Remembering Gani Fawehinmi: 10 Years on
By Taju Tijani
ARRRGH…..what a remembrance! Ten years ago, the icy cold hands of death snatched Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi away from under our watchful nose. His warrior bow was unstrung by the Almighty God who called him home to a final resting place away from the ding-dong double wahala of his iconic search for a just Nigeria. What a monumental waste of a precious soul. His death has proved the mortality gene of all living humanity.
Ten years ago, Gani – as he was fondly called – was freed from the chains thrust on him by destiny. The old DSS routine interrogations for his activist role are no more. The nightly rumination on which way Nigeria was going has come to an end. The humble tears he shed for a drifting Nigeria was dried forever. No more foamy, fulminating harangues against unjust laws and state injustice.
As the remembrance of his legacies pierce us with grief; as his good deeds leave us with gnawing pain, as we stare at death, the inevitable apparition appointed for all the living, suddenly it dawn on me that after all Gani is now a free man. He would no longer weep for Nigeria. He would no longer trouble his restless soul for the grieving souls of the poor he defended until death. His rancorous moral churning within at the humiliation of a potentially great nation has stopped. Gani could no longer be blackened by the African sun. Death has quenched our hunger for more of Gani. His teeming, loving audience could no longer shout for more. His show came to an end on 5th September 2009. The admiral has sailed away into the unknown.
Though Gani died some ten years ago, his show has to go on. Personally, Gani’s death was more vexing than painful. Vexing because nobody foresaw an early death for this legal icon. Vexing because pedestrian public advocacy for the betterment of the bottom-mired Nigerians died and was buried with him. Vexing because since Gani’s death nobody has stepped in line to wear his lionised crown. The legal savannah has lost its own warrior king. Where is the regent who could fit into the mantle of Gani – our philosopher king? Gani, to borrow a popular British phrase, was the diamond geezer.
Gani was the leader’s leader. He was the man who was quick to step out of line. The man who undertook bold, new things with bottomless energy, innovation, creativity, and sheer courage. Gani was the man who brought humanistic renditions to the learned vocation of law in order to elucidate, educate, enlighten, civilize and encourage the sanctity of our questing spirit for the progress of our nascent democracy and freedom. This month, we remember Gani as the neoconservative lawman who initiated action-oriented campaigns against the state to enthrone measured blend of justice, equality and liberty for all.
He could not stand still and watch oppression ravaged the land. Gani was the man who laughed at death and was afraid of nothing. He did not shy away from the baying death of the soldier’s bayonet. He did not believe in the cautious, timid, cumulative process of social engineering. Rather, Gani spoke truth to power and brought disrupting incursions into the silent tyranny that characterised Nigerian military regimes. Chief Mike Ozekhome calibrated this sentiment when he aptly said: “He fought the military intellectually with superior logic and reasoning because he was an intellectual giant in his own right, he was a deep seated researcher, he was an archivist, he was a philosopher, a great historian, he was even literary and poetic in many of his expressions, he was pugilistic in fighting the ills of the society and Gani was a terror and the ultimate nemesis of dictatorship and tyranny. So the fear of Gani during the military era was the beginning of wisdom.”
Malam Balarabe Musa, one time Governor of Kaduna State once remarked that Gani was “a frontiersman, indefatigable in his struggle, energetic in the pursuit of his objectives, and compassionate in his commitments; Chief Fawehinmi was everyone’s quintessential lawyer, political activist and human rights advocate.”
Again, ten years after his death, who will wear the mantle of this awesome man of action especially in this era of President Mohammadu Buhari’s dark chapter of repression of dissent and anti-democratic tendencies? Who, in a nation of 200 million people, will rediscover his fighting spirit, a cause, and like Gani, bring renewal, accountability, justice and fairness to bear on our failing social democracy? Gani lived and left a memory that resonated in our hearts and minds regardless of class, tribe and political affiliations or hegemony. Abami eda, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was another fearless, fiery and provocative genius who, since death, a replacement could not be found.
This month, we mourn the passing away of a great Nigerian. Today, we mourn the loss of one of our brightest legal jewels. Today, this column celebrates the heroic, heady and tireless activism of Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi. However, beyond the facile symbolism of a cenotaph at Ojota and the renaming of streets after his good name, legal minds in particular and younger generations in general must embrace his legacy of shining courage, personal sacrifice, implacability, stoic consistency and heroic tenacity.
Yes, beyond our yearly celebrations of his life couched in cannonade of praises, there must be a resurgent spirit of timeless activism against elitist hegemony that underwrites our unending poverty, unemployment, tyranny, repression, inequality, hyper corruption, bastardization of our institutions and moral paralysis.
Today, we celebrate Gani, a man who, in 40 years, had marched, testified, went to countless jails, written, orated, debated, petitioned, proselytized and committed repeated acts of civil disobedience in order to keep successive governments on their toes.
Gani came and had his finest moments in our law courts. How many of our younger generation lawyers are ready to follow his carbon footprint? Thank you Gani for touching our lives. Continue to rest in peace. Goodnight all over again.