Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A great man is gone

It was with great sadness that I received the sombre news of the passing away of Chief Abdul Ganiyu Fawehinmi (SAN), one of the greatest Nigerians that ever lived. He was a dear friend, father-like figure, mentor and extraordinary patriot; Chief Fawehinmi was a truly revered individual in every corner of Nigeria and abroad.

His untimely death is a tragic loss to Nigeria particularly at this moment in our history, but we must take consolation in, and celebrate, the fact that his life and principled example made him one of the few fathers of modern day democracy in Nigeria.

Gani was a selfless man who fought both the military and civilian dictators. His struggle came at a huge cost, but one that Gani was prepared to pay. He fought tenaciously for justice, fairness and equality. He symbolized the true image and spirit of Nigerian unity; he was a pillar for the poor and a fearless voice that spoke against the enemies of the people - the oppressors, the evil and the corrupt.

There is no question that Chief Fawehinmi played the most significant role in the development of modern law in Nigeria, from his law reports to the countless cases that he handled in our court systems, a good proportion of them on pro bono. Nigerians will forever admire this incomparable legal mind and remain grateful for the monumental role he played in several facets of their lives.

I first met Gani when I was a trainee Prosecutor in 1984-85 during the trial of the politicians whose unconscionable acts of corruption led to the demise of the Second Republic. Gani took a position against the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which had opposed the use of the tribunal. He felt that the menace of corruption was so deeply embedded that some extraordinary tools were justified.

His stance gave legitimacy to the tribunal that tried the corrupt politicians. I suggest that subsequent events and history have proved Gani right as corruption still remains the single most debilitating disease to plague the country, indeed a malaise that continues to threaten the fabric of the nation. Gani’s efforts were consistently an igniting force in the major task of striving to eradicate the disease of graft and money laundering so that Nigerians can realize progress.

The privilege of meeting Gani at such an early stage of my career helped galvanize my work and defined my public life. I will ever remain indebted to him. Chief Fawehinmi’s friendship and unwavering support made the most significant difference during my stewardship at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). His encouragement and moral fuel energized my colleagues and me and helped us in our attempt to change Nigeria for the good. His support will be sorely missed, but I will continue to remember and be shaped by his legacy.

In the end, his enduring contribution lies in working towards the emergence of a generation of Nigerians who believe in justice, fairness and equality and who are not afraid to speak out especially for those who do not have a voice. Gani’s legacy will resound with us for generations to come. He has taught Nigerians, young and old, to stand firm in opposition to those who conspire against the common good of our commonwealth. In my last conversation with him he emphasized the need for all enlightened Nigerians to mobilize the citizenry for Change.

To Chief Fawehinmi, I say: dear friend, may your soul rest in peace. I send my deepest condolence to his family. To his closest circle of friends as well as multitudes of admirers, I say: Let us remain committed to the ideals that Gani exemplified in his words and conduct.

I regret that I am unable to be with his bereaved family and my fellow mourning Nigerians at his Jannazah. I pray to the Almighty Allah to grant this honorable man Aljanna. May Allah also give his family, friends and admirers the fortitude to bear his loss. Amin.

Nuhu Ribadu
Snr. Fellow, St. Anthony's College,
Oxford University, UK.