In my father’s bedroom, a normal bedroom size of an average Nigerian lies a little shelf meant for book-keeping such as journals, magazines, letters and office documents. My sister once told me that if they could not find me nearby, their first target was always the little shelf in my father’s bedroom.
This story is very similar to one of the stories I heard from my father that I spent the larger part of my childhood as a lonely boy always sitting besides my father’s little shelf. Yes, I had grown up reading about the killings, victimisation, unlawful arrests, oppression, brutal confrontations, military decrees and sad tales of woeful poor performances of government through newspapers especially TELL Magazines at my father’s Little shelf.
In my father’s library, I read about the sad story of our nation, insecurity, unfavourable economic realities and violation of fundamental rights. I read about activists and critics who stood gallantly to query unlawful decisions and fought tirelessly the satanic and obnoxious policies of the then military government. Nigeria is blessed with a lot of activists but there was a man called “GANI” who is popularly known as “People’s lawyer” whose history of unparallel service to humanity is second to none.
GANI was always on every front pages of any national dailies I picked up to read, addressing social issues, criticising the activists of the military and taking up cases for victimised students and commoners who were cheated by the elites. While other people pay press to mould their image, forcefully narrating their ordeals to portray a sense of greatness, GANI was great in his own ways. We all read about its greatness.
Besides being a brave and courageous lawyer who won big cases and intelligently feared by judges and colleagues, Late Gani Fawehinmi was a great man of extraordinary character. He went to same Nigeria law school enemies of the poor in disguise of lawyers attended and his inspiring story as a struggling student can be likened to the stories of many lawyers who had very rough days of survival in their universities.
GANI was not the only lawyer who passed through hot furnace of extreme hardships while in school nor the only student who reportedly worked as a labor to finance his studies after his father’s death but the only glaring difference between Late Gani Fawehinmi and many other ‘lawyers of mistrust’ is conscience, the son of OYESOLA seemed to be the only lawyer who graduated with the conscience of the people and spirit of patriotism.
The son of OYESOLA lived a life of service for the poor and victimised ones. As tough as military regimes were, GANI could cater for his family without much stress and could live any costly life he desired but he was everywhere fighting the government on daily basis because the welfare, security and survival of the people were his primary concerns. He did not only speak in the language of generosity but he acted and showed many how to live a life of service and for others.
While many lawyers live in their mansions and take advantage of the poor at slight opportunity, GANI was busy fighting for the masses. He was not a rich man but he was sufficient and financially strong. He was not never a slave to money. GANI could buy fuel with the increased fee as at then yet he challenged the deregulation and hike increase in fuel price.
The father of Muhammed did not serve in any capacity as a government official. He did not take any bribe we know of nor involve in any fraudulent practices yet he spent most of his life inside prisons meant for criminals and law breakers.
A fellow colleague who works with PREMIUM TIMES, Adejumo Kabir once described him as an ambassador of the poor. Kabir was right. GANI was truly a genuine one, his actions made him the conscience of the masses. He was a true human rights activist.
He was also a philanthropist. While some lawyers run NGOs to lobby grants from United nation for their personal gains, GANI contributed to humanity through social programmes mostly done from funds he worked for. He constructed boreholes, built classrooms and organised scholarship fund for the helpless, the poor and the disadvantaged ones who love education. As lawyers and modern activists boast of grants and contracts received in disguise from government GANI boasted of scholarship funds and students who benefited from the scheme
Majority of our lawyers are defenders of the oppressors and looters. They criticise them openly, take cases in secret and become their lap dancers by handling their wills. The same properties they bought with stolen funds. GANI was not perfect. He won and lost legal cases but history will never forget that man who was a friend and lawyer of the masses.
To the man of the people and a mobiliser of rights, you are always remembered.
Apagunpote Olayimika Chocomilo