The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) join other Nigerians to mourn the death of Chief Gani Fawehinmi which occurred in the wee hours of Saturday September 5 2009. We wish to note that while death is an inevitable end, the point must be made that Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s health deteriorated as a result of the series of torture and inhuman treatment he suffered from detentions and gulags of the military regime in the course of fighting against government neo-liberal and anti-masses policies, the continuation of military rule, for actualization of June 12 and enthronement of people’s democracy. Therefore the Nigerian capitalist ruling class must be held responsible for the death of Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
This point become important because with his death, those like former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida and former president Olusegun Obasanjo together with their coteries in government today who scourged Chief Gani Fawehinmi all his life would become his loudest praise singers in a fraudulent attempt to identify with something worthy. Chief Gani Fawehinmi lived all his life defending legally and politically the rights of the poor and oppressed Nigerians and only the poor workers, youths and oppressed masses deserve to identify with his memory.
To us in the ERC, Gani Fawehinmi was one of the most consistent fighter for democratic change, respect of human rights and an egalitarian society. He towered above his generation not just by being a legal luminary but by his identification with the cause of the oppressed masses, workers and Nigerian students. His contribution to the strengthening of the student movement and the pro-bono legal defense of victimized students activists in the heady days of the struggle against military despotism is unparalleled in Nigerian history. This was why Nigerian students at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) bestowed upon him an award of Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) in 1988. And this is the more reason why his death is felt so deeply in the student movement.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi was different from the general run of Nigerian liberal intellectual activists by descending from the lofty height of cerebral arm-chair criticism of government policies into the midst of Nigerian workers and poor alongside whom he fought many street battles at the barricades against both military and civilian arm of the Nigerian ruling class. At most rallies and protests that the Adams Oshiomhole-led Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) called against fuel price hike and other anti-poor policies, Chief Gani Fawehinmi participated with his characteristic courage and determination. His most defining contribution to the struggle for a better society was the formation of the National Conscience Party (NCP) whose aim as enshrined in the party’s 10-care program was to “abolish poverty” while other ruling class parties sought to “alleviate poverty”. With the formation of the NCP, Chief Gani Fawehinmi clearly showed that he understood that a political platform is needed by the workers, poor and oppressed people to take over political power from the hands of the oppressive capitalist ruling class and to establish a society where poverty will be abolished through democratic usage of the vast human and material resources which Nigeria is endowed with for the interest of the masses.
Unfortunately, it is precisely this political alternative that is missing in the course of Nigerian workers and oppressed people’s yearning for change. On the occasion of the death of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, we in the ERC call on Nigerian students to be steadfast in the struggle for adequate funding of education. Equally, we urge ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT to remain committed to the struggle to reposition the education sector and we call on the Federal government to return to the negotiation table for the purpose of signing and implementing agreements with all the striking unions.
We also call on the NLC, TUC and LASCO to continue the struggle for a new national minimum wage and against deregulation of the oil sector.
This struggle can only be victorious if the labour leadership build a mass based working people’s political party to take power from the hands of the Nigerian capitalist ruling class in order to establish a workers and poor people’s government that will develop the economy, fund education, provide decent jobs and abolish poverty through the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control of working people.
Lastly, we in the ERC call on the workers, students, youths and all oppressed masses to build a monument for the memory of Chief Gani Fawehinmi out of the debris from the ruins of the anti-poor Yar’ Adua’s capitalist government which has committed itself to the same neo-liberal policies that Chief Gani Fawehinmi fought against all his life.
HASSAN TAIWO SOWETO CHINEDU BOSAH
NATIONAL COORDINATOR NATIONAL SECRETARY