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Now that Gani is gone

By BEN NANAGHAN

NOW that our fearless fighter has returned to the stars where he rightfully belongs, what shall we now do? I will like to join the great English author and poet – Ben Johnson – in appealing to our Trojan warrior not to leave us unprotected “but to stay, I see thee in the hemisphere advanced and made a constellation there. Shine forth thou star and with rage or influence chide or cheer the drooping stage (Nigeria) which since thy flight from hence, hath mourned like night.”

Gani, our great legal luminary, is now in a constellation-watching and chiding the political corruption and ineptitude called Nigeria from his celestially advantaged position. My worry is not the demise of Gani but his irreplaceability in the present context of the Nigerian political conundrum. For the poet, Thomas Gray, concludes the inevitability of death thus: “Can storied urn or animated bust back to its mansion call the fleeting breath, can honour’s voice provoke the silent dust or flattery sooth the drill cold ear of death.” Gani’s demise also signals the demise of justice in Nigeria. The dogged fighter who, like a Mexican bull, took on all the corrupt governments that have misruled us for the past 49 years of our independence did not wince or even complain to his tormentors for once. So many times he was “captured” like a common criminal by armed stern-faced soldiers and sometimes mobile policemen to cold dungeons. He was often physically tear gassed as were his cells during the Babangida/Abacha eras.

Nigerians must not rest until those who exposed Gani’s cancerous substances are brought to book and made to face the music. If it is true that the chief died of lung cancer, then we do not have to look too far for the source of his death. The Yar’Adua government could partially redeem its image by placating and aligning with the masses to unearth the root causes of Gani’s death. This will reduce or even eliminate the inhuman treatment of Nigerians who disagree with government policies. It will also check government’s abuse of individual rights and privileges. Government should also set up a committee on how to immortalize Gani. Immortalisation will only be an inadequate compensation and recognition of the unique and unrivalled patriotism and selflessness which was the lifestyle of the departed sage and hero. The Americans rewarded George Washington who was their first president (1789-1797). Today, America’s capital is named after this great American. Other highly appreciated American presidents include Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), FD Roosevelt (1933-1945) and JF Kennedy (1961-1963) have all been immortalized one way or the other.

Gani was never a Nigerian president. But, today, no Nigerian deserves this great honour as much as him. There is no Nigerian, dead or alive, who has etched such lasting and deep impression on the consciousness of such a vast majority of Nigerians even across provincial and state boundaries. The Federal Government should take a cue from other progressive nations and encourage Gani’s type of unparalled patriotism by giving honour to whom it is due and with immediate effect rename a federal institute in the Federal Capital Territory after Gani. I, therefore, appeal to the Yar’Adua government to give the highest honour the country can bestow on this great Nigerian who has sacrificed his life and all that he laboured for, so that Nigeria can excel in the comity of nations. Let the north not say he is a southerner nor the south east say he is a south westerner; Gani has crossed the tribal rubicon and is neither western nor southern.

Naming a symbolic institution after Gani will definitely be a commensurate recompense for a man who spent well over half a lifetime fighting to challenge societal imbalance and inequalities. For 44 years, Gani spanned a brilliant career in Law defending over 5000 clients ex gratia. This group of beneficiaries include the widows, the deprived, the oppressed, the poor, the beggars and the destitute. The list also includes students union leaders, journalists, market men and women, and some very wealthy Nigerians who he defended sympathetically as a result of tyrannically oppression of state power. Of course Nigeria has so much to lose for the exit of the “Iroko Tree”.

Gani in his healthy days would have taken the Federal Government to court over the ASUU strike.  Even a few days to his death he rued his inability to stand up and fight for the lecturers as he had done during the students crises of 1978 (Ali must go), 1981 – the Obafemi Awolowo University (when four students were gunned down like animals by the oppressive forces of state power) and also in 1984. Gani had always partnered with students because he was a caring father and a philanthropist par excellence sponsoring thousands of children. With the exit of Gani, Nigeria should be prepared to face the consequences of a nation that refuses to change as I know that when things get so irretrievably bad, a change must surely come.
Nanaghan lives in Lagos


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