By Dayo Johnson
Akure-SAMPLER: â€œI AM not pleading with Abacha and I will never plead. It is only God I can plead withâ€¦.I strongly believe that my son is a law abiding citizen. He has not committed any offence to warrant this type of wicked and primitive treatment being meted out to him by Abacha.
His only crime is that he has in the last 30 years uncompromisingly dedicated his life to a noble struggle (which I whole-heartedly identify with) to free Nigeria and Nigerians from bad governance, injustice and povertyâ€.
These were the words of Alhaja (Chief) Munirat Fawehinmi, at the height of the persecution suffered by her only son.
This, perhaps, explains why Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, legal icon of no mean class, stuck to his guns as a credible buffer between the oppressors and the oppressed in the Nigerian polity.
Only few people would know that the bravery, uncompromising and confrontational stand of the late human right activist and Lagos lawyer has ancestral linkage. He is the only son of his motherâ€™s six children (others are female).
The mother was the seventh wife in the polygamous family. It was gathered that Gani started exhibiting this unusual traits in his early years. Many, especially the masses, would want to describe Gani as a good and God sent to liberate the oppressed but a few in the class of the high and mighty has written him off as a good for nothing critic that is always in and out of the courts to either contest or frustrate the â€œgoodâ€ intention of the powers that be.
Findings in his home town, Ondo, amongst his kinsmen showed that his strong passion for the betterment of the lives and conditions of the downtrodden was inherited from his father Seriki Seidu Tugbobo Fawehinmi, who died in 1963 who in turn inherited it from his grand father Lisa Alijonnu Fawehinmi, who died in 1908, and was to be complemented by his mother.
Ganiâ€™s brother, Alhaji Jubril Fawehinmi, who is 77 years old, told Sunday Vanguard that all the traits exhibited by Gani could be traced to his paternal ancestors while one of his mothersâ€™ sisters Alhaja Sidikatu Akinibosun posited that Gani inherited his human feelings and generosity from the Akinibosuns (the mother side).
An incident Jubril narrated, was the disagreement with the then traditional ruler of the town, the Osemawe Oba Adenuga Fidipote, sometime in 1940, over the wearing of beaded cap and shoes. He was said to have declined, accusing the Oba of infringing on his Fundamental human rights.
Meanwhile, all is set for the burial of the social crusader both in his home town and the lying in state ceremony organised to honour him by the Dr. Olusegun Mimiko led administration in Akure, the state capital. Sources in government hinted that Gani would be immortalised by the state governor.
It would be recalled that the State House of Assembly had renamed the House of Assembly Arcade after him and it has since been referred to as â€œGani Fawehinmi Freedom Square.â€ Some of the elders in the town spoken with described Gani as a philantropist who takes care on monthly basis both old and young people within and outside the Ondo Community WhileÂ Scholarship and bursaries are given to indigent students even in the northern part of the country.
One of Ganiâ€™s sisters, Dr Adefolaju Falade, who is an assistant director of army education in the Ministry of Defence said that â€œall members of the family can confirm to you, without exception, that Gani is not a pretender. â€œHe is true to his cause. He is real and practical in everything he does and says.
As he was fighting poverty in the country, so he was fighting it within his extended family. He is so generous and we will never forget him because he is always happy seeing family members around.
â€œDeath has dealt a big blow on this family. We can only call on Nigerians to join us in honouring him because he lived his life for this country. He fought for democracy at the risk of his life. He is a courageous human being. There can never be another one like himâ€.
Falade confirmed the philantropic gestures Gani extended to the less priviledged members of the societyÂ by saying thatâ€ there were about one thousand people who were being paid monthly allowance by the late human rights lawyer.
â€œThere are many people probably about one thousand or more, including members of his family, who are living on monthly allowance he gave to them. Tell me, who will take this great responsibility now that he is gone.â€
One of his remaining two elder brothers Alhaji Jubril Fawehinmi, 77 year-old told Sunday Vanguard at the Okedasa residence of the Fawehinmis that Gani was uncompromising, fearless and popular like their father Seidu and grandfather Lisa.
â€œGaniyuâ€™s death is an incalculable loss to us. He was the youngest son of my father but with his death now I am left with our eldest brother Justice Rasheed Fawehinmi. He was so respectful. Despite his fame and his wealth, he always prostrated to greet me and those older than he was.
The other brother of Gani who is a retired judge, Justice Rasheed Fawehinmi and who influenced his choice of the law profession said the late lawyer took after their grand father who was also a defender of the oppressed during his life time and that he lived a fulfilled life struggling and championing the cause of the down trodden ones and that the deceased would be sorely missed by many who had benefited from his crusade.
One of those that benefited from Ganiâ€™s gesture while alive, Peter Akinkunmi, spoke with Sunday Vanguard on his experiences with the late lawyer .Akinkunmi said that the late lawyer was responsible for his educational achievements. To the Council of Obas in the state his death is a colossal loss to the state, the nation and humanity.