Monday, September 28, 2009


My first encounter with the firebrand, iconic human rights advocate was at the Heathrow Airport in London in the ‘80s, prior to this encounter I had a different picture of the man in my brain as someone huge, muscular, brainy and perhaps larger than life.

As he bellowed: “Ebino Topsy – he spread his arms around his friend, Chief Ebenezer Babtope. ‘How are you my friend? – In synch, they greeted each other. I, for one, stood there transfixed looking at him.

How could this relatively built individual be so daring and consistent in his effort to take any bad Government or individual down singlehandedly? Why would any one want to dare a Government that derives power from the barrel of Guns? What a dangerous life mission! What motivates him to want to set free the downtrodden, the poorest of the poor in Nigeria? The thought kept firing in my brain as Gani and Babtope geared up to comedy on Nigeria military anomalies in those days.

For a moment, I couldn’t participate fully on the political issues of the day been discussed. I kept hearing voices in my head saying, “What does this man has other than the Law Books and the rule of Law as he knew it – a pass-on knowledge by those British white-wig wearers; those lovers of human dignity to make him so determined on his human rights activities?

The word democracy kept recurring in their conversation. But what has democracy got to do with ‘Khaki and Guns?” If they want democratic Government they have to raise their own political army against those military boys. As if Gani heard my inner thought, he bellowed once again: “Ebimo, look I am not a politician, all I want is for those soldiers to get the hell out of Government and go back to their barracks – there they can have all the guns they want to protect the Nation.”

As Gani turned to leave, I woke up from my trance and suggested that he should consider bringing up a law suit against the State Governments of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo to be joined with the Federal Government of Nigeria for allowing thousands of Nigerians to die on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway for so many years.

All the three States should have known better to pool resources for the rehabilitation and expansion of that road. There is a provision in Nigeria Constitution that stipulates that Government has the responsibility to provide good accessible roads, whether intercity or interstate for Commerce or movement of people from one place to the other.

While jurisdiction of roads lies with the Federal Government, States will do well to first alleviate attendant problems and later present Costs to the Federal Government. Failure to do so becomes negligent of the first order and could be penalized by the Court of the land.

Since I had previously been introduced to Gani as a student in America, Gani intoned: “Americano, such a case was once considered among lawyers in my chamber but the problem we encountered was that the families of the victims on that road over the years were unable to come up with death certificates of their loved ones that pointed to the place and time of death.”

Such was a vibrant lawyer’s mind of the people. Gani’s death at the age of 71 was as a result of wear and tear of organs in his body; those that had been exposed to various abuses in his quest to better the lots of Nigerians.

Our consolation is Gani’s legacy; he fought for ordinary Nigerians. He fought for people’s lives constantly in danger of human right abuses, of people dying unnecessarily from hunger, from unclean environment that breeds mosquitoes resulting in death from malaria, from people dying unnecessarily from accidents on roads that lack constant maintenance. He was a radical to the core, unbending on crusade against falsification of identities by leaders that are supposed to live by good examples.

The Students of Law should be encouraged to catalogue various law suits Gani prosecuted throughout his life time.

The empathy the masses are now exuberating in eulogy to his family, especially to his children, becomes a testament to the good life he lived for all Nigerians. Without doubt, the vanguard won the minds and souls of all Nigerians.


By Dr. Almaroof

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