Bamidele Aturu’s article on Gani Fawehinmi @ 70

He has been jailed more than any Nigerian, living or dead, not for stealing public funds or for any crime but for challenging infamy in government; he has been tear-gassed several times; humiliated on countless occasions and brutalised times without number. Yet he remains undaunted, unshaken and unwavering in his single-minded pursuit of the common good. I wish him more years of fruitful contributions to the progress of this country. Gani, may God multiply your kind in our midst.

By Bamidele Aturu in the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper, 23rd April 2008.

CHIEF Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, friend of the toiling masses, fearless advocate, humanist par excellence, irrepressible enemy of oppressors, human rights crusader of inimitable courage, unassuming philanthropist, and an indefatigable patriot of unparalleled commitment is 70. This is really something to cheer about. To begin with, given the harassment, physical and psychological torture inflicted on him and his family by the Nigerian state, not many people thought that he would live to mark his 60th birthday not to talk of being with us at 70. Whatever the state of his health may be, this is an occasion that the masses and their friends must celebrate to high heavens.

Gani, as he is fondly called by his admirers and foes alike, is a unique Nigerian in a number of respects. Here is one Nigerian who lives his life for the good of the country only in every way. At great personal risks to himself he dared the military adventurers who usurped political power and imposed the authoritarian ethos of the garrison on our people. A consummate social critic that he is, he has never been caught pushing positions for selfish reasons or for the mere purpose of attracting attention to himself as many gallingly do these days.

I have told several people before and I believe it is appropriate to repeat it during this festive occasion that Gani is the only lawyer that I know, living or dead, who does not take a position on national issues simply because he is protecting the interest of a present or prospective client. These days one frequently read opinions that amount to hankering for briefs among lawyers or that is nothing but indecent defence of the interest of an existing client. I have had cause to disagree with this great African on some national issues, but as I told him on some of those occasions, I knew that he was merely expressing his deep and genuine convictions. Happily, those occasions were very few. I challenge anyone with a contrary opinion to express it now, I wish I could take the liberty of a priest to add the phrase, ‘or never’.

He is not one to refrain from expressing unpopular positions. In recent times he has been challenged and even excoriated by many for some of his positions that go against the general tide of public opinion. One thing that is clear is that one cannot miss his nationalistic fervour and passion in any of his interventions and commentaries. Beyond that, a nation without an avant-garde like Gani who sets agenda and thinks ahead will soon atrophy. As a human being he does not claim to be without his own flaws. The truth, however, is that compared with many people in his generation and generations behind him, Gani is closer to a saint.

Gani is a very solicitous and caring person. Several thousands of indigent people, and I am not exaggerating, have benefited from his large heart. Personally, it was Gani that paid my law school fees, an act of benevolence for which I shall remain eternally grateful. As a law student at Ife, when the power that be had made it clear that I could not get regular employment by seizing my NYSC Discharge Certificate after my first degree, Gani placed me on a monthly stipend that did not fail once. Even while still on his sick bed in far away London Gani still looked after the welfare of several people. For example I know that he ensures that the medical bills of his sister who had taken ill before him are settled promptly.

It is not an exaggeration to state that all Nigerians, without any exception whatsoever, have benefited from his legal activism. This is so because he is the doyen of public impact litigation in this country. Regardless of the narrow conception of the doctrine of locus standi by the superior courts, Gani has used the instrumentality of the law and the court to challenge every form of misbehaviour in government. Thanks to his persistence, it would appear that the doctrine has been relaxed in the case of the dollar Ministers filed by him. There is no Nigerian, again living or dead, that has challenged governments and their policies in court on matters that are not personal than Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He has expanded our legal frontiers in such a way that every branch of the law bears his imprint.

This is not the appropriate forum to discuss his forensic skills. I have already accepted the challenge thrown at me by no less a person than Odia Ofeimun, the well-known poet, to do his biography. It suffices however to recall how he used his skills in court to get us back to school after the authorities at Ife dismissed us apparently for not learning what our parents asked to go there to learn. In the midst of his arguments, he suddenly pointed to the ceilings and told the court that ‘what these boys dismissed by the University are saying is that this roof should not collapse on your Lordship’. The ceiling, unknown to any of us and perhaps the judge too at the time, was caving in. Everybody laughed, but he had made his point. We won our case and that is one of the reasons why I am today a lawyer. That was vintage Gani. He would use any lawful means to secure justice for the downtrodden.

His courage is scary. One incident that will forever remain etched in our collective memory was the scene at Yaba, under the military, where he lay down on the ground and dared the security personnel drafted to quell a public protest to run over him with their armoured tank. Thank God, they did not. But that underlines his willingness to pay the supreme sacrifice in the defence of the oppressed.

He has been jailed more than any Nigerian, living or dead, not for stealing public funds or for any crime but for challenging infamy in government; he has been tear-gassed several times; humiliated on countless occasions and brutalised times without number. Yet he remains undaunted, unshaken and unwavering in his single-minded pursuit of the common good. I wish him more years of fruitful contributions to the progress of this country. Gani, may God multiply your kind in our midst.

• Aturu, a legal practitioner, lives in Lagos

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10 thoughts on “Bamidele Aturu’s article on Gani Fawehinmi @ 70

  1. Pingback: R.I.P Gani Fawehinmi « Thy Glory O Nigeria..!

  2. Infact and Indeed we’ve lost a rare symbol of hope and admiration in a society bedeviled by corruption, lack of foresight on the side of our leaders. Surely, Gani has left an indelible ink in history.Hoi-Polloi will forever be indebted to your his course. May the Almighty God bless his soul, Amin.

  3. May the saintly soul of Gani Rest In Peace. Amen. May God bless us with your kind again in Nigeria. We really need somebody that ll be like you.

  4. Chief Gani was a role model and a true human activist that many good Nigerians should look up to…Its very imperatve to start working harder from where he stopped and fight to make our country a better place most especially for the poor because I believe that was what he stood for. . . . We will forever celebrate one of the most respected SANs ever lived

  5. Cheif Gani was an elder statesman worthy of emulation. a man that can not be replaced in this our time, a great fighter of the truth, a man among millions. gani we can never forget you in our life, how could you leave in time we need you most, but God want you more than us, may you rest in peace, and i pray God should reward you with his pradise. Ameen

  6. Gani was indeed an epitome of justice. An icon worthy of emulation, an elder statesman, a rare gem that can never be forgotten in a hurry. We cannot question God but the truth is that you left when we needed you most, when many are languishing for a crime they knows nothing about. When one development strategy means cutting away the source of livelihood for some poor individuals. For example: The ban of okada in some state capital has pushed some from drying pan to the real fire causing them an untold hardship. The dredging of the lower Niger, an economic development will for sure take some people’s mouth away from the breast. Gani is needed now that our priority should be economic reform but if is no more. Praying that God’ll give us another of your type. Rest in perfect peace Gani till we meet to part no more.

  7. he is alive and he has done his best for human,
    the whole world is singing his dealth now.
    but,it should be a lesson to everyone, that one day, we shall live these world.
    baba fawehinmi has done his best.
    what have you done to affect other ?

  8. Adieu to baba rere, The good work you have done cannot be forgotten in part of playing important role in human right. You are a mediator, A leader indeed, A role model sleep on till we meet again

  9. Gani has left an indelible ink in history. He was a living and now a dead Saint. His Success are remarkable and can be seen physical here on earth particular here in Nigeria and Africa. Adieu GANI!!

  10. Good night mahatma Gani,a doyen of knowledge and legal erudite.the undisputable conscience of the nigerian nation has gone!when i heard the news of your death i cried like babe,well that will never bring you back to life.Gani,you left too soon but my prayer is may the lord almight grant your dogged soul eternal rest of mind.Adieu mahatma!

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