It was upon a rainy Saturday morning last weekend when I got the short, yet loaded, text message from my friend, Joe Igbokwe. It simply read, “Gani is dead”. Instinctively, I looked out through the window to see if things were still the same, alas, there was still the same dawdy picture of a country whose hope for redemption is percolating faster than the morning dew. I contemplated within me, Gani dead and things are just the way they are? I couldn’t understand it but then it made me to delve into the deeper meaning and essence of life. Seeking the definition of life at such period becomes an irresistible intellectual offer. At that period, what came to my mind was Shakespeare’s ageless definition of life in Macbeth. It was at a time Macbeth, the tragic King of Scotland was caught in the maze of his self-serving intrigues to remain as King of Scotland. He had committed several murders, including that of the good king, Duncan and his close friend and general Banquo and has indeed waxed dangerously murderous to retain himself in power. But his desperation was to provoke an infernal revolt amongst his countrymen who resisted his dictatorial bent. They were to launch a massive resistance from a nearby country.
Having raised a formidable army, they advanced towards Macbeth’s Scotland and this met a clearly ragged Macbeth at his tyrannical worst. He was being deserted by his lieutenants in droves and these did not just leave him, they crossed over to the invading army. Distraught, distracted and besieged, Macbeth found himself a prisoner to power and had only one trustable confidant, his equally ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth. However, life played a falsie on him just as the opposing army was at the city gate. His trusted wife died and when the sad report of his wife’s death reached Macbeth, he asked himself what life is really all about. He went ahead and answered that question, thus providing a classical definition of life and the encasing vanities therein. To him, “Life is a walking shadow, a poor player that frets and struts its hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” That was the state of mind that hit me when Gani died and things went on as though nothing happened. It helped me tremendously grapple life in its best possible meaning.
I had almost come to believe that men like Gani will never die. How wrong was I proved on that rainy Saturday morning when the falcon flew away? I am not here to write about Gani because testimonies about his life are legion and can task the voluminous literature. They are being spewed by friends and foes, patriots and scoundrels, victors and villains, believers and agnostics alike. I think in the life of Gani, Nigerians of whatever clime and persuasion, belief and creed, are coming to unanimity of opinion of what that icon was. In Gani, the truthsayers and the hypocrites are coming in agreement that here is a hero, who cannot be cloned, at least not in foreseeable future. We are consoled by this fact and this remains that historical part of man that cannot be interred with his bones.
Gani came to a land where anomie and deviant attitudes were used to violently substitute desirable norms and etiquettes and he saw, fought and vanquished. Gani, like millions of Nigerians, was born into a land where a brood of mercenaries and their subalterns have morphed in several decades to constitute impediments to the lives of innocent citizens and have almost completely wrecked the country, including its uncertain future. In this murky scenario, he threw his hat into the ring and wrestled these vermin to a standstill. That these principalities have, in death, turned him into their hero speaks of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, even when Gani will issue a disclaimer on most of the characters that have today canonized him their patron saint. Gani remains a lodestar in the tempestuous terrain that Nigeria had been reduced by amoral leaders. For daring to challenge their rank excesses, Gani was targeted for consistent persecution by the string of bad leaders that have tormented this country. Despite them, he suffered them gladly and never hid his revulsion of them. It is thing of historical irony that those he pilloried with unending tirade in the public space and those he fought through series of consistent litigation, in his deference to law as an instrument of social engineering, are falling over each other in praising him in death.
As I watched the voluble Gani lie in state in his Ikeja expansive home the picture in my mind depicts the apparent physical stilling of a raging tornado against consistent leadership blight and the deprecatory preying that goes on as leadership in a sad and violently raped country as Nigeria. He remained a permanent scare to the cult of irreverent buccaneers and philistines that have not flagged in visiting pestilence on a well-endowed country since our ineffectual independence in 1960. Till he breathed his last, Gani remained an implacable foe to bad government and bad rulers who have infected Nigeria and are renewing their dubious strength from consistently conspiring against the people and for their narrow interests. He never hid his contempt for the rampaging pests that have always seized power, not for the good of all but for their narrow corrupt ends. He devoted his personal wealth, time and energy towards pursuing the ends of an egalitarian society where no man is oppressed.
Gani shunned the company of the oppressors but rather, like Mother Teresa, he sourced company in the wretched of the earth and from the pith of poverty, he found infinite joy and fulfillment. He fought so hard for the common man and was wont to get very emotional with the reckless impetuosity of our so-called leaders and their profligate disposition to the resources of the people. He was perhaps the greatest advocate of the poor, the greatest crusader for social justice, the most resilient and most articulate defender of the defenseless and friend to the less privileged. Gani served God in his fellow human being at a time plain vanity, charlatanism and godless religionism is blurring man’s relationship with God. He was well informed and meticulous in all his engagements, which made it so difficult for his traducers to match his tireless zeal to battle them. In fact, Gani was a man without cant! His admirers are catholic and his constituency remains seamless. In death, he has rather expanded his forte and there is little doubt he has ascended into the pantheon of legends where Nigeria’s bests are watching as the country continues its meteoric degeneration into a sad abyss of tears and gloom while shibboleths continue digging in.
Gani is gone and his death has thrown open a wide chasm that showed with the dawn of his deteriorating health. The perennial cabal that has cornered state power is growing increasingly trenchant in infesting the country with illegalities that help them ruin the rest of Nigerians. The surviving army of activists in Nigeria is weighed down by their own shortfalls and the fatigue occasioned by the enormity of the tasks ahead, the determination of the prevailing power mongers who can do anything to stay in power. Nigerians, both oppressors and the oppressed, are the real losers in Gani’s death for his death diminishes all of us. He surely sits among the heavenly elect because he had done what is pleasing to God. He has done his bit and moved on and despite his great effort; we have grown stoically irreformable and bound for failure as a nation. Let Gani have his rest. He deserves it and as I watched him lie in state, I felt that here goes a noble and valiant soldier for humanity. Again, I remembered Shakespeare’s ageless words again, from the mouths of that same tragic Macbeth, “Gani is in his grave, after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well.” Good night, Gani, our hero and mentor to Nigerians. And the yawning question is when comes another Gani?