By Ogbeni Banjo

Death will never cease to inflict its pains, pangs and anguish in our hearts. In my leader’s case, it forewarned us in the most disappointed way. When it eventually comes, it strikes with a painful scourge, leaving on its trail feelings of nostalgia, sorrow, inertia and forlorn hope, especially for a man who fought gallantly for a better Nigeria.

His death and the way he departed make fighting for a nation hopeless in a society under the full control of evils.  Of course, death reminds all of us, including the looters in government and those assassinating to get to political offices that life is truly, truly a vanity.

As hard as modern science tries to make life more meaningful and worth living, the Almighty Allah has made death inescapable. I wonder then why those in government would not allow us to enjoy the little time we spend here on earth. I wonder the basis for their wicked acts of making Nigerians go through hell here on earth.

Despite signals, it still has not dawned on me that the indefatigable fighter, my leader, my brother, the scourge of irresponsible governance and the man who stood alone when others fled the country during the administration of General Sani Abacha, Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi has left Nigeria with all her problems. I am still at sea over his death. Just as his death flattened out all of us, his close allies, as would a stream-roller, it would paradoxically squeeze out the worst traits in Nigerians.  We will now begin to hear big English such as “he died when the country needed him most”; whereas when he was alive the looters hated him with passion.

Those in government ignored his calls for a better Nigeria. Voters demanded money from him despite his struggle for them to be free. The Gbenga Daniel of this world, the Yar’Adua of this world, who have the opportunity to give us the best health care but refused to, relying on the health services of the Western World and Saudi Arabia would begin to speak with both sides of their mouth.  All these hypocrites that God will punish with his wrath for turning Nigerians to beggars, thugs, and docile beings will shamelessly utter good words which are now meaningless to his lifeless body and the rest of us.

Chief emboldened me with three incidents that I would never forget.  During the trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa, when the government prevented his family members from seeing him, Chief walked into the police station and the armed officer there threatened to shoot pointing the gun at his chest. Chief tore his shirt and dared the soldier.  The second one was when Ambassador Walters Carrington was being hosted and the Abacha government disrupted the function, while most people ran, Chief stood there and dared the police to shoot. He was finally escorted in procession to his house in Ikeja.

In all these cases, only divine power intervened.  The third one was when I facilitated an interview between the Washington Times and Chief, again during the regime of Abacha.  Chief came on the phone, roaring fearlessly like a bold lion.  The reporter who was aware of the brutality and the repression of the government listened to the manner Chief was speaking, he cautioned “Chief, you are in Lagos; you need to tone it down.”  Chief responded, “I am not a slave, my friend, I am a free Nigerian, no one and I mean no one controls what I say.”

I remember when I was having challenges of life.  Chief phoned me that morning, and said Lanre. Sir, I responded. You have to be a man.  “Problems are for men to solve, if I woke up in the morning and everything was going smoothly, I would look for a problem. When I got it and resolved it, I will be confident that my day will be blessed.  It is not good when life goes smoothly without problems.

Brace yourself up and face the challenges and you would have the last laugh,” Chief counseled.  I started laughing and my sorrow disappeared. I heeded that advice partially by always looking for the problems of Gbenga Daniel, General Olusegun Obasanjo and the likes of them in government of Nigeria.

I stayed away from other problems. I am forever grateful for that advice for I triumph and I had the last laugh. Chief told me that you cannot avoid the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today. Other personal advices he gave me continue to assist me in my private and public life.

Chief realized that all that is requisite for evil men to succeed is for the good people to do nothing.   Irrespective of the wicked maneuvers of ambitious political wolves in sheep clothing, Chief continued to do good and speak fearlessly, as God gave him the spiritual strength, the wisdom and the foresight to do so. Chief fought to ensure that man’s inhumanity to man must cease, and he understood early that freedom is not won by a passive acceptance of suffering.

Freedom is won by a struggle against suffering. I was emboldened by majority of his deeds which I hope all of us his close associates would emulate. Just as the close associates of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s became economic slaves and demonstrate lack of principles to carry on the vision of Chief Awolowo, I pray that those of us who call ourselves the followers of Chief Fawehinmi will not fall prey to selfishness, indiscipline, and money some of which have been demonstrated while he was alive.  I am convinced that the only way his close associates could do him and ourselves of course, the greatest honour is by taking his ideals a step further in helping to create an egalitarian Nigerian society where there is rule of law, fairness, and justice to the exclusion of tribalism, ethnocentrisms, favouritism, and corruption. But I can only keep hope alive!

Adieu, Chief Fawehinmi.  You have done your best for a nation living on batteries and whose batteries could flatten at any given time; a nation full of hypocrites moving around with God’s wrath and curse on their heads. Your giant footprints are all over the Nigerian nation for even the blind to see. Your fight, your struggle, the Nigerian Law Reports, etc. are all evidence of your achievements.

You are now greater than Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo and the rest who harassed, oppressed and ordered your arrest.  You should be waiting to order their arrest and bring them before the Almighty God as soon as they expire to tell Him how they turned Nigeria to an unsafe country.

Be a good lawyer, that you were, for Nigerians, since Chief Afe Babalola, SAN may not be there with them. As a matter of fact, no SAN will be needed before God. Argue our case before the Lord so that he can send his soldiers to arrest our oppressors.  Remember the Constitution that they concocted and still refused to follow so that your suffering will not go in vain.

You suffered for us all. When suffering is understood from God’s perspective, it becomes a source of eternal joy. Therefore rejoice that you partook in the sufferings of Jesus the Christ, Prophet Muhammed (SAW), Dr. Martin Luther King, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti and many others who suffered in this hell on earth where the black race suffers and smiles.

You certainly understood that true pacifism is a courageous confrontation with evil by the power of love, in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflictor of it. Rest in perfect peace, my brother, and be waiting to direct the Nigerian oppressors to their deserved places where there would be no police and soldiers to send after you.

It will be improper for me to end this release without remembering Mrs. Ibukun Ganiat Fawehinmi, the first wife of Chief Fawehinmi who stood by him like the rock of Gibraltar.

She and the second wife, Mrs. Abike Fawehinmi stood by their husbands through thick and thin. Can I, I cannot forget the children from Mohammed to Rabiat. May God give all the family members the fortitude to bear this great loss.

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