CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI: An Icon of Democracy
Abdul-Ganiyu OYESOLA Fawehinmi, GCON, SAN popular known as Gani, was a well-respected
Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, seasoned human and
civil rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria. But popularly called Senior
Advocate of The Masses.
was born on 22 April 1938 by Saheed and Munirat Fawehinmi in Ondo State.

father, Chief Saheed Tugbobo Fawehinmi, the Seriki Musulumi of Ondo, was a
successful timber trader and well known philanthropist.
grandfather was the late Chief Lisa Alujanun Fawehinmi of Ondo, who engaged in
several successful battles for the Ondo people in the 19th century. This was
what gave birth to his appellation the ‘Alujanun’,
which means Spirit or Heavenliness He died at the age of 92. The fighting
spirit has been a lineage thing after all.
had his early education at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Iyemaja in Ondo State
from 1947 to 1953 and his secondary school education at Victory College Ikare,
from 1954 to 1958 also in Ondo State.
was popularly called “Nation
because of his passionate interest in national, legal and political affairs
when he was in college. He worked briefly 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. While at University, his father died. He completed his
academic degree in London with a measure of difficulty due to lack of financial
support. He returned to Nigeria in 1964 and was called to the bar in 1965. He
then worked briefly at the law firm of his brother, Saheed Fawehinmi before
setting up his own.
Kaduna prison to Jos prison, from Gombe prison to Port Harcourt prison, from
Kuje prison to Ikoyi prison, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was the most jailed human
right activist in Nigeria.
raising his voice against injustice, his books were confiscated, his library
set ablaze, his house and chambers were always raided and he was assaulted on
Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way in Lagos by Naval officers.
travails with security agents never dissuaded him from defending the poor and
the weak in the society.
“I defended
the students of University of Ibadan in 1971 when one of the students, Kunle
Adepeju, was shot dead by the police under Gowon’s regime and the government of
the day set up a Commission of enquiry headed by Justice B. O. Kazim and I
represented the students for 5 months in that tribunal of enquiry. In 1976, I
defended the students of University of Benin against the wrath of the military
government. In 1983, under Shehu Shagari, there was a peaceful demonstration by
more than 4000 students of the University of Maiduguri against the misdirected
high handedness of the leadership of Professor Jubril Aminu, (former Nigerian
Ambassador to the U.S.) Several students were expelled and their education
illegally truncated. I fought to the Supreme Court to obtain victory. This is
just to mention few of my struggles for justice.”
Gani recalled.
personality gained prominence 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 (free of charge) 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 9
months. The publicity of the case improved the exposure of his law practice.
1986, Chief Gani Fawehinmi became Dele Giwa’s Lawyer who was later killed in a
bomb letter in his residence under suspicious circumstances.
always came for him – Gani. He was arrested even on his 50th birthday.
I witnessed one of the times they came to
arrest him in the house. They were about 20 armed policemen. It was as if they
were coming to take a criminal and they brought a big Black Maria. He told
them, ‘Gentlemen, how are you? Are you ready?’ He told my mum to take care of
us and he followed them”
His daughter, Idiat recalled.
a result of his incessant arrests, Chief Gani always kept a small bag
containing toothpaste, toothbrush and the Qur’an with him, as he was always
ready for jail.
he was asked the possibility of defending Ralph Uwazurike he said:
“If I am
approached by Uwazurike to take up his case, I will fly straight to wherever he
is or, if I cannot go there by air, I will go there by road. If I cannot go
there by road, I will trek to defend his right to hold an opinion because
freedom of speech is a fundamental right. Because he has the right to pursue
any objective and if they feel that his objective is criminal, then he has the
right to defend himself in the court of law and we shall defend the issue of
his fundamental rights”.
incorruptible Chief Gani was able to speak truth to powers because he had
nothing to hide. He once said;
“I have
never got any contracts from any local government, state government or from
federal government. I don’t even know the house of ministers. I never met any
Head of State in my life. I’ve never met any minister in my life. I’ve never
submitted any application for contract anywhere in my life. I have never
submitted any application for contract at any level whatsoever.”
his 14-year old first child asked for his dad’s support to go to the Nigeria
Defence Academy taking the NDA’s form to his father to sign, Chief Gani left
the form, reached for the cane and flogged the young man for planning to join his
tormentors. Chief Gani was unbiased, detribalized and unsentimental patriot.
When his own daughter was working in his Chambers, she either resumed before/at
7am or be locked outside the gate like any latecomer.
of his highlights was in 2008 where Chief Gani Fawehinmi rejected one of the
highest national honors that can be bestowed on a citizen by the Nigerian
government – Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) – in protest of the many years
of misrule since Nigeria’s independence.
Gani’s lung began to deteriorate while doctors were busy focusing on his heart
and blood pressure. It got so bad that he called his cardiologist, Dr Mike
Fadayomi, his childhood friend from the age of four. He is one of the best
cardiologist in this world. He directed Chief Gani to a radiologist to do the
X-ray first. When he (radiologist) came with the wet X-ray and showed it to
Gani and Fadayomi, the cardiologist shouted;
Gani something dangerous is wrong with your
left lung. You must run to London. I don’t understand this!”
Chief Gani got to London the doctors told him that he was among the 5% patients
in the world who don’t smoke or drink and yet had lung cancer.
narrated his ordeals to the doctors in London and one of them hinted that his
horrible detention” must
have triggered the lung failure.
human right activist was asked to prepare for the worst and Gani bitterly wept.
prevent politicians from “hijacking”
his burial, Gani bought his own casket while alive and made cash available for
his funeral with instructions to his children about how he want his funeral to
take place.
Gani Fawehinmi literally lost his voice to the ravaging lung cancer before his
sun finally set on 9th September, 2009.
2018, Chief Fawehinmi was posthumously awarded the GCON (Grand Commander of the
Order of Nigeria) Nigeria’s second highest honor.
we celebrate 20years of uninterrupted Democracy, let’s celebrate a selfless
legal icon
symbol of justice
Our Hero who made a prominent impact on the symbol of democracy – Chief Abdul-ganiyu
Oyesola Fawehinmi!


About The Author: Adeshile Adekolajo

Adekolajo is a graduate of the University of Abuja, He works for Ntel
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Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.