April 22, 2019 marks another post humous birthday anniversary of late Legal Icon, Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, SAN. Gani as he was fondly called was many virtues personified and positively too.
Indeed, his greatest love was fighting against oppression in any form, especially on the side of the government and tackling corruption.
What perhaps sharpened his resolve was his training as a lawyer and his experience while growing up. Gani abhorred cheating in any form and was ready to lay down his life to fight the scourge of corruption.
He meant different things to different people, depending on where you belong. To government, he was seen as an interloper, a busy body and trouble maker, but to the masses, he was their mouth piece and defender of the oppressed.
One of the greatest lessons that could be learnt from his life is that he was a firm believer in using non-violent means in fighting perceived injustice.
He was a classical example of using the law to fight his many battles, most of which were about the ordinary people. This should not be surprising in view of the fact that he lost his father at a young age, making him come face to face with poverty and deprivation, with only his mother left to cater for him. His conviction that he could achieve so much as a lawyer contributed immensely to whatever he later became in life.
Gani dared the lion in its den severally, even under the worst military dictatorships at the expense of his life.Courage, determination and an uncommon belief in the instrumentality of the law saw him swimming successfully against the tide. As a man who was steadfast in his beliefs, Gani took the battle to the enemies’ camp alongside some of his comrades. These were friends from different backgrounds who were of the same school of thought with the Ondo – born lawyer.
These included the late Alao aka Bashorun, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, Chima Ubani, Dr. Tai Solarin, Dr. Beko Ran-some Kuti, Baba Omojola, Femi Aborishade, Femi Falana, Fela Anikulapo – Kuti, Prof. Wole Soyinka etc. On some occasions, he fought his battle all alone, relying on his conviction. In this connection, he was severally arrested, detained and even jailed, along with his colleagues in dehumanising prisons, but he was never cowed.
As Prof Bolaji Akinyemi rightly put it, “It said that a tree does actually make a forest, but Gani’s tree actually strove assiduously to make a forest in the struggle for social justice and freedom.” Like other humans, the late lawyer had his weaknesses, but that does not include not standing up for what he was convinced about. According to Femi Falana, SAN who was his close ally for decades, “He (Gani) stood up for his conviction by tirelessly offering the public ideas to some socio – economic and political problems.
It is to the eternal credit of the late Fawehinmi that he fought and won the battle to widen political space by getting more parties registered to vie for elections using the instrumentality of the law. Though the idea might have been abused by some unscrupulous politicians, there is no doubt that it has provided a platform for the likes of Kingsley Moghalu, Omoyele Sowore, Oby Ezekwesili, Donald Duke etc to take a shot at presidency. Gani may not be alive today; however, his contributions to legal research will remain indelible.
As a firm believer in documentation, Gani through his company, Nigerian Law Publications enriched the Practice of Law by printing books on cases regularly for use by lawyers, judicial officers and researchers. Though, it is unfortunate that the company is not doing well today, it will not be a bad idea for friends and associates of Gani, especially those who learnt under the feet of the legal Icon to rise to the occasion by joining his family to restore the company’s lost glory.
Sadly too, Gani’s death has created a lacuna in the fight against corruption being prosecuted by the present administration. Aside lacking the much-needed support from lawyers, even some of those close to Gani are sworn enemies of the war against corruption.
This is rather unfortunate as the Gani we know would have thrown hisweight behind this great opportunity to rid our country of a monster that has held us back for decades.
The good thing however is that the current administration has shown an uncommon passion to face head – long a battle Gani fought with the last drop of his blood. Recall that the late legal icon had after failing to realise his presidential ambition told Nigerians to back Buhari for President.
The ongoing battle against corruption is the continuation of a battle to rid this country of a malaise that has held us down for years. As we mark another posthumous birthday anniversary of the late legal icon, the greatest legacy we owe this country is to join hands with the Buhari Administration to ensure Gani’s dreams for Nigeria come to fruition.
This has become expedient going by the experience of the Buhari administration in its task of fighting corruption in the last four years.
–Umohinyang writes from Lagos.
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