Gani: legacies of an icon

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gani: Legacies of an icon

Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (SAN) did not depart without monuments. His footprints are visible in law, politics, human rights, education, religion and philanthropy.

He was the most incendiary spokesman for the civil society in Nigeria. In fact, two fundamental principles seem to have propelled the lion of the human rights movement since January 15, 1965, when he was called to the bar.

First, the irrepressible attorney believed that Nigeria, his country, must be governed by the rule of law and not by the rule of brute force.
Second, everybody, including the government, must be subjected to transparent norms.
Before his sentence to 12 months imprisonment on January 4, 1990, for contempt by the Lagos High Court, he told the judges that his ordeal would not deter him from his avowed commitment to the pursuit of egalitarianism.

"Both the governed and government must be equally subjected to the rule of law and due process. If that is not done, the alternative is chaos, anarchy and instability," he stressed.
There is no legal luminary in Nigeria who has relied on the court processes to challenge government excesses in court in the last 44 years more than Fawehinmi.

As early as 1965, the Ondo-born lawyer had become the homo viator and a source of hope for a generation of rights activists that mushroomed after his coming unto the state of rights activism.
Projecting into the future, he knew that governments would change from time to time, with the unpatriotic citizens being recycled. Many of the activists he raised teamed up with him in later years to confront the military rulers who were reluctant to yield ground to civil rule.
Former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Walter Carrington held him in awe for his crusade against injustice. As lawyer to the family of the slain journalist, Mr Dele Giwa, murdered activist Ken Saro Wiwa and outspoken critic of June 12 annulment, he said: "If there were a Nobel Prize for human rights, it would have been given to Gani."

Fawehinmi was not limited to rhetoric. He was instrumental in organizing peaceful rallies, street demonstrations against military dictatorship and civil disobedience. He was reputed for using his personal resources to advance the course of justice."He has filed more than 300 cases in court," noted Adindu Ugwazor who dedicated a book to him when he clocked 64. The book catalogued Fawehinmi’s exploits in human rights and other facets of life.

A Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), delegate, Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi, a lawyer, likened Fawehinmi to the late Edward Kennedy of United States. He said the similarity was their passion for human rights and the dignity of man.

"Gani, like Kennedy, fought doggedly for the less privileged Nigerians, in spite of his outstanding position as a wealthy lawyer. He used his wealth to fight for the masses.

Fawehinmi was consistent in critical moments. He suffered bruises under General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime over his opposition to the gross human right abuse of the dictator.
But in death, even his foes adore him. Reflecting on those principled positions of the lawyer, Babangida who put him in detention several times turned round to pay tribute to his resilience.
The former military president said: "If there is one man I respect, it is Gani. It sounds strange. I appreciate you that you have a strong conviction and fight for it consistently. This is the context in which I see Gani.

"I was a consistent "evil" and he was a dogged fighter and I respect him for this. In fact, there are three of them I respect like that. They are Gani, late Prof. Awojobi and Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman. None of them says anything without doing him home work first."
To his credit, law became a veritable tool for enriching the political order. When the Obasanjo Administration attempted to restrict the numbers of political parties through stringent conditions, he challenged the move and won the battle for the enthronement of multi-party system at the Supreme Court.

In the seventies, eighties and nineties, Fawehinmi was known as the laywer to the student’s movement. He identified with and supported the cause of the Nigerian students. He saved the academic career of many students who were wrongly rusticated by the authorities.
His interventions were legendary. In 1971, at the University of Ibadan, when a student unionist, Mr. Kunle Adepeju was killed and the country was incensed with anger, Fawehinmi represented the students at the sitting of the Commission of Inquiring headed by Justice Oladiran Kazeem. More than 80 per cent of their demands were later met.

When the crisis that rocked the University of Benin led to the expulsion of student leaders, he came to their rescue. They won the suit instituted against the university authority at Benin High Court.

Fawehinmi was also the star lawyer during the Ali-must-go crisis. When the apex students’ body, was outlawed, he converted part of his chambers to the headquarters of National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS). He gave them legal and financial assistance.

Similar services were rendered to the students of Universities of Ife, (1981) Maiduguri (1983) University of Nigeria (1990) and Obafemi Awolowo University (1991).

Many of the students he saved are now showing signs of leadership at the bar.
"There is a standing rule in his chambers that "students are not to be charged fees when they come for help," said Ugwazor.

Legal profession

Through sheer courage and exemplary determination, Fawehinmi changed the course of legal practice in the country. That he did through the democratization of knowledge. Not only did he practice law, he wrote and published law.

Fawehinmi’s Nigerian Weekly Law Reports is a must-read for lawyers, judges and researchers. It is excellent in innovation, content, style and regularity.
He also had other legal works to his credit. They include ‘Digest of the Supreme Court cases (1986), Nigerian Law of Habeas Corpus (1986), Nigerian Law of the press under the constitution and the Criminal Law (1987), Nigeria Law of Libel and the Press (1987), law of contempt in Nigeria (1980). The Bench and the Bar in Nigeria (1987), Murder of Dele Giwa: the Right of a private prosecutor (1988), Court’s System in Nigeria – A guide (1992), June 12 crisis – the illegality of Shonekan’s Government (1993) etc.


Fawehinmi was an unconventional politician. He took off as a rebel when he declared the National Conscience Party (NCP) a full-fledged party on October 1, 1994 when political activity was banned by the late General Sanni Abacha.

He was promptly arrested and detained. Later, he was charged to court for forming an illegal political party. On October 1994, he was discharged and acquitted. That was the tonic for the massive street procession organized by him and other members of the party.The procession started from the court premises.

On April 22, 2002, he declared his presidential ambition. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a congratulatory letter to him. It was a hypocritical message. In 1978, the same General who was military Head of State detained Fawehinmi at the Inter Centre detention camp, Ikoyi, for defending students during the Ali-must-go crisis over the resistance to increase in school fees.

In 1978/1979, Fawehinmi had wanted to become the first civilian governor of old Ondo State. Then, he wanted to identify with the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). But, he could not achieve his dream because of the leadership recruitment conditions which did not favour him.
On April 22, 2002, he explained why he wanted to lead the country.

"Poverty, in all its dimensions and ramifications, is more pervasive today than ever before. Rather than improve the quality of material life of the people, governance in Nigeria has been synonymous with infliction of pains and pangs on the populace, high level of blood-letting and blood-shedding in all the strata of the society, lack of serious national leadership and general atmosphere of fear and utter hopelessness virtually culminating in a state of anomie," he declared.

He said: "Unlike Obasanjo and Abacha, I do not share the view that without an individual, the nation is doomed."

The 10-point programme of NCP covers employment, food, health, housing, education, water, electricity, transportation, telecommunications and security.
Besides, Fawehinmi sounded a note of warning to corrupt politicians and officials.
"Corruption must be confronted frontally, decisively, courageously and brutally. We must approach the culture of corruption from the epic centre of the Nigerian society, the corridors of power," he stressed.
To achieve that, he said, "an executive Ministry of Anti-corruption would be set up to compile the names of all those who had held public offices as heads of government, heads of state, ministers, governors, commissioners, legislators, heads of parastatals, either military or civilian from January 15, 1966 to May 29, 2003 for investigation." The party failed at the poll. Its revolutionary tendencies jolted the rulers.


Fawehinmi’s scholarship schemes underscored his commitment to free education. He was therefore, not only a Senior Advocate of Law, but also a Senior Advocate of Education.
While schooling in London, he faced a lot of odds. His finances depleted. His financial problems nearly made him a drop-out. He vowed never to allow people around him to suffer the same tribulation.

In 1971, he instituted his Scholarship Scheme. Beneficiaries were brilliant indigent students. More than 1000 poor students savoured the scheme yearly. They cut across the geo-political zones.

In 2000 alone, he gave scholarship to 45 tertiary students. On July 25 and 26, he traveled to Kaduna to meet the beneficiaries at Arewa House. On 28 and 29, he came to the South to meet their counterparts.

His belief in free education endeared him to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He traveled to many countries, including France, to collect research materials in 1973 and 1974 for his book titled: "People’s Right to Free Education." In 1975, he launched the free Education Association of Nigeria.


While he instituted scholarship in memory of his father, the late Chief Saheed Tugbobo Fawehinmi, Seriki Musulumi of Ondo Kingdom, the eminent lawyer set up a foundation in memory of his mother, Alhaja Muniratu Fawehinmi, the Iya Olori Egbe Adini of Ondo Central Mosque.
The foundation caters for the needs of the poor, widows and disabled.

Gani: legacies of an icon by Emmanuel Oladesu

Foremost Nigerian human rights attorney, Gani Fawehinmi is dead!

Nigeria's foremost human rights attorney, Gani Fawehinmi is dead at 71.


I experienced a moment of grief this morning when I heard the news that Chief Gani Fawehinmi had died after a prolonged battle with man’s number one mortal enemy, cancer.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s sudden death is a national disaster which is being greeted everywhere with sadness, disbelief, astonishment, incredulity and great expression about the impact of his loss and socio-political significance of this great lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to Nigeria.

It is a big loss to the nation which he served as a social crusader, constitutional lawyer, publisher, political thinker and human rights leader. He was a force in the socio-political history of Nigeria for several decades. No doubt, he was the greatest and dogged fighter of our time whose accomplishments in the struggle for the emancipation of the working and toiling people of Nigeria cannot be easily equaled. He was also crucial to those who abhor corruption and could easily be described as the Nigerian pillar of mankind’s oldest struggle - just and egalitarian society. But at least, he has left behind, an enviable and great legacy of honesty, hard work, patriotism, equal rights and justice which were the cause of his life.

We will remember him as the champion of the oppressed, a social crusader, a voice for the voiceless and the soul and spirit of democracy and human rights in Nigeria. His death will surely be missed not only by his immediate family, but by implication, an extended family that will most probably include the whole of Nigeria and the international community.

Tribute to chief Gani Fawehinmi by the Democratic Alternative (DA) 5 September, 2009

The inevitable has happened. Chief Gani Fawehinmi has gone the way of all true patriots of this land Nigeria and this world. All members of the Democratic Alternative join other authentic true patriots of our land to salute this unique man of honour, this man of courage, this man of the people, this man who truly loved his neighbour as himself. He was a valorous man who singularly, in his own confident manner and singular dedication added value to the concept and methodology of making the world a better place in his own time. Gani was a friend of the Democratic Alternative and cherished the necessity for the party he worked very hard to build National Conscience Party NCP to work closely and in harmony with the Democratic Alternative DA. He appreciated and expressed his admiration for the work being done in the DA.

In the same mind, he was a true friend of the exploited masses of the country. No wonder, the youths and students made him the Senior Advocate of the Masses SAM when the exploiter wielders of the Nigerian state power, to their own shame and self denigration denied him the professional honour of Senior Advocate of Nigeria that he had uniquely and richly deserved by sheer limitless contribution to the development of the law, a profession that he deftly used to pass irrefutable judgement on the exploiters of our land and people.Whilst members of the Democratic Alternative call on all the workers, farmers, youths , students, women and the unemployed to rise up in truth for the development of our land as Gani would want it, we equally warn the people to beware of his tormentors who will now shed crocodile tears by paying insincere tribute to this great man, this great Nigerian whom they tormented in his life time. Gani whom they jailed for speaking out on behalf of the people; Gani whom they sent violent men to attack in his home when they had sleepless nights as a consequence of his popular crusade; Gani whom they hated because he stood for truth, justice and fairness in the management of the immense resources of our land. Yes, they will come out with fake condolences. Beware of them.

The workers, farmers, youths, students, women and the unemployed can only truly celebrate this man of the people by coming together to build a mass political party with a programme for the rapid economic development of Nigeria to retrieve our people from the morass of poverty and deprivation to which the right wing politicians have sentenced them in sixty years of exploitation and cheating. Let us remove the exploiters from power. Let us come together and build a socialist economy from which the working people will derive a quality of life that is commensurate with the best that is available anywhere in the world. That is the objective we pursue in the Democratic Alternative and Gani loved it. Capitalism, in particular nurture capitalism that the right wing rulers are imposing on the country will only enrich a few and foreigners to the continuing detriment of the masses.All members of the DA commiserate with the family of a mentor, Gani Fawehinmi.

We know that Allah has accepted him into Al Janah, the paradise of love where Gani truly belongs. May his good soul rest in perfect peace.

For Democracy and Liberation
Dr Abayomi Ferreira
PresidentDemocratic Alternative
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