Chief Gani Fawehinmi popularly called GANI when he was alive did not need much introduction. He was one of the 10 Heroes of Legal Profession in Nigeria that featured in the first series of the LEGAL LUMINARIES. Gani’s contribution to the development of law in Nigeria was very enormous. In the real Human Rights Activism, Gani had no rival as he was never a cash and carry Human Rights Activist.
“…At the time when only few lawyers in the practice of law had access to judgments of the appellate courts in Nigeria, Gani came as a messiah and revolutionized law reporting in Nigeria…”
Deeply impressed by the Gani’s contribution to the development of law, the late Hon. Justice Anthony Aniagolu, JSC of blessed memory said about Gani that :
“No Nigerian to date has marched the indomitable energy you have put up for the growth of law in this country. After all, the pettifogging has subsided. Nigeria will come around one day to do honour to one who deserves honour. That one is you”
When Gani eventually gave up the ghost, the words of the learned Supreme Court jurist truly came to pass like the biblical prophet as he was actually celebrated by Nigerians on his demise. Despite Gani’s remarkable contribution to the development of law during his life time, his road to the rank of the Senior Advocate was a very rough one. Gani had brush with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which he instituted court cases against and argued same up to the Supreme Court. I hope you will remember the locus classicus FAWEHINMI Vs NBA, No.1 and No. 2. When he was advised to withdraw those cases to pave way for his being awarded the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Gani retorted : .
“So I stood up, and I said thank you my lord .I said I am doing this on principle and there is no way I can compromise the principle .I am not fighting the cases to win or lose .But to ensure that certain principles are established even as I attempt to do this, if I lose the SAN, so be it. But I cannot withdraw the cases; the SAN can be taken back.”
When Gani was not conferred with the rank, he refused to apply for the rank again. Despite this many people continued to mount pressure on him to apply and many years later he said:
“So, with this pressure from judges, friends and lawyers in my chambers, I decided to apply”
In 2001, when I was a student in Nigerian Law School, Chief Gani Fawehinmi made it and he became a SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA after having putting in 36 years into the practice of law as he was called to the Nigerian Bar on 15th January 1965. When Gani was alive he was not only a publisher of law books but a charismatic and brilliant advocate. In the case of Fawehinmi Vs. Akilu (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt.67) 797 at page 842, Hon. Justice Kayode Eso had this to say:
“This court has the benefit of excellent briefs from learned counsel and in particular, the brief filed by the Appellant, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, is a model of what briefs to this court should be, and for this, I must commend him.”
Is there any lesson from this? To me, a lawyer must be principled and always be on the side of the truth. A lawyer must be innovative, hardworking and believe in himself.
We must not fail to mention here that this is a trying time for some of our Senior Advocates that have just been sanctioned by LPPC. While some of our colleagues have argued that the LPPC should only concern itself with appointing the Senior Advocates rather than sanctioning them. Speaking for myself, I cannot go along with this argument .There must be a disciplinary mechanism to ensure sanity in the system to serve as deterrent to others. Anyone that is sanctioned and is aggrieved should lodge appeal to the appropriate authority. Any lawyer whether SAN or Non-SAN that is found quilt of eating forbidden fruit must be shown the way out of the Paradise of Legal Profession. Our Law Profession must not be turned to the George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM.
On Attributes of Legal Practitioner
“Now, it is, I think, a fair characterization of a legal practitioner’s responsibilities in the country that he stands as a ‘shield’ in defence of right and to ward off wrong. In a profession charged with such responsibilities, there must be exacted those qualities of truth speaking, of high sense of honour, of the strictest observance of fiduciary responsibility.”
Per MUSDAPHER JSC (as he then was) in Okike Vs L.P.D.C (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt. 949) Pg. 510 Para C.
For more Settled Principles of Law and Remarkable Pronouncements from our Supreme Court Jurists from 1956-2016, obtain or order for your copies of LAW PRACTICE KIT and LEGAL LUMINARIES. Call 08055476823, 08164683735. Your library is incomplete without these books.