Several civil rights groups have vowed to challenge the decision of the Lagos State Government to replace the statue of late civil rights campaigner, Chief Gani Fawehinmi with that of a National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The statue was until it was demolished located at a park in Ojota area of the state. The park had served as a convergent arena for Nigerians to protest against draconian policies of governments both at the state and federal level.
In a statement issued on Friday and signed by Comrade Adeniyi Sulaiman, the groups lamented their frustration at securing official explanation from the state government on why it demolished the statue and what it planned to replace it with.
Comrade Sulaiman, the is also the Convener of Save Lagos Group, stated that information at the groups’ disposal suggests that the state government was planning to replace Fawehinmi’s statue with that of Tinubu.
He stated that he has, however, mobilized several rights groups across the country to protest what he termed an attempt to erode and rubbish the legacy of the late human rights crusader by the Lagos State Government.
He listed those mobilized to include members of the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ), African Masses Voices for Survival (AMVS), the Veteran Group for Operation Clean Crusade (VGOCC), The Conscience Mainstream (TCS), Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Foundation (GAFAMOG), among others.
According to the statement, the symbolism of the park to civil rights activism is what the state government wishes to remove, saying the group will resist the plans with all the forces it can muster, adding that “the legacies of Chief Fawehinmi remains very precious to us and we will not let any force, be it state or non-state, obliterate (them) from our collective memory.
“It is on record that most of the people in government of Lagos State were direct beneficiary of the numerous civil rights activities in the past but have now turned against him in death because of the fact that they themselves have became like the people that we all fought against during the pro-longed military rule”, the groups stated.
Speaking on behalf of GAFAMOG, Comrade Afolabi Gbajumo (aka Self pikin) said, “I have personally visited the place and I was surprised and shocked that the statue has been taken away from where it is and I can tell you that I have since begun consultations with relevant authorities and bodies on how to legally fight this direct affront on our collective memory.”
On September 5, 2010, the then Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), unveiled the Statue of the legal luminary and also dedicated the Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Garden as part of activities marking the first anniversary of the death of legal icon.
During the event, which had in attendance, human rights activists and current APC leaders including Mr Femi Falana, Dr Joe Okei Odumakin, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Adams Oshiomhole, Dr Muiz Banire, among others, Fashola stressed that the state government took the step as a token of appreciation for a life of leadership through Spartan service to humanity that he lived.
According to Fashola who spoke at the Triangular Lay-by at Ojota, “the State Government is trying to demonstrate to others that it will not forget its heroes in the belief that some new leaders will hopefully be inspired to rise up and continue from where he left off”.
The same memory is set to be eroded by the current government.