Picture of Gani Fawehinmi
Gani Fawehinmi was born on 22 April 1938, to the family of Saheed and Munirat Fawehinmi in Ondo State. Gani Fawehinmi was a noble writer, Philanthropist and human rights activist who is well respected in the society during his time. He attended Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Iyemaja from the year 1947 to year 1953 and his secondary school education at Victory College Ikare, a Christian School from year1954 to year 1958, under the leadership of the Late Rev. Akinrele where he sat for and passed his West African School Certificate Examination in 1958. While in college, he was popularly known as “Nation” because of his passionate interest in national, legal and political affairs. He was an avid reader of Daily Times and West African Pilot, the most popular newspapers in Nigeria at that time. He then worked as a law clerk in the High Court of Lagos until 1961 when he enrolled at the Holborn College of Law- University of London to study law around1961. When he was at University, his father died. He finished his academic degree in London with a measure of difficulty due to lack of funds. This involved doing various menial jobs in London, while in London, he was acquainted with books of revolutionary or radical figures such as Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, David Ben-Gurion, Ghandhi, Mao Tse Tsung and Karl Marx. He returned to Nigeria in 1964 and was called to the bar the following year. He then worked briefly at the law firm of his brother, Saheed Fawehinmi before branching out on his own..
Fawehinmi gained more familiarity when he took on the case of a factory worker, Bala Abashe who alleged that the Secretary to the government of Benue-Plateau State, Andrew Obeya had an affair with his wife. Abashe then sued Obeya for assault and damages for adultery. Fawehinmi took on the case as a pro bono lawyer for Abashe while the state government stood behind their official. Efforts were made for Fawehinmi to drop the case, when that failed, Obeya was forced to resign. However, Fawehinmi was detained for nine months. The publicity of the case improved the exposure of his law practice.
From year 1971 to year 1973, he was the national publicity secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association. On 11th June 1993 Fawehinmi was awarded the biennial Bruno Kreisky Prize. This prize, named in honour of Bruno Kreisky, is awarded to international figures who advance human rights causes. In 1998, he received the International Bar Association’s ‘Bernard Simmons Award’ in recognition of his human-rights and pro-democracy work. In 1994 he and some other notable Nigerians formed the National Conscience Party of Nigeria which exists till today and he stood for a presidential election in 2003 under the umbrella of the National Conscience Party.
Gani Fawehinmi was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest legal title in Nigeria, in September 2001. With his boundless energy he tenaciously and uncompromisingly pursued and crusaded his beliefs, principles and ideals for the untrammelled rule of law, undiluted democracy, all embracing and expansive social justice, protection of fundamental human rights and respect for the hopes and aspirations of the masses who are victims of misgovernment of the affairs of the Nation.
He was a notorious critic during Abacha military dictatorship, As a result of his activities chief Gani Fawehinmi had been arrested, detained and charged to court several times. His international passport was seized on many occasions and his residence and Chambers were searched several times. He was beaten up time after time and was deported from one part of the country to another to prevent him from being able to effectively reach out to the masses among whom he was popular. His books were confiscated by the Federal Military Government and his library at Surulere, a suburb of Lagos, were set ablaze. His law Chambers at Anthony Village, Lagos State, were invaded by persons suspected to be agents of the government. The guards were shot, two of them seriously wounded.
In the process of his crusades for the rule of law, the hopes and aspirations of the poor and the oppressed, he fought many battles against military dictatorship as a result of which he had been arrested several times by the military governments and their numerous security agents. He was dumped in many police cells and detained in several prisons between 1969 and 1996.
He died on 5th of September 2009 after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. He was 71 years old.