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Let Nigeria mourn Gani!

By Morenike Taire
ONE of the subjects we most like to hear about is how billionaires made their money. Rag to riches  stories are not only as entertaining as any story at all, they give hope to dreamers who have imagined all their lives that they would one day make it, using the Nigerian parlance.

We Nigerians are as familiar with the Fortune 500 phenomenon as Americans are. Probably even more so. We were excited to no end when one of our own Aliko Dangote made the prestigious global list. We were even more tickled when his aburo, Femi Otedola, joined the list. We love the fact that footies have joined the British rich list, and there is even a sports rich list on which Nigerian internationals are featured.

We, however, miss the point of having rich lists. One of the main points is that rich lists sell. In general, looking at pictures of the trappings of wealth and affluence help to transport ordinary folks from their present circumstances for the moment, and allow imagination to take over.

The more important reason, though, is in order for societies to know the privileged amongst them. This is not in order for armed robbers, 419ers and kidnappers to be aware ( if they read), of the group from which to choose their next victims.

The people who make the most money are those who pay the most taxes and when they are known, it becomes harder to evade tax. By extension, it means that a lot more money will be devoted to charities, the latter being condition for tax holidays.

When our governments in Nigeria, mostly for their own selfish ends, complain that there is nowhere in the world where things work and governments do everything, they are not far off the mark. Charities, in most developed countries, are responsible for developing most aspects of our lives, including healthcare, education, research and even religion.

What they don’t tell us is that even where enabled charity funds life, government is the enabler and is still in charge.

This, and the pursuit of charity, is what Gani Fawehinmi lived and died for. That Gani Fawehinmi was poisoned along with others in the jailyards of our military administrators past will continue to be a rumour, just as the murder of Umaru Yar’Adua will continue to be a rumour until all who hatched and executed it are brought to book.

Gani was not fighting for electricity and water, roads and schools, though one might be excused for thinking that he was.

The main crux of the struggle of Gani and all his protégés was the establishment in the constitution and in the eye of both the government, those who constitute it at any time and the governed, of the fact that the role of government is to take care of the people and the geographical space upon which they hold government.

He insisted that people voted into public office are accountable to the people that voted them in, and for this he was prepared to die. Probably, he did.

But Gani went a step further. A champion in the human rights community with a social heart far larger than most, Gani was the very first social entrepreneur, a concept that did not exist until very recently in the international charity commune.

Though he did not make Fortune 500 (even in Nigeria; particularly in Nigeria), he is one of the only Nigerian businessmen or women alive or dead, who prospered in business with no government patronage whatsoever.

Indeed, Gani never tired of boasting, while he was alive, of how he made all his money from the practice of law, the teaching of law and the publication of law. No one was ever able to challenge that.

It is also possible to argue that though he did not have the resources the late MKO Abiola had, there are few Nigerians living or dead that have channeled as much hard earned money into the development of people as Fawehinmi did.

Not many people will say, like they said of Abiola, that Gani Fawehinmi was the best president Nigeria has never had, and it is just as well. When former NLC boss and Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomole, declared for the Edo gubernatorial race for 2007,  Gani was eminently opposed to the adventure and in his usual way, came out to publicly say so.

He would rather his protégé go for the presidency, as he had done four years before. According to Gani, Oshiomole was bringing down his worth by leaving the presidency to some lesser men.

The same can be said of the late icon of the human rights movement. It has been said that Gani is greater now in death than he was in life.

This is  not true. Gani was always great, only we were too busy scrambling through the maze of hassles our leaders have continuously put on our path, to contemplate it. Gani, in life, was already greater than a president.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.