Gani Fawehinmi: The Town Crier

by Banjo Odutola

My subject matter is a Senior Advocate of the Masses, distinguished Lawyer, critic of various Nigerian Government Administrations, philanthropist, ahead of his time and now a presidential aspirant to the coveted Nigerian presidency. The accolades of this distinguished citizen cannot be compared to the short introduction of this treatise, in short he is greater than Life and I admit that much. Nonetheless, I see a side of him that envelops his political ambition and it is for this reason that I shall attempt a metaphorical use of certain aspects of the traditional Town Crier because a direct comparison or contrast is otiose. Fawehinmi bears a hallmark that, for some strange reasons, attempts to pigeonhole him will destroy the argument at hand. Yet, I cannot resist the similarities between him and a Town Crier.

Historically, the Town Crier dates back to 1066 in the United Kingdom; Gani is not as antiquated; his methods and the correlation between his aspirations and activism date farther than the Crier, who were used in passing news, whether bad or good, to the citizens. The invasion of King William of Normandy is an example of their appositeness of the Criers; the colour of their clothing is as loud as the ringing of their bells; the news they deliver is often lost because of the attention paid to them. In Gani’s case, this is not farther from the truth. A Crier is seen as a source of amusement or sobriety and that depends on the news he bears. Is Gani, any different? The Crier is often expected to show his face as a recurring decimal because he is relied upon to be the source of contemplations rather than a source to garner reactionary responses to the news he bears.

At times, the Crier bears news of an injustice or it may be to voice Ukases handed down in the courts of power in the loud Oyez, Oyez and Oyez, with which he calls for attention; his job starts and ends in the delivery of the news and no more. The limitation in his constituency is a foregone conclusion because he influences only those who hear his cries and the ding-dong of his bell; as for other people who do not hear nor see the Crier, they are beneficiaries of hearsay or in another term, they are not as affected as others. Therefore, the Crier has little effect or sympathy only in his immediate area and not in lands afar.

The same can be said of Gani and the popularity of his party defines this proposition. But there is an aspect that separates Gani from the Crier he simulates. The Crier does his job and disappears until another event calls for him to prevail himself upon the people. That is not the style of Gani’s town crying. Gani is the news, at least as far as his political aspirations are concerned. Mind you, because the Crier does not organise responses to his news, he cannot be so condemned. There is a defined role for a Crier and he restricts himself to it. But Gani extends the role for which society is at comfort with his message. His consensus candidacy, which is to be legitimised by a later vote is confusing and an anathema to democracy. Does this mean that Gani approves of a suffrage that produces a winner without a vote? Look, Gani and the rest of our politicians are one and the same.

I am puzzled at the town crier that brings the news of administrative misdemeanour, who given a chance to exhibit his credentials, shows that he is a simulacrum of the ones before him. I begin to worry because the only sense I can make of Gani’s fights for the masses is that it is a strand, which is copulated with a political ambition; at least for now, so it seems. It appears his activism is a stepping-stone to power. Mind you, there is nothing wrong in that. But, it is a regret that it has taken this long for it to surface. Is the fight for the masses a long-standing ploy to gain sympathies for his grandiose aspirations? He is best to answer this poser, for which I have further observations and I shall return to it.

Is Gani any different from the brightly coloured dressed and bell ringing Town Crier? Well, comparing a lowly functionary to him may be inappropriate; nonetheless, there are certain similarities and reasons why the man is a modern day Town Crier, who is confusing his message and may find that the people who trust his skills in a Court of Law are unlikely to mandate him to manage our national politics. It is abundantly clear that he lacks the experience for the muddy and dirty politics in Nigeria; the scrutiny of his choice as a presidential candidate is not any different from the people he advises are shunned.

So, like the Town Crier whose sphere of influence is immediate; his promise to reduce poverty if voted to power is broad and meaningless. He has no antecedents in that area to prove that he is capable of delivery. It is a promise that familiar in all putsches of the military and the civilians before and after them. His supporters are likely to tell us that he grants scholarships to all types of Nigerians as if that satisfies their principal’s inadequacies. Gani may discover to his surprise that his prowess in seeking justice may not equate to political success and that may be a reason to reject him.

If Gani fails to capture power, it is not because the masses reject the man, it is his fault for not using history to assist his political ambitions. After all, contemporary history teaches of sectarian heroes, who failed to gain plebiscites that were believed to be theirs for the asking; Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot of the USA, Arthur Scargill of the UK and Joshua Nkomo of Zimbabwe are few examples who rode on a similar Okada as Gani is now doing. It is no gainsaying that like his predecessors he is going to fail. My only hope is that I hope his failure will not precipitate a fall. Politics is a dirty game with no structured rules; its rules are conveniently stretched at times and the stretching only stands to benefit politicians who cannot abide by the rules of the game. Gani is not in that league; so I am worried at his impending transformation.

Yes; Gani does not wear brightly coloured clothes like the Town Crier; anyway, the symbolism of the bright clothes are not significant. Gani’s clothes are the hard work that he expends on behalf of the causes he champions, he sacrifices his time, almost his health and finance to support the downtrodden. Good on him. However, like the Crier, the Nigerian public and mind you, the number is not as large as touted, pay attention to Gani as a paladin and not as a politician. When Gani stops advocating for the masses, his horizon becomes different; when he starts to control a section of the country; a generosity to the uphill task ahead of his party’s gubernatorial aspirants such as Adewunmi Abassi, Lagos; Femi Aborishade, Oyo; Lanre Banjo, Ogun; Femi Falana; Ekiti and Osagie Obayuwana, Edo; he becomes a political variable in the same equation that has destroyed this nation. What I imply by extension is simple; Gani should continue his struggle in the Courts of Law.

Is it not obvious that a political party that relies on the mandate of Okada Motorcyclists to carry it to power is on course for a carom, which is determinable: A ricochet to nowhere. The man and his party may become as accident prone as his Okada backers because he has started his presidential aspiration on a bad footing. He ought to know by now that mandates are denied an aspirant that does not represent chivalry that are the preserve of leadership. Why did a man who has fought the lions and serpents of our corrupt system and who as a result is accustomed to the harshness of our prison system weep when enthroned to ask for a political mandate? Is this a weeping president in waiting or what is the cause of the crocodile tears was he shedding? The tears are not for Gani’s; they rightly belong to the victims of Okada Motorcyclists‘ misadventures.

That aside, the tamed uncouthness in Olusegun Obasanjo is rearing its ugly head in Gani. Somehow, I wonder if the infamy for which his fellow Yoruba man, President Obasanjo is legendary for, is a Yoruba trait. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not stereotyping the Yorubas; I am only making a case that two of our national heroes need a few more homilies on how to behave in public. Why was the paroxysm of abuse on INEC necessary at a ceremony that could have been used to project the National Conscience Party (NCP) as an alternative to other parties and Gani to Obasanjo? This presidential aspirant’s vituperation is a disgrace to the man and he needs to learn a few lessons in public decorum. This nation has no place at Aso Rock for leaders that rain abuses on others where statesmanship is required; we need leaders worthy of emulation.

As earlier alluded, the town crier is never the message; he is only a bearer of it. As for Gani, he is the message and he threatens the system he aspires to lead; he is tenebrous when his message is not as euphonious as he wishes. Or else, how does one explain his interview on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)? It is attributed to him that he would make the country ungovernable if his party was not registered. We ought to tank providence that his party is now registered. Is this the quality that we seek in our president? These qualities may well be appropriate for an activist; Gani’s tactics, which begins to define his aspirations do not portend well for a man who wants to govern this nation. So, if the National Assembly disagrees with this hypothetical President Fawehinmi, it appears hell will be let loose. Is it therefore not fortuitous that Obasanjo is a scheming leader? Wait for Gani, weti e of our first republic would have be a picnic in contrast.

I return to the earlier poser; personally, I want to believe Gani’s altruism in the causes he champions and a considered contrast with the present president, who has performed below expectation; may have led others to encourage him to aspire for the highest office in the land. There is nothing wrong in the encouragement of others. A man ought to know his own limits; I do not believe this town crier transcends the values he invites us to shun, if anything at all, his ego in crossing the line of activism to presidential aspiration may destroy many years of hard work, invite ridicule and expose him as a power seeker, when in essence, what he seeks for his people and the nation are laudable: a path to sufficiency and good governance.

Why he cannot concentrate his endeavours in the Courts of Law is beyond me. Nonetheless, I respect his guts; I admire his aspirations for our country; I am only thinking aloud because the aforementioned are only a tip of an iceberg as to the reasons why he is unequipped by a stratosphere for the burden of governing our country, Nigeria.

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jide June 22, 2011 - 3:22 pm

it really encouraging.

J.Uchey Nwahia May 2, 2006 - 7:28 am

its absorbing,it really is….

Anonymous November 30, 2005 - 4:07 pm

The falsehood you were trying to disseminate through this article can not fool people like me, who know the immense contributions, that Gani Fawehinmi and his likes have made to the lives of Nigerians.

By not kowtowing to the oligarchies,the corrupt and incompetent men and women who have run aground the affairs of our country;Nigeria men, like Gani Fawehinmi have become beacons of hope for me as a Nigerian, in the midst of the darkness that seeks to envelope our nation.

So for you to sit in your comfy UK office and intentionally twist facts and events to satisfy either your own intersts or that of others is totally repugnant to me.

Whatever you and your likes think or want, the light shall yet shine again in Nigeria ,when all of today's men of power would be swept away, to give place to a nation of honest,visionary and corruption free leaders and people

Then, the likes of Gani Fawehinmi,Ken-saro Wiwa who have sacrificed in one way or the other for a free Nigeria would be celebrated and your likes who for short term gains and parochial goals see nothing good in them will be without acknowledgement.

However,it is not too late for you to retrace your steps to the path of truth which obviously you have shunned.


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