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Gani called family meeting four days before he died

By Dayo Johnson,  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 odour  and it was  the old women who usually  gather at the Oka  palatial building where the late mother of Gani, Alhaja Muniral Fawehinmi   lived when she was alive who first noticed strange human traffic  inside the building.

The body of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi at his residence at GRA Ikeja during the lying in state.  Photo by Lamidi Bamidele
The body of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi at his residence at GRA Ikeja during the lying in state. Photo by Lamidi Bamidele

The octogenarian, Pa Saaka Akinnibosun  who is currently the head of  Gani’s maternal Akinnibosun family was  taken  out of the environment when he began to ask questions.

The human traffic to  the Oka residence of Gani and his father’s house at Okedasa was alarming as both the young and old trooped in  their hundreds to pay their last respect to their friend and  benefactor.

Hordes  of sympathizers  including under privileged members of the society besieged the Fawehinmis family residence at Okedasa Street to condole  with relations and they were on daily basis served with  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 courtesy  of  the state government.

Gani, while alive, was the Lomafe  of Ondo Kingdom and helped  in many ways to bring development to his home town even as  many less privileged youths were given scholarship awards.

Committees have been  set up for the burial  and the Information Commissioner in the state, Ranti Akerele is representing the state government.

Speaking on the burial arrangements, retired  Justice Rasheed Fawehinmi, Gani’s  senior brother who  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 and  he lived a  fulfilled  life struggling and championing the cause of  the down trodden

“The deceased would be surely  missed by many who had benefited from his crusade.”

Alhaji Elias  Akinnibosun, Gani’s cousin described the death as “shocking to all members of the family” saying the  family has lost a pillar of support that everybody leans on.

Dr Adefolaju Falade  who is an  Assistant Director of Army Education in the Ministry of Defence said that  Gani invited all family members to Ondo four days before his  death and held a meeting with them. Falade said that  “all members of the family can confirm to you, without exception, that Gani is not a pretender.

Mrs Alao Aka-Bashorun, the Gani's widows: Mr Ganiyat and Mrs Abike Fawehinmi at the occasion
Mrs Alao Aka-Bashorun, the Gani's widows: Mr Ganiyat and Mrs Abike Fawehinmi at the occasion

“He is true to his  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 happy  seeing family members around.

“Death has dealt a  big blow on this family. We can only call on Nigerians to  join us in honouring him because he lived his life for this  country. He fought for democracy at the risk of his life. He  is a courageous human being. There can never be another one  like him”.

For Oladunni Awosika, 70 year- old younger sister of Gani , there is nothing to say about his death. “What can I  say?

What do you want me to say? Egin (meaning elder brother  in Ondo dialect) Gani is dead. We were age-mates. We were so close when we were young that other family members called me  his wife. Now they called me his twin sister. A big fish has  left the river and we are left to mourn  him”.

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 left  hand corner of his residence in Oka street just as information made rounds  he may be buried inside the garden at the frontage of the building which is in fulfillment of  his wish that he should be buried close to his  mother.

Family members move  from his Oka residence to his father’s  Okedasa  house to  perfect the burial arrangement.
Security operatives are not left out as officials of the State Security Service were seen  moving  from one venue to the other to perfect the  arrangements  while the state police command have deployed 1300 policemen to Ondo town and Akure the state capital to beef up security  during the ceremony.

The Ondo Central  mosque, where Gani was the Baba Adinni  is expected to  host him and is wearing a new look in preparation for his  burial.

The Ondo State  government has indicated its intension to be fully involved in the burial activities of the social crusader. State Commissioner of  Information, Ranti Akerele said that “the late activist  actually instructed his family before he breathed his last,  to involve the government of Ondo  State in his burial plans”.

Akerele disclosed that  the late activist called Mimiko on phone four days before  his demise saying  that he was proud of  the governor’s achievements in his six months in office.

The commissioner who  said top officials of the state had left for Lagos to  consult with family members on how to execute the burial  plans also claimed that Gani during his  conversation with Mimiko advised  the governor not to deviate from the right track.

Dr Mimiko while  mourning Gani expressed sadness over the death of the human  rights activist and described   him as a colossus and a pride not  only to Ondo State and Nigeria but the whole world.   He said the death “was painful and an irreparable loss coming at  this stage of our development in Ondo State when we needed  his wealth of knowledge.

“On behalf of the people of  this  State, I most sincerely thank the good Lord for  giving  this distinguished man to us in Ondo State; he was  an eminent Nigerian, a global personality of the finest cast  who, no doubt lived a life of social struggle.

His was a  selfless life dedicated wholly to the advancement of justice  and the defense of the common man.
“His contributions  to the development of our jurisprudence predicated upon a  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 an  appropriate role model for generations of younger Nigerians.

“Though he is dead  now,  we are grateful to the Lord for his life and we are  proud of our association with him and we thank him for the  eternal pride that he brought the way of our dear Ondo  State, for whether anyone likes it or not, the Gani Fawehinmi phenomenon has  helped substantially to define the nature and image of the Ondo State personality as a dedicated defender of the truth,  a focused and conscientious hard worker, resilient in  struggle, and driven by a deep sense of conformity with the  omoluwabi ethos of the Yoruba.

“Though today, Gani  Fawehinmi is no more, we are consoled by the fact that  he would rest well confident that his place in the heart of  Nigerians and lovers of truth, freedom and justice all over the world is assured”. Some of those who  benefitted from Gani’s  gesture while alive spoke with Saturday Vanguard on their experiences.

One of them, Peter Akinkunmi, who said that the late lawyer was  responsible for his educational achievements, described his sponsor as a man who did not relate with people based of  their religion or ethnic background.

Akinkunmi who signed  the condolence register said, “Daddy, you are my mentor. You gave me  sound education. You sent me to  school and paid my fees and fed me all through. Although I cannot repay you for what you did for me, God will surely  be with your family. I will miss you more than  anybody.”

Also, Gani’s cousin,  Dr Adefolaju Falade said  there were about one thousand  people who were being paid monthly allowance by the late  human rights lawyer.

According to her,  “There are many people probably about one thousand or  more, including members of his family, who are living on  monthly allowance he gave to them. Tell me, who will take  this great responsibility now that he is gone?”

Falade said that the  deceased office coordinated the disbursement of the monthly  allowances to the needy especially those in Ondo State.  His kinsmen see him “as a very  caring man who devoted enough time to  his immediate and extended family members  despite his tight schedule.”

One of his remaining  two elder brothers, Alhaji Jubril Fawehinmi, described  his late brother as a respectful man who was very close to  all his siblings and family members despite his tight schedule.  Jubril, 77, said that “ Ganiyu’s death is an incalculable loss to us.

He  was the youngest son of my  father but with his death now, I am left with our  eldest brother Justice Rasheed Fawehinmi. He was so  respectful. Despite his fame and his wealth, he always  prostrated to greet me and those older than he was.

“ I can not  say  this is  how I am going to miss him but I know that I will definitely miss him. He lived to bear the  burdens of others.”

Dr Adefolaju Falade  described Gani as an African man who valued the culture of  his people. To her, the late human rights activist  loved  members of his extended family just like he loved  his biological children.

Falade said that Gani  contracted cancer from the Bauchi Prisons adding that “  Gani’s cancer history probably started when he took  ill at Bauchi Prison and was  diagnosed of pneumonia.

“ There was a time I went to  visit him at the prison, I was shocked by what I saw. I  asked him, Chief, why are you going through all these  problems? When he was released from the Bauchi Prison, he came to see me in Jos before he travelled to Lagos . In  fact, the prisons officials followed him to me in Jos where I signed his release papers.”

Falade said that it  would be almost impossible to see a replacement for Gani who  she described as a unique figure.   Falade also said  the deceased was kind to everybody irrespective of their religion or background. She also noted that Gani used to  appreciate any little gesture or kindness shown to him  despite the fact that he was very wealthy.

“There are many people,  probably about one thousand or more, including members of  his family, who are living on monthly allowance he gave to  them. Tell me, who will take this great responsibility now  that he is gone.?”

She disclosed that Gani’s office was coordinating the disbursement of the  monthly stipends to the needy especially those in Ondo State.

Another cousin of Gani  Alhaji Mutiu Akinnibosun, described him as an extraordinary  man who had time for everybody especially those who were
related to him.

“Chief left an instruction at his  office that anybody who came visiting from either Fawehinmi or Akinnibosun family must be allowed to see him without  wasting time.

“ His workers never  wasted my time any time I went to his office to see him. He  was responsible for my pilgrimage to Mecca just last year. I  never thought  he would die so soon.  He also contributed  a lot to the development of Ondo kingdom. He was always  ready to help.”

To the Council of Obas  in the state his death  is  a colossal loss to the  state, the nation and humanity.   Their Chairman Oba  Lawrence Omowole said that the nation has  lost an icon whose vacant position would be almost impossible to fill.

The monarch said that  although  it  is painful to lose somebody as important as  Gani, “ the members of the Fawehinmi family should take  solace in the fact that the deceased lived a life of sacrifice and  his name has already been immortalized  by his contributions to the entire human  race.

“We  received with heavy hearts the sad news of the demise of our son, Chief Ganiyu Fawehinmi. By the unfortunate  incident, the people of Ondo State in particular and Nigeria in general have  lost an icon whose position will be difficult to fill.

“His incalculable  contributions to the progress, social and economic well-being  of human race will remain evergreen in the minds of all  progressive people in the globe. Words are not enough to  describe the sacrifices, unrepentant effort to have his  society better than he met it.

“While we  collectively mourn and grieve  over this irreparable loss, our  consolation  lies  in the fact that his useful  work and international contributions will remain a mirror for  posterity and shall never be obliterated in the  history  of this nation and the world as a whole”.
Meanwhile, the state  House of Assembly has renamed the House of Assembly Arcade  as Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square in a bid to immortalize the  fighter of the oppressed.
At a special sitting  in honour of the legal icon the House equally asked the state  government to establish an International Research Centre  in honor of Gani Fawehinmi.
“ Gani has come and gone  but the mark he left in the lives and minds of the hopeless  and hapless masses would remain forever.”

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