CHIEF Ganiyu Fawehinmiâ€™s death brought foes and friends to extol him. Nobody can afford to be indifferent to a man who defined the law and extended the frontiers of justice. Those who rate him the most committed activist in Nigeriaâ€™s human rights activism understate the man.
What defined Gani? Was it just his activism? Was it that he used the courts more than anybody in his quest for social justice? Or was it that he was a constant thorn in the flesh of successive military -civilian governments?
Could it be that his greatness was symbolised by his unparalleledÂ philanthropy or his litigious ability? Or the number of times he spent in prison and the countless times he gracedÂ pages of the papers?
Gani was inspired by the words of late Justice Sapara Williams, â€œThe legal practitioner lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the course of the countryâ€. Perhaps he did not know that a simple case of oppression which he undertook in 1969 would be a launching pad to the world ofÂ serial detention and persecution.
many of those who begrudge him can stand theÂ pain of being hurled from one detention facility to the other 32 times from 1969 to 1996. How many people that accuse him of seeking publicity canÂ stand the ordeal of being detained in different parts of the country from Kaduna to Gashua prisons. These were different from numerous police and State Security Service, SSS, incarcerations.
When he embarked on the quest to unmask the killers of late Dele Giwa,Â Gani himself did not know that the case would change the frontier of locus standi which hitherto was one of the biggest hurdlesÂ you could scale in the bid to get justice. He ignored the many twists the case took before it got to the Supreme Court which declared in 1987 that in Nigeria everybody was his brotherâ€™s keeper.
Government argued that Gani was not related to Dele Giwa and that he was a busy body. The Supreme Court with the likes of Justices Kayode Eso, Chukwudifu Oputa, dismissed the governmentâ€™s argument. The 15 criminal charges levelled against Gani in his lifetime came from prosecuting the Dele Giwa case.
His properties were searched over 16 times, he was physically assaulted more than six times and security agencies sized his book, Dele Giwa The Right Of A Private Prosecutor.
Politicians were beneficiaries of his relentless legal battles. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo and INEC refused registration of more political parties, Gani sued and the court ruled in 2002 that Nigerians had the right to more parties.
His Nigerian Law publications remain the best reference materials for lawyers in Nigeria. It was his move to stop some senior lawyers exploiting the junior ones who had no access to law books or could not afford them.
Gani was not perfect. He was accused severally of not being a team player. He would not be human without weaknesses. Adieu Gani, the real peopleâ€™s lawyer.