By Onyema Omenuwa

When Chief FRA Williams, SAN, passed on some three years ago, Nigeria’s legal
community lamented the closure of a definitive chapter of the country’s legal history.

Significantly, such feeling of momentous loss is, unarguably, the highest tribute that could be paid to a lawyer in this part of the world, and it would take only a lawyer who has attained superlative professional excellence to be so eulogised. FRA simply bestrode Nigeria’s legal firmament.

Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, who journeyed on in the early hours of Saturday, September 5, 2009, like Williams, maintained a towering height in the legal profession, and as they have done for FRA the throbbing of legal drums will surely endure for Gani; unless the legal profession ceases to be in Nigeria.

But that is where the comparison between FRA and Gani stops. Really, if the celebration of a man’s life simply duplicated the celebration of another’s before him, there would hardly be anything extraordinary to compel attention to the latter’s life.

Herein lies the incomparable beauty of the life that was Gani’s: the life that was not just sacrificed to his legal calling but indeed immersed in that profession, simply to ensure that the general populace sucked from it.

That explains why on the break of the news that Gani had lost the battle to cancer, everybody, not just lawyers got grief-stricken; lamenting this journey that Gani will not return from.

But everybody celebrating Gani should not be mistaken to mean that his was a life of only positive attributes from all human perspectives. No; that would mean a perfect life that all mortals strive for but never attain, and Gani was after all human. Simply put, no one can satisfy everyone.

So it did happen that while Gani lived, he had his fair share of faults but those shortcomings were definitely eclipsed by the sterling quality that Gani was never given to pretences; hence even if his opinion or position on any given issue was the most unpopular, his passionate defence of it was bound to attract admiration to him.

In the very recent past, many had cause to disagree with him on Nuhu Ribadu’s mode of operation with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), particularly in the twilight of Olusegun Obasanjo’s years as President, but Gani never lost his esteem as one who would hold steadfast to his belief.

Interestingly, on the whole, Gani’s unpopular opinions would pale into insignificance when juxtaposed with the popular ones that in the main actually shaped the society positively.

Only a few would remember today that it was Gani’s suit that actually opened up the political space for political parties to be registered, without them subjecting themselves first, as a precondition, to the idiosyncrasies of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).Public interest ligation was his forte.
Is it the politicians who have manisfested vexatious selfish purpose for seeking public office that would remember?

So, if the entire nation, irrespective of political, religious or cultural persuasion is mourning Gani today, it is because here was a man who personified the social conscience of the nation.

The law was just a tool to aid his crusade for social justice, of course for the sake of the deprived lot that successive Nigerian governments despise.
Fare thee well Gani.

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