The family of late Gani Fawehinmi would accept the latest attempt by the Nigerian government to honour the iconic rights activist for his pro-citizens advocacy and other legacies of bravery, Premium Times reports.
President Muhammadu Buhari announced Wednesday that Mr Fawehinmi would be posthumously conferred with the Grand Commander of Nigeria (GCON), Nigeria’s second highest honour, in an unexpected gesture that has since rippled through the nation’s sociopolitical structure.
Mohammed Fawehinmi, the first son of the late activist, had said in the family’s first statement since the announcement that they would accept the GCON because it truly honoured the memory of Fawehinmi.
Fawehinmi died in September 2009 after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. He was 71.
His life was replete with widely-recognised acts of selflessness and remarkable moments of candour. He confronted repressive military regimes, including Mr Buhari’s, and fought for the entrenchment of a just and democratic Nigeria, suffering state attacks and imprisonment in return.
Fawehinmi was arguably the most iconic champion of the June 12 agitation. He demanded the dictatorial Babangida and Abacha regimes recognise a mandate Nigerians accorded Moshood Abiola in the 1993 elections.
Abiola was the presumed winner of the election, which analysts and historians categorised as the freest and fairest in the history of the world’s largest black nation. Ibrahim Babangida, the military ruler who conducted the election at the time, abruptly annulled it, eliciting public outrage.
A defiant Babangida shrugged off demands for the installation of Abiola as Nigeria’s president, including concerted interventions by the international community.
Abiola was later arrested in 1994 by Sani Abacha, another military ruler who seized power shortly after Babangida relinquished his position to a civilian interim government. He was held in custody until his death in 1998 in still inexplicable circumstances.
Also jailed over the June 12 strife were Fawehinmi and a host of other pro-democracy campaigners, labour unionists, journalists and university students. Even then, the June 12 agitation was not the most consequential in Fawehinmi’s career of relentless activism. He had been in prison back and forth in the preceding decade, especially under Babangida, who was in office from 1985 to 1993.