Akinola Aguda, M.O. Oseni and Mr. (later Justice) Ayo Irikefe. Basil Adedipe and Tajudeen Bankole Oki had earlier been engaged in Lagos but later transferred to the region. Fasinro’s first assignment as Crown Counsel was the Adelabu case. Like other Adelabu affairs, the department lost the case. Fasinro later rose to become the Deputy Town Clerk of the Lagos City Council. As the Deputy Town Clerk, he discharged his duties creditably well. He displayed great intellect, probity and devotion to duty.
By 1966, Fasinro emerged as one of the serious contenders for the post of Town Clerk. As a Deputy Town Clerk and with a good degree in Law, he was eminently qualified for the post but the appointment was bitterly contested. S.D.A. Ogunbiyi, a Senior Assistant Town Clerk was preferred by a caucus headed by Chief Michael Ani. With the creation of Lagos State on May 29, 1967, Fasinro was confirmed as Town Clerk.
HAB Fasinro served as the Town Clerk for the Lagos City Council between 1967 and 1975 with honour and distinction. These were years of phenomenal achievements for the Council and the people of Lagos. According to Desmond Okeowo, “The best example of model Local Government developed in Nigeria was the Lagos City Council. It was H.A.B Fasinro who raised the prestige of that Council to an international level…”
The Lagos Town Council was first and foremost distinguished by the calibre of men that ran it. They were mostly highly trained lawyers, engineers, medical doctors, accountant, town planners, environmental officers. Apart from training its own staff locally, it was training sanitary inspectors for Ghana, Sierra-Leone, Liberia, Gambia, among others. The famous Health Personnel Training Institute at Harvey Road, Yaba, which today trains Sanitary Inspectors Nurses for the nation was established and owned by the Council before it was taken.
The Council demonstrated great foresight from inception by training its officers, locally and overseas. It established the Training School at Harvey Road, Yaba, where Nurses were trained. The Council also trained its own Sanitary Inspectors and was also responsible for training this category of Officers for the Federal Government. Under Fasinro’s watch, the City Council also trained various categories of staff of Local Councils from the British West Africa, particularly Sierra-Leone, Ghana, Liberia and Gambia. The City Council was also a force to reckon with internationally in the field of Local Government Administration. For instance, in 1965, the Economic Commission for Africa with headquarters in Addis-Ababa invited the Lagos City Council as one of the moderators for its seminar on “Local Government Administration in Emergent African Countries.” It was also in recognition of Fasinro’s sterling qualities as a grassroots administrator that he and Chief Bajulaiye Fijabi II, the Eletu Odibo of Lagos, were invited in 1967 to the Conference of International Union of Local Authorities, Bangkok, Thailand. As the Town Clerk, Fasinro also participated in the Regional Conference on Local Government Administration held in Tangiers, Morocco. He also attended the 1974 Mexico Conference on Administration and Development.
The Lagos City Council of Fasinro’s years in its bid to provide transport services to the people of Lagos bought the transport organization of Messrs J.N. Zarpas and Company and its Rethreading Service. This effort marked the beginning of the Municipal Transport in Lagos owned by the Council. It is important to remark here that the Lagos State Government later grabbed the Lagos City Transport Service of the Council and its landed properties without paying any compensation. During Fasinro’s tenure too, the City Council also invested its resources in building Public libraries. The first of such libraries was the Central Library which was officially opened by the late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II on 23 September, 1966. Another was the Yaba Municipal Library along Herbert Macaulay Road, while the third was Ebute-Metta Library at Oyingbo. It is also on record too that the Lagos City Council during Fasinro’s tenure established the Amusement Park at Apapa, the first of such recreational facilities in Nigeria. Relying on the Lagos Local Education Act of 1959, the City Council also built five schools as demonstration schools. The Council was, in fact, responsible for paying its teachers and all the Voluntary Agencies Schools in Lagos.
However, the greatest achievement of the Lagos City Council during Fasinro’s tenure was the building of Ultra-Modern Lagos City Hall. The hall was not just an architectural master-piece; it was the first of its kind in Nigeria and even in Africa. The City Hall which cost roughly two million pounds at the material time was financed by the City Council from its own resources without any external loan. It is also instructive to note that the Lagos City Council provided the initial infrastructural facilities for the take-off of Lagos State when it was created in May 1967. Indeed, for a long period, the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs retained a wing of the third floor for its use. After the hall was razed as a result of fire outbreak in 1997, Pa H.A.B Fasinro played significant roles in facilitating the rehabilitation of the ever-bubbling centre of modern local government administration in Nigeria, City Hall, Lagos, which had since been put out of use. The then State Governor, Mr Raji Babatunde Fashola praised him for his contributions and dedication to ensuring that the hall is brought back to life. The banquet hall was, however, renamed H.A.B Fasinro Hall.
Although born during the reign of Eshugbayi Eleko, H.A.B Fasinro lived to witness the reigns of Oba Ibikunle Akintoye (1925-1928) and Oba Sanusi Olusi (1928 - 1931) and the second tenure of Eshugbayi Eleko (1931-1932). It is also on record that he knew Oba Falolu (1932-1949) clearly as a young charming Prince when he was resident at Eletu Iwashe Street, a place where Akobo House now stands. His recollection of him was that of a man of style, character, and of good and princely disposition. And by the time, Prince Musendiku Buraimoh Adeniji Adele was formally installed as the Oba of Lagos on October 1, 1949; he was then 30 years old, already pursuing a degree in Law. And when Oba Adeyinka Oyekan was installed on February 15, 1965, H.A.B Fasinro was serving as the Town Clerk of the Lagos City Council. On May 24, 2003 when Oba Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu I was installed as the 20th Oba of Lagos, H.A.B Fasinro had joined the rank of Octogenarian Lagosians. From Eshugbayi Eleko to Akiolu I, H.A.B Fasinro was quite knowledgeable about the politics and intrigues of the Lagos monarchy and had, in fact, become a philosopher and historian of sorts. His works, Ahmadiyya (as I See It); Achievements and Conflicts (1994); and Political and Cultural Perspectives of Lagos (2004), are major contributions to historical knowledge. Pa S.L. Edu described H.A.B Fasinro as a “highly knowledgeable and historically minded man.”
In February 2005, the Senate and Council of Lagos State University conferred on him Honorary Doctorate Degree of Law (LL.D) in recognition of his contributions to the legal profession and national development. Indeed, H.A.B Fasinro could be counted among the few surviving species of pre-Independence generation Nigerian leaders who espoused the ideals of integrity, transparency and accountability in public and private lives, men of honour ready to give the best of their ability to the society and not ask what the society would give to them in return; leaders interested in the content of the character of their fellow countrymen not on ethnic, religious and other primordial considerations.
Pa Fasinro dedicated his life and times to furthering the growth of Islam in Lagos State. He represented Lagos State in matters of National Interest for Islam. Pa Fasinro was the Secretary of Anwar-ul-Islam Movement of Nigeria from 1964-1967. He served as the Vice-President of the Movement under the presidency of Chief S.L. Edu while Alhaji K.B. Shomade served as the General Secretary. Following S.L. Edu’s exit from the apex of the leadership of Anwar-ul-Islam in 1988, the mantle fell on H.A.B. Fasinro, a person whom the late Babatunde Jose described as “most reliable, trustworthy and able”. He served as the President for only one year (1988-1989) but he remained till his death one of the strongest pillars of the society and unarguably, the most knowledgeable historian of the movement.
H.A.B Fasinro showed remarkable commitments to religion and community service throughout his life. In fact, he had an abiding interest in all policies and programmes that would enhance the progress of the people of Lagos State extraction. He was a Trustee of the Association of Indigenes of Lagos State to help facilitate the development of Lagos State indigenes in all facets of human endeavour. Fasinro was elected President of the Nigerian Muslim Council in 1992 and was an Executive Member of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. His relentless career and meritorious services earned him many honours and awards. In 2001, he was conferred with the National Award of the Order of Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR).
H.A.B Fasinro remained a humane man of letters, a seasoned democrat, a great advocate of justice and the rule of law, a mine of information on the corpus of Oriki, traditional songs and Literature of Lagos, and a custodian of the culture and tradition of Lagos. He demonstrated courage throughout his life and was a very painstaking and frank elder statesman. Fasinro was a man of sharp, rational intellect and a great man of knowledge and native wisdom who laced all his contributions with parables, anecdotes and proverbs. He was married to his amiable wife, Alhaja Ramotu Abeke Fasinro and had six wonderful children, four males and two females whom include Hon. Justice Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Hon. Habeeb Fasinro, former member, Federal House of Representatives, representing Eti Osa Federal Constituency and Barrister Afusat Yetunde Onabule, Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Urban Development.
Pa H.A.B Fasinro died at exactly 8:29 pm on Sunday, March 31, 2019 at the ripe age of 99; he would have clocked 100 in September 2019. He was an astute leader, eminent Muslim, and an embodiment of humility and gentility. He made landmark achievements in legal profession, politics, religion, community leadership and historical scholarship.
DAWN Commission celebrates the passage of a Lagos patriot and a Nigerian statesman. He is a great loss to Lagos State. A great library is gone!
• Prof. Siyan Oyeweso