Why we’re accepting Buhari’s GCON award to Gani Fawehinmi — Family
Late Gani Fawehinmi (Web)
London, June 7, 2018 (AltAfrika)-The family of late Gani Fawehinmi would accept the latest attempt by the Nigerian government to honour the iconic rights activist for his pro-citizens advocacy and other legacies of bravery, PREMIUM TIMES reports
President Muhammadu Buhari announced Wednesday that Mr Fawehinmi would be posthumously conferred with the Grand Commander of Nigeria (GCON), Nigeria’s second highest honour, in an unexpected gesture that has since rippled through the nation’s sociopolitical structure.
Mohammed Fawehinmi, the first son of the late activist, told PREMIUM TIMES in the family’s first statement since the announcement that they would accept the GCON because it truly honoured the memory of Mr Fawehinmi.
Mr Fawehinmi died in September 2009 after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. He was 71.
His life was replete with widely-recognised acts of selflessness and remarkable moments of candour. He confronted repressive military regimes, including Mr Buhari’s, and fought for the entrenchment of a just and democratic Nigeria, suffering state attacks and imprisonment in return.
Mr Fawehinmi was arguably the most iconic champion of the June 12 agitation. He demanded the dictatorial Babangida and Abacha regimes recognise a mandate Nigerians accorded Moshood Abiola in the 1993 elections.
Mr Abiola was the presumed winner of the election, which analysts and historians categorised as the freest and fairest in the history of the world’s largest black nation. Ibrahim Babangida, the military ruler who conducted the election at the time, abruptly annulled it, eliciting public outrage.
A defiant Mr Babangida shrugged off demands for the installation of Mr Abiola as Nigeria’s president, including concerted interventions by the international community.
Mr Abiola was later arrested in 1994 by Sani Abacha, another military ruler who seized power shortly after Mr Babangida relinquished his position to a civilian interim government. He was held in custody for until his death in 1998 in still inexplicable circumstances.
Also jailed over the June 12 strife were Mr Fawehinmi and a host of other pro-democracy campaigners, labour unionists, journalists and university students. Even then, the June 12 agitation was not the most consequential in Mr Fawehinmi’s career of relentless activism. He had been in prison back and forth in the preceding decade, especially under Mr Babangida, who was in office from 1985 to 1993.
In 2008, he was offered a national honour as Order of the Federal Republic by President Umar Yar’Adua, an accolade he rejected on several bases of democratic ethos.
In 2014, five years after his passing, Mr Yar’Adua’s successor, Goodluck Jonathan, decided to honour him posthumously with another national honour, but his family immediately rejected this on behalf of his memory. The award was part of the Nigeria’s centenary celebrations since the 1914 amalgamation of the north and south by British colonialists.
In a February 27, 2014 letter sent to the then-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, Mohammed Fawehinmi, the first son of the late activist, said his father’s memory would not be properly served if the family accepted such honour.
Mr Fawehinmi listed several national crises that dogged Mr Jonathan’s administration at the time and said they contradicted his father’s belief system.
Amongst them were the unabated killings of vulnerable Nigerians by the Boko Haram insurgents, a crisis which the government at the time looked helpless to contain.
The high degree of corruption suspected to be going on under Mr Jonathan’s watch at the time was also cited by Mr Fawehinmi.
Perhaps the most off-putting wrongdoing of Mr Jonathan for the Fawehinmis was the inclusion of Mr Babangida amongst those to be honoured alongside their departed patriarch.
The family blasted the Jonathan administration for being insensitive to the traumatic experience which Mr Babangida inflicted on the late Mr Fawehinmi.
“We therefore, find it morally incongruous and psychologically debilitating for our family to stand on the same podium with General Babangida to receive awards,” the family said in the letter rejecting the award.