Saturday 13 January 2024

IBB: I tried to befriend Gani Fawehinmi — but he didn’t want to be seen with me

Ibrahim Babangida, former military head of state, says he tried to be friends with Gani Fawehinmi, the late human rights lawyer.

Babangida, who ruled Nigeria as military president from 1985 to 1993, spoke on Inside Sources, a Channels Television programme anchored by Laolu Akande.

The former military head of state described Fawehinmi as a good critic, saying he valued his comments on national issues.

“If we come up with a policy, my first question to my staff was: What would Gani Fawehinmi say? I like listening to him. I made it a point to become his friend,” IBB said on Friday.

“He was very friendly with one of my former ministers, the late Alex Akinyele. They were very good friends, and he (Alex) tried to make us very good friends.

“He (Fawehinmi) (was) a good critic and he didn’t want to be seen with someone that people already perceived as ‘an evil genius’.”

Fawehinmi was a vocal critic of the government, both military and civilian. Different military regimes incarcerated him but he never relented in his human rights activism. He died on September 5, 2009, at the age of 71.

In 2008, he rejected the award of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) conferred on him by late President Musa Yar’Adua. Fawehinmi said he took the decision in protest of bad governance since independence.

However, in 2018, former President Muhammadu Buhari announced the conferment of the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON) — the second-highest national honour — on the late activist.

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