In memoriam: Gani Fawehinmi, foremost Nigeria’s activist, remembered 11 years on

Gani Fawehinmi
Gani Fawehinmi

The late foremost Nigeria’s human rights activist and lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, born April 22, 1938, in Ondo town, Ondo State, died September 5, 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Today makes it 11 years that Gani, who devoted his life to fighting for the rights of the Nigerian people, died.

In his lifetime, as a tireless advocate for justice, he made many enemies among Nigeria’s military and civilian regimes.

Known to be the son of a prosperous family, Gani’s father’s death while he was studying law at the University of London made it necessary for him to work in order to finance the remainder of his education.

Gani began practicing law in Lagos in 1965 and quickly became known as “the people’s lawyer,” taking on such cases as the mysterious killing in 1986 of a the then Newswatch editor, Dele Giwa, (for which Fawehinmi blamed the military junta in power at that time) and often representing those who could not afford to pay for his services.

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Despite the risk of assassination, he cofounded (1994) the National Conscience Party and continued to take on powerful opponents until his death.

Fawehinmi’s activism extended to philanthropy, including the granting of scholarships to impoverished Nigerian youths.

He also published several books and founded (1986) the Nigerian Weekly Law Reports.

Fawehinmi was awarded the Bruno Kreisky Prize in 1993 in honour of his work in advancing human rights. In 2001 he was made a senior advocate of Nigeria, the country’s highest title in the legal profession.

Gani, popularly addressed as the Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) of Nigeria, was also a former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP).

He fought the ruthless military despots to a standstill, and even the reckless politicians. A hero of Nigeria’s democracy!

Gani, a thorough-bred activist and defender of the oppressed, no one has been like him in civil rights movement in Nigeria, since!

Greatly missed by helpless Nigerians and in the advocacy world!

Rest on, Gani!