The family of the late lawyer and activist, Gani Fawehinmi, has rejected a posthumous award planned by the Federal Government for him. The family cited the inclusion of former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, in the list of awardees; the recent killing of 43 students in Yobe; and abduction of 20 female students in Borno State, as its reasons.
It also said it was turning down the award because of the corruption in the polity, especially with the allegation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, failed to remit $20 billion to the Federation Account; and the millions of naira being expended to celebrate the centenary, which it said could have been channeled into the nation's teaching hospitals.
The oldest son of the late lawyer, Mohammed, in a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Pius Anyim, said though the family was appreciative of the honour, it would be improper to accept it.
As part of the activities marking the 100-year existence of Nigeria, the federal government, last weekend, released a list of 100 Nigerians and friends of the country for conferment of Centenary Honours Awards.
Mr. Fawehinmi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who died on September 5, 2009 at 71, was one of the two listed in the "Outstanding Bravery and Public Spiritedness" category. The other was Michael Chukwugekwu Ihuka.
The awards ceremony holds on Friday at the Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja.
Mr. Fawehinmi was known of his consistent demand for adherence to the rule of law, battle against military dictatorship, and defending the rights of the oppressed in the society while he was alive.
The Fawehinmi family said it was rejecting the award for their late patriarch because of the inclusion of Mr. Babangida on the list of awardees.
The former president, who ruled the country between 1985 and 1993, was listed in the category of "Outstanding Promoters of Unity, Patriotism and National Development." Other listed alongside the former president were Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and Ernest Shonekan.
Others were Sani Abacha, Umaru Yar'Adua and Theophilus Danjuma.
The family explained that Mr. Babangida severally detained and tortured their late father while in power and that during one of those illegal detentions in Gashua, Yobe State in 1987, his (late Fawehinmi) cell was sprayed with toxic substances.
"The cumulative effect of that dastardly action led to our father, a non- smoker, contracting lung cancer which eventually led to his death on September 5, 2009," it said.
"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 Fawehinmi family also said it was rejecting the award because of last Monday's killing of dozens of students of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, and the reported abduction of 20 female students in Borno State by the Boko Haram sect.
Stating that Mr. Fawehinmi was empathetic to the sufferings of Nigerians, the family noted that if he were to be alive, he would not be winning and dining with all the glitterati at a Centenary celebration under these circumstances.
The family lamented that in the past few weeks, the polity had been "assaulted with putrid odour of corruption with the alleged $20 billion missing in NNPC, a development that became the Archilles heel of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the suspended Governor of Central Bank."
It sated that as an anti-corruption activist, if Mr. Fawehnmi were to be alive, he would have confronted the issue head-long and possibly gone to court.
"With the issue still raging, would our late father have accepted this award at this critical moment? Certainly no," the family said.
Stressing that though that their father was "unrepentantly for the unity of Nigeria," the Fawehinmi family contended that with the level of profligacy in some of the events celebrating Nigeria's centenary, the late lawyer "would have preferred these multi- million Naira expenditures channelled to our decrepit Teaching hospitals, than unproductive razzmatazz that do not improve the socio-economic well being of our people."
Attempts by PREMIUM TIMES to get the reaction of the Office of the SGF failed as the mobile telephone of the media aide to Mr. Anyim, Sam Nwaobasi, repeatedly indicated the line was busy.
Read the Fawehinmi Family's letter below:
February 27, 2014
Chief Anyim Pius Anyim,
Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria,
RE: CENTENARY AWARD TO OUR LATE FATHER, CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI (SAN)
We acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated February 24, 2014, which was routed through Mr Tony Akiotu, Group Managing Director, DAAR Communications, Abuja, wherein our late father, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) was chosen as one of the awardees of the Centenary celebrations of Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan.
We want thank the Federal Government for considering our late father for this HONOUR.
However, for reasons stated here under, our family has decided it would be inexpedient to accept the award:
1. In the list of the awardees published by the Federal Government, was the name of former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, who as military president, severally detained and tortured our late father. In the course of one of such illegal and inhuman detentions, our late father's cell was sprayed with toxic substances while in Gashua prison in 1987. The cumulative effect of that dastardly action led to our father, a non- smoker, contracting lung cancer which eventually led to his death on September 5, 2009. We therefore, find it morally incongruous and psychologically debilitating for our family to stand on the same podium with General Babangida to receive awards.
2. Our late father was empathetic to the sufferings of our people, particularly students. In the last 72 hours, 43 innocent students were mowed down by the blood- thirsty Boko Haram terrorists in Yobe state, while 20 other girls were similarly abducted by these same band of terrorists. These girls are still in captivity while their fate is unknown. If our late father were to be alive, would he be wining and dining with all the glitterati at a Centenary celebration under these circumstances? Certainly no.
3. In the past few weeks, the polity has been assaulted with putrid odour of corruption with the alleged $20 billion missing in NNPC, a development that became the Archilles heel of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the suspended Governor of Central Bank. As an anti-corruption activist, if he were to be alive, our late father would have confronted the issue head-long and possibly gone to court. With the issue still raging, would our late father have accepted this award at this critical moment? Certainly no.
4. Our late father was unrepentantly for the UNITY of Nigeria. However, with the level of profligacy in some of the events celebrating NIGERIA'S Centenary, our late father would have preferred these multi- million Naira expenditures channelled to our decrepit Teaching hospitals, than unproductive razzmatazz that do not improve the socio-Economic well being of our people.
Sir, for these reasons, our family respectfully declines to receive the award about to be conferred on our late father by the government.
Please, accept the assurances of our highest consideration. Long live Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(For and on behalf of late Gani Fawehinmi family)