DR Olu Fasan, who turns 60, tomorrow, was born in 1960, the year that Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Born without a silver spoon, Fasan defied humble beginnings to attain the zeniths of his chosen paths that crisscrossed journalism, economics, law, and academia among others.
He regrets that he did not have mentoring and guidance to steer him in the right career path early in life. He also did not get opportunities that a middle-class background would give in a country where, in those days, unless you were a genius, making progress was about who you knew, who your parents were.
Fasan said the consequence of these is ‘’everything that I achieved was through the grace of God and the dint of hard work.’’
Recalling his childhood challenges, he told Vanguard: ‘’My growing up was challenging but also interesting. I was born in Ondo town, went to St Matthew’s Primary School in Ondo and Gboluji Grammar School in Ile-Oluji. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, as it were. My father was a farmer, my mother a petty trader. I certainly did not experience poverty in the real sense of the term (we always had food to eat), but, at the same time, I did not have what you might call a middle-class background.’’
Given the experience of a Spartan upbringing, the young Olu Fasan was adequately equipped for survival in the UK environment when he arrived in the European country in 1989.
According to him, two careers that always appealed to him were law and journalism but he ended up obtaining an HND in Business Administration from Yaba College of Technology. ‘’It was the desire to achieve those early career dreams that took me overseas in 1989,’’ he disclosed.
Thus, on getting to the UK in 1989, ‘’the first thing I did,’’ he recalled, ‘’was to enrol for a two-year Diploma in Journalism course at the London School of Journalism. After my graduation, I freelanced for some newspapers and then set up a magazine (Marketfinder International),’’ which had cover interviews with some world leaders including former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; and former Head of Interim Government of Nigeria, Chief Ernest Shonekan.
Later on, Fasan stopped the magazine to pursue a legal career. He enrolled to study law. He obtained his LLB and LLM and then went to the Law/Bar School and qualified as a barrister at the Inner Temple. He was a legal adviser for many years before he decided to go for his PhD., and obtained his PhD in Law (International Economic Law) from the London School of Economics. He lectured there for some years before becoming a senior policy adviser with the UK Government. He is still a Visiting Fellow at the LSE, and so has both policy and academic careers.
He does research in law and political economy, focusing on trade and economic law and policies, particularly in developing countries. He has written in peer-reviewed journals. His most recent journal article is ‘Commitment and Compliance in International Law: A Study of the Implementation of the WTO TRIPS Agreement by South Africa and Nigeria’. He is a columnist for Nigeria’s best read Newspaper, Vanguard.
Asked why he chose Economics after going far in Law, Fasan said he wanted to be a specialist lawyer. ‘’In particular, I was interested in commercial, business and trade law. it is difficult to be a trade/commercial/business lawyer without a good background in economics, particularly political economics.
For instance, every trade lawyer will tell you it’s not all about law, it’s about economics and politics as well. So, as I said, given my background in Business Administration and in business journalism, and considering that I wanted to be a business lawyer, I decided that I must study political economics after obtaining my LLM and Bar qualifications. My PhD, from the London School of Economics, is in International Economic Law. I love the multi-disciplinary element of my career. Being able to bring law, economics and politics together is a real advantage, and it has informed the nature of my public interventions,’’ he said.
Indeed, Fasan is articulate and spews public affairs analysis with ease. Week-in, week-out, he has brought his deep knowledge of socio-economic, legal and political issues to bear on his write-ups on burning national issues in his Thursday column in Vanguard.
On face value, his articles are anti-government policies, which has made observers to regard him as an enemy of President Muhammadu Buhari, and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
However, Fasan said he is critic not an enemy of President Buhari, who he said is yet to deliver, and has no clear policy direction despite running for the position on four occasions.
His words: ”Tell me, what institutional reforms has Buhari introduced in his five years in government? Where is the bureaucratic or civil service reform? Where is the judicial reform? Where is the reform of the public sector so it can be effective? Has he ever talked about political reforms?
”So, I’m not Buhari’s enemy. But on the issues that I am passionate about, which I believe will enable this country to make progress – political, economic and institutional reforms – Buhari is on the wrong paths. So, I’m his critic, not his enemy!
Wants Nigeria to succeed
The public affairs commentator said he is bearing the burden of wanting Nigeria to succeed because he shares a bond with the country as an age-mate.
”Being born in the year that Nigeria became independent creates a bond, a strong affinity, between me and Nigeria. I regard independent Nigeria as my age-mate, and you know the bond of friendship that normally exists between age-mates, and that’s how, on a sentimental level, I feel about Nigeria. Although I cannot regard myself a “product” of Nigeria because I have had most of my higher education and career overseas, I feel strongly about the country.”