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Gani Fawehinmi finally laid to rest in Ondo amidst emotional outburst

By Emmanuel Ajibulu
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Tears roll freely from the faces of sympathizers when the body of human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was committed to the mother earth in his home town of Ondo (Oka), in Ondo state, south-west of Nigeria. Gani's final burial rites began on Tuesday morning (Sept15) with another lying in-state at the Oba Adesanoye Civic Centre in Ondo state, during which more tribute were paid by politicians, representatives of civil society groups and students unions in their thousands.

The National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), described the late human rights activist as ''a fire eating and fire spitting legal practitioner.''

"Here lies the conscience of the nation who was persistent in the struggle to assist the oppressed in the society," Akeredolu said.

Femi Falana, one the country's outstanding legal practitioner, described Gani's death as a "great loss to the poor, the legal profession and the nation.''

Traditional rulers, religious leaders, students, trade unionists, teachers, civil servants, traders and artisans were among the people, who trooped to Akure stadium to pay their last respects to the late legal gem.

His body was later taken to Ondo Central Mosque for prayers according to Islamic injunctions and was finally laid to rest at about 4pm this evening amidst outpourings of emotion by those gathered to mourn the late legal icon.

In a retrospective view Chief Abdul-Ganiyu "Gani" Oyesola Fawehinmi,(22 April 1938 - 05 September 2009) was a Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, politician and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) (the equivalent of the rank of Queen's Counsel in the United Kingdom).

Fawehinmi, popularly called Gani, was born on 22 April 1938, into the Fawehinmi family of Ondo, in Ondo State and died on the 5th of September 2009 at the age of 71.

His father, Chief Saheed Tugbobo Fawehinmi, the Seriki Musulumi of Ondo was a successful timber magnate, a great philanthropist, an opponent of excessive taxation of the poor and a deeply religious muslim leader. He was reported to have brought Islam to Ondo Town. Chief Saheed Tugbobo Fawehinmi died on 5 February 1963at the age of 89 years.

Gani's grandfather was the Late Chief Lisa Alujanu Fawehinmi of Ondo, who engaged in several successful battles for and on behalf of the Ondo people in the nineteenth century. Hence, the appellation the 'Alujanun', which means spirit. He died at the age of 92.

Gani had his early education at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Iyemaja - Ondo from 1947 to 1953 and his secondary school education at Victory College Ikare, a Christian School from 1954 to 1958, under the leadership of the Late Rev. Akinrele where he sat for and passed his West African School Certificate Examination in 1958.

Gani enrolled at the Holborn College of Law- University of London to read law in 1961. While at University, his father died. He completed his degree in London with a measure of difficulty due to lack of funds. This involved doing various menial jobs in London.

While in college, he was popularly known as "Nation" because of his passionate interest in national, legal and political affairs. He was an avid reader of Daily Times and West African Pilot, the most popular newspapers in Nigeria at that time.

In 1993 Fawehinmi was awarded the biennial Bruno Kreisky Prize. This prize, named in honour of Bruno Kreisky, is awarded to international figures who advance human rights causes. In 1998, he received the International Bar Association's 'Bernard Simmons Award' in recognition of his human-rights and pro-democracy work. In 1994 he and some other notable Nigerians formed the National Conscience Party of Nigeria which exists till today and he stood for a presidential election in 2003 under the umbrella of the National Conscience Party.

Gani Fawehinmi was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest legal title in Nigeria in September, 2001 after several years of denial by successive government of Nigeria.

With his boundless energy he tenaciously and uncompromisingly pursued and crusaded his beliefs, principles and ideals for the untrammelled rule of law, undiluted democracy, all embracing and expansive social justice, protection of fundamental human rights and respect for the hopes and aspirations of the masses who are victims of misgovernment of the affairs of the Nation.

In 1986, while Chief Gani Fawehinmi was Dele Giwa's Lawyer, the latter was killed in a bomb blast under suspicious circumstances.

As a result of his activities Chief Gani Fawehinmi had been arrested, detained and charged to court several times. His international passport was seized on many occasions and his residence and Chambers were searched several times. He was beaten up time after time and was deported from one part of the country to another to prevent him from being able to effectively reach out to the masses among whom he was popular. His books were confiscated by the Federal Military Government and his library at Surulere, a suburb of Lagos, were set ablaze. His law Chambers at Anthony Village, Lagos State, were invaded by persons suspected to be agents of the government. The guards were shot, two of them seriously wounded.

In the process of his crusades for the rule of law, the hopes and aspirations of the poor and the oppressed, he fought many battles against military dictatorship as a result of which he had been arrested several times by the military governments and their numerous security agents. He was dumped in many police cells and detained in several prisons between 1969 and 1996. His supporters have called him "the scourge of irresponsible governments, a sphygmomanometer with which the blood pressure of dictators is gauged, the veritable conscience of the nation and the champion of the interests and causes of the masses".

In 2008 late Chief Gani Fawehinmi rejected one of the highest national honours that can be bestowed on a citizen by the Nigerian government—Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) — in protest of the many years of misrule since Nigeria's independence. Many Nigerians called him the people's president. Gani, as he was fondly called, died in the early hours of 05 September 2009 after a prolonged battle with terminal disease believed to be cancer. He was 71 years old and hero that can never be forgotten in Africa and beyond. May his gentle soul continue to rest in perfect peace.

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Writer; Emmanuel Ajibulu
Ghana / Africa / Modernghana.com