Femi Falana is one of the respected
voices in the legal profession and also the father of hip hop artiste,
Folarin Falana aka Falz TheBahdGuy. In this interview with TOFARATI IGE and BUKOLA BAKARE, he talks about the legal profession, his son’s career, family life and other interests.
been consistent in championing the rights of the masses. In all of
these, have you had any fears for your personal safety and that of your
country. Whether you are involved in human rights struggle or not, you
could just be mauled down on the highway or you could be kidnapped or
robbed, so there is no basis for entertaining fear once you believe that
your cause is just and right. I keep on doing what I know how to do
best with a view to taking people out of problems, going to the police
station to bail people detained illegally, going to court to ensure that
those who are unjustly treated get legal reprieve.
rule of law in Nigeria. It is entrenched in the constitution and the
federal, state and all governments in Nigeria are required to comply
with the rule of law. Unfortunately, in practise, the contrary is the
case. There are scores of court orders that are being disobeyed and
disregarded by the government. Some of the notorious ones include the
orders of court nullifying the illegal detention of Sheikh Ibrahim
Yaquoub El-Zakzaky and his wife; the orders of court admitting Colonel
Sambo Dasuki (retd.) to bail; the judgement of the court, one of ECOWAS
court and one of the federal high court that every Nigerian child should
be given free education up to junior secondary school level. There is
also a court order that the Peoples Bank be restored to assist the poor
by giving them loans and an education bank be set up to assist indigent
students in our institutions of higher learning. Another one says that
the Federal Government must account for all the funds that have been
recovered between 1999 and now, there are so many other court orders, I
can go on and on which are being disregarded by the government.
incidents that made you take that decision to represent those who won’t
ordinarily have access to the law and was it a conscious one?
student unionism whereby we had to take on some of our colleagues and
attend to their problems. By the time I got into legal practice and
became a lawyer, I chose the type of practice that I wanted to engage
in. I believe that the rich are sufficiently taken care of and
adequately represented and for ideological and political reasons, I
decided to identify with the poor in the society so it was a deliberate
FalzTheBahdGuy, also trained as a lawyer but he is now a full-time music
artiste. What was your reaction when he informed you of his decision to
become a musician?
entirely his and we try not to impose our views on our children. Our
belief is that you need to guide them, give them education, train them
to be critically independent and take their decisions because when
parents insist and decide to choose careers for their children, it is
not always very helpful and it is not the best. Therefore, based on my
liberal disposition, I didn’t feel disturbed or worried when he walked
up to me one day to say, ‘‘ Dad, I’ve had enough of legal practice.’’ I
just said, ‘It’s barely two years, what do you mean?’’ He told me that
he was going to follow his own passion-full-time and without any
hesitation, I simply wished him success. I was convinced then as I am
now that I could not be held liable if he failed. The society would have
recognised that I gave him the best education. My wife was however
worried which again is natural and told me to try and persuade him
otherwise because this guy did very well in university in the United
Kingdom, excelled in law school and then he was already trying to
become a good lawyer.
option a trial, if he doesn’t succeed, he would come back, so let’s
encourage him. We had a lot of discussions on it and at the end of the
day, my wife became persuaded and said let us give his choice a trial. I
think he is doing well for himself, so we have no regrets for our
good football and is the captain of our chambers’ football team. he led
our team to win the 2016 and 2017 Lawyers Football League Championship.
the school band and I think when he was in secondary school, he also had
begun to be playful but we tried to get him to concentrate on his
studies. We have three kids-two girls and Folarin, but he was the most
reserved. He could be in the house for three days and just be in his
room, so I was therefore pleasantly surprised when in the university, he
said that he was going to contest elections and he subsequently became
the Vice- President of the Afro-Caribbean students at the University of
Reading in the United Kingdom. That was when I began to notice that he
was coming up to be relevant in the society. In fact, he had to address
his colleagues one day and was able to combat stage fright and by the
time he said he was going into music, I knew that he was okay at that
we had a debate over them and it took him time to be persuaded that he
had to sing about social issues in the society. At that time, he was
just trying to say, ‘‘Dad, the young people simply want to entertain
themselves and I don’t want to waste my time on politics.’’ But I think
now, he has seen the need to be relevant, so his songs now reflect that
and have enough social content.
the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti during his lifetime and your son is
also into conscious-oriented music, do you sometimes get the feeling of a
pleasant déjà vu?
the fact that Fela also had a situation when he chose to study music in
the late 50s. Recall that all members of his generation wanted to
become doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on. At that time, when music
was totally reserved for dropouts, it took his mother time to convince
herself that Fela was going to succeed and more so, that his elder
sister was a senior nurse, his elder brother had become a doctor, his
younger brother was studying medicine so, the mother of course couldn’t
believe that Fela would succeed but over the years, Fela became the most
prominent member of the family. During one of our (my wife and I)
discussions, I had to refer to the Fela example. One day, my son, went
out to grant an interview and he was described on television as Falz and
when he came back, his mother said to him, ‘‘ Why don’t you bear your
full name, Folarin Falana, so that your dad’s name could open doors for
anybody’s name to open doors for me. I want to open my own door. The day
I would be happy is not when they ask me are you Femi Falana’s son? I
want them to ask both of you sometime, ‘‘Are you Falz’s parents?’’ and I
think he has gotten to that stage.
of us call him Falz. Folarin and Falz are essentially one and the same.
Maybe initially, there was a difference but now, they are one and the
in TV Journalism. Again, that was her choice and had nothing to do with
me. My first daughter is a lawyer though. The other two have chosen
their paths and I won’t lose sleep over the choice of any child. My own
father wasn’t a lawyer, so why should I insist that my son or daughter
should be one?
consumption. All I can say is that we discuss regularly and I make
suggestions but as I did say earlier, I would like him to be more
relevant in his songs with the problems confronting the society-poverty,
unemployment, preventable diseases, growing illiteracy among others so
that he can also give members of the ruling class some sleepless nights
to compel them to address the problems plaguing the country.
invited his mum and I when he made a public presentation of one of his
records. Then, last time we watched his concert, we were invited by the
organisers of the programme.
him and I do hope that he would continue to remain humble and committed
to his work and then, he also has to be more hard-working to remain
relevant. Of course, people have asked me, including friends, ‘‘Why did
you allow him to go into music?’’ but there are also people in the
industry who commend us for ‘donating’ our son to the entertainment
industry so I would think that there have been positive reactions
generally on the part of people but again, luckily, there are many
people who do not believe that he is my son and that is good for the
both of us.
run into hitches with management companies in terms of copyright law
because they don’t go through their contracts well, what kind of advice
would you offer in that regard?
artistes have been pauperised by lack of due diligence with respect to
agreements and contracts signed by them. Unfortunately, the government
has not been helpful in combating piracy and that has pushed many of our
artistes to the fringe of poverty. In the case of Folarin, I think his
knowledge of the law has largely assisted him and I think he has only
referred just a couple of contracts to us and sought advice but
generally, he has been able to take care of his contracts and he hasn’t
breached any agreement.
write. I travel very regularly in and out of the country and I am also
busy attending to problems 24 hours of the day. I get calls from in and
outside the country from victims of human rights’violation. I get calls
from prisons- inmates who want their matters taken to court and I also
get harassed by the media to respond to one form of human rights
violation or the other.
filled with people who besiege the place with one issue or the other,
yet you are so energetic with no signs of slowing down, how do you find
the energy to still continue this way?
For instance, my wife runs the home and the office and that affords me
the opportunity to get involved in a number of extra-curricular
once I am gone, that’s it. I just want to make my contribution to the
progress of my society and ensure that I leave my country better than I