Gani Fawehinmi's Inanities


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Gani Fawehinmi's Inanities




Tony Momoh



culled from VANGUARD, November 05, 2006  


Some time ago, when Oputa Panel sat for what we all thought was the serious business of looking our problems in the face with a view to finding solutions to them, I had to go there because of what I saw my friend, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, saying. He was waving a piece of paper, something like a newspaper publication, in front of the panel saying, “Tony Momoh is now giving awards to journalists but he did nothing when Dele Giwa was killed.” Gani did not stop there. He said I promised there would be a judicial enquiry into the killing but later changed my mind when the decision was taken by the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), of which I was a member, that there should be no judicial probe.

I was shocked to the marrows at what I heard Gani say on television. I decided I would go to the Oputa panel and ask him to clarify some points he was so confidently raising. We embraced when I met him before the panel started sitting. The last question I asked Gani was whether he associated me with the death of Dele Giwa and he said he had never claimed that I was a party to such a dastardly act. I said I had no further questions for him and we parted as the friends we have always been. You may think my appearance at the Oputa panel was pushing a minor matter too far. But, the killing of Dele Giwa, the manner of the killing, the many stories being bandied around as the reason for his being killed, all these would make you distance yourself from what, in your heart of hearts, you knew nothing about.

There is another reason why the Dele Giwa matter is more sensitive than many would appreciate.  I am from Etsako sub-nationality group as Dele is. I was Dele’s editor in the Daily Times, and I had a frontline role in his being exposed in Nigeria. Only the one who is proud of a writer would open his paper for one man to write three times a week. I was Dele’s next of kin in Lagos. Many years after he left the Daily Times, we were in touch. We met almost every week. There was no relationship he had which I did not have a say in. Even the day he was invited by security agencies, he was in my office with Ray Ekpu, and told me how he was being accused of gun-running. I laughed it over, but called Aikhomu to tell him how worried and rattled Dele was. The very next day, on Saturday, Aikhomu hosted media executives and apologized to Dele for what happened. I did not attend the meeting, but I was informed that everyone laughed and seemed to have put the matter behind them.

The following day, a Sunday, I received a phone call that my brother Dele had been killed. I rushed to Newswatch premises where I saw many newspaper reporters. Before I went to the hospital where I was told the body was, I was asked what my comments were on the bombing of Dele Giwa. I said government would leave no stone unturned and no turn unstoned in finding the killer. The following day, one of the newspapers quoted me as saying that I promised that government would set up a judicial enquiry on the death of Dele Giwa. The accusation that I made a promise I could not keep was always part of the many discussions I had with media men through out my tenure as Minister of Information between 1986 and 1990.

After the Oputa panel outing, I thought that the issue of me being a member of the AFRC which Gani said took a decision that there would be no judicial enquiry had been resolved. I was, therefore, shocked when, in commemorating 20 years of the killing of Dele Giwa, Chief Fawehinmi granted interviews to some newspapers making the very allegations that almost affected the relationship we have had for more than 30 years. He told the Sunday Sun newspaper that I attended a meeting of the AFRC, of which I was a member, and came out to hold a press conference that Dele Giwa’s killing would not be investigated. This is the e-mail I received from a reader of this column, “I’d very much appreciate sir, if you’d help with some information regarding what I read in Sunday Sun about the death of Dele Giwa. Actually, my curiosity arose from Gani Fawenhimi’s interview with this paper. He mentioned you as the then Information minister to have initially opted for a judicial/public probe of the circumstances surrounding Dele’s death, but after the AFRC’s meeting, you ordered a police investigation. Chief, I’d like to know...what really transpired. Who and what, in your honest opinion, killed Giwa?..”

It was after that mail I asked for a copy of the Sunday Sun and read what Gani was saying. Let me quote what the Sunday Sun credited to him, “Tony Momoh, then Minister of Information, did say that there will be a probe. Then, on the 23rd, Thursday, there was AFRC meeting. He was a member of that body. After the meeting of that day, he addressed the press and told them there will be no probe. There’ll be no judicial enquiry; that it was an assassination; let the police do their work. They knew what they wanted to hide, and so, I said, No, never!” You do not have to have read law before you would know the implication of, “They knew what they wanted to hide, and so, I said, No, never!” If I was a member of the AFRC, I would be part and parcel of those who knew what they wanted to hide, wouldn’t I?

Chief Gani Fawehinmi is one of the most accomplished lawyers this country has produced. He became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, at least, 20 years after he would have been one if the choice had depended on people’s assessment of your credentials. Gani has in his library, which is one of the richest private law libraries in this country, every newspaper that has been published in this country since the early 70’s. There is no copy of any gazette printed by the government press that Gani does not have a copy of. Yet, Gani says I was a member of the AFRC because he said my name was so listed in a Daily Times publication. Even at the Oputa panel, I gave him the gazette in which names of the AFRC members were listed. I asked him to read it. But for reasons best known to him, he deliberately skipped two civilian names that were the only members of the AFRC. These were Chief Olu Falae, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Prince Bola Ajibola, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. My name was not on the list Gani read!

If Gani could, in 2006, be repeating what he saw as a mistake when we had a riotous confrontation at the Oputa panel, then, he must be having problems with remembering or he must be promoting a deliberate agenda to embarrass me among my people in Edo North Senatorial District. Gani’s memory is, in the absence of a more appropriate word, gargantuan. So, he cannot be said to harbour a memory that forgets. His mission, in my view is, therefore, a deliberate attempt to destroy my credibility with my people in Edo State. If Gani knew what harm he is doing by his rigid sticking to the falsehood about what I did not say and making me a member of a body I was never qualified to be in, he would become less emotional on an issue in which he has no greater stake than I have.

What I said then and what I will continue to say is that crime has no life span. Those we should be prodding are the police. If there had been a judicial enquiry, no one would even be talking about Dele Giwa today because the enquiry would have found that he was killed when he opened a parcel handed over to him at his residence. Who sent it? That is not the work of a judge. It is the work of the police, and will continue to be for as long as the killers are not found. Even the Oputa panel said the investigation should be reopened. What has happened to that panel report? The good news, however, is that Gani says he has new facts to nail the killers. Fortunately, he did say, at the Oputa panel, that he had never associated me with the death of Dele Giwa. Who knows whether the facts he now has will make him change his mind! Who knows?

LAST LINE: This segment would have come first because of the enormity of the event. But whether big or small, what happens to us is always a pointer to how we stand. The death of the Sultan of Sokoto and some other top Nigerian public figures in an ADC airliner crash at Abuja, last Sunday, is proof that we cut corners to get Nigeria going. Stubborn problems demand stubborn cures. The Aviation authorities must be pushed to save lives of Nigerians, at whatever cost to those who have chosen to invest in airline business. If the Aviation minister’s explanation is the correct story, then we would never have had to mourn the death of our national human assets, but, for the fact that a pilot decided to be airborne when it was not safe so to do and the aviation authorities could not stop him!
Indiscipline, in every aspect of our lives, is causing more painful deaths than we can accept as so-called acts of God. A pilot who refuses to obey advice on weather conditions has chosen death - for himself and for those under his care. But his loss, our national and monumental loss, is that his decision has brought sorrow to our hearts and tears to our eyes. While we mourn, we should leave God out of our distress. He did not cause it. We did. Many more such tragedies lie in wait, if we continue to believe that a stitch in time can no longer save nine.



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