By Dayo Johnson,Â Akure
Breaking the news of death to the old especially the fragile ones always demand that wisdom be applied. In Ondo state, the home of the departed legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi , the attempt to apply wisdom in breaking the news of his death to the elders failed .
Death has a rustic odourÂ and it wasÂ the old women who usuallyÂ gather at the OkaÂ palatial building where the late mother of Gani, Alhaja Muniral FawehinmiÂ Â lived when she was alive who first noticed strange human trafficÂ inside the building.
The octogenarian, Pa Saaka AkinnibosunÂ who is currently the head ofÂ Ganiâ€™s maternal Akinnibosun family wasÂ takenÂ out of the environment when he began to ask questions.
The human traffic toÂ the Oka residence of Gani and his fatherâ€™s house at Okedasa was alarming as both the young and old trooped inÂ their hundreds to pay their last respect to their friend andÂ benefactor.
HordesÂ of sympathizersÂ including under privileged members of the society besieged the Fawehinmis family residence at Okedasa Street to condoleÂ with relations and they were on daily basis served withÂ drinks and snacks.
Preparation is in top gear for his burial slated for September 15 in Ondo town after a lying in state at the Akure Sports Stadium courtesyÂ ofÂ the state government.
Gani, while alive, was the LomafeÂ of Ondo Kingdom and helpedÂ in many ways to bring development to his home town even asÂ many less privileged youths were given scholarship awards.
Committees have beenÂ set up for the burialÂ and the Information Commissioner in the state, Ranti Akerele is representing the state government.
Speaking on the burial arrangements, retiredÂ Justice Rasheed Fawehinmi, Ganiâ€™sÂ senior brother whoÂ influenced his choice of law profession described the death of the human rights activist as a rude shock saying the late lawyer took after their grand father who was also a defender of the oppressed during his life time andÂ he lived aÂ fulfilledÂ life struggling and championing the cause ofÂ the down trodden
â€œThe deceased would be surelyÂ missed by many who had benefited from his crusade.â€
Alhaji EliasÂ Akinnibosun, Ganiâ€™s cousin described the death as â€œshocking to all members of the familyâ€ saying theÂ family has lost a pillar of support that everybody leans on.
Dr Adefolaju FaladeÂ who is anÂ Assistant Director of Army Education in the Ministry of Defence said thatÂ Gani invited all family members to Ondo four days before hisÂ death and held a meeting with them. Falade said thatÂ â€œall members of the family can confirm to you, without exception, that Gani is not a pretender.
â€œHe is true to hisÂ cause. He is real and practical in everything he does and says. As he was fighting poverty in the country, so he was fighting it within his extended family. He was so generous and we will never forget him because he was always happyÂ seeing family members around.
â€œDeath has dealt aÂ big blow on this family. We can only call on Nigerians toÂ join us in honouring him because he lived his life for thisÂ country. He fought for democracy at the risk of his life. HeÂ is a courageous human being. There can never be another oneÂ like himâ€.
For Oladunni Awosika, 70 year- old younger sister of Gani , there is nothing to say about his death. â€œWhat can IÂ say?
What do you want me to say? Egin (meaning elder brotherÂ in Ondo dialect) Gani is dead. We were age-mates. We were so close when we were young that other family members called meÂ his wife. Now they called me his twin sister. A big fish hasÂ left the river and we are left to mournÂ himâ€.
When Saturday Vanguard visited His home town within the week, the grave where Gani would rest is yet to be dug but blocks, jiggers and shovels were seen at the leftÂ hand corner of his residence in Oka street just as information made roundsÂ he may be buried inside the garden at the frontage of the building which is in fulfillment ofÂ his wish that he should be buried close to hisÂ mother.
Family members moveÂ from his Oka residence to his fatherâ€™sÂ OkedasaÂ house toÂ perfect the burial arrangement.
Security operatives are not left out as officials of the State Security Service were seenÂ movingÂ from one venue to the other to perfect theÂ arrangementsÂ while the state police command have deployed 1300 policemen to Ondo town and Akure the state capital to beef up securityÂ during the ceremony.
The Ondo CentralÂ mosque, where Gani was the Baba AdinniÂ is expected toÂ host him and is wearing a new look in preparation for hisÂ burial.
The Ondo StateÂ government has indicated its intension to be fully involved in the burial activities of the social crusader. State Commissioner ofÂ Information, Ranti Akerele said that â€œthe late activistÂ actually instructed his family before he breathed his last,Â to involve the government of OndoÂ State in his burial plansâ€.
Akerele disclosed thatÂ the late activist called Mimiko on phone four days beforeÂ his demise sayingÂ that he was proud ofÂ the governorâ€™s achievements in his six months in office.
The commissioner whoÂ said top officials of the state had left for Lagos toÂ consult with family members on how to execute the burialÂ plans also claimed that Gani during hisÂ conversation with Mimiko advisedÂ the governor not to deviate from the right track.
Dr Mimiko whileÂ mourning Gani expressed sadness over the death of the humanÂ rights activist and describedÂ Â him as a colossus and a pride notÂ only to Ondo State and Nigeria but the whole world.Â Â He said the death â€œwas painful and an irreparable loss coming atÂ this stage of our development in Ondo State when we neededÂ his wealth of knowledge.
â€œOn behalf of the people ofÂ thisÂ State, I most sincerely thank the good Lord forÂ givingÂ this distinguished man to us in Ondo State; he wasÂ an eminent Nigerian, a global personality of the finest castÂ who, no doubt lived a life of social struggle.
His was aÂ selfless life dedicated wholly to the advancement of justiceÂ and the defense of the common man.
â€œHis contributionsÂ to the development of our jurisprudence predicated upon aÂ deep sense of revulsion at injustice and oppression remain unprecedented. In the seventy-one years that it pleases almighty Allah to bequeath him with on earth, Gani towered above several of his contemporaries and became anÂ appropriate role model for generations of younger Nigerians.
â€œThough he is deadÂ now,Â we are grateful to the Lord for his life and we areÂ proud of our association with him and we thank him for theÂ eternal pride that he brought the way of our dear OndoÂ State, for whether anyone likes it or not, the Gani Fawehinmi phenomenon hasÂ helped substantially to define the nature and image of the Ondo State personality as a dedicated defender of the truth,Â a focused and conscientious hard worker, resilient inÂ struggle, and driven by a deep sense of conformity with theÂ omoluwabi ethos of the Yoruba.
â€œThough today, GaniÂ Fawehinmi is no more, we are consoled by the fact thatÂ he would rest well confident that his place in the heart ofÂ Nigerians and lovers of truth, freedom and justice all over the world is assuredâ€. Some of those whoÂ benefitted from Ganiâ€™sÂ gesture while alive spoke with Saturday Vanguard on their experiences.
One of them, Peter Akinkunmi, who said that the late lawyer wasÂ responsible for his educational achievements, described his sponsor as a man who did not relate with people based ofÂ their religion or ethnic background.
Akinkunmi who signedÂ the condolence register said, â€œDaddy, you are my mentor. You gave meÂ sound education. You sent me toÂ school and paid my fees and fed me all through. Although I cannot repay you for what you did for me, God will surelyÂ be with your family. I will miss you more thanÂ anybody.â€
Also, Ganiâ€™s cousin,Â Dr Adefolaju Falade saidÂ there were about one thousandÂ people who were being paid monthly allowance by the lateÂ human rights lawyer.
According to her,Â â€œThere are many people probably about one thousand orÂ more, including members of his family, who are living onÂ monthly allowance he gave to them. Tell me, who will takeÂ this great responsibility now that he is gone?â€
Falade said that theÂ deceased office coordinated the disbursement of the monthlyÂ allowances to the needy especially those in Ondo State.Â His kinsmen see him â€œas a veryÂ caring man who devoted enough time toÂ his immediate and extended family membersÂ despite his tight schedule.â€
One of his remainingÂ two elder brothers, Alhaji Jubril Fawehinmi, describedÂ his late brother as a respectful man who was very close toÂ all his siblings and family members despite his tight schedule.Â Jubril, 77, said that â€œ Ganiyuâ€™s death is an incalculable loss to us.
HeÂ was the youngest son of myÂ father but with his death now, I am left with ourÂ eldest brother Justice Rasheed Fawehinmi. He was soÂ respectful. Despite his fame and his wealth, he alwaysÂ prostrated to greet me and those older than he was.
â€œ I can notÂ sayÂ this isÂ how I am going to miss him but I know that I will definitely miss him. He lived to bear theÂ burdens of others.â€
Dr Adefolaju FaladeÂ described Gani as an African man who valued the culture ofÂ his people. To her, the late human rights activistÂ lovedÂ members of his extended family just like he lovedÂ his biological children.
Falade said that GaniÂ contracted cancer from the Bauchi Prisons adding that â€œÂ Ganiâ€™s cancer history probably started when he tookÂ ill at Bauchi Prison and wasÂ diagnosed of pneumonia.
â€œ There was a time I went toÂ visit him at the prison, I was shocked by what I saw. IÂ asked him, Chief, why are you going through all theseÂ problems? When he was released from the Bauchi Prison, he came to see me in Jos before he travelled to Lagos . InÂ fact, the prisons officials followed him to me in Jos where I signed his release papers.â€
Falade said that itÂ would be almost impossible to see a replacement for Gani whoÂ she described as a unique figure.Â Â Falade also saidÂ the deceased was kind to everybody irrespective of their religion or background. She also noted that Gani used toÂ appreciate any little gesture or kindness shown to himÂ despite the fact that he was very wealthy.
â€œThere are many people,Â probably about one thousand or more, including members ofÂ his family, who are living on monthly allowance he gave toÂ them. Tell me, who will take this great responsibility nowÂ that he is gone.?â€
She disclosed that Ganiâ€™s office was coordinating the disbursement of theÂ monthly stipends to the needy especially those in Ondo State.
Another cousin of GaniÂ Alhaji Mutiu Akinnibosun, described him as an extraordinaryÂ man who had time for everybody especially those who were
related to him.
â€œChief left an instruction at hisÂ office that anybody who came visiting from either Fawehinmi or Akinnibosun family must be allowed to see him withoutÂ wasting time.
â€œ His workers neverÂ wasted my time any time I went to his office to see him. HeÂ was responsible for my pilgrimage to Mecca just last year. IÂ never thoughtÂ he would die so soon.Â He also contributedÂ a lot to the development of Ondo kingdom. He was alwaysÂ ready to help.â€
To the Council of ObasÂ in the state his deathÂ isÂ a colossal loss to theÂ state, the nation and humanity.Â Â Their Chairman ObaÂ Lawrence Omowole said that the nation hasÂ lost an icon whose vacant position would be almost impossible to fill.
The monarch said thatÂ althoughÂ itÂ is painful to lose somebody as important asÂ Gani, â€œ the members of the Fawehinmi family should takeÂ solace in the fact that the deceased lived a life of sacrifice andÂ his name has already been immortalizedÂ by his contributions to the entire humanÂ race.
â€œWeÂ received with heavy hearts the sad news of the demise of our son, Chief Ganiyu Fawehinmi. By the unfortunateÂ incident, the people of Ondo State in particular and Nigeria in general haveÂ lost an icon whose position will be difficult to fill.
â€œHis incalculableÂ contributions to the progress, social and economic well-beingÂ of human race will remain evergreen in the minds of allÂ progressive people in the globe. Words are not enough toÂ describe the sacrifices, unrepentant effort to have hisÂ society better than he met it.
â€œWhile weÂ collectively mourn and grieveÂ over this irreparable loss, ourÂ consolationÂ liesÂ in the fact that his usefulÂ work and international contributions will remain a mirror forÂ posterity and shall never be obliterated in theÂ historyÂ of this nation and the world as a wholeâ€.
Meanwhile, the stateÂ House of Assembly has renamed the House of Assembly ArcadeÂ as Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square in a bid to immortalize theÂ fighter of the oppressed.
At a special sittingÂ in honour of the legal icon the House equally asked the stateÂ government to establish an International Research CentreÂ in honor of Gani Fawehinmi.
â€œ Gani has come and goneÂ but the mark he left in the lives and minds of the hopelessÂ and hapless masses would remain forever.â€