Date Published: 10/05/09
Gani Fawehinmi’s Last Wish By Uche Ohia
Since the death of Chief Abdul-Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (SAN) better known as Gani Fawehinmi on September 5, 2009, many prominent and not so prominent Nigerians have been engaging in the usual rite that follows the demise any great person in this part of the world: eulogizing the bereaved, expressing a dose of self-righteous indignation, shedding a tear or two, and sashaying to the home of the bereaved with a mournful look while watching out for a photo opportunity with the grieving family. Hollow rituals! The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) aptly suggested that among those pretending to be shedding crocodile tears over the death of Gani are persons actually celebrating the removal of the biggest obstacle to their continued assault on the Nigerian people. Maybe.
As an erudite lawyer, social critic, human rights activist, prolific writer and publisher, philanthropist and politician, Gani represented something to everyone. But why wait for a man to give up the ghost before trumpeting his good qualities to high heavens? Gani was a man of uncommon courage who did not believe in waiting for anyone to die before saying what he thought of them. Like Wahab Goodluck, Prof. Ayodele Awojobi, Michael Imodu, Raji Abdllah, Tai Solarin, Chima Ubani, Dr.Beko Ransome Kuti, Alao Aka Bashorun, Abraham Adesanya, etc, Gani lived a life of concern for the downtrodden masses and fought to free Nigeria from the stranglehold of oppressors and tyrants. He was an enigma, a rebel, a maverick, a radical, an eccentric, and a nonconformist.
Many of the people gushing with tributes for Gani did not spare a thought for him in his lifetime. In fact, some were instrumental by acts of commission or omission to Gani’s deprivations and denials over the years. Some who are major actors in the present democratic dispensation which Gani staked his life to secure have never paused for one day to visit or commend him and those like him that forced out the military junta. Some of the people now filled with Ganimania have transformed the noble art of politics into a tragicomedy, elevated corruption to a digital art and reduced democracy to a sham. Now, they are writing condolence messages and tributes left, right and centre for a man that hated and abhorred hypocrites. Gani had no respect for people who mortgaged or squandered the welfare of the masses to which he dedicated his life. Death must be evil!
In December 2008, Gani rejected a national honour (OFR) from the Yar’Adua administration. In the history of this country only Chief C.C. Onoh and Chinua Achebe have ever had the courage on principle to reject national honours awarded to them. In rejecting the award, Gani castigated Yar’Adua for glossing over corruption and for sacking the popular anti-corruption Czar, Nuhu Ribadu. Gani wrote:“I find it extremely difficult to accept that President Yar‘ Adua‘s government has the honour to dispense honour … we live in a situation where the 1999 Constitution provides in Section 15(5) that: ”The State shall abolish all corrupt practices‘ and abuse of power” and a young man (Nuhu Ribadu) emerged to do what the Constitution enjoins and he is being persecuted for carrying out the provisions of the Constitution. Yet, the President swore to observe, preserve and defend the same Constitution.” Gani went on to list eight conditions without the fulfillment of which he could not accept an honour from the government of Nigeria. Is it this same Gani that is now being ‘honoured’ with all manner of highfalutin epitaphs by some people that he would not even shake their hands.
When Gani turned 70 early last year, I penned a piece in this column titled Gani: Salute to Courage. In that piece, I surmised that as a lawyer, Gani was a gadfly to tyrants or what the French with greater accuracy call L’enfant terrible; as an indefatigable social crusader and human rights activist, he had a host of eyeball to eyeball confrontations with Nigerian military authorities; as a writer and publisher, he was both prolific and prodigious with a strong passion for chronology and details; and as a philanthropist, he freely defended and empowered indigent persons and the downtrodden, awarded scholarships yearly to students and had over one thousand indigent persons on his payroll. And I prophesied that Gani “will go down in the history of this beleaguered nation as an unwavering defender of truth and justice, an irrepressible gadfly that pricked the conscience of successive regimes, a trenchant voice of the voiceless, and a courageous man that repeatedly placed his life on the line in an unending battle for the public good”. Little can be said about Gani that has not already been said.
But of all the things that have been said or written about Gani since his demise, nothing has intrigued me as much as the issue of his last wish. What was Gani’s last wish? A report in the Daily Independent, quoting his son Mohammed, stated that Gani’s last wish was the immediate sack of the Honourable (?) Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu whom he viewed as a national embarrassment. Another report in This Day stated that Gani’s last wish was for God to grant him extra time to write his memoirs. Yet another report credited to his senior wife Ganiyat had it that on his death bed, Gani’s last wish was that Nigerians must not give up the struggle until Nigeria is better. Yes!
In his lifetime, Gani had had cause to wonder whether Nigerians were really worth risking one’s life for. For me, Gani’s last wish can only be one thing: that Nigerians shake off the debilitating apathy and complacence that have made it possible for the basic rights of 150 million people to be trampled upon, mandates stolen, and public resources wantonly vandalized. Gani’s last wish would be that commercial drivers on public roads should refuse to give even one naira gratification to any security agent on the road; Gani’s last wish would be that with or without electoral reforms, Nigerians should resolve to protect their votes at all costs; Gani’s last wish would be that public office holders must be accountable to the people. One of the most memorable but patently elusive verses in Nigeria’s National Anthem is the one which says that ‘the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain’. It is well to honour Gani by naming monuments after him as some people have suggested but the best way to immortalize Gani is to ensure that he wins the biggest battle of his life – the battle for the enthronement of good governance and rule of law including the provision of better healthcare, food, shelter and education for the masses. Otherwise, Gani Fawehinmi would have laboured and died in vain. ( firstname.lastname@example.org, 0805 1090 050)