SHOCK AS GANI ORDERS CHAMBERS TO CLOSE SHOP
The public was stunned recently when the final will of the late human rights icon, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) was released. Shock and disbelief were expectedly the reactions of the people when they learnt that the common man's refuge, Gani Fawehinmi Chambers would cease to exist in less than two years after the demise of their hero.
The late legal titan, according to the startling revelation in his last testament had decreed that his law firm which he used to defend the cause of the Nigerian masses throughout his lifetime should be wound up within two years of his death.
Specifically, paragraph 18 of the will dated December 19, 2008, mandated the executors of the will to ensure that the chambers closes shop within two years of his demise.
Fawehinmi in his will unequivocally declared: 'My chambers, the Gani FAwehinmi Chambers at 35, Adeniran Ajao Road, Ajao Estate, Anthony Village, Lagos, shall be wound up literally within two years after my death.
'I direct my trustees to effect all necessary repairs to my building at Adeniran Ajao Road, Ajao Estate, Anthony Village, Lagos when it is vacant. After the repairs, the building should be let out and the proceeds of the lease should be paid into Gani Fawehinmi Trust Account.'
Daily Sun's investigations revealed that the trustees have commenced executing the will according to the specific instructions of its author.
Consequently, the books, collection of works, newspapers and other intellectual materials are being evacuated from the chambers to his ultra modern library located at Central Business District (CBD), Alausa, Ikeja, which had been completed just before his death last year.
The movement of his law library reputed to be second to none in the country was part of the instruction he handed down to his Trustees in the will.
Nobody could say precisely why Fawehinmi ordered that his law firm should close shop in spite of the fact that about six of his children including his heir, Muhammed, have joined the legal profession that fetched their father fame across the globe.
To any layman, the most acceptable guess anybody could hazard is that the late lawyer wanted to avoid any situation whereby the existence of the chambers would constitute a subject of discord among his children.
Perhaps, more importantly, the late legal practitioner might have been guided by the failure of several chambers of great lawyers to keep the flag flying after the passing away of their foundres.
One could recall great chambers of legal titans whose fortunes nose dived rapidly no sooner than their founders , who were among the best legal minds in the land, passed on.
Apart from the inability of the surviving children to build on and sustain the legacies of their founders, some of the firms have actually become sources of family discord as the children engage themselves in fierce legal battles for the control of the souls of such chambers.
Expectedly, clients, the main stay of every law firm would waste no time in withdrawing their cases from such chambers and look for the emerging stars in the profession who could handle their matters competently. No doubt, the late rights activist lawyer whose contribution to the profession is unarguably second to none since the nation produced her first lawyer, Sapara Williams in 1886, must have given serious thoughts to some of these issues before he took the hard decision having watched closely what became of the chambers of some of his great seniors soon after their demise.
Daily Sun spoke to constitutional lawyer and keen follower of Fawehinmi's professional career, Fred Agbaje, on the development.
While giving kudos to Fawehinmi for his refusal to follow the bandwagon of past great lawyers who believed wrongly that their chambers would sustain their legacies through their children, he described the revelation in the will as a wake-up call to the present generation of lawyers on the need to embrace partnership if they don't want their legacies to die with them:
'Gani was an intelligent man who did not want to delude himself in the euphoria that the chamber would remain the same even after he might have transited.
'No child or children could sustain the legacy of any law firm. This is because the background of the father is different from that of the children. What shaped their world view, personalities, philosophy and vision are necessarily different.
'Again, he has scored another first in this regard. He knew that the sustenance of legacy and the continued success of the chambers cannot be determined by the number of lawyers in the family.
'Honestly, although nobody could say precisely why he took such a hard decision, I want to believe that he was looking back at history, particularly the history of chambers of great lawyers in this country who have passed away. Some of those great chambers hardly exist in the memory of the people anymore after the demise of the founders.
'What Gani has done is a wake up call to the present generation of lawyers that if they are interested in sustaining their legacies after they might have gone back to their Creator, they must embrace partnership. This is the only way out. It is only through partnership that the philosophical ethos that distinguishes the practice of a particular chamber can be sustained.
'The chambers that have survived for centuries in Europe and America have done that through partnerships. Long after their founders passed away, the chambers continue to retain their unique identity that defines the founders' legacies. This is the path we must toe if we are seriously interested in anything called legacy.'