Gani Fawehinmi, human rights lawyer and respected activist, was on Monday remembered by associates and numerous other Nigerians on the occasion of his 81st post-humous birthday.
Mr Fawehinmi passed on on September 5, 2009, at age 71. The lawyer who was born in April 1938, died after a protracted battle with cancer.
Widely revered for fighting for the rights and dignity of many Nigerians, especially the downtrodden, the late lawyer was honoured with the title ‘Senior Advocate of the Masses’, SAM.
On Monday, his admirers and protegees took to the social media to celebrate the man widely respected for his pro-poor positions on issues of politics and governance.
The ruling All Progressives Congress, tweeting via @OfficialAPCNg, celebrated the late lawyer in a tweet. “Happy posthumous birthday to legendary Chief Gani Fawehinmi”, the party said.
In a message posted on his Twitter page, Festus Keyamo, lawyer and spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 campaign, said the late Mr Fawehinmi stood by Mr Buhari because he abhorred corruption.
“Happy 81st posthumous birthday to my boss, Chief Gani Fawehinmi,” Mr Keyamo said in the message. “You abhorred corruption; that’s why you stood by PMB till death. Your staunch disciples & your son, Mohammed, are still on the path you left for us. Thank u for standing by me in all my struggles. Rest in peace, sir.”
Mr Keyamo’s message was, however, greeted with a mixture of endorsements and harsh criticism, with some of the respondents suggesting that he had deviated from the late activist’s pro-people path.
A Twitter user, Jackson Ude, commenting via @jacksonpbn, said Mr Keyamo struggled to legitimise his current position by name-dropping Mr Fawehinmi. He added that the late lawyer would not have tolerated Mr Buhari.
“Festus Keyamo is struggling to use Gani Fawehinmi’s posthumous birthday to legitimize his working and support for Buhari,” he tweeted. “Those of us who know Gani and his style know that he would NEVER have tolerated Buhari. In fact, Gani would have sued Buhari for all he has done to Nigeria!”
But another commentator, Tomide Olatunji, tweeting via the handle @tomyderules, suggested that Mr Fawehinmi would be proud of Mr Keyamo and what he represents.
“Happy posthumous birthday to the late Gani Fawehinmi! A lot of us grew up to adore his ethics and spirit of genuine activism. Glad to know his legacy lives on in faithfuls like you (Keyamo),” the user said.
A few other users also took time to celebrate the late lawyer and activist.
The late Mr Fawehinmi began practising law in 1965 and was made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in September 2001.
He prominently led protests and rallies against the military governments on issues of welfare and democratic rights of Nigerians before he formed the National Conscience Party (NCP).
In 2008, Mr Fawehinmi famously rejected the national honour as a sign of protest against Nigeria’s bad governance. According to a press statement signed by him at the time, some of the key concerns of his struggle included the abolition of poverty, governance through the democratic process, the subjection of everything to the Rule of Law and making Nigeria a corruption free country.
Mr Fawehinmi said Nigeria’s government of the time and the ones before it, had consistently failed to uphold these democratic principles, which have guided his struggles for decades.
He died in 2009.
On January 15, 2011, two years after his death, the famous Gani Fawehinmi Chambers was shut according to the dictate of his will. His eldest son, Mohammed Fawehinmi, said the late activist made the decision on principle.
“In my view, he did it basically on principle. It is well known that he attached so much importance to his name and his principles,” the younger Fawehinmi told Vanguard newspaper in an interview.
Among Mr Fawehinmi’s renown protegees are Femi Falana, Mike Ozekhome, Mr Keyamo, Mohammed Fawehinmi, among others.