Recently, the community of social rights activists gathered in Lagos to mark the 70th birthday of a man who has been silent of late on account of ill – health but who will, nevertheless, go down in the history of this beleaguered nation as an unwavering defender of truth and justice, an irrepressible gadfly that pricked the conscience of successive regimes, a trenchant voice of the voiceless, and a courageous man that repeatedly placed his life on the line in an unending battle for the public good. In the last four decades, Chief Abdul-Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (SAN) popularly known as Gani has represented many things to many people nationwide: lawyer, social critic and human rights activist, prolific writer and publisher, philanthropist and politician.
Born April 22, 1938, Gani son of Chief Saheed Tugbobo Fawehinmi, a timber merchant, muslim leader and philanthropist of
As a lawyer, Gani became L’enfant terrible: his legal practice has led to numerous rulings regarded as locus classicus in the Nigerian legal system. He used the courts to challenge bad laws, bad government and abuse of power under both military and civilian regimes. In a career life that has been characterized by career and life threatening legal acrobatics, Gani has remained consistent and uncompromising. He transforms the courtroom into a stage, courts the press and excites public interest with ample theatricals that often border on exhibitionism. But he never looses sight of the goal: and his goal is usually to defend or to assert the rights of an individual or the rights of the people. Gani has been involved in or handled some of the most controversial and, sometimes, the most dangerous cases in
Gani’s social criticism and unrelenting human rights activism, and his eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations with political power especially the infamous variety known as military rule are legendary. If there is any man alive in
As a prolific writer and publisher, Gani’s publications including the hugely popular Nigerian Weekly Law Reports serve as invaluable tools for generations of lawyers. Some of the books authored by him are popular handbooks for students, researchers, journalists, historians and jurists. Among these are Nigerian Law of Habeas Corpus, Law of Contempt in Nigeria, Murder of Dele Giwa: the Right of a Private Prosecutor, June 12 Crisis-the Illegality of Shonekan’s Government, Peoples Right to Free Education, The Bench and the Bar in Nigeria, Court System in Nigeria – A Guide, Petrol Price Increases In Nigeria: The Truth You Must Know, Obasanjo: The Absentee President of Nigeria, among others. Gani’s books portray him as a man with a passion for chronology and details. In a country where data collection and record keeping are treated with levity, Gani embodies rigour, thoroughness and mental acuity.
As a philanthropist, freely defends and empowers indigent persons and the downtrodden; and as a politician, his uncompromising style through his National Conscience Party (NCP) has paved the way for conscientious politics that places the interest of the people above pecuniary interests.
Gani has suffered persecution and prosecution for the emergence of a better society in which equal rights, justice and the rule of law reign. He has fought the cause of the common man with uncommon dedication without counting cost or return, and without loosing his integrity. Although he is yet to receive a national honour in
Enigma, rebel, maverick, radical, eccentric, or nonconformist, it is not easy to find any one adjective that sufficiently describes Gani. But one thing is sure: Gani Fawehinmi who clocked three scores and ten on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 is a man of uncommon courage.