Gani, Conscience of Nigeria, is Dead

By THISDAY - Olawale Olaleye and Ndubuisi Ugah

Renowned lawyer and frontline human rights activist, Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (SAN), yesterday morning succumbed to a long fought battle with cancer of the lung. He was 71.
A statement from the family announcing the passage of the legal icon reads: “Chief Gani Fawehinmi, LLD, D.Litt, SAM, SAN is dead. He died at the early hours of today, Saturday, September 5, 2009 at the Lister Medical Center, Ikeja as a result of the cancer of the lung… We thank all Nigerians for their strong support during the period of his illness.” The statement was signed by his eldest son, Barrister Mohammed Fawehinmi.
One of Gani’s two wives, Mrs. Ganiyat Fawehinmi who painted Gani’s last moments said the late activist wanted his colleagues in the law profession to continue the struggle and as he would join them in the struggle, even in his grave. He said Gani regretted the fact that he was denied the opportunity to serve in elective capacity.
Also, yesterday, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and other eminent Nigerians, some of whom personally visited the Ademola Close, GRA, Ikeja residence of Gani however paid glowing tributes to the man they all acknowledged lived and died for the mass of the Nigerian populace.
Although, the deceased was known as a muslim, arrangements for his burial are yet to be scheduled. Family however said “the burial arrangements will be communicated to the public as soon as possible,” the statement further stated in part.
Remains of the deceased has since been deposited at the morgue of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja. His corpse was sighted in LASUTH at about 11.58 am when it was being conveyed by a hearse with registration number TOS-3. After driving through the GRA to Maryland and back in LASUTH at 12.25 pm, apparently to shake off newsmen who were trailing it to know where the body would be kept, the hearse returned the remains of the late lawyer back to the mortuary of the teaching hospital.
Officials of the hospital told reporters that the deceased’s family had planned to move his remains from LASUTH to a private mortuary in Lagos for reasons known to them. It was later gathered that the information was part of the decoy to confuse newsmen. The ploy, THISDAY later gathered may have been designed to disperse the herd of journalists who had gathered at the hospital following the news of Fawehinmi’s death.
Fawehinmi recently returned to the country from the United Kingdom where he was receiving treatment for cancer.
But Ganiyat who spoke of Gani’s resolve to fight on even in grave said the deceased believed he would have showcased the essence of his struggles and dogged opposition against maladministration that has pervaded the system over the years if only he was given the opportunity to serve.
According to Ganiyat, “he insisted that lawyers should continue to fight the battle to free the masses from oppressive tendencies. Gani says he would continue the struggle in the grave, but that it’s unfortunate he never had the opportunity to serve the people in government.
“He knew he was going to die of the disease because it all started when he was locked up in prison during the Babangida military era till he eventually died. He was an unparalleled genius. He has gone to join Pa. Abraham Adesanya,” she said.
In his condolence message, Yar’Adua said Gani would be remembered for his role in opening the political space which contributed to the development of the nascent democracy in the country.
The President, who spoke through the Minister of Information and Orientation, Prof. Dora Akunyili, said: “I am here to condole with the family of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and the human rights community of Nigeria over the death of our brother, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He said the nation had lost an illustrious son in Gani, whom he described as a great Nigerian.
“A Nigerian brand is gone. Gani was a human rights activist. He was an internationally renowned lawyer. He proved his activism in the law court to fight for the rights of the oppressed, the poor and the weak. Gani’s numerous battles led to many positive developments in this country including the opening up of the political space with the registration of many political parties. He did not just open the political space, he also participated. Gani raised the bar of the legal profession with his weekly law report. I pray, we pray that God will raise many more Ganis for us in this country. May his soul rest in peace,” he said.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) who called at the deceased residence at about 4.50pm said his emergence as governor was enhanced by Fawehinmi’s doggedness for the enthronement of genuine democracy.
He said Fawehinmi’s belief for true federalism amongst other democratic ideals paved way for his emergence as governor, adding that Fawehinmi played a pivotal role in ensuring that more parties were registered in the country.
“In fact, that really was what he was about. And as I said at the NBA conference in my inaugural address, it was the work of people like Gani that made it possible for people like me to be a governor today because I am standing on a platform of a party that would not have been registered at that time if Gani had not gone to court at that time to challenge the ceiling placed on party registration and it was those form of public spirited litigations that made him the enemy of some,” Fashola said.
The governor said though, “Chief Gani Fawehinmi had battled with terminal illness…that the physical separation has finally become imminent and in that regard, we never believed that people like Chief Gani Fawehinmi could really die. There, it is the mortality of our essence has come home to take away an icon of this country.”
Senator Ganiyu Solomon who was amongst the early callers at the Fawehinmis residence said the deceased gave service to the people without minding the cost. “He served as a watchdog to successive governments. There’s never been a government that did not fear Chief Gani Fawehinmi because he was always there to monitor them and his position has always been that of the masses.”
Former President, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba said “it is very sad that after 50 years of the struggle, you deserve to rest. Take care, sir”.
National Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah, described Gani’s death “as a sad chapter in the history of African people’s struggle against bad governance, poor leadership, poverty and corruption.” He said “Gani was born at the right time but he died at the wrong time in the continent of Africa. He was a blessing to our generation.”
Speaking on Gani’s death, factional leader of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun said: “Again, we have lost another personality whose doggedness, bravely epitomized liberation for the masses.” His counterpart, Otunba Gani Adams said “Nigeria has lost a great son in the person of Gani. He remains the epitome of democracy.”
Senator Ibikunle Amosun, on his part, said: “Adieu, you are a fearless and fiery fighter for the Nigerian masses. You sacrificed your entire life for Nigeria’s yesterday, today and indeed tomorrow. May all your struggle for a better Nigeria not be in vain and comfort your family.”
Barrister Bisi Adegbuyi, senatorial candidate of the Action Congress (AC) for Ogun East said “Gani, the lion of the Nigerian human rights community has gone to join Senator Edward Kennedy, the lion of the US Senate- two great men who doggedly fought for the defenceless common people. It’s a case of holy death in holy month. May Allah grant him Aljana.”
Others who called at the home of Fawehinmi to identify with the family included former Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Musiliu Smith, Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh, former Health Minister, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, Spokesman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr. Yinka Odumakin, President, Campaign for Democracy (CD), Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, former NBA Scribe, Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN), former NCP chairman, Mr. Segun Sango, former NUJ President, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Special Adviser to Fashola on Transport, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, Mr. Toyin Hamzat, Constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, Baba Omojola, Mr. Richard Akinola, Chief Dele Momodu and Mr. Kayode Oladele who represented the Ogun State Government amongst others


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