0How many people remember this icon today being a day that the National Labour Congress (NLC) plans to protest against certain developments in Nigeria? 

If there is any group of Nigerians in the twentieth century that should be immortalised, Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi deserves to be one of them when it comes to tackling the government on policy issues but I doubt if many people still remembers the man. Frank Ovie Kokori was another man in terms of industrial actions and his time as National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) General secretary during Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha's regimes remains evergreen especially in helping to sustain the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 annulled election. I hope the Ayuba Wabba led executive of the NLC will live up to its words and not chicken out of the proposed strike and protest slated for today. 

Coincidentally, Gani's Birthday (September 5) was few weeks ago and it came at a time when the government suddenly announced the deregulation of oil and removal of oil subsidy. In the same period, the nation also witnessed an increase in the tariff of electricity without prior notice, sensitisation or palliative to cushion the effect of these developments going by the current global economic situation occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected everyone one way or the other. 

Again this is happening at a time when people are suffering but can only grumble in hush tones about the situation in the country and yet no one is brazen enough to confront the democratically elected government that is gradually transforming into a junta especially in terms of stifling of press freedom and dissenting opinions. Gani would have made the difference and be the exception. 

If Gani was still alive, he would have been a central figure during Occupy Nigeria 2012 series of protests as he would have spoken out unequivocally loud on the deregulation or removal of subsidy with his expectation of what government needed to do so that the masses will not suffer or the propriety of the action and he would have maintained the same stance now that it has come up again. 

Gani Fawehinmi as he was fondly called, devoted his life to fighting for the rights of the Nigerian people; as a tireless advocate for justice and an egalitarian society. 

He was a consistent voice of the people and formidable force against oppression. 

He was a constant star unlike the flip-flops parading themselves as human rights activist and role models at this time. 

He fought, won and lost many cases for the masses using the instrumentality of law which he knows best and which was his area of expertise as well as his material wealth against different governments. 

He was someone that never caves in under pressure or cower to oppression. 

We cannot but remember such an enigma and icon who confronted various governments when the masses were at the receiving end of insensitive government policies or faced with the recklessness of military juntas especially or elected officers who has integrity issues, larger than life postures in office, other misdemeanours or dereliction of duty. 

Each time I remember him, I conclude that there is no collective good or societal goals in the affairs of Nigeria. What we have isbeach man speaking for and against his personal interest. By this, I refer to the hypocrisy and justification of the removal of oil subsidy now by the most of the people who refused and demonstrated against it in 2012.

Gani was not like that. Despite that he was a person of immense wealth, he would have risen against the government without waiting for collaborators and would have attempted to restrain the government to an extent through legal means. 

Ironically, he was friends with President Muhammadu Buhari, their admiration for each other made the later attend his mother's funeral in Ondo despite that Buhari is not known to be a social person. 

However, despite the apparent friendship, Gani  challenged him when he was military head of state (1983-1985) and I am quite sure he would have being a torn in his flesh in the last five years if he felt he has erred and not governing well as the constitution stipulates. That is why Gani is different, he was principled and he upheld those principles till death came calling. 

He once said;

"You run a nation from plans, from principles, from programmes, from policies; not on whims and caprices of a man just waking up one day to cause political and economic disequilibrium." 

The above to me succinctly captures the trajectory of the nation at the moment. 

Gani remains evergreen in the minds of some of us because we appreciate all he did in his private capacity as a citizen who was interested in the welfare of all and sundry which pitched him against government at different times especially during the military era leading to brutal treatments at the detriment of his own health leading to breakdown of his health until he could no longer carry on. 

He was famed to have a bag that contains his basic needs anywhere he goes in anticipation of police arrest. He was that brazen and unperturbed. 

Unfortunately, he presented himself to serve Nigeria as president but did not even win in Ondo; his home town (not sure he won in his ward). 

Even the ever militant and radical Nigerian students who made him Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) did not give him the full support that he deserved from them that could have galvanised his ambition and possibly make it a success. 

He founded the Nigerian Weekly Law Report in 1986, a weekly compendium of cases decided in Nigerian courts which is like a law encyclopedia in Nigeria for record purposes and as a guide for the practise of law and jurisprudence. 

Fawehinmi was a man of excellence and this earned him the Bruno Kreisky Prize in 1993 in honour of his work in advancing human rights. He was also awarded the Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN) in 2009. 

May the soul of this great Icon continue to rest in peace, he is sorely missed at this period.


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