ByÂ AbdulwahabÂ Abdulah
The day was brighter, except for the early morning heavy downpour that preceded the programme. Lawyers, members of the civil society groups, family and friends of the Late human rights activist and prominent Lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) turned out in their hundreds to honour the late right crusader.
Moment the programme started, Mr Dave AjetomobiÂ the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja chapter, the organiser of Chief Gani Fawehinmi annual lecture/ symposium, tagged â€˜Fawehinmiismâ€™, in his welcome address said the annual lecture, the 6th in the series was â€œto celebrate the life and times of Chief Abdul-Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, front line nationalist, conscience of the nation, irrepressible defender of the defenceless, doughty champion of the cause of human dignity and values, indefatigable crusader for social justice and rule of law, philanthropist extra-ordinaire, accomplished author, publisher and law reporter.â€
In his effort to dress the topic of the day â€œNigeria: A Nation in Search of Credible and People Oriented Leadershipâ€, the 1st to be held posthumously for Gani, Ajetumobi said Fawehinmi â€œwas one Nigerian whose numerous exploits cannot be conveniently placed in one pigeonhole.â€ He said in spite of these great attributes, â€œHis (Ganiâ€™s) life has a curious twist of irony to it.
It vividly exemplified the tragedy of our national life, considering the fact that in more than four decades of our national existence, the country is yet to evolve a system, sanitize enough to ensure that only our best emerge in all critical position of leadership.â€ To strengthen Ajetumobiâ€™s position, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the guest speaker immediatelyÂ mounted the podium noted â€œthere is no matter that is more pressing in Nigeria today than the need for people-driven, competent and committed leadership.â€ Oshiomhole, said that all hands must be on deck as we prepare for another general election in Nigeria to produce credible leaders and ensure free and fair election come 2011. He said we cannot afford to get it wrong again, hence all Nigerians must be prepared to participate in all activities that could lead us to genuine and uninterrupted democracy. â€œOur democracy is not nascent again, it is either we make it or we do not make it.â€
According to him,: â€œMany would argue that poor leadership is the primary explanation for the roundly deteriorating Nigerian condition. The Nigerian condition is characterised by development indicators that rank her among poorly performing or under-performing nations. Yet, in terms of factor endowments, Nigeria compares favourably with some of the most naturally endowed nations of the world.â€ He said in spite of the acknowledgment fact that Nigeria is faced with leadership problem, there were leaders who had performed above average.
In spite of this, Oshiomhole said Nigerians need to challenge their leaders to put development agenda on the front burner.Â He said: â€œWhile the first Republic politicvians had their ideological differences, the development agenda enjoyed accelerated attention. Those leaders gave the country an early head start relative to several other nations in Asia, South and Latin Americas and Africa, which have unfortunately left us behind today.Â â€œMy experience is that Nigerians appreciate and celebrate leaders, with certain redeeming qualities and records whether in government or not.
This explains the massive popularity enjoyed by leaders like Chief Gani Fawehinmi among the generality of Nigerians.â€ Speaking on how good leadership can emerge, the Governor said â€œcredible and people-oriented leadership can emerge only when the peopleâ€™s will is allowed to prevail in the choice of leaders through free and fair elections.â€ On the electoral reform, Oshiomhole suggested that Nigerians â€œhave a duty and role in the emergence of credible and people-oriented leadership. In the final analysis, the people must be willing to be politically assertive, politically involved and militant in their defence of their interests. We must be ready to defend our electoral choices. The restoration of my mandate was an example of what the system can deliver when the people are sufficiently mobilised.â€
To get positive result he suggested among others, a walk across the country to sensitize Nigerians on the importance of resolving the political logjam once and for all. According to him, the walk to be tagged â€œNational Democratic walkâ€ to be led by theÂ civil societies and pro-democracy groups at a date to be determined, in Abuja. He said that the sole agenda of the walk would be â€œone man, one vote,â€œ and should be sustained â€œuntil we all agree that the country is ours to choose credible leaders across the country.
â€œThe Nigeria Bar Association across the country, organised labour at all level, all civil society group and non_reactionary group should agree on a date for a democratic walk in Abuja and I will be part of it.â€ He noted that â€œeven with the best of systems, good governance thrives better when the people are alive to the responsibility of troubling their leaders.â€
The governor said that Nigeria has no alternative to conducting credible elections, if â€œsome small African countries could get it right,â€ in that regard. He said what make our case pitiable was that some countries that Nigeria laboured very hard to bring out civil strife and military rule have since got it right democratically.
He mentioned Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Ghana and also South-Africa as countries that are now ahead of us in organizing free and fair election. Oshiomole noted that the recent listing of the country on US terror watch list was basically â€œbecause the world is not happy with Nigeria for not getting right democratically,â€ and not totally because a Nigerian was involved in the act.
The Governor however said that the option is not for the country to continue to lament over her numerous challenges, but for the people to collectively work to move the country forward. Speaking on the late lawyer and activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Oshiomole said he is â€œone of the most courageous, principled and selfless patriots and fighters against injustice ever produced in Nigeria.â€
In his remarks, Lagos state Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola represented by Mr Baba Alokolaro, said that the search for leadership must first come from within the individuals and must be supported by basic virtues. He said we need virtues like â€œhumility, selflessness, sense of justice, respect for rule of law, honesty, integrity and patience,â€ which must be present â€œwithin youâ€ to be called a leader.
Apart from the lecture, there was a departure from the previous annual â€˜Gani Fawehinmiismâ€™ programme as three distinguished Nigerians were awarded with honour for their efforts and courage to promote the countryâ€™s political, judicial and social development. They were Mr Babatunde Fashola, the governor of Lagos State, (Good Governance award),Â Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, (Courageous Defence of Popular Mandate), and Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of Lagos High Court, (Outstanding Judicial Officer Award).
The programme witnessed who is who in the society, especially from the human rights community and the Bar.
A book titled â€œUsing Law to Fight Injustice, Promote Accountability and Good Governance: The Gani Fawehinmi Landmark Cases,â€ written by Gani Fawehinmi daughter, Mrs Basirat Fawehinmi-Biobaku was launched at the event.