“For those who know him, no word is necessary; for those who do not know him, no word is sufficient” W.T. Horngren. (An American Author)
For people who know Chief Gani Fawehinmi, no word is necessary, for those who do not know him, no word is sufficient enough to describe him. Ever since the poor health of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, I was praying and asking God to spare us this man of justice. When his illness became serious, a noticeable vacuum existed because none can perform his role. I consider my generation a lucky generation having lived to see his excellent works. Without doubt, you (Chief Gani Fawehinmi) inspired millions of Nigerians including my humble self. You showed Nigerians that we can pursue justice despite the odds. Nigeria and Nigerians have indeed lost a giant. You were like a jewel of inestimable value.
You were like a rock to Nigerians, no wonder why the Nigerian people whom you represented very well, gave you the title of Senior Advocate of the Masses. The International Bar Association did not forget you. The also honoured you. You cannot die because your legacies and ideas will live forever. According to late John F. Kennedy (former American President) “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on”. Your legacies are carved in stone and you will forever remain in the minds of Nigerians. The greatness of a man is measured by what he lived and died for. You lived your life for the oppressed Nigerians. You stood for them and fought their battles for them. We cannot forget you.
As a young man, I was amazed and inspired by the way you pursued the case of Dele Giwa’s death. I remembered how you presented the case of Dele Giwa’s death at the Oputa Panel. Am glad about the fact that many of us have decided to follow the path which you have shown us. That is the path of justice, equality, activism, and fair play. As a human right crusader, your achievements are outstanding. Your contribution to the Nigerian Bar speaks for itself. I am not a lawyer but I know that you wrote a lot of law books. These books are highly rated and sort after.
I will not forget to mention when on a television interview (Charley Boy Show), a former military head of state (General Ibrahim Babangida) said that, you Chief Gani Fawehinmi was the only Nigerian he respected. I watched the kind of respect you were given at the Oputa panel by Oputa himself. I was moved when on May 29th 2009 at the state of the Nigerian nation symposium held in London Metropolitan University, where Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (former Executive Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) said that, he considers you (Gani Fawehinmi) as his brother much more than Atiku Abubakar (Former Vice President of Nigeria), who comes from his own village.
Gani Fawehinmi showed us the path of honour when he turned down the offer of a national award (Officer of the Federal Republic) which president Yar Adua wanted to confer on him in 2008. Among his reasons were that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led government has betrayed the Nigerian people.
I will not forget your numerous charity projects all over the country. You are an exemplary philanthropist. I remember encouraging one of my cousins to apply for your scholarship scheme. Many Nigerians irrespective of tribes or religion benefited immensely from your scholarship scheme. I will not forget to mention the cases you handled free of charge (pro bono) for many Nigerians, of particular mention here was the cases of some expelled students whom you made sure they were reinstated. You were a source of hope to so many students’ union leaders through out the country. I am sure that without your efforts Nigeria would have been worst than it is today.
You fought all the military governments in Nigeria using the instrumentality of the law. You understood the law and the law understood you. Am sure all the military leaders sent you to jail. You were detained and jailed for more than 30 times. On a particular instance Gashua prison became the choice of the military junta in an attempt to break your spirit (apologies if I spelled Gashua wrongly). You proved them wrong. You came out stronger. You became a torn in the flesh of all military leaders. Infact the fear of Chief Gani Fawehinmi became the beginning of wisdom for those ex military leaders. You became a rallying point for resistance against military and civilian dictatorships. You were fearless and forever bold. You were the people’s hero
You were also a symbol of democracy having won the case against Independent National Electoral Commission’s decision not to register more parties. You freed the Nigerian political terrain by this singular landmark judgment. Your National Conscience Party epitomized the aspirations of Nigerian people. I thank my God for being a member of this party (NCP). When you contested the 2003 election as the presidential candidate of National Conscience Party, Nigerians wanted you, but the establishments were not comfortable that you were a candidate for that election. You remain the best leader that never occupied the seat at Aso Rock Villa. Had you won the election to become the president of Nigeria, may be our oppressors would either be in exile or behind bars.
Your death on Saturday 5th September 2009 has left a vacuum too big to be filled. None can ever fit into your shoes. Be that as it may, what died was the body. However the spirit, ideas, and legacies will continue to live. That is why I said you have not died, when I title this attribute to you. I will take solace in the fact that you have shown us the light and we will find the way. The struggle to better Nigeria, which you were the champion, will still continue by virtue of the ideas you left behind.
I owe my activism to Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Am also sure that millions of Nigerians owe theirs to this wonderful Nigerian who has inspired many of us. We will celebrate your wonderful life and achievements. May your soul rest in peace and may God help us to produce many Gani Fawehinmi’s in our country. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK