By Ademola Adegbamigbe
The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi would have been 81 today. His birth anniversary was, last year, marked with two major events. The Lagos State Governent unveiled a new statue to immortalise him at Ojota Park. Also, Professor Wole Soyinka gave a keynote address in his honour. Fawehinmi, popularly called Gani, born on 22 April 1938, the son of Saheed and Munirat Fawehinmi of Ondo, in Ondo State, was a lawyer, human rights activist and a nemesis of bad political leaders. He died on 5 September 2009 at the aged of 71.
This writer is one of those who will never forget Chief Fawehinmi. He was an interviewer’s delight in his Anthony Village Chambers and Ikeja GRA home, both in Lagos.
Before going there, a journalist had to be prepared. You must do your research well. You had to get your facts right. In fact it was always better to have more than enough questions. This is because, if you went there with five, by the time you ask number one question, Chief Fawehinmi would have answered all you had on your notepad and you would be there panting like a beached whale!
Another striking way Fawehinmi granted interviews was his use of language. In an interview with TheNEWS, he described the late General Sani Abacha’s regime as “Nebuchadnezzaraic.” That was a reference to the brutal King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (605 BC – c. 562 BC). What’s more, Chief Fawehinmi would real out statistics to buttress his facts, a feat that would render the jaws of readers open.
I once asked who influenced him. He replied that apart from Lord Denning, an English lawyer and judge, it was Christopher Alexander Sapara-Williams, Nigeria’s first indigenous lawyer. No wonder, Sapara William’s eternal words adorned the walls of Fawehinmi’s Anthony Chambers: “The legal practitioner lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his country.” That was exactly how Fawehinmi’s life and law practice could be summarised.
It was in acknowledgement of this that President Muhammadu Buhari, last year, paid tribute to Fawehinmi, describing him ‘‘as a true conscience of the nation, defender of democracy and people’s rights advocate.”
In the words of Buhari: “The late Senior Advocate of the Masses was not an arm chair-critic, nor a rabble rouser who fomented trouble for its sake; but a serious minded, articulate, cerebral and compassionate promoter of fundamental human rights, social justice, equity, fair play and national development.
“Gani was an extraordinary human being and a great reference for all progressive elements in society. He dared death and incarceration and was forced into prison 40 times without bowing to intimidation and molestation.
‘‘He fought for and stood by democracy with every ounce of his blood and immense intellect. He deserves a lingering respect,” the president said in his tribute.”
General Ibrahim Babangida, a former Military President, was quoted by Onigegewura, as saying this about Fawehinmi: “There was one vivid meeting that has remained in my memory about Gani, and that was in 1984. I was the Chief of Army Staff. Gani, in his characteristic manner, was as fearless as ever when we asked him to relate his own side of a particular issue as he blasted all of us irrespective of the fact that we were all generals in uniform and he was the only civilian among us and all what we did was to clap for him as we appreciated his courage.”
At a public function in Victory College, Ikare, Fawehinmi verbally attacked a former Ondo State military Governor in the Abacha years, Anthony Onyarugbulem, for having the cheek to badge in on and embarrass the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin (for hosting a meeting of the National Democratic Coalition in his Owo home). Fawehinmi’s boldness was legendary.
Christopher Alexander Sapara-Williams: Man Who Influenced Fawehinmi
As narrated by Mary Odunuga: “Sapara-Williams had his roots from Ijeshaland. He was always proud of where he came from, he would fondly call it, ‘Ijesha wa’, meaning ‘Our Ijesha’. He did not love his roots only in words, he acted accordingly too by being instrumental to Nigeria’s decolonization. The part he played that wows me every time I read it was his condemnation of Seditious Offences Ordinances of 1909 and his collaboration with Herbert Macaulay to start the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. Sapara-Williams had a voice and he made sure his voice was heard.”
Read the rest of the story here: https://www.thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2019/04/fawhinmi-would-have-been-81-today-how-sapara-williams-influenced-him/
Credit TheNEWS magazine.