Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) Biography

Gani Fawehinmi was a renowned lawyer, activist and philanthropist who was well-loved by the Nigerian people. This article discusses the life and times of this man.

Gani Fawehinmi: Early Life

Gani Fawehinmi was born in Ondo state, Southwest, Nigeria on April 22, 1938. Gani Fawehinmi came from a family of activists: His father, Chief Saheed Tugbogbo Fawehinmi was a popular timber trader and the Seriki Musulumi of Ondo state. He was also an activist, a philanthropist, and reports had it that it was he who first introduced Islam to Ondo Town. Gani Fawehinmi’s grandfather, Chief Alujanu Fawehinmi fought for the interest of the Ondo people in battles during the 19th century.

Gani Fawehinmi Education

For his primary education, Gani Fawehinmi attended the Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School in 1947. In 1954, he proceeded to the Victory College, Ikare. It was at this college that the presiding leader, Reverend Akinrele, spoke with Gani Fawehinmi’s father to allow the young Gani Fawehinmi to study law.

Gani left Ondo for Lagos in 1959 where he got employment at the High Court as a clerk. In 1961, he flew to the United Kingdom where he was admitted at Holborn College. At the college, Gani Fawehinmi developed a fierce and vocal interest in legal, political, and national matters. For this reason, he was nicknamed “Nation”. Gani Fawehinmi was also a voracious reader of Nigerian newspapers which includes the Daily Times and West African Pilot.

Unfortunately, while Gani Fawehinmi was still running his program, he received news from Nigeria that his father had passed. This took a huge effect on his finances and he had to stop full-time schooling so he could work at a job. He worked at the Russell Square Hotel as a toilet cleaner and at the Gatwick Airport as a sweeper. To make up for what he missed at school, Gani Fawehinmi had to teach himself the curriculum. He passed all of his exams.

In 1964, Gani Fawehinmi came back to Nigeria where he took a course at the Nigerian Law School for the duration of three-month. On January 15, 1965, Gani Fawehinmi was called to the Nigerian Bar.

Gani Fawehinmi: Legal Career

Gani Fawehinmi set up his own law firm, the eponymous Gani Fawehinmi Chambers in April 1965. Prior to this, he had practiced law briefly with Rasheed Fawehinmi, his elder brother.

Gani Fawehinmi was an exceptional lawyer: he could easily remember old cases and use them for newer cases. For this, he was nicknamed “Authority” as one who was authoritative in his field. Gani was also passionate about helping other lawyers and easing the process of legal research. He also appeared in courts all over the country.

The Gani Fawehinmi Chambers was Nigeria’s most popular and largest law firm as it handled thousands of briefs. According to statistics, the Gani Fawehinmi Chambers handled about five thousand seven hundred briefs between 1965 – 2002. The Chambers was also a host to more than two hundred and ninety thousand law and law-related books. Unfortunately, the chambers were closed down two years after the death of its founder, Gani Fawehinmi.

Gani Fawehinmi, the Political and Philanthropist

Gani Fawehinmi was famous for challenging oppressive systems and to this effect, he led many peaceful protests against the military dictatorship. He funded all these protests with money from his own pocket. Gani Fawehinmi’s activism attracted penance from the government: he was arrested and detained 40 times in different detention centers all over the country. He was physically harassed and beaten by security operatives and he was targeted to be assassinated on several occasions. The government also seized most of his books and took him to court with criminal charges.

Yet, Gani Fawehinmi remained a man of the people. He was passionate about helping groups that were oppressed in society and this caused him to offer his services free of charge most times. Reports had it that he handled over one thousand five hundred briefs for the oppressed, the poor, the prosecuted, etc. free of charge.

During his family celebrations, Gani Fawehinmi would give clothes out to the street beggars and also give free meals to them every last Saturday of each month.

In 1971, Gani Fawehinmi established the Gani Fawehinmi Scholarship Scheme to help poor Nigerian students pay their tuition. The establishment of this scheme as a result of Gani’s inability to pay his fees as a student in the United Kingdom after the death of his father.

Gani Fawehinmi: Death

Gani Fawehinmi died on September 5, 2009, after battling lung cancer for years. He was aged 71.

Gani Fawehinmi: Personal Life

Gani Fawehinmi was married to two women: Ganiat Ibukun Orebela with whom he had eight children and Abike Kuomuyilo with whom he had six children.

Books by Gani Fawehinmi

  • Murder of Dele Giwa: the Right of a Private Prosecutor — 1988
  • The Bench and the Bar in Nigeria — 1987
  • Courts’ System in Nigeria: A Guide — 1992
  • The Struggle for Genuine Democracy in Nigeria – Thirty Days of Civil Rule in Nigeria (Post-May 29, 1999) What Hope for Democracy? — 1999
  • Nigerian Law of the Press under the Constitution and the Criminal Law — 1987
  • Nigerian Law of Habeas Corpus — 1986

Awards, Recognition, and Honours

In his lifetime, Gani Fawehinmi received many awards, recognition, and honors which include:

  • The American Bar Association Award for Human Rights — 1996
  • The Bruno Kriesky Award for the defense of human rights — 1993
  • The International Bar Association’s Bernard Simons Memorial Award — 1998
  • Honorary Member of the National Union of Journalists
  • Sworn in as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) — 2001
  • Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) — 2008 (rejected on the basis that Nigeria has been misruled for years)


Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries (2021)

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