He was often regarded as the eternal foe of every Government in power; the irremovable thorn, and perhaps one of the finest in Nigeria’s legal world. Erudite and not given to fine colourful speeches the blunt speaking Gani rose to national prominence in the late seventies when he championed for the removal of Ahmadu Ali, Nigeria’s recalcitrant minister of education. “Ali must go” he cried and Ali went. Gani Fawehinmi’s distaste for military oppression and despotism was never in doubt and he paid for it with long periods of incarceration. He had always courted controversy with a single focus; the struggle was more important than the victory. His legal battles were legendary. I remember the case of several unionists in the early nineties who had been mischievously expelled from school because of unionism. The day Gani appeared in court the small south western town came to a standstill. The students were not only freed but most notable the press had buzzed about a stupefied judge’s jaw hanging agape and eager hands rushing in cue to shake the hands of the mighty one. However the senior advocate of the masses will be best remembered for his long drawn battle in finding the killers of maverick journalist Dele Giwa. Twenty years after his death, I asked Gani a single question on what he thought about Dele’s death and the aftermath. Gani spent one hour on the subject; it was a passion he expended his entire life fighting to unravel. The man was simply recalcitrant many would say. “till I die I am never going to give up on Giwa’s killers” and he died never knowing who killed Dele
Gani was famed for always packing a bag with the bare necessities when he shut his gates, because he often reasoned, jail was always a doorstep away from home. The man had been to jail more than eighty times, most times for daring to ridicule the mendacious dark goggle wearing Sani Abacha before the international community. Gani remained unfazed preferring to move in out of jail than go on exile, the same attitude he displayed when he said the title senior advocate of the masses was more prestigious that then the legal zenith, senior advocate of Nigeria. It was no wonder that at Abacha’s sudden demise Gani wished him eternity in the hottest parts of Hades. In 1999 when democracy was restored to Nigeria, it was thought that Gani would take a bed rest, who sai ? The man condemned the entire exercise calling it a political walk in insanity. He took Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo to task for his frequent trips outside the country and then accused him of aping Gabon’s despotic leader Omar Bongo who had ruled the central African country for more than 3 decades, when it was rife that OBJ was courting a tenure extension. However Gani’s great walk in fame would come when he contested for Nigeria top seat after several years of trying to register his political party. Gani lost, but then embarked on several verbal fisticuffs with president Obasanjo over the frequent hike in the pump price price of fuel and his dictatorial tendencies asking that OBJ imbibe the rule of law in governance, something current president Umaru Yar’ Adua latched on to, even though he was also chided by the legal luminary. This morning in one hour, Nairaland, Nigeria’s foremost social website was agog over Gani’s death, 2000 views and a hundred comments in three hours!! Off course much more goodwill is expected in coming days and months especially for one who always had something to say. When he was diagnosed with cancer of the lungs, doctors said ‘don’t talk’, but maverick Gani berated Nigeria’s health sector for failing to discover the terminal ailment that had plagued him for several years. The man had talked and wept in his frail voice for the failed project he called Nigeria for more than an hour!!