By; CARL UMEGBORO
First and foremost, I salute the quintessential social justice crusader, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) for his extraordinariness, inimitability and altruism while on earth. The senior advocate of the masses (SAM) as splendidly christened lives on in the hearts of the people despite the transition in 2009. Almost a decade counting, the vacuum Fawehinmi left is yet to be adequately filled.
The masses still mourn. On the other hand, corruption hops dimensionally knowing that its core enemy is no more. The youths voluntarily, appraisingly and deservedly acknowledged Fawehinmi’s selfless services to the society with the title of ‘SAM’ which connotes a defender and voice of the people. Even after Fawehinmi, only one or few others have purportedly bagged the title which points to the fact that these youths are stringently led by empiricism. Over the years, Fawehinmi’s families, colleagues, fans and the masses including students converge annually in his commemoration with public symposium among other activities.
Incidentally, the recent 14th edition of Gani Fawehinmi Annual Memorial Lecture/Symposium organized by the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch turned into fora for face-to-face accusations and counter-accusations alongside defenses.
At the venue, mammoth crowd of great personalities and the youths gathered to pay homage as usual. But the unprecedented episode that more or less interrupted the event was the aggressive refusal of the youths and students to allow Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) access to the venue as a guest-speaker, among others.
The youths discourteously blocked his way and accused him of aiding and abetting corruption by spryly, delightedly holding briefs on many corruption cases thereby frustrating the anti-corruption crusade of the federal government. In their argument, Fawehinmi’s ideologies are incompatible with backing treasury looters. As a result, countless unprintable names were unrestrainedly, sarcastically thundered, echoed and ricocheted including ‘senior advocate of the looters’ by the youths.
Luckily, a prominent activist, Femi Falana (SAN) intervened and calmed the storm. Reacting, Ozekhome lambasted federal government and his detractors over the opprobrious predicament and tagged the dramatis personae ‘rented miscreants’. But seriously, could the same crowds that bestowed titles without restrictions including ‘SAM’ to Fawehinmi metamorphose overnight to rented miscreants or perhaps, a different group? Two salient points emanate from the quagmire; first, is there any sense in the youth’s nonsenses, and second, is it wrong for a lawyer to hold briefs for clients on corruption related cases? Thus, the dilemma called for sober reflections.
Undeniably, late Gani Fawehinmi required no introduction to anyone that reached adulthood during his lifetime. Fawehinmi gallantly prioritized public interests above personal benefits. As a lawyer that believed in legal justice, still never allowed social justice to take a second position but measured side by side on corruption matters. To him, any public officeholder convincingly accused of corruption with substantial evidences cannot escape justice despite plethora of flaws in the legal regime.
Relatively, Fawehinmi would not pray the court to dismiss allegations with evidences rather would supportively fight tooth and nail to recover diverted-funds energetically traced to bank accounts by security agencies? This irrefutably accounted to the cordial relationship with Nuhu Ribadu during his tenure as EFCC helmsman. Was Ribadu’s tenure flawless, emphatically NO. Remarkably, Fawehinmi contested presidential election against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and his National Conscience Party, NCP keenly belonged to the opposition. Yet, Fawehinmi overwhelmingly cheered and complemented the efforts of government’s security agencies on corruption.
As far as Fawehinmi was concerned, corruption must be confronted squarely and extraordinarily, and his heartbeat on social justice was clear; salvage all looted funds and no scheming under the cloak of technicalities and lacunas. That was the red line of Fawehinmi’s activism. Simply put, stealing, looting and other corrupt practices are serious crimes.
Again, Fawehinmi wouldn’t denunciate government as tyrannical where there’re evidences of corruption how much more revel over tracked stolen funds in suspects’ bank accounts that are irrecoverable merely by procedural defects, at the detriments of the masses? Clearly, Fawehinmi’s activism underscored objectivity and triumphed exceptionally on a maxim, ‘he who comes to equity must come with clean hands’.
In all probability, the youths’ specification for the highly-treasured event was exclusively ‘Fawehinmism’ and not opposition generally. On the other hand, the discretion to hold any briefs remains unencumbered to lawyers. Could a lawyer hold briefs for any accused persons including corruption cases? A thousand times yes. For instance, a suspect arrested for kidnapping and other felonies, through his lawyers brought several claims against the Police recently challenging his detention and also seizure of his chattels. That’s legal profession in action. However, life is all about choices and two options always exist.
Emphatically, late Gani Fawehinmi symbolizes self-abnegation, integrity and nationalism, precisely the masses well-being. Above all, Fawehinmi’s high profile was dedicated to societal good, and not even political ambition made him soft-pedal to ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ slogan. To the legal icon, all looted public funds until recovered tantamount to social injustice and oppression of the people.
To conclude, whether a government is fit or inept will neither justify anyone accused of corruption to escape justice under any guise. Thus, the weird approach notwithstanding, the voice of the people is the voice of God, ‘vox populi, vox dei’.
Umegboro, public affairs analyst writes from Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org (07057101974 SMS only)
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