Solidarity chants, encomiums and interventions from the disc jockey serenaded the gathering at the Liberty Park in Ojota where a new towering statue for the late human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi SAN has been installed.
The park is one spot in Lagos that has become a rallying point for civil societies and human right groups in search of justice. Hence, the news of the collapse of the former Gani statue was rather shattering to the human rights community. Demands were made by activist groups to have the statue replaced.
On Sunday, April 21, a 44-feet tall statue was unveiled by the Lagos State Government in the presence of the late Gani Fawehinmi’s family members. The park itself was full before the actual time for the unveiling ceremony. Of course, the man in whose honour the ceremony was held was known to be a stickler for time.
That event coincided with Gani’s posthumous 80thbirthday celebration. This statue is one in the series of public monuments that had been commissioned by the state to preserve the values of individuals who have made significant contributions to humanity.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture Steve Ayorinde remarked that the rebuilding of the statue was done to keep the memory of the good deeds of the human rights lawyer and “to influence others to speak for the voiceless”. He observed that rebuilding statues is one of the transforming projects that most civilised, culturally active states are known for.
The leading artist in the statue rebuilding project, Olurotimi Ajayi commended Lagos State Government for this initiative in developing the creative sector. He explained that the statue itself is 34-feet high while its pedestal is 10-feet high.
“The shoe is two feet long. This statue is designed to last for a lifetime,” he said.
He noted that the statue project is helpful to the arts community as it provides employment opportunities to artists, sculptors, studio artisans and other skilled-workers whose input are required to complete the project.
Another human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN paid tribute to Fawehinmi, with whom he had shared memories of legal battles for democratic rule and several episodes behind the prison bars.
“He stood for justice, equity, fairness and accountability,” he recalled. “He was a thorn in the flesh of dictators. He lived at the time when it was a risk to be a human right activist. He was committed to change. He is gone but lives forever.”
He owed a lot of legal milestones to late Fawehinmi including the establishment of the Coroner’s Inquest Law. “Some government honour criminals with statues,’’ he said, while praising Lagos State Government for the statue project. Other activists at the ceremony include NLC’s Isa Aremu, Ebun Adegboruwa and Dr. Josephine Odumakin. A chip off the old block, Mohammed Fawehinmi thanked the Lagos State Government, calling on the state to scrap the proposed land use charge.
The Lagos State Governor, who was duly represented by his deputy, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule said with the statue, the state “celebrates the invaluable service and personal sacrifice of Chief Gani Fawehinmi.”