Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Gani Fawehinmi: A Re-appraisal
Cornelius Segun Ojo
culled from DAILY INDEPENDENT, November 7, 2006
‘Nigeria’s precarious situation suffers an increasingly profound disjunction between word and deed by the leaders’ (Larry Diamond 1993 in The Global Resurgence of Democracy)
I should interpret Diamond’s views on leadership idiocy in Nigeria to mean leaders not only in political arena but also in business, social circles and civil society. Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi simply referred to in this piece as GOF for brevity, is as popular to Nigeria and Nigerians as the famous Three Crown Matches (Isana Eleeta), so I shouldn’t have problem appraising his past. My concern here is to re-appraise him with a view to knowing if the GOF of the yesteryears is still the same. Afterall, the most popular and tested paradigm slips into dogma if not re-visited.
From 1969 thereon (hope I’m correct), GOF has been championing the course of humanity in general using his God given talents, resources, energy and time, most times to the point of death. People of my generation who fought along with him, particularly during those ‘definitive periods’ of our national life-(1990-1999), would recall his sense of justice and fairness backed by an awesome gallantry. And unlike those fair weather and pepper soup soldiers, GOF was a soldier indeed. I recall two moments.
On January 30, 1996, I was barely thirty days in the university (UNILAG) and GOF was to address us (Jambites) as part of the activities for fresh students. Early that day, news filtered into the campus that Abacha ordered his arrest 6.am on the day and so could no longer address us. Being our General in the dangerous aluta business even before being admitted into the university, the Dele Ashiru-led Students’ Union Government met willing troops in us and in a jiffy, Union buses and available campus shuttles numbering close to 30 were mobilised. And very dangerously, we headed towards SSS Office in Shangisha to ‘free’ GOF. Yet, none of us had a gun or cutlass or axe or knife or baton. We must be magicians in the mould of the late professor Peller for embarking on such a war without arsenal. Getting to Alapere junction, we were already way-laid by the ‘black-uniformed men’ who opened fire on the long convoy. In the ensuing melee, I escaped into the Alapere muddy bush. I cannot recollect how many people were killed, maimed, arrested or missing. But whenever I recall that episode, I feared some colleagues may have been buried alive in the mud without anyone’s knowledge, as there were no roll-calls or identification tags. And while still in detention, GOF ordered his chambers to rescue those hauled into Sabo Police station and later Ikoyi Prisons by DPO Akpoyibo led team.
Again in 1996, we were to launch National Conscience Party (NCP) in Oyo State at Teachers’ House, Oluyole Estate, Ibadan, but SSS men had taken over the whole area. Some of us with student’s ID cards got a zombie treatment; but we were undaunted. The Party was later launched same day at a CAC facility offered by a pastor along Challenge road. The launch proper was concluded before the black men invaded the church again. On sighting the men, we burst into victory songs and GOF was in his element fuming with rage as he confronted the pot-bellied leader of the team–the team fled the scene in trepidation. But GOF stayed behind to ensure we all dispersed without being arrested. That was quintessential GOF then – fierce and highly flammable. His untiring crusade against the dysfunctional state earned him two landmark awards – the Bruno Kreisky Award and Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) by the Obafemi Awolowo University Students. The two awards were hailed by citizens as befitting and deserving.
How time changes. The hitherto rights crusader has turned a supporter of rights abuse. He is indeed a turncoat. As I discussed him with some colleagues lately on his recent many gaffes, a colleague retorted he has ‘depreciated in democratic value; another said he’s become an ‘anarchist’ while I added the clincher ‘he is virused with militarism’ and wants a return to the holocaust years when he thrived the most. A recap of his activities in the last seven years would suffice.
Prior to the current show, GOF was more of a loner in the rights community. I recall his tango with late Beko Ransome-Kuti, and when a team of six of us led by Gbenga Soloki (now CDHR national publicist) visited Beko in his Anthony Village residence to plead for decorum, he told us to go to GOF and tell him the truth that he is not the only wise man in the struggle and must learn how to accommodate views of others. When Lagos secured a landmark judgement from the Supreme Court against the paranoid regime of OBJ over the former’s Councils’ seized funds, GOF joined the infamous gang that lampooned their Lordships at the apex court for ‘poor ruling’, and since then the rule of law instinct in GOF has been swept off by a hurricane. He would also publicly dismiss Oshiomhole as a disappointment for not gunning for presidency but Edo Government House. But Oshiomhole knows better his capacity and so did not reply him.
The Nigerian Bar Association after a careful study of the dangers posed to the polity by the monster called EFCC, had called for its scrap. GOF, in his characteristic hasty manner dismissed the entire Bar as unserious for calling for the sack of his godson – Ribadu. To him, Ribadu is a messiah to rescue Nigerians even if there will be no Nigeria any more in the process. Perhaps, GOF has been away to see many of Ribadu’s acts of terrorism, particularly the assault on the judiciary, when Ribadu in the thick of the night, ordered his men to turn upside down, the chambers of the Federal High Court, Abuja in a bid to arrest Plateau lawmakers. This was the hallowed chambers of justice where exhibits and sensitive documents are kept. No wonder an American District Judge in "Hafsat Abiola versus Abdusalami Abubakar" ruled that the Nigerian Judiciary is threatened and can no longer dispense justice.
But the most disappointing actions of GOF were the Ekiti and Plateau ugly episodes, as well as Obasanjo/Atiku imbroglio. When Obasanjo came out with his ‘reports’ on Atiku, GOF would hastily call on Atiku to resign or face impeachment for grossly abusing his office. But when facts were laid bare, and which showed OBJ as a rotten egg, GOF would only call for ‘thorough investigation’ on the allegations. Thus, while Atiku could be immediately impeached and go to jail, OBJ could stay on and be investigated. What a fair judgement!
Within a week, GOF issued very disappointing, reckless and uninformed statements on Ekiti that gave him off as a confusionist. First, he berated Ekiti lawmakers for sacking the state CJ and asked that the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s views should be respected. Almost immediately after Fayose was illegally impeached, he hailed the action of the lawmakers as patriotic, calling on the CJN to regularise the appointment of the ‘bolekaja’ CJ Aladejana while the authentic CJ Bamisile should retire with ‘full benefits’. He opined that not every action taken could be reversed. So, why is GOF still crying on Dele Giwa’s murder then? A smart alec so to say. And as OBJ disappointed them with emergency rule, GOF quickly issued another statement calling on NASS to support the military rule as against a democratically elected government. He has even issued another statement hailing as patriotic, the NASS endorsement. And on Plateau, GOF would rather adopt a ‘wait and see’ game. Perhaps, he wants Dariye to be impeached by a gang of six dishonourable and lily-livered men in EFCC custody in a 24 member Assembly.
What more! Those researchers who caution that democracy is not yet rooted in Africa could be right. Their fears are that, those who fought the various military regimes i.e. the civil society – media, labour, rights and pro-democracy groups are themselves very undemocratic and worst dictators who could not restore peoples’ hopes either.
In view of the foregoing and while not claiming to be perfect in this re-appraisal exercise of GOF, I have come to an inevitable but landmark conclusion that GOF, the once advocate of rule of law and orderliness, has turned a promoter of anarchy and lawlessness. GOF has indeed become a preacher of injustice and an evangelist of nepotism. He has taken up the role of an establishment apologist who re-inforces dominant ideologies and, in the process, has become a propagator of the brutal activities of a hegemonic state. Indeed, GOF has taken us back to the rapacious era where we were made to crudely accept that the state was the supreme political authority and can trample on the impotent individual under its feet at will. The rest of us are not rational beings that can advance the common good of the society. Only the GOFs, the OBJs, the Ribadus are the latter day democrats who have the super brains to teach us the evils of corruption, using corruption as their methodology. Nonsense teachers.
My advice to GOF, however, is to take a short break and go on holiday, far away from the polity and reflect on his past. He would realise that he is still suffering from the military hangover. Only through this he can refresh and contribute meaningfully to the democratic aspirations of the new generation. As a saving grace, he may altogether decide to retire from the public glare in order to redeem his dented image.
• Ojo is of Graduate Centre, School of Humanities, University of Sussex, UK
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