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Gani Fawehinmi: Our icon of inspiration


Sir: I am dwarfed literally and literarily to write on a phenomenon called Chief Gani Oyesola Fawehinmi SAN.

Fawehinmi, who died exactly 11 years ago, on September 5, 2009, in Lagos, epitomised the conscience of a nation. His painful death was a setback in the struggle for a just society. Fawehinmi’s life spanned several years of his indefatigable struggles against the injustice and brutality of military dictatorship and bad government in Nigeria.


The late Fawehinmi was jailed more than 35 times under inhumane conditions which contributed to his deteriorated health. The aim of the successive governments of Nigeria was to break his strong spirit or compromise him to jettison the emancipation of the people of Nigeria. To his adversaries, he was a troubleshooter who always refused to compromise or be on the side of injustice, but to his admirers and the less-privileged, he epitomised the conscience of the nation. No wonder, the poor people whose lives he touched came out tumultuously to pay their tributes to him after his death.

Fawehinmi was a man who defied all odds with his immense influence, wealth, and intellectual acumen to champion the cause of the deprived, dehumanised, and the oppressed masses of Nigeria. This writer is ardently subsumed in Fawehinmi’s man humanity to man. Fawehinmi was a muse that is cherished every day. The demise of our own Fawehinmi continues to resonate in my subconscious mind. In the last four decades before his death, he had always been a recurring decimal and a household name in the political affairs of Nigeria. He was an accomplished legal luminary who saw the constitution as his legal weapon to wage winnable wars against injustice anywhere in Nigeria. 

Our own Fawehinmi’s coming to limelight was the celebrated case of a poor man whose wife was snatched by a commissioner who used the instrument of power to oppress and course the beautiful woman. Fawehinmi read the sad story in a local newspaper in Lagos and put necessary legal ammunition in his arsenal in motion and headed to the north and took up the case. In a nutshell, he won the case and returned the woman back to her husband.


Fawehinmi got arrested and was detained by the then military government. Intuitively, Fawehinmi knew there-and-then that he had fate with history and he never looked back in his unbending fight of government’s dictatorship through the instrumentality of the law. The international community awarded him several honours as his recognition cuts across various fields of human endeavours.

To all students, he was a mentor, fighter, and philanthropist who understood what it meant to be poor. He gave so many underprivileged students scholarships, hope, and aspiration to achieve their potentials. It is pertinent for all of us to emulate his legacy and continue to celebrate this icon of inspiration to millions across the country. As we celebrate our own Fawehinmi, who gave his life for us to live, may his resilient spirit bring us the needed positive change we urgently yearn for in our battered and beleaguered country—-Nigeria. 

Sún re o, Bàbá rere!

Yahaya Balógun wrote from Arizona, United States.


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