Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s greatest battles revolved around his dogged fight against injustice and dictatorship.
Starting in 1969, when he defended a peasant farmer, Bala Abashi, whose wife was snatched by a Secretary to the State Government (SSG), in the old Benue/Plateau (during the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon), Andrew Obaya. He was subsequently detained at the Kaduna Police Station.
Again in 1971, he fought for the rights of a journalist, Minere Amachree, who was dehumanized by the ADC to the then governor of Rivers State, Dr. Alfred Diette Spiff (he had his hair shaven with a broken bottle). Gani won the case with N10,000 awarded to the journalist as damages.
He also defended the University of Ibadan students free of charge before the Justice Kazeem Commission of Inquiry over the killing of Adekunle Adepeju, an undergraduate who was shot dead during student’s demonstration.
Again, he confronted the General Ibrahim Babangida military junta over the murder of Dele Giwa, the pioneer editor-in-chief of Newswatch magazine, who was killed by a parcel bomb. He was arrested and tortured in what he himself described as his greatest battle against injustice.
He also took on late Mariam Abacha, the wife of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, over the legality of her Family Support Programme, which attracted millions of naira in donation from government agencies.
Gani did not miss the trial of late Ken-Saro Wiwa and the eight others. Though he later had to withdraw when he smelt foul play by the Abacha junta.
In 1998, he had a traumatic experience in Bauchi Prisons under Abacha. He was kept in a rodent infested cell.
In the area of political activism, Gani led 33 political associations to challenge the Independent Electoral Commission’s (INEC) decision to register only five political parties. His struggle widened the political space, and gave birth to the current 50 political parties.
Gani also fought his colleagues at the bar over NBA’s order against members appearing in military tribunals.
He had earlier defended former police spokesman, Alozie Ogugbuaja, who was unjustly dismissed from the Force for uncomplimentary remarks about the military.
By the time Gani rushed to court in defence of erstwhile Economic and Financial Crimes Commission boss, Nuhu Ribadu, the conscience of the nation has been arrested 29 times and detained in about 15 prisons. He had also been charged to court 17 times.