Gani Fawenhinmi’s 80th Posthumous Birthday: Tribute To Revolutionary Working Class Tribune By Adejumo Kabir
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” – Horace Mann
Truth be told, some of us who already drank from the water of history never believed that Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi would have lived up to 71. It is pertinent that I first make my readers understand who Gani Fawenhinmi was. How difficult it may be for a nation to have another dogged and fervent hero in the rough road of justice. Although, no word is sufficient to describe someone whose legacies are carved in stone and forever remain in the minds of Nigerians.
Fawenhinmi was born on Friday, April 22, 1938, into the Fawehinmi family in Ondo State. The sage had his early education at Ansar- Un- Deen Primary School, lyemaja, Ondo from 1947 to 1953. He had his secondary school education at Victory College Ikare, from 1954 to 1958, where he passed out. He attended the Holborn College of Law of the University of London for the LL.B. degree in September 1961 where he bagged his LL.B. degree in 1964. With the determination to succeed against all odds, Fawenhinmi was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1965.
After becoming a Lawyer, he dedicated his life to struggle for the establishment of a sane country where every less privileged child would be educated at the expense of the State. This led to giving out a scholarship to many indigent undergraduates yearly since 1976. As an ardent believer in the cause of justice, he provided legal services on pro bono to the victims of oppression.
To mention but few, Gani as a newbie defeated Chief Rotimi Williams in 1969 when he took up the case of a factory worker whose wife was snatched by a powerful permanent secretary in the service of the Benue Plateau State Government represented by Chief Rotimi Williams. Meaning, Gani understood the law and the profession understood him. He was a rebel and a radical nonconformist. Gani Fawenhinmi was the most jailed activist from Nigeria not for stealing public funds but strictly against the ‘ambassadors of poverty’. However, even to the point of death, Gani remained unwavering in the struggle for justice.
For me, the best way to remember and honour Gani Fawenhinmi is not by or with everyday articles. However, for us to do what he would have done if he is still alive. It won’t be a crime if in our institutions we have a general and compulsory course of study titled: “Fawenhinmism”. The cancer Gani fought in the political setting bounced back to him. However, the great sage with the ailment fought tirelessly to become the cancer of the of oppressors.
At the time when other stakeholders were happy to be honoured and sold their birthright for plagues, Fawehinmi refused to compromise. He declined the National award from Federal Government of Nigeria.
He was quoted saying: “I cannot accept the ‘honour’ of OFR; whether now or in the life beyond. How can I wake up in the morning and look at the insignia of honour bestowed on me under a government that persecutes anti-corruption effort, particularly those of Nuhu Ribadu? A government that covertly and overtly encourages corruption has no honour in its arsenal of power to dispense honour.
Consequently, I reject the “Dishonour” of OFR termed “Honour” given to me by the Federal Government. In addition to my rejection of the honour of the OFR on the grounds of the Federal Government’s conscious war against anti-corruption war, the decadent socio- economic situation does not engender the well being of ordinary people and there is no hope in sight.”
It should be recalled that before this award, Gani already had a crown of Senior Advocate of the Masses conferred on him by Great Ife Students in the 80s for his selflessness fight against the rulers oppressing the needy. The award was the most honorary one that will propel him to continue to fight even in the grave.
John Wesley said and I quote: “Do all the good you can by all means you can, in all the ways you can, in all places you can, at all times you can, to all the people you, as long as long as you ever can“.
Fawehinmi did this to the point of death with uncountable sacrifices which include a ‘tour’ from Kaduna Prison in 1969 to Bauchi Prison in 1996. Gani aimed at getting justice for the oppressed regardless of their tribe. History has it that his good deeds helped him in Gusau prison during Babangida’s administration when he was unconscious in prison and rushed to the University of Maiduguri Teaching hospital. It was reported that when Gani regained consciousness, he was apprehensive that the government may use the medical staff to inject him to death.
However, the doctor treating him was quoted saying: “Chief, be at rest, you are in a safe hand. Chief, don’t you know me again? I was one of the students that were expelled at the University of Maiduguri and you fought our case before we were recalled through the court order. I am now a medical doctor and I am in charge of your treatment. So don’t worry.”
However, in 2009 after the death of Gani Fawenhinmi, the same military dictator, Babangida was quoted saying: “Gani Fawenhinmi criticism put some of us in authority on our toes all the time because anytime we wanted to take a decision. We always take cognizance of what comments the late critic would say because he used to tear our decisions beat by beat.
Gani would not just come to criticize because he did not like your face; he made all his criticism on the point of law and we need more of his like to move Nigeria forward. He made his criticism with facts because whenever he criticized you. Also, he backed it up with facts and figures and not because he did not like your face. We have lost one of our boldest, most fearless and best Nigerian. If I have my way, I will immortalize him because I have great respect for him”, Babangida said.
It sounds very interesting that even the oppressors cannot deny the drilling they got from Gani. A combatant whose Chambers in Lagos was attacked in 1994 during the Abacha regime for pointing out the ills and odds in the society.
Gani Fawenhinmi was not the only Lawyer during his lifetime but I stand to be corrected, he ‘bested’ them all. While many law firms and legal practitioner pursue political recognition. He believed that law should serve as the thermometer to check the embezzlement pressure of looters and should further serve as therapy curing psychological torture of the less privileged.
You need to read Gani’s last official prayer for the country while on the sick bed in London: “I pray to God to guide our leaders so that they will have the interest of the masses in their heart in terms of education, good health, and infrastructure. I pray they should also have the interest of the masses in the areas of electricity, water, and housing.
The act of governance lies in providing the people with their needs. I appeal to those in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government to make the interest of the masses the cardinal basis of whatever they do. Justice for the people should be their priority”.
Indeed, if Gani is alive today, he won’t sit back to see ‘Sin-a-tore Sir-racky’ rule the Senate. Gani would have demanded justice for the boy killed last year for stealing Garri. Fawehinmi will not defend ‘Ambassadors of Poverty’ like many of his junior lawyers are doing now. Gani would have sued FG on Boko Haram menace and other irregularities.
Lastly, Senior Advocate of the Masses will not keep quiet to see the institution that conferred on him SAM fast degenerating. He won’t be happy in the grave to hear about the recent sex-for-mark scandal in a setting that conferred on him the champion of the masses.
However, some of us will continue to stand for truth by asserting the strength of pen till death takes away our lives.
Rest In Peace, Chief Fawehinmi.
Adejumo Kabir is a student journalist at Obafemi Awolowo University. He is a writer of truth in a society of liars.
He can be reached via 08131863610 or [email protected]