The recent commemoration on October 19 2009 of the death of Dele Giwa , the late editor-in-chief/co-founder of Newswatch Magazine, who was killed by a parcel bomb 23 years ago while at the heart of investigating one of the deeds of the then military regime of Ibrahim Babaginda, again brought back to life one of the many uncommon roles played by Gani Fawehinmi in the life of a nation before he was carted away after a protracted struggle with lung cancer on the 4th of September, 2009. The ceremony held at the auditorium of the Lagos Television (LTV8) was organised by a collection of individuals tagged the Friends of Fawehinmi (FoF). Gani was the late journalist’s lawyer and he was in the fore-front of the crusade to unravel who killed Dele Giwa; he had raised accusing fingers toward the direction of Gen Babaginda and those of his military intelligence aides: Cols. Akilu and Togun.
O yes! Gani’s life is worthy for everyone in the struggle for a humane society to emulate and what is left for us with his death is to continue the struggle from where Gani stopped.
Although he started his anti-oppression crusade as a lone-ranger in the course of struggling for common justice some forty years ago in 1969 when he travelled unprompted from Lagos in the south-west to far away Jos in the North-central Nigeria to defend and sought justice for a junior civil servant (a government-employed driver) who was being persecuted and clamped into detention after his wife was taken over by the then Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in the North-central state. Gani succeeded at getting justice for the persecuted civil servant who was later released from detention.
However, after his numerous lone-ranging campaigns against injustice and oppression from high places, particularly in the law courts; he later realised that to struggle more meaningful you must make this in an organised form. He then teamed up with others to form the National Conscience Party (NCP) in 1994, no sooner the Military regime led by late dictator, Sani Abacha, declared the NCP illegal. But he carried on, upon which he was clamped into detention for months.
He remained a fore-runner in the anti-military rule crusade and with this he soon came into alliance with those section of the ruling class organized around NADECO who were also in opposition to the then Abacha junta, but who did not think twice to dump Gani and their mutual platform – JACON, and opted to participate uncritically and wholeheartedly in the Abubakar regime’s transition to civil rule program, which midwived the present unfulfilling civil rule in Nigeria.
For Gani, life was worth the while; he fought for his beliefs passionately; fought, at serious risk to his health, against the perceived oppressors. Particularly interesting is the fact that notwithstanding the limitation of constitutionalism, he fought through the courts to expose the hypocrisy of the ruling elites on democracy and democratic participation via the initial limiting of registered political parties to just three during the initial phase of the present civil rule in Nigeria between 1999 to 2002. His actions in court led to the declaration of the now ‘pluralised’ multiparty democracy with over 50 political parties now registered to participate in elections in Nigeria.
Although, there is also this theory that if Gani's NCP had opted to contest for elective post in 1999, the story would have been different, since his party was seen then as the main organized radical group in the struggle against military rule and his level of honesty would stood out against the insincerity of purpose of the so-called liberals in NADECO . But when he eventually did in 2003 and he failed to get the electorate to vote him in as the president, he expressed his frustration bitterly about this ‘docile’ attitude of the Nigerian masses.
On the contrary, however, beyond blaming the masses is the generally understanding of the fact that ordinarily speaking, the time between INEC registration and election (about four months) was quite short to have organized the party and campaign for the NCP electoral contest or an anticipated success nationwide, this was also not helped with fact that the then leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, under Adams Oshiomhole, did not give any iota of open support to the Gani-NCP aspiration but instead was involved in clandestine moves suggestive of support for Obasanjo-PDP re-election bid; it is worthy of recall that Oshiomhole was an important guest at the launching of Obasanjo’s 2003 Presidential election campaign.
Notwithstanding his initial disappointment with the masses after the 2003 elections; typical of Gani’s sincerity of purpose, two and half years later, he was in the fore-front of the campaign for the Labour Congress president, Adam Oshiomhole, to vie for the presidency under the Labour Party platform. But that was not to be, as Adams thought otherwise and opted to be the governorship candidate in Edo State, instead of going for the presidential slot; and worst still, instead of using the Labour party banner, he dumped this for the confusing banner of AC, the party led by the hugely accused corrupt former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Adams is now the Governor of Edo State and he is seen now more on the side of Yar’adua’s PDP regime and less with the Labour movement’s aspirations.
Perhaps, it is necessary to tell Oshiomhole and his likes in the Labour movement now singing new songs for Gani that the best way to remember Gani is for the Labour leaders to team up and revive the Labour-founded Labour Party in Nigeria; the party should be posed as a working class alternative with a strong trade-union base and a socialist program aimed to change Nigeria for the better in the interest of the poor masses. With that Gani,s memory will live better in our minds.
Ganism and the rule of law
The phenomenon of Gani Fawehinmi, the severally acclaimed human right and social justice fighter in Nigeria who died in the early hours of September 3rd 2009, makes a very interesting case that goes beyond his mere characterization as a bourgeois radical i.e. a rich man in the quest for a socially beneficial welfare program for the toiling and oppressed masses. He appeared to be more than this in his deeds and belief. Ganism is best understood from the point of view that more often, although individuals don’t make history per se, the role of some individuals in history can nevertheless be overemphasized; at the same time it is also important to correct the impression that Gani has no politically-related limitations that are worthy of clarification from a socialist revolutionary point of view.
For one, Gani’s most perceived limitation flowed from the orchestrated worshiping of the “rule of law” as a panacea to the sociopolitical crisis facing Nigeria, thus giving the impression that if only the operators in government followed the constitution and other statutes to the letters all should be well with Nigeria. This assertion soon dims out, however, when it is reflected from the point of view that in the last analysis the rule of law in a capitalist society like Nigeria is actually the encoded rule of capital. In the final analysis, the present Nigerian constitution and the other statutes are operating to guarantee the individual capitalists’ ownership of the means of production and services to the detriment of the mass majority members of the working class and the other poor layers in the society who stand to benefit from collective ownership and democratic control of the means of production.
Another point that needed clarification is the recent tagging of late Gani Fawehinmi by some confused individuals in media presentations after his death as a scientific socialist. Without necessarily denying the right of Gani to socialist phraseologies and aspiration as an antidote against poverty in the land, such mouthing of socialism does not automatically transmute him to be regarded as a scientific socialist. This gave the wrong impression that he had a lineage of Marxism, the only living revolutionary idea that embodied scientific socialism that gave a working class-based analysis and clear understanding of the chronic crisis of the present capitalist society. This scientific explanation posed socialism as the antidote to overcome this crisis through the overthrow of the present capitalist ruling class via revolutionary means and a mass working class-based revolutionary party with socialist programme acting as the vanguard of the revolution.
We acknowledge the fact Gani during his lifetime was definitely courageous, an uncommon voice and able hand against all manners of corruption in high places(sometimes to a fault, as it was the case with his uncritical support for Obasanjo-Ribadu’s EFCC hypocritical anticorruption moves);.He was also very passionately against oppression of the masses and a very vocal advocate against poverty; however, in spite of his rare personal sacrifices and dedication, Gani remained far from grabbing the essence of the revolutionary idea of Marxism in his deeds and utterances till death took him away.
However, for all genuine workers and youth activists, the greatest lesson from Gani Fawehinmi’s life is that although personal sacrifice is an important requisite for effecting a revolutionary change in the society, this is not enough. It is important to follow the path of an organized idea via the vehicle of a mass revolutionary organization with an understanding of where we are coming from and then evolve a clear perspective as a guide to action into the future towards overcoming the present miseries and chaos of the capitalist world.
The first approach in this wise in Nigeria is the need for the leadership of the labour movement to build the existing Labour Party in Nigeria into a mass-based political platform with a socialist programme that will guarantee free and qualitative education, health for all at the point of need, mass and decent housing program for all, job for all program, decent wage for all workers etc.