By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Abdulwahab Abdulah, Bose Adebayo & Tosin Adejuwon
Labour bends to Gani’s wish, Pays last respect Friday
LAGOS â€”JUDGES, lawyers in their robes, human rights activists and other eminent personalities, Tuesday,Â paid their last respects to the late legal icon and social crusader, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) at his lying-in-state at his new Alausa, Ikeja corporate office on the second day of his funeral rites which will culminate on September 15 with his interment.
Already, the Labour House, the Nigerian Labour Congress Secretariat in Yaba, Lagos is undergoing a face-lift in preparation for Fawehinmiâ€™s lying-in-state on Friday where workers and Nigerian masses for whom he spent the better part of his life fighting will have the opportunity of paying their last respect to him in line with his wish before his death.
Ganiâ€™s corpse in a hearse arrived his multi-million-naira five-storey corporate office building situated at the business district, Alausa. He was dressed in white agbada with black shoes and placed in a glass casket.
The casket, bearing the corpse was laid at the open reception of the building where judges, lawyers, human rights activists and students paid their last respects.
Hundreds of lawyers robed in their regalia formed two long queues to have a glimpse of the man, who they described as a â€œrare breed who had contributed to the development of the legal profession more than any other in this country.â€
Among those who graced the occasion were Senator Olabiyi Durojaye, Professor Lai Oourode, Mr Femi Aborisade, Chief Mike Ozekhome, NUJ Lagos chairman, Alhaji Wahab Oba;Â Mr Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, Mr Edwin Anekwem and a host of others who had served as lawyers in his chambers.
Senator Olabiyi in his tribute said: â€œGani was the only man who had his principles intact when others decided to veer away.Â He always maintained in what he believed in, especially when he realized that he was working for the development of the majorityâ€.
â€˜Gani stood tallâ€™
According to Professor Olorode, â€œGani stood tall, despite the oppression and depression from the military. He never relented in his efforts to liberate the common man and the nation. He started his campaign as a poor man, but he did not allow that to influence his decision.
He maintained his position on corruption, oppression and in the defence of the rule of law and true democracy. At the end, his stand and belief made him a figure to be reckoned with. He got money and fame, where he won several honours across the world.â€
NBA to immortalise him
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said that the national body of the Bar has planned to immortalise Gani Fawehinmi for his contributions to both the legal profession and the polity.
The NBA which spoke through Mr Dave Ajetumobi, Ikeja branch chairman at the lying-in-state said â€œthere are several ways that Gani could be immortalised. If you are a lawyer, there is no way you can do without Gani, the most popular law report in Nigeria today is published by Gani and his company is still publishing themâ€.
He noted that â€œthe Ikeja Bar has their â€˜Annual Gani Fawehinmi lectureâ€™ which comes up on every 15th January. I also know that the national body of the NBA has a plan to immortalise Gani too. The way Governor Fashola has taken Ganiâ€™s death, I believe the state government is also doing something to immortalise Gani.
â€œIt is only the Federal Government that I am not sure of what they are doing to immortalise him. You know that because of his forthrightness, not many of our leaders would want to immortalise him.â€
Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Wahab Oba also urged the government to ensure that Chief Fawehinmi was given his dues as a patriotic citizen of this country.
He said: â€œFor such a man, what better way would you do to honour him than to ensure that those things for which he endured prison sentences were done?
Meanwhile, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Head of the defunct Interim National Government (ING), who was at Ganiâ€™s residence in his comment wrote in the condolence register: â€œMay your kind soul rest in perfect peace. I pray that the Almighty God in His infinite mercies give the rest of the family the strength to bear the loss. Nigeria and Nigerians will never forget you.â€
The funeral rites continue today with a lying-in-state organised by the NBA in his honour at the High Court foyer, Igbosere, Lagos.
Labour bends to Gani’s last wish
Meanwhile, leaders of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), of which the late activist was a founding member are meeting today to finalise activities for Fridayâ€™s lying-in-state including a procession rally.
Similarly, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been paying glowing tributes to the late Lagos Lawyer ahead of Fridayâ€™s event, saying â€œhe joined the NLC during the struggles against deregulation and mindless increases in the prices of petroleum products, even when he almost collapsed during one of the several protests in Lagos.â€
An NLC official who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said the leadership of NLC was informed by Chief Ganiâ€™s family that he specifically instructed that a lying-in-state be held for him at the Labour House for Nigerian workers and masses to have the opportunity to pay their last respect to him.
According to him: â€œYou know Chief Gani was a special friend, defender, protector, supporter and advocate to the Nigerian masses, the workers in general and NLC in particular. He stood by us, defended us in court whenever the state took us to court. So, as a true friend, he instructed that his body be brought to NLC for Nigerian masses and workers to have the opportunity to pay their last respect and bid him final farewell.â€
Speaking on the lying-in-state slated for NLC, Secretary of Lagos chapter of LASCO, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, told Vanguard that leaders of LASCO would be meeting today to finalise arrangement for the programme which include a procession rally in Chief Fawehinmiâ€™s honour. The NLC yesterday lamented that the death of Chief Gani had robbed the congress â€œof one of the greatest pillars of the popular movement in our nation.â€
In a tribute issued yesterday by its General Secretary, Comrade John Odah at the premises of Ikeja office of Nigeria Law Publication (NLP), said â€œthough NLC was aware that Chief Gani had been battling with lung cancer, a terminal disease, for over a year before his death, the leadership of NLC still feel shocked because of his contribution to the struggle of the Nigerian people against dictatorship, whether in military or civilian toga.â€
According to NLC: â€œWe recall that he spent a better part of his adult life and resources defending the helpless against injustice, as well as promoting Human rights and democracy in Nigeria.
To demonstrate his concern for the poor, and realizing education as a strong weapon for the development of any nation, he awarded scholarships to indigent students up till this year, 2009. A tradition he kept for decades, even while in detention.
The late Chief Fawehinmi had been involved in the defence of the rights of Nigeria students and the poor since the 60s soon after he started his law practice.”