By Dayo Johnson, Akure
Chief SehindeÂ ArogbofaÂ is a patron of theÂ Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, andÂ Chief Ganiâ€™sÂ classmate at Victory College Ikare, Ondo State.
As one of the class mates of lateÂ chief Gani Fawehinim in Victory College Ikare what isÂ your assessment of him.?
FirstÂ I was very disturbed about his death. It is not that IÂ didnâ€™t know that he was going to die but becauseÂ fewÂ weeks ago when I wanted to speak with him, l was told that itÂ wouldnâ€™t be possible by members of his family.
We attendedÂ Victory College together and we left school in 1958. We wereÂ the first class to sit for WAEC. He was very brilliant andÂ highly exposed andÂ had interest in National Affairs. HeÂ constantly read Daily Newspapers and you would always see him discussing International issues because he was very currentÂ with what was going on around him. He has an appellation we used to call him â€œNationâ€.
How wouldÂ describe this your classmate ?
Gani was very lively and had a veryÂ pleasant character and Iâ€™m not sure he had any dull moment. When we were together, he was always focused.
He was aÂ humanist to the core. He was always feeling for the commonÂ man, the downtrodden and theÂ oppressed. GaniÂ in 1974 wrote a book on Right to Free Education. In that book ,Gani referred to some of his classmates including me.
According to Gani, heÂ saw some cobblers shining shoes and he felt that what they were taking would not be sufficient for them to educateÂ their children. He saw farmers toiling the land and he feltÂ that their income would not be able to sustain the education of their children. He saw the houses built by parents forÂ their children to live, he was so moved that such parents wouldÂ not be able to combineÂ the education as well as providing good home for the children.
He saw pupils on the schoolÂ assembly ground and some of them were looking soÂ dejected, he saw misery written on their faces and he feltÂ that something has to be done because these were going to be the future leaders andÂ they needed to be liberated. InÂ one of the chapters he tried to proffer solution to whatÂ would happen later and he was talking of education at all levels which should be free. It should not just be free,Â the products of free education should be gainfully employed.
How didÂ Â you receive the death of this your classmate?
I must confess to you that it reallyÂ disturbed me. I visited him two or three times since we all knew about his illness. I discovered a changed Gani. He wasÂ a different manÂ and even though we will all die some day,Â when IÂ saw himÂ last, I knew it was a matter of time.
I was inÂ my garden last week Saturday and at about 10 am I heard ofÂ the news via the Radio and Television. I was shatteredÂ because l have lost a very goodÂ friend and a classmate. He was a very good friend and weÂ were always communicating.
MyÂ sadness was greatly for Nigeria because we never listenedÂ toÂ him, Nigeria refused to listen to a patriot, and NigeriaÂ refused to listen to somebody who was talking about theÂ welfare of the nation. He was somebody who was always telling usÂ that we need goods roads so that we donâ€™t die of accident;Â we need education for everybody so that we donâ€™t become poor.
Because Gani was from our own part of the country, heÂ knew what farmers were going through in the farmsÂ had no money to train their children, he knew beggars onÂ the street that they were human beings and they need to beÂ better.
Where did you meet Gani ? Was it in School or earlier?
We met in School but we were notÂ classmatesÂ in my first year. He was my senior but in myÂ second year, we become classmates because I had doubleÂ promotion and not because he failed or something happened toÂ him. But at the end of my second year, we became classmatesÂ until we left secondary school. Other classmates of oursÂ include the Owa-Ale of Ikare, the Olukare of Ikare, the lateÂ General Alfred Aduloju and many others.
I was attracted to him while we were in schoolÂ because you wouldÂ always see Gani reading newspapers. ThatÂ particular day, he was holding a newspaper and I think it wasÂ Daily Times. You wouldÂ always see him reading the newspaperÂ from page to page . It was like a big menu to himÂ and after reading the papers, you wouldÂ then see an elatedÂ Gani speaking bravely about the nationâ€™s affairs,Â international affairs and things about like that.
Was he a rascal when you were in School.?
Yes he was a rascal but he was a focusedÂ person even unto death. You could see him then as somebodyÂ who was going be stubborn, somebody who was going to be very rascally, you could see him as somebody also was going to fight for the right of the people.
I was good in Latin and they used to call meÂ â€˜Aro Sagitaâ€™ and because ofÂ his interest in national affairs, we used to call him â€˜Ganus internationalâ€™ He would never compromise. None of us compromised. We all calledÂ aÂ spade a spade. He abhorredÂ evil and would not have anything toÂ do with evil. The traits that he loved the down trodden was evidence while we were in school. Gani was alwaysÂ discussing freedom and human rights activists all over the world.
If there was any problem in the school,Â you wouldÂ see Gani talking a position. He wasÂ always trying to call the authority to order and any teacherÂ who was trying to be funny then, Gani wouldnâ€™tÂ mind opposing him. He had always been that.
He was very lively, always on the side of the people, always bold and courageous. That was what Gani showed at the early stage of his life. Then you could see the traits ofÂ a future leader in him.
Many people are now paying lip service by eulogizing Gani after his death
They are hypocrites. They should keep theirÂ mouthsÂ shut. That is one of our problems in Nigeria; we doÂ not celebrate our leaders while alive but we know those thatÂ really feel bad about the death of Gani and those that areÂ shedding crocodile tears .
They killed him gradually by sending him to jail several times. They should keep quiet. See what happened in Ondo State when Dr OlusegunÂ Agagu was the governor.
He never wanted to celebrate Gani but when Dr Olusegun Mimiko came, he restored that honour thatÂ Gani was deprived ofÂ by Agagu at the Adekunle AjasinÂ University Akungba Akoko. There is need to honour our peopleÂ when they are alive. It is a pity.
What about the clamuor that a nationalÂ monument should be named after him ?
They should do what Gani stood for: good roads,Â free health facilities, free education, free and credible elections. What type of monument should they nameÂ after him? Gani would be happy ifÂ his ideas and the dream he stood and fought for to make Nigeria a better place to live, not for this generationÂ but children yet unborn is achieved.