The first and last time I physically met late Chief Gani Fawehimni SAN was while I was a student at the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos. It was about March 1990, and we went as students to visit Chief Fawehimni in his expansive compound housing his Law
Chambers in Anthony Village, Maryland, Lagos, as part of our training at the Law School to visit Chambers of leading Legal Practitioners to get acquainted with them!
I vividly remember that on that day, Chief Fawehimni was in the company of Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, Dr. Beko Kuti, Professor Sagay, and other human rights advocates of that era. He conducted us around his Law Library, and at the visit, he autographed law reports published by the Nigerian Law Publication Company Limited for all of us that visited!
I still have copies of these law reports in my library! Incidentally, 15 years after that, I joined and
contested the election under the platform of a political party – the National Conscience Party(NCP) founded by Chief Fawehimni.
It was good luck in February 2003 when Efoli Ottoh, a friend from Nko, Yakurr local government area of Cross River State, came to my office at 98 Marian Road, Calabar, Cross River State, with a handful of party faithful, mostly labor, students, and youth activists to persuade and offer me the Governorship Ticket of the National Conscience Party for Cross River State for the 2003 General Election!
The State Secretary of the NCP was an exuberant and revolutionary Student Activist known as Stanley Dien, now a burgeoning Abuja-based Legal Practitioner! In March 2003, all the governorship candidates, including the then sitting Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, were invited to speak in a debate organized by a coalition of NGOs at the State Library Calabar, which was well attended.
The highlight of the debate was my statement that if elected Governor, I would sell the Government House Calabar and invest the proceeds in Primary and secondary education.
I would not drive around with convey of shinning and exotic automobiles. Governor Duke was quite amused by my rhetoric, and he told me when I visited him in his office some few months after the election to congrats him!
My visit to Donald Duke generated furor and political controversy by some people who thought I shouldn’t have visited him because I had been a strident critic of Donald Duke! They fabricated stories of Donald Duke buying me over! One of my clients was so bitter that he disengaged me and briefed another lawyer!
But the truth of the matter was that I congratulated out of sportsmanship and moved on! At that time, the truth was that no candidate or a political party other than Donald Duke and his Party PDP had the structure and financial muscles to win a governorship election in the State!
Fawehimni was an iconoclast figure! His father was a wealthy merchant but who later became broke while he was studying for a law degree in the United
Kingdom and suffered poverty but returned to Nigeria to become one of the greatest lawyers and Human Rights activists the country had ever produced!
He was a maverick of a sort and, through his unorthodox approach to Law Practice in a profession noted for its conservatism, fell out with the profession’s hierarchy!
When the Military took over power in 1983 and churned draconian decrees to fight corruption, the Nigerian Bar Association banned its members from appearing in Military Tribunals created to try politicians and businesspeople accused of perpetrating corruption and graft; Fawehimni refused to heed the ban!
The Nigerian Bar Association made spirited efforts to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the guise that he published in the newspaper advertising himself. He challenged the matter and fought the Nigerian Bar Association from the High Court to the Supreme Court and won, leaving the ego of senior lawyers who were at the forefront of the effort badly bruised!
His troubles with the NBA caused Fawehimni’s inauguration of the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria to be delayed for several decades despite the indisputable fact that he was brilliant, a paragon of integrity and legal scholarship. He was indeed exemplary! His contribution towards the growth of the legal system both in advocacy and scholarship was phenomenal and legendary!
Even though I supported General Muhammadu Buhari when he joined the defunct APP to contest the 2003 Presidential Election, Fawehimni was also a candidate. I joined the National Conscience Party rather than APP! Fawehimni was also an admirer of General Buhari and had supported his political ambitions and aspirations.
In 2007 he urged all his admirers and supporters to support General Buhari, contesting the 2007 Presidential Election! One afternoon in April 2003, as preparation for the election had reached its feverish pitch and tension was high in the air, I got a phone call that I should come to the house of Major Akpang Obi-Odu to attend a meeting of the opposition to discuss the elections in the State that was two days away!
On reaching there, I met some opposition leaders, including Major Obi Odu, Barrister Edem Ekong, and others, in a hot discussion; I interrupted the meeting to ask why I was not initially invited to a meeting of opposition; when I was a candidate in the election!
I was soothed and implored to join the effort of the opposition to boycott the election! I had to call Chief Fawehimni to ask if the NCP should join the planned boycott of the election! Chief Fawehimni sharply implored me to tell members of the NCP not to boycott the election!