By SIMON EBEGBULEM
EDO State government and civil societyÂ groups, yesterday, paid tributes toÂ the late legal icon and human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, just as Governor Adams Oshiomhole announced the setting up of Gani Fawehinmi Foundation for Democracy, Justice and Good Governance with a take-off grant of N25 million.
Market women, politicians, students and lawyers thronged the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City to pay their last respect to the late activist amidst tears.
Oshiomhole, who recalled how the late activist rendered free legal services during his time as president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), said the grant was the money raised during his award as the Silverbird Man of the Year, 2008, and that the state government would organize a fund raising ceremony to increase the fund and a Board of Trustees set up, adding that with the support of Ganiâ€™s family, the fund would be utilized into realizing some of Ganiâ€™s dreams.
â€œGani was not a local champion, he was a national player, whether in freedom or in captivity he was localizedâ€, he said, adding that apart from the foundation, the state government would name a monument after Gani in the state in due course.
He recounted many experiences he had with the deceased, and his desire for true democracy in the country, stressing that the only way to enthrone true democracy in Nigeria was through â€œone man one vote which is sacrosanct and the Federal Government must implement intotoÂ the Justice Uwaisâ€™ report on electoral reformâ€.
Speaking also at the event, MrÂ Femi Falana saidÂ â€œGaniÂ never believed that he will be 71.
He engaged in many wars, he engaged in many suicidal risks, he was such a humble man who never called our wives by their names.â€
Oshiomhole said that â€œthose who are looking for peace in the Niger Delta should implement, in its entirety, the report of the Technical Committee on the Niger Deltaâ€ headed by the president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, Ledum Mitee, who in his own tribute to the late Gani described him as a bridge between the government and the governed, adding that â€œeven though he was not in government, he was also in power because every person who misruled always had Gani to contend with.â€
The former deputyÂ governor ofÂ Nasarawa State, Labaran Maku,Â restated the call for an apology to the family of Fawehinmi because of the way he was treated by the Nigerian state while he was alive, adding: â€œhe was a Nigerian of the first order.â€
The deputyÂ governor of Kogi State, Philip Salau, described him as the â€œvoice of the voiceless and defender of the poorâ€.
Former governor of Edo State, ChiefÂ John Oyegun, described his death as a big loss to the nation and urged government to render good governance to the people which he fought for.
President of the Nigerian Bar Association (SAN), who was represented by Ikhiazo Akhariale, named Gani as the Nigerian of the era between 1959 and
FormerÂ president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Festus Iyayi, said Gani was the greatest because of the way he added value to the lives of Nigerians.