By Owei Lakemfa
THE Masses Memorial For Comrade Chief Gani Fawehinmiâ€ was the appropriate theme of the three-in-one event. Held on Friday September 11, 2009 in memory of the peoples warrior whom the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)Â described as â€œ…one of the most patriotic and passionate Nigerians that ever lived (and) a folk hero in our peoples struggle for emancipation from the shackles of want, poverty, dictatorship and backwardnessâ€.
It was a lying-in-state for the ordinary people, a rally in which tributes flowed like a waterfall, followed by a victorious 17-kilometre procession from the Tejuosho, Lagos offices of the NLC to the Ikeja GRA home of Fawehinmi. This certainly would be one of the longest, largest and most orderly funeral processions in recent times.
The organisers, the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) had told the gathering â€œ… we donâ€™t need to mourn Gani but must all rededicate ourselves to the ideals and struggle for a better society which he lived and fought forâ€.
The deluge of tributes began with that of the Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU) represented by Professor Ajisegiri which recalled that â€œGani Fawehinmi was a major source of inspiration in the struggles of academics and students against the $120 million loan in 1990; the beginning of the attempt by the World Bank to take direct control of Nigeriaâ€™s higher education …â€.
Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) president Ledum Mittee recalled Fawehinmiâ€™s principled struggles and defence of the Ogoni people when they faced extinction. The Student Movement represented by Hassan â€œSowetoâ€ Taiwo poured encomiums on a man who from 1971 had been a major pillar of support for students and arrow head in the struggle for the right of the Nigerian child to education.
Anselm Chidi Odinkalu spoke for Fawehinmiâ€™s professional constituency, the legal profession. He urged all who clamour for electoral reform to be interested in its content.
Aj Daggga Tolar the fast rising poet of the people performed an emotive eight-stanza poetic rendition for the departed voice of the people: â€œ The People Destroying the People, And together they harvested the votes, Sowed for the conscience, Tripping the change into the future, And break the heart of Gani…â€.
Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole praised Fawehinmiâ€™s numerous contributions and acknowledged that without his backing over the years he might not be a governor today. The Citizens With Disability represented by David Anyale asked Nigerians to factor people with disability into societal plans and development.
More tributes poured from the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR)Â President Olasupo Ojo, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) represented by Segun Shango, Dr Dipo Fashina of the Joint Action Forum (JAF) and the National Conscience Party (NCP) founded by Fawehinmi.
In the FuneralÂ oration, NLC President, Abdulwahed Omar said Fawehinmi and Labour legend Michael Imoudu shared similar characteristics. â€œThese include an unquenchable thirst for justice, singleness of purpose, unmatchable courage, an unparalled doggedness in the struggle to emancipate the people, and an abiding faith in the massesâ€.
Fawehinmiâ€™s first son, Mohammed on behalf of the family spoke with Ganicidal combustion concluding that the elites who are in power are merely wasting their time as the peopleâ€™s tide which will sweep them away is rising.
A father of the RadicalÂ Movement, Baba Omojola rounded up the tributes with an African prayer in which he invoked the spirit of ourÂ African ancestors to be with Fawehinmi.
Although it was a celebration, the sight of the fiery spokesman of the peopleÂ lying still was too much for some; they broke down.
From Tejuosho with Fawehinmiâ€™s transparent casketÂ in front, the crowd poured into the streets like a burst dam. It was a long stretch with more people joining and those who could not, pouring out of their homes and offices waving. The people marched; young and old, poor and rich; students and lecturers, Area fathers and boys.
Dances broke out on the streets as people gyrated to the revolutionary and melodious songs belted out by the Gauranga Foundation band led by Bolaji Rosiji. A popular rendition in Yoruba was: â€œWe must not forget Gani; he fought for the people; he that grew up in the light of the Lordâ€.
One of the major sights was Gani Adams who walked the distance leading members of his Odua Peoples Congress (OPC)Â who were dressed in blue T-shirts.
Once off the broad Bank Anthony Way, with the streets leading to Fawehinmiâ€™sÂ home narrowing the crowd, his coffin was brought out of the hearse and a lap of honour commenced to the house. A crowd was already waiting which included the veteran fighter Ayo Adebanjo one of the 31 persons along with Chief Obafemi Awolowo charged inÂ November 1962Â with treasonable felony.
The Labour and civil society procession came to an end with a vote of thanks to all participants in the historic event by NLCÂ General Secretary, John Odah. As he spoke, fresh groups of mourners in buses continued to pour in.
To be remembered by theÂ mass of the people is the greatest honour that can be bestowed on a human being; it is not what money or power can confer. None of those who made it a creed to detain Fawehinmi hadÂ or will ever have such honour.
Correction: The lastÂ home of Imo State Governor, Ikedi Ohakim who is currently taking shelter in the PDP was the PPA not APGA as erroneously indicated in this column last week. The error is regretted.