Thursday, September 5, 2019 6:51 pm
By Joe-Okei Odumakin, left, Fawehinmi
And so it is 10 years since the iconoclastic Chief Gani Fawehimi took the eternal journey to the great beyond with his trails still fresh as if he still walked around.
It is because men like Gani didn’t live to die but died to live because of their lives of sacrificial existence.
I saw Chief Gani Fawehimi for the first time in 1985 in the company of Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti as an activist based in Ilorin on a visit to Lagos. He made the first and everlasting impression with his passion for the country and concern for the poor especially. His forceful expressions made up for his thin voice as he railed against the many ills of the society.
That first encounter marked the beginning of an association with the gadfly till he breathed his last on this side of eternity. It was a wonderful moment when the Committee for Defence of Human Rights, which I chaired in Kwara State, invited him to speak in Ilorin in 1989. The audience was captivated by his forceful delivery and powerful submissions on the state of the nation. The tender hearted Gani broke into tears at a stage in the course of his presentation.
I did not see him for a long time until 1994 when the repression in our land became the nexus that brought us together at Alagbon Police facility. I had been detained in Ilorin and brought there for interrogation. One afternoon, I saw Chief Gani brought in by the police in company of a younger man who happened to be Comrade Yinka Odumakin, whom I was meeting for the first time.
I had been taken for interrogation and being returned to the cell when I met the duo brought in. Chief stopped and said “Joe, so Abacha has locked you here.” He turned to his-co detainee and said “Yinka, do you know Joe? She is our dependable activist in Ilorin.” He introduced us to each other that day. He was a moral grandeur for all of us in the community of conscience as he devoted the best of his life for the cause of the oppressed in our society.
His sense of sacrifice has not been surpassed. I recall how he demonstrated extra -ordinary commitment in one of his last years on earth as he came to a remembrance event for Kudirat Abiola in an hospital ambulance. It was a moving sight for a man, who would not use his valid ill-health, as an excuse from the line of duty! It was not a pleasant experience to see Chief living his last days in great pains and suffering in ill-health, coupled with wrong diagnosis by a sick medical care of a dysfunctional country.
He was rumoured dead many times before he finally breathed the last. I recall putting a call to him whenever such rumour broke out and he would answer in his thin voice “Joe, I am still alive.”
When he finally succumbed to death on September 5, 2009, it was a big blow to the pro-democracy community in Nigeria.
His space remains largely vacant 10 years after the demise because his type doesn’t appear on earth frequently.
He lived for the society and his memory remains imperishable. He died but still lives. Goodnite Chief!
Dr Joe okei-odumakin, President Women Arise and Centre for Change.