By Abdulwahab Abdulah, Dapo Akinrefon, Gbenga Oke, AbdulSalam Muhammad & Ifeanyi Okoli
LAGOSâ€”Just as the funeral rites of the late legal luminary and human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) who died last Saturday, began MondayÂ at his Ikeja, Lagos residence, his eldest son, Mohammed told Vanguard exclusivelyÂ among others, that the man known as the Senior Advocate of the Masses, SAM, boughtÂ his own casket about six years ago, even before he was diagnosed of cancer of the lungs, which eventually led to his death.
He said: â€œMy father was comfortable before he died and he left a lot of things. He was not a man that begged anybody for anything. My fatherÂ had prepared theÂ fundÂ for his burial long before he had his illness,Â this was about five to six years ago. He prepared for his casket, the glass type, the lying-in-state and other arrangements.
â€œYou know the man was very organized,Â he will never take a step except he knew he was fully prepared. He never wanted a situation whereby his burial will be ridiculed or turned to a jamboree by anybody or the government will have to bury him, hijack the situation or things like that.â€
Mohammed also said Gani disclosed before taking his last breath that he would abide by his principles even while in grave to reject any entreaties from political office holders â€œwho have failed to provide the best to deservingÂ Nigerians, even if he is not alive.â€
He also disclosed that his father, being a principled man and to ensure that his wishes were fulfilled, especially on his burial â€œmade all necessary financial provisions for his funeral rites, including his coffin and how he must be accordedÂ a befitting burial.â€
While taking a swipe at the political class, especially those who have failed the nation in the past, Mohammed said, â€œit is unfortunate that things are like this today in Nigeria, where we have abundance resources to cater for the down-trodden and poor masses..â€
According to him, his father who always discussed the socio-political problems confronting Nigerians with his family members, envisaged a situation where his burial would attract so much patronage fromÂ government and the politicians who would want to turn it to a carnival. He said he gave them instructions on how the burial must be conducted, more than six months ago.
â€œI must tell you that his family is comfortable enough. His burial is something we can take care of. So, there are no lapses at all,â€ Mohammed said.
He condemned the present administration the way it is handling the face-off between the lecturers and the government, where the students are suffering.
â€œYou can imagine, I must tell you, we donâ€™t have a Minister of Education, you can see that the lecturers are on strike for over three months now, nothing is being done, while the students are suffering and bearing the pains.Â We must condemn the government for its inability to develop the country,â€ he said.
Meantime, Nigerians have continued to throngÂ the residence of the human rights crusader to pay glowing tributes.
One-time General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG), Mr Frank Ovie Kokori described the late Gani as â€œan extra-ordinary person.
People like him pass through this world once in a life time. It is painful; I donâ€™t think in this generation, there can be anyone like him.â€
Also, constitutional lawyer, Mr Fred Agbaje said that â€œthe Federal Governmentâ€™s representative said that Gani was a good brand but their visit now is just to shed crocodile tears. What they can do only is for them to heed to what he stood for while alive.â€
Afenifere stalwart, Chief Ayo Adebanjo also described the late legal icon as â€œone man who never lived for selfish purposes no matter the inconveniences. He is the most jailed activist of our time. His was hear to fight for the common man, in fact, he fought for the common man. Most of his cases were on pure human humanitarian basis. We begin to wonder when another Gani will come.â€
He, however, urged that â€œthe only thing I will ask the youth to do is to commit themselves to common good. If 50 per cent of lawyers, give 50 percent of their time and money to the cause of just, like Gani did, Nigerians will be better off.â€
Also, National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Sir Victor Umeh who paid a condolence visit to the deceased home said â€œI think his death will be an inspiration to all the progressives to continue the struggle. He has died but those who are alive are challenged to continue to do even more than they have done when he was alive.â€
He said further that â€œthe struggle for a democratic Nigeria anchored on the rule of law will never wane because Gani has died. Those of us who are determined to see Nigeria succeed to practise true democracy anchored on the rule of law, will never give up.
The hurdles are much to cross but with perseverance, I know that one day, it will happen. My only regret is that Gani did not live to see a just Nigeria that he fought for and those of us who are alive must continue the struggle. Even if we miss it in our own generation, we will not want our children to miss it. So, this is the foundation of this struggle and we must continue.â€
Aside, Mr Sakari Hassan, a blind beggar, who led 10 others to condole with the Fawehinmis said â€œwe came to condole with family and friends of Gani. For us, it was great loss.â€
Mr Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) also portrayed Gani as â€œa remarkable and extra-ordinary man. He lived a legendary life, he was great even in death. His publication is a must forÂ judges and legal practitioners alike.â€
Sympathizers who trooped in to pay their respect to the deceased during his lying-in-stateÂ include: General Alani Akinrinade, rtd, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Marvel Akpoyibo; one time Minister of External Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi; Prince Jide Kosoko, former Action Congress gubernatorial aspirant, Mr Niyi Raheem and Mr Ray Ekpu, civil society groups amongst others.
Delay of Fawehinmiâ€™s burial anti-Islam â€“ Cleric
A revered Islamic Cleric, Dr Bashir Aliyu Umar has faulted the decision of late Chief Gani Fawehinmiâ€™s relation to delay the burial of human rights activist as anti-Islam.
Dr Bashir Aliyu Umar told Vanguard in Kano thatÂ Islam preaches hasten burial to enable the deceased meet what awaits him in the hereafter either for good or bad.
The Islamic Cleric who is the Chief Imam ofÂ Al-Furqan Jumaâ€™at mosque stated that the late Fawehinmi stood up against injustice as enjoined by Allah, adding thatÂ the deceased, during his lifetime, implemented the divine messageÂ withÂ â€˜sincerity and devotion.â€™
â€œThe decision to delay Alhaji Ganiâ€™sÂ burial is wrong in Islam. The Prophet of Islam says we should hasten it to the grave. I want to believe this thing they did was done out of ignorance, may Allah forgive them,â€ Dr Bashir stressed.
Dr Bashir Aliyu Umar who is an authority in Islamic Jurisprudence, however, blamed what he described as â€˜procedural breachâ€™ on the influence of Christian dominated environment, adding that the benefit ofÂ Dan-fodio Jihad of 1804 has changed the thinking in the North.
“What is happening is an encroachment of Christian practice, it is simply the influence of the environment, becauseÂ up here in the North, the influence of Sheik Usman Dan-fodio Jihad revived the religion in strict compliance with Sharia.Â Unfortunately, our Southern brethren did not enjoy such benefit.”
He explained that the proposed plan to give Gani a state burial is alien to Islam, condemning the burial of late King Hassan and King Hussein of Morocco and Jordan as pure assimilationÂ of Christian ways of life.
He punctured the argument of those who cited the delay in the burial ofÂ a revered Islamic figure, Ayatollah Khomeini whose burial was delayed for two days, pointing out that the fact that theÂ Prophet of Islam died in the morning and was buried in the night, foreclosed further argument.