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*gani *sanusi *sunmi

A torrent – nay, an avalanche – of tributes, such as has seldom been witnessed in our nation has been cascading down the pages of newspapers since Gani Fawehinmi passed on barely seven days ago. Yes, Gani deserves his rest no less than he merits these spontaneous expressions of the admiration of his compatriots.

Friends and foes alike have united in acknowledging his virtues. In this outpouring of emotions, there could not but have been an admixture of grief. That is however mitigated by the fact that the situation of a terminal ailment does signal an extent of expectation devoid, all the same, of preparedness. Though the end was known to be near, yet not many people could take it when it inevitably arrived.

It bore a burden of grief made more poignant by the fact that the death was believed to have been induced by the callousness and severity of his numerous arrests and incarceration for his stark opposition to injustice. That is why many people also believe that the high praise of people like General Ibrahim Babangida, and other military rulers like him, whose governments pursued him with scorpions and serpents night and day, may be accepted with no less than a pinch of salt.

In that, there might be a warning sent to any future tyrants that even injustice could be tempered with mercy. Sani Abacha, perhaps the most fearsome of them all, openly admitted his admiration for Gani’s opposition to his government.

He was convinced that Gani’s utmost skill was in his understanding of the law, and that the lawyer’s ambition was all wrapped up in the delivery of justice as he honestly saw it. And that was indeed the picture perfect of this noble man; he had never an ulterior motive beyond serving justice through “due process”, and so he always came to equity with clean hands.

I had decided that this page would not feature any tribute to Gani today from me. I had enjoyed doing a bit of that when he was alive. He once did me the honour of ordering a hundred copies of an article I wrote about him.

Honestly, I was slightly as embarrassed as honoured by the gesture, for I was then already an ardent admirer of his and was really pleased that he could have been so much impressed at what I wrote. So I was going to consider the nature of other people’s tributes to this great man.

There have been so many in the media already, and it could be easily seen that flowery and over-embellished as many of them appear to be, the tone of sincerity runs through most of them. In fact, there is, it seems to me, a transparent effort to prevent being outdone by anyone else.

There are State Governors who want him to be immortalised; there are legislative houses in which eulogies were chanted to his illustrious memory; one of the former military rulers, who constituted Gani’s most steadfast adversaries, even wanted the national honour he rejected restored to him posthumously; and his professional contemporaries at the bar have held a special session in his honour.

And of special mention should be what I consider a gracious tribute by the Head of the EFCC, Farida Waziri, who was the brunt of Gani’s final outcry in the cause of due process. And it would indeed have been so much heartwarming if only she could have said it to Gani’s hearing while he was still here.

The tributes would have lost part of their colour if there had been no strand of controversy in honour of someone who was a next-door neighbour to controversy, even in a professional life conducted on a level of high decorum. That was supplied by a critic who faulted the delay in the funeral, which he claims, was not according to Islamic precepts.

However, that did not prevent the cleric from showering encomiums on the late legal icon as a worthy Muslim. But Gani had himself argued against the time-honoured observance which, he said, had no religious connotations but rather pertained only to the Middle East because of the very humid climate. In fact, to buttress that position, even a chieftain of the Iranian political movement who died only a few weeks back, also had his funeral likewise delayed for similar reasons of necessary preparations.

I am partial to the simple, sincere expressions conveyed, howbeit, with a moderation of pathos as that of Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, cited at the top of this page. It is a man of quality mourning the passing of a great contemporary. However, I have not yet come across anything from Professor Wole Soyinka, or anything too from Femi Falana. They are both big names in the world of activism in Nigeria.

What riot of emotions would have been boiling in their chests in remembering a former comrade! I recently saw a photograph of Soyinka and Gani in a newspaper, and I thrilled to the obvious pleasure they both derived from each other’s company.

The mutual admiration was explicit in the warm smiles and close embrace. Maybe Kongi, as well as Falana, will soon “weight in” even before you read this, in his inimitable style. Nothing less would make the cask of tributes full. And it has to be full, even to overflowing.

Howbeit, not very many people among the downtrodden and oppressed for whom Gani fought as a champion are going to be quoted in the press on the occasion of his demise. They seldom are on any occasion. That was why they needed this fighter and utter barrister so much. They are, to all intents and purposes, still voiceless today. And after Gani, from whence comes their comfort?

Echoes: from Dr. Njoku: (08062679473) “The Throbbing Point” appears confrontational. CBN Governor’s action should be encouraged. So far, it’s devoid of tribal sentiments. It’s based on good professionalism and sincerity of purpose.”

Thank you, very much, Dr. Njoku. I believe what you actually meant was “controversial” – not “confrontational”. The CBN boss, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, conducted the affair in a manner that invited controversy. The issue of “The

Throbbing Point”, as you can see, has been raised by so many other sources. The sacking of the Banks’CEO gave little indication that there was already a grand item of not only selling the banks, but even prospective buyers already lined up on the agenda.

That, as even you would agree, was not “strictly kosher.”. But several other aspects have been touched upon, like the “Islamic Bank” connection, for instance. It is appalling that Sanusi could be so insensitive about religious jealousies in a country where the Constitution cautions the involvement of public affairs with matters of a religious coloration. Innocent as it may all seem, the timing is flagrantly atrocious.

And then, the funds that are being injected into the banks have been described in different ways at different times. That undermines the case of sincerity. It seems that he bow-tied gentleman would have to adopt an attitude that projects less disdain for the opinions of some of the people he serves as their chief banker. I do not want him to resign, as he has threatened (?), but would rather see the evidence of a modicum of grace in his operations.

I do not support bankers who have gone astray, but even Bernard Maddoff, who is now serving a sentence of 150 years for dishonest practices in which he made off with billions of other people’s money, was still granted a tax benefit recently while in prison. All the same, I do support Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in all his good works.

Now, on what side do you think Gani would have stood in this matter today? Here, on one side, we have someone who was totally against dishonesty and corruption in any form or shape. His commitment to due process and sincere adherence to the principles of an honest life served as the watchword of his life’s conduct.

His support for Nuhu Ribadu, however, seemed to have overridden some of the precepts upon which that stand is founded. He simply could not stand any massive fraud openly displayed to the dismay of the masses.

But then, on the other side, we have the defence counsel, who held his duty to his client very dear to his heart. To him, it went beyond the discharge of a professional duty. It was a personal expression of his skills and understanding of the law.

If any of the bankers now in court had sought for his help, would he then have allowed his judgement to be influenced one way or the other by his personal feelings? I believe that whatever happened, his decision would have been his and his alone, not tainted by mundane considerations but proceeding from his personal conviction.

And it would have added yet to the controversy on the ground for all he cared. To the end, he remained absolutely his own man.

Sunmi Smart-Cole is my friend. Although we do not see each other as frequently as either of us would like to, we make up for the hiatus when we come together. The man is a riot. He nearly made me laugh outrageously at a funeral, while he was totally deadpan. He is so full of fun that, as a matter of habit, I begin to laugh the instant he comes into view.
Sunmi’s gentle disposition recommends him to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. But no matter the occasion, he always reserves a special attention for his close friends.

He does it so subtly that not many people notice that he is paying a special attention to anyone in particular, except of course when he almost makes you misbehave on somber occasions with his cracks.

As you know, my friend is a photographer by profession, among other things, though he often practices as a cameraman on occasions. But he is really an artist of no mean calibre, whose portrayals of inaction sometimes seem uncanny. His still life also is usually the product of a master illustrator.

Sunmi is always so busy behind the camera that he seldom appears in a photograph himself. I have for a long time wanted to get him focused in my lens. Recently, I caught him out – in action, as usual. It is not a proposition he appreciates. But sorry buddy, I had to do it.
Time Out.


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