My internet connection has been acting up, so I’ve had to be content with internet cafes. Thank God it’s over now, after spending hours threatening at my provider. Nothing could stop me from posting about this astute statesman. While I have been itching to write about this man as my man of the month, one question keeps ringing in my heart…will there ever be a replacement for this sage?
“The legal practitioner lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his countrymen”. No one else comes to mind every time I read this quote by the first indigenous lawyer in Nigeria, Sapara Williams. Chief Gani Fawehinmi is one legal practitioner who stands in a class of his own. He is one fine example of a man who has defined his supreme cause and has given himself completely to it- in health, in prosperity, in sickness, in prison, even while he was romancing death on the hospital bed; he has not stopped saying a word in the defence of the Nigerian masses.
The revolutionary is a lost man. He has no interest of his own.
Everything in him is absorbed by a single exclusive interest,
One thought, one passion…the revolution of the masses.
Fawehinmi’s revolution is the liberation of the masses.
Even general IBB, the only military president known to have bought over some statesmen like Wole Soyinka and the late Tai Solarin during his reign, has mentioned that he is one man he respects when it comes to integrity in Nigeria. When the Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare was asked why he chose this astute Muslim to be his lawyer, he simply replied,” he is the only Nigerian I know who money cannot buy his convictions”.
How then shall I begin to talk of this legal icon and the accumulation of cases that has been won, and particularly the ones that has been take in defence of the ordinary man on the streets? No doubt about it, Gani has created a landmark that will be difficult to parallel in the history of human rights in the history of Nigeria. Though some people believe he is too critical, probably owing to the fact that what we cannot fight, we give in or keep quiet, but he has stood firm challenging every successive military and civilian government; remaining a biting thorn in their flesh. I present with great honour and respect, while remains alive and moving on with pace and fortitude, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the Senior Advocate of the masses.
Talking to the press on the 10th of September 2001, he admitted his mentor and inspiration was Sapara Williams, the first legal practitioner in Nigeria. “I have resolves from the very first day of my legal practice to imbibe the directive of our first indigenous lawyer, Christopher Sapara Williams. That is, what I am living for, in the end, the people must win. In the end, the legal profession will be meaningful and respected. Instead of being a cocoonist and elitist organization where bread and butter are the answer…it must be transformed to be in the forefront of the people’s rights”.
Born in the 22nd of April 1938 in Ondo town, Ondo state Nigeria. Chief Gani Fawehinmi attended Ansaru-Ud-Deen primary school, Ondo and Victory College, Ikare both in Ondo State. This was where his principal encouraged him to study law. He was known for his interests in national, legal and political issues, which later earned him the nickname “Nation”. After collecting his WASC certificate, he worked as a clerk of the High Court of Lagos before proceeding to Holborn College of Law (university of London) for his LLB degree. To achieve this, he had to work as a cleaner in Gatwick Airport and Rusell Hotel to help fund his education. He was finally called to the Nigerian Bar in January 1965.
He is the publisher of the Nigerian Weekly Law Reports, which has been a constant companion for lawyers and judges alike. He has been the one man who has not been afraid to take sacred bulls by the horn and kept knocking them dead. The Obafemi Awolowo university awarded him the elusive SAN (senior advocate Of Nigeria), which was long after the people crowned him the senior advocate of the masses.
He has charged IBB, Col. Akilu and Col. Togun to court over the death of Dele Giwa (former Editor of Newswatch); sued General IBB and Abacha over various human rights abuses and corruption, escaped assassination attempts and subjected to serial incarcerations. IBB reportedly got tired of him saying he seemed to love going to prison-but the problem was this man was sold out to a cause. He has taken on and won the foremost legal luminary, Chief FRA Williams in court, griped and won the Nigerian Bar Association in a legal case over his appearance at General Buhari’s tribunal and was the lead counsel in the case of Ken Saro Wiwa against the government of Ganeral Sanni Abacha. The history of the struggle of the Nigerian masses for democracy in Nigeria cannot be complete without him.
Consistency: if there is one man who has been consistent in Nigerian history, it is this man. In his times of poverty he fought poverty and oppression through a dint of hardwork and due diligence. Any man can stand adversity, but if you really want to know the true character of a man, give him power. In the midst of lots of prosperity, he still did not forget his cause/ so many of us are angry with the system, but only because we are not in the position of power. If we were in the same position we will forget all about poverty. Remember leaders, and statesmen who say there are no poor people in their nation? Lots of us are calling for change because we are not comfortable, once we find our own comfort, we forget the man on the streets, but this man has been consistent!
Posterity b4 prosperity:
It looks a lot like this is where he stands shoulder above all the other replacements that you may think of. Thought of Festus Keyamo, but his cases are always enmeshed in money scandals, the Mike Ezechomes, Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana e.t.c. but none of them pursue and exude the passion this man exhibits. His cases, though a fraction is being paid for, he puts posterity and the masses before money. No one can doubt the genuine interest this man has in any legal case, and not just for the money.
This is where most of us think he is too critical, but he is consistently persistent in his beliefs. When we fight, it is because we are not comfortable, but in the end we settle down to live in injustice and subjugation. But the only way to remain immune is to continue to fight. I will never forget what one woman said on CNN while leading a protest, “we are not protesting because we like trouble, we protest to maintain our purity and sanity, once we keep quiet, we are caught”
to this grest enigma, i salute you!