Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi was born on 22nd April 1938 to Saheed and Munirat Fawehinmi of Ondo, in Ondo State.
Gani had his early education at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Ondo from 1947 to 1953 and Victory College, Ikare for his secondary school education from 1954 to 1958.
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Gani’s passion for human rights had been evident while still in college. He was popularly known as “Nation” because of his interest in legal and political affairs of the country.
Gani worked briefly after his secondary education as a law clerk in Lagos High Court until 1961. This brief experience must have further encouraged Gani to enrol for studies at a foreign school to train as a lawyer. He got into Holborn College of Law, in the University of London, to study law in the same year.
Gani’s father died while he was still in university but he managed to complete his academic degree in London despite the financial difficulty by taking up various menial jobs. It was while Gani was still studying in London that he got acquainted with books of revolutionary/radical figures such as David Ben-Gurion, Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse Tsung, Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, and Karl Marx.
On completion of his studies, he returned to Nigeria in 1964 and was called to the bar in 1965. Gani worked briefly at his brother’s (Saheed Fawehinmi) before branching out to found his renowned law chambers, Gani Fawehinmi Chambers.
In the middle of the genesis of the June 12 struggle for democracy, Gani Fawehinmi was awarded the biennial Bruno Kreisky Prize 11th June 1993 in recognition of his effort as an international figure who advanced human rights causes. In recognition of his human rights and pro-democracy work, he was also decorated with the International Bar Association’s ‘Bernard Simmons Award’ in 1998.
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It took almost 36 years after his call to bar to be finally awarded the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2001 despite being a legal luminary involved in many high profile cases in the country.
In 2018, Gani Fawehinmi was posthumously awarded the Order of the Niger, Nigeria’s second-highest honour. He had previously rejected an alternate national award (Order of the Federal Republic) in 2008, in protest for the many years of misrule in Nigeria. He was later conferred with the chieftaincy title of the Lamofin of Ondo town.
Aside from winning many human right centres legal tussles against past Nigerian governments and junta, one of the other major legacies of Chief Gani Fawehinmi is publishing a compilation of Nigerian Law Report running as a series since 1986. The Nigerian Weekly Law Report has served as a dependable archive of reports from the law courts for the legal profession across the country.
Gani Fawehinmi’s library is also reputed to have owned the largest library in Nigeria with over 1 million books and non-book materials ranging from politics, law, biographies, religion, economics to newspaper collections from early 1970 till date.
After a prolonged battle with lung cancer, Gani Fawehinmi died in the early hours of September 5, 2009, aged 71. He was buried 10 days later in his Ondo home town, Ondo State. Many lawyers that he had inspired with his exemplary and selfless life, as well as friends and well-wishers from across all walks of life gathered at his burial ceremony to give him a worthy and final sendforth.
Featured Image Source: Punch Newspapers
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