Chief Gani Fawehinmi is Dead!

Gani FawehinmiNews coming through AIT programme ‘Open Assembly’ announced at 09:25 hours (GMT) that Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN passed on early this morning. Another great icon, freedom fighter, people’s lawyer and the only man that stood out among his contemporaries against oppression and all military juntas has just cross the line. R.I.P. Gani Fawehinmi 

The last Nigerians heard from the irrepressible Gani was this missive from his sick bed:

 At the weekend, notably on Friday, December 12, 2008 it was published in most of the newspapers in Nigeria that the Federal Government of Nigeria has honoured me with the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

I have had time after the publication to think deeply whether to accept or reject the honour.

I thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar‘ Adua. I thank the Federal Government of Nigeria and I am very grateful to the Council of State which approved the honour of OFR given to me by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I wish to express my gratitude to numerous Nigerians who by telephone calls, mobile text messages and some by personal visits congratulated me on the award of OFR.

This is the first government in Nigeria to honour me with the national award. Obviously this government must have considered my activities in the last 43 years before deciding to give the national award of OFR. From my own standpoint and perception, my struggles and crusades include: (1) The abolition of poverty from the face of our country; (2) The unqualified need to preserve, defend and protect the fundamental human rights; (3) The governance of our country through democratic processes; (4) The subjection of everybody and everything to and under the Rule of Law; (5) The right of the people to free and qualitative education at all Levels; (6) The right of the people to free and qualitative health services and facilities; (7) The strengthening of our economy through sound development of infrastructure including power generation (electricity), good roads, good and modern rail-system across the length and breadth of Nigeria, good water way transportation system;  The overall duties of all Nigerians and governments (local, states and federal) to make Nigeria a corruption-free country by fighting corruption with all our might and main.

In the course of my struggles over the decades for the above ideals, I have been subjected by various governments to all traumatic travails and persecutions including: (a) Series of detentions in several prisons across Nigeria, notably Ikoyi Prison (three times), Kaduna Prison, Gombe Prison, Gasua Prison, Kuje Prison (two times), Bauchi Prison, etc, etc; (b) Twenty three police detentions between 1969 and 1998 at Police Headquarters, Kaduna, Jos Police Station, Ilorin Police Station, Police Headquarters. Lagos, C.I.D., Alagbon, Lagos,‘ Inter-Centre Detention Outpost, Lagos, Ikoyi Police Station, Panti Police Station, Lagos, Police Station, Wuse, Abuja, Police Station, Ikeja, Police Headquarters, Abuja, etc.; (c) ‘Arrested 32 times between 1969 and 1998 which led to the series of detentions and trials; (d) My chambers (Gani Fawehinmi Chambers) at Anthony Village, Lagos was, attacked- by security men under, various governments 16 times, culminating in the attack on Friday, August 26, 1994 when security men under Gen. Sani Abacha regime at 4am turned my Chambers into a pool of blood; (e) Thousands of copies of my books, notably on the murder of Dele Giwa, were forcibly removed and seized by security agents under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime and despite court orders to return my books, the military government at that time refused to obey the court orders; (f) My international passport was seized more than 15 times between 1966 and 1998; (g) I was charged to court 18 times for politically-motivated criminal offences including treason and I was jailed once and became prisoner J60 before my imprisonment was terminated by the Court of Appeal.

Today, I am 70 years and eight months old and I am struck down by lung cancer for which I have been receiving medical treatment outside my country because my country – Nigeria – has one of the poorest medical services in the world but one of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil revenue.

My decision to either accept or reject the national honour of the award of OFR will depend on how far the Nigerian nation through Nigerian governments tried to achieve any of the aforementioned eight goals.

Corruption is one single, fundamental factor that has retarded the progress of the nation and its social-economic development.

It is generally agreed, nationally and internationally, that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu did a lot to retard the inhibitive progress of corruption. 419 crimes were on the decline. Gross misuse of public funds by public officers was on the downward trend. Looting at the top became minimised. As Nigerians were breathing a sigh of relief, the government of AIhaji Umaru Yar‘ Adua threw Mallam Nuhu Ribadu out of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The removal of Nuhu Ribadu as EFCC Chairman happened at a time Nigerians were saying ‘the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom’ as far as corruption was concerned.

I went to court to challenge Ribadu‘s illegal removal from the EFCC. I thought Yar‘Adua‘s government would allow the court to do its work. But alas, Ribadu was sent to National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, for a one-year course. While undergoing the one-year course in Kuru, on August 5, 2008, the Federal Government of Nigeria presided over by President Yar‘ Adua demoted Ribadu from the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police to Deputy Commissioner of Police.

Mallam Ribadu rightly approached a court of law by instituting an action to challenge the obnoxious demotion. Whilst the suit was pending, security agents physically removed him from the ceremony on November 22, 2008 where he was to be awarded his certificate for success at the NIPSS, Kuru.

Today, the architect of the unprecedented anti-corruption war, unprecedented in the annals of Nigeria since 1914, is now literally roaming the streets of Nigeria without official car, without official status, without any form of security, and yet he is still being subjected to hounding, haunting and all forms of dehumanising vilification by the Federal Government.

His only ‘offence’ is that he used the instrumentality of a public institution, the EFCC to investigate, arrest, charge, and in some cases, to convict through the law courts some public officers in various corridors of power throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria people who were otherwise called the untouchables.

By the performance of his duties, Nigeria and Nigerians gained in integrity, honour and recovery of their looted wealth. But Ribadu did not make any personal gain. He only waged a war against corruption, graft, stealing, money laundering, etc, etc, in the corridors of power. In return, the regime of President Yar‘ Adua decided to wage unrelenting war against anti-graft war.”

Instead of the Federal Government to publicly acknowledge the unprecedented good Ribadu has done to the psyche of Nigerians by awarding him the greatest national honour, the government has decided to continuously persecute this young man. It was therefore the greatest embarrassment for me, when at the weekend, it was announced that I was one of those 275 Nigerians honoured with national honours and in my case the OFR.

Yes, I have done my best for this country in various fields and I still want to continue to do my best. But we live in a situation where the 1999 Constitution provides in Section 15(5) that: ”The State shall abolish all corrupt practices‘ and abuse of power” and a young man emerged to do what the Constitution enjoins and he is being persecuted for carrying out the provisions of the Constitution. Yet, the President swore to observe, preserve and defend the same Constitution. I find it extremely difficult to accept that President Yar‘ Adua‘s government has the honour to dispense honour.

In the light of the above, I cannot accept the ‘honour’ of OFR. Whether now or in the life beyond. How can I wake up in the morning and look at the insignia of honour bestowed on me under a government that persecutes anti-corruption effort, particularly those of Nuhu Ribadu?

At the time the Nigerian Bar Association wrote the letter to my office that my name would be forwarded for national honour while I was in London receiving medical treatment for lung cancer, the government of President Yar‘ Adua had not begun in earnest the war against anti-corruption war and the harrowing persecution of Nuhu Ribadu had not reached its crescendo. I do not blame the NBA for sending my name at the time it did for national honour,

However, events from August 2008 to this day are so bizarre, unbelievably barbaric in their intensity, in terms of persecuting those fighting against corruption and the singling out of Ribadu for persecution, all for giving honour and dignity to this country and for recovering for our treasury, billions of naira and other forms of wealth looted by public officers.

A government that covertly and overtly encourages corruption has no honour in its arsenal of power to dispense honour. Consequently, I reject the dishonour of OFR termed ‘honour‘ given to me by the Federal Government. ‘

The Plight of the masses of our people

Nobody can dispute the fact that since this regime came to power the plight of the masses has worsened as I have shown in items 1 – 7 above. But I wish to reiterate that in all the ramifications of human existence, the masses have found themselves in the doldrum of pain occasioned by gross misgovernance of the country.

Furthermore, since the President came to power on May 29, 2007, the masses of our country have been groaning in unprecedented poverty as a result of lack of direction, The directionlessness of the Federal Government has been characterised by the following, amongst others: collapsed infrastructure, total paralysis of the health sector at all levels, constant nationwide power failure and the attendant negative effects on all sectors of the economy; pervasive unemployment, thereby generating increased armed robbery cutting across all ages of our people; debilitating homelessness, retrogressive educational programmes and policies, which have made no Nigerian university to be ranked within the first 500 universities in the world, and no effort is being made by the regime to improve on the humiliating situation.

Put simply, the Federal Government is a total failure, worsened by lack of direction and leadership. Is this the atmosphere for the award of national honours? Certainly Not!

In addition to my rejection of the honour of the OFR on the grounds of Federal Government‘s conscious war against anti-corruption war, the decadent socio- economic situation does not engender the well being of ordinary people and there is no hope in sight.

In view of the foregoing, I reject the award of OFR.