SATURDAY, 3rd of July 2003, started like any other weekend for this reporter. Still savouring the prospects of a work free day and suffering the reality of working on Sunday, then came a defining call.
The call did not stop at changing the dayâ€™s schedule. It ultimately shaped Nigeriaâ€™s history. Wether it is economy, politics or otherwise, Nigeriaâ€™s history was indeed redefined. Losing a man whose, footprints are indelible in every facet, was enough to make the nation hold its breath.
Event though, the nation was not abuzz with the news, as result of the time of his demise, the early morningÂ rain, literarilyÂ made Lagosians to standstill for Chief Gani Fewehimi.SAN.
Arriving his IkejaÂ GRA, residence, it was apparent that something unusual had happened.Â The looks on the faces of reporters and well-wishers said it all, especially those, who were aware of the terminal illness of the human and civil rights advocate.
With each passing moment, the stream of dignitaries increasedâ€“a quick reminder of how even friends and foes of late Yoruba leader, Abraham Adesanya, turned his house to a Mecca of sorts.
In fact Ganiâ€™s demise made Nigerians, who have never spoken in unison on the same issue, in the midst of divergent views on the banking crisis, to speak as one.
Imagine encomiums from those, who saw him as an enemy of the state.
Consider this: Some have argued that ex-military president, General Ibrahim Babangida might have stirred the hor nets nest with his eulogy.
He saidÂ that throughout his eight-year rule most of his decisions were made after considering where Gani stood onÂ issues.
The arrival of the Chief Security of Lagos -State, Governor Babatunde Fashola, to some extent, electrified the environment, given the followership Fashola commands.
Amid shouts of Eko onibaje, the governor, who arrived atÂ 4:15 pm , was ushered into an inner room , where he had a one on one meeting with the immediate family of the late sage.
Fashola, who said Gani was a human right crusader, who never spared anybody, including his friends, â€œWhether you like his style or not, you cannot disagree with his message .His message was about enthroning justice, making people accountable and good and responsible to the people whom to whom government held authority .
Addressing issues that had to do with the poor and the masses, those are the messages that ring throughout the world, they are messages that have formed the core of the millennium development goals.
Continuing, with his eulogy, Fashola said:â€œSo if Gani Fawehinmi decided to expose those messages in a manner that makes some people feel uncomfortable, that is it .You may not like the messenger, but you cannot ignore the message .â€ For Ganiâ€™s Human rights community, the late Lagos Lawyer lived like an immortal, hence his death was seen as a tragedy.
â€œIt is so hard to believe that Gani was no more.â€ And among the things he taught them was to be dedicated to their causes. â€œHe taught us to be dedicated toÂ our causes , he taught us the virtue of honesty , forthrightness, and so many things , he was both a quintessential lawyer, and human right activist, it is doubtful how we are going to remember him more, either as a quintessential lawyer or human right activist,â€ said Mr. Festus Keyamo, who is a product of Ganiâ€™s School of activitism.
This view, was corroborated by the President of Campiagn for Democracy,CD, Dr. Joe OkeiOdumakin.
She described his death as the greatest tragedies of the time, adding that Gani was a great life wireÂ of human right democratic movement, because he was so focus and resolute, a disciplinarian , he had un-common courage , and he was a person one can go to the battle with, with his eyes closed.
Some may have expected the outpour of eulogies or the most eulogies on the human rights crusader to overwhelm the fact that he is gone. But that was a mere assumption, as his wife, Mrs Ganiyat Fawehinmi was grief stricken.
Mrs. Fawehinmi, who gently walked into the living room with swollen eyes with one of his daughters,Â recounted Ganiâ€™s last moments.
According to her, â€œHe told me to tell Nigerians not to give up the struggle until Nigeria is better and continue where he stopped. He said that he was not opportune to govern Nigeria as President to change things, saying he would have done a lot for the masses. He also gave some words to lawyers in his chambers urging them to carry on the struggle for him against injustice, oppression of the masses and the less privileged.
â€œHe also commended me for standing by him throughout his travails in prison and in the hands of the junta and urged the present governments at all levels to as a matter of must to improve the lives of the less privileged in the society adding that his heart bled for the country.â€
Who knows! If the late legal icon was made the model of Nigeriaâ€™s rebranding, the policy might have much popular support than the mockery it commands among many.
Speaking on Ganiâ€™s exit,Professor Akunyili, who represented ,the Federal Executive Council said Gain Fawehinmi wasÂ a great Nigerian Brand.
She also described him as an internationally acknowledged activist in the law court to fight for the right of the oppressed , the poor and the weak , and that his numerous battles led to the positive development in the country, which includes the opening of the political scape, and gave room for registration of many political parties.