By Kunle Oyatomi
Since the death of Gani Fawehinmi, a lot has been said and published about him: about his dogged fighting spirit; about his passion for improving the fortunes of the less privileged and the poor; about his fierce battles against injustice and wickedness in high places. The list is longer.
Gani never for a day failed in his mission to change the life of his people; he was a tremendously successful fighter who put all that he had into the struggle to help improve the fortunes of the less privileged. But the people he fought for, failed to get the benefit of what Gani spent his whole life and fortune to canvass.
Such was the tenacity with which the late crusader fought, that he became a national figure. His success as a fighter for justice earned him national recognition. Nigerian students awarded him the uncommon title of Senior Advocate of the Masses.Â No other Nigerian dead or alive is so recognised.
Gani put himself at the service of the poor, and as much as was within his capacity to accomplish, he did to alleviate the sufferings of the disadvantaged and the oppressed. There was no battle that Gani fought in which he did not distinguish himself in victory or defeat.
Always, Gani was up against the powerful in defence of the weak, and most of the times he suffered extreme deprivation in the course of such battles. But in spite of what he physically suffered in all these battles, his legal practice flourished.
He never had to beg his tormentors for a living. In fact, the tougher the struggle, the riskier the engagements; and the more personally inconvenient the consequences the more his legal business prospered.
All along in his struggle against evil in high places he never for one day had cause to beg government or depend on the authorities for any kind of patronage to survive. He was more than a â€œbed-bugâ€ in the pants of the ruling elite. And after a point, those who found him so uncompromising to deal with schemed to do away with him. When the sudden elimination process could not materialse, the â€œslowâ€ option was adopted to take him out of the scene.
That was the last battle he had to fight. He stood up, according to him, â€œto terminate the terminal cancerâ€ that eventually took his life. Even at that Gani again distinguished himself as an incurable optimist. The gallantry with which he was reported to have fought for survival against a killer disease was uncommon.
However, Gani really and truely didnâ€™t need to engage in the numerous battles he fought, because he was a comfortable man. Again it was an uncommonÂ altruism (or selflessness) that drove him into all his battles and crusades for justice and a better life for the poor.
It was when his battles could not change the attitude of those in government to do the right thing for the people that he thought of joining politics to obtain power in order to help the poor masses. He practically had no chance with politics, because the route to political power in Nigeria is exclusive to an elite that have long since captured power for their exclusive selfish interest. And they were virtually the same people that Gani had been up in arms against.
These same people and their cronies were amongst the first toÂ pour counterfeit encomium on Gani after his death. But at death, Fawehinmi had nothing to lose. If it were possible for the gallant fighter to speak to us from his death bed, he would have told us not to weep for him, because he had lost nothing. We, the masses of people in Nigeria are the ones to weep for. His death is our loss, and a tragic one at that.
In the final analysis it isnâ€™t what we do, weeping for ourselves that will count; it is what we do to ensureÂ Gani would not have fought in vain. Nigeria is a complex country. So many horrible things are happening to the masses here and only few have the courage to stand up, like Gani did in his life time, against evil.
Until we can breed a lot more people who can stand up and fight for their rights, and for justice in this country, we would still have a lot more reason to weep for ourselves.
Gani has fought a wonderful fight for the masses. Now is the turn of the masses to fight their own battle for salvation. The â€œbattleâ€ is now in their court.