I MISS Gani Fawehinmi – Okoroji
By Tony Okoroji
THE past Thursday was a crazy day in Lagos. Plain crazy! The city was on lockdown and the people of Lagos trekked and trekked, kilometers after kilometers, for hours and hours. Many flights were cancelled or rescheduled and practically everywhere you looked, there was confusion. If you had any business to do in Lagos on Thursday and you were able to do it without much trouble, yours was the exception and certainly not the rule.
Why was there so much confusion in Lagos on Thursday? President Buhari came to town. The man we elected to make life easier for us came to visit and some people decided that the best way to mark this august visit was to close practically every major road in the city and make life as miserable as possible for as many as possible. If the objective was to make the President’s visit unforgettable, clearly, the objective was achieved. The people of Lagos are unlikely to forget the day their president came to town and brought so much misery with him. Even the rains joined in the conspiracy as the people suffered.
By the way, the state government declared a work free day for its employees on the same Thursday. Added to the Easter holidays, there would be five continuous work free days for anyone in the employ of the government of Lagos state. Five days without work? For a people so backward they need to work twice as much as the rest of mankind if we ever hope to catch up with the rest of humanity?
On Thursday, it dawned on me what my country has lost in the passing on of a man like the great legal gad fly, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. I was at the funeral service of Gani Fawehinmi a few years ago. While I was sad at his passing, I did not realize that his transition would mean so much to my country.
Before Thursday, a Gani would have gone to court to seek an injunction to restrain whoever was responsible for the mayhem of Thursday. He may not have found a judge with the courage to rule in his favour but the fact of his attempt would have sent a loud message that there is something wrong with displeasing so many so as to please one person.
I do not know how many people share my fear that the nation may be spinning out of control. Before Thursday, I had considered Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State to be one exception to the madness that seems to be overtaking our nation. How did Ambode allow himself to be talked into this one day fiasco capable of wiping away three years of hard earned goodwill?
I am concerned that we have become engaged in a brand of politics that has no place any longer for the people. The politicians come first, second and third and the people do not count at all. While the politicians and their friends ate finger foods, took photographs and backslapped on Thursday, the people were reeling in pain but I am not sure it mattered to anyone. I have no doubt that some people in government would have since complimented themselves on how successful the President’s visit to Lagos was. Is that not what psychologists call cognitive dissonance?
I miss Gani Fawehinmi. I miss him because there appears to be no one in today’s Nigeria with a voice as loud as Gani’s to put some check on the impunity and mindlessness that seems to have gripped our people. Everyone with a voice appears to have
been bought or is negotiating to be bought. Money is all that counts and everybody seems to have a price.
Do you remember one Adams Oshiomhole that was an albatross on the necks of the military governments in Nigeria? Adams was a labour leader that the people counted on. He joined politics, became a governor and began to sound like the rest of Nigerian politicians. I am not sure that we still have a labour movement worth its name. These days, I hear about labour only when a NUPENG driver has a problem with the police and tanker drivers go on strike. The students’ union movement appears to have been hijacked too. The civil society organizations which thrived under the leaderships of the likes of Olisa Agbakoba and Ayo Obe are all busy looking for foreign sponsorship and grants to chop.
The courts have been emasculated too. Recently, I had to carry placards on the streets to get the case file in an important matter to do with the Nigerian creative economy returned to a Judge. Thereafter, I was in court and listened to the judge read a judgment that had neither rhyme nor reason.
The kind of Journalism practiced by the likes of Dele Giwa, Sam Amuka and Co, seems to have left our shores too. Many of our so-called journalists are to all intents and purposes public relations practitioners writing for who pays them or against the perceived enemy of who pays them.
Even Mohammadu Buhari in whom a lot of Nigerians invested their hopes appears to have been hijacked by the politicians. His famed intolerance for impunity, recklessness and corruption seems to have deserted him. So much appears to be going on around him that defies explanation.
When Gani was around, you had to think about him when announcing any policy. Today, there is no one to worry about anymore. Put simply, we have once again been colonized, not by any foreigners but by our own people and this colonization is worse. The people are wondering who speaks for them.
I miss Gani, oh how I miss Gani Fawehinmi!
- See you next week.
- …Okoroji, is chairman of COSON