Gani Fawehinmi was a Nigerian lawyer, human rights activist and outspoken government critic. Born on April 22, 1938 in Ondo State, he earned his law degree from Holborn College in London after teaching himself much of the curriculum (after his father's death, he had to drop out of university temporarily to work). He returned to Nigeria in early September 1964 and was called to the bar on January 15, 1965. Establishing chambers four months later, Fawehinmi went on to be one of Nigeria's most successful and well-known lawyers, legendary for his in-depth knowledge of the law as well for his publication of The Nigerian Weekly Law Report, one of the most innovative of its kind in Africa.
In 1994, Fawehinmi formed the National Conscience organisation, a human rights movement committed to fighting for the economic rights of ordinary Nigerians. The National Conscience became a political party on October 1, 1994 in defiance of the military decrees banning political party formation and was renamed the National Conscience Party (NCP). His outspoken criticism of Nigeria's military regimes led to his imprisonment - 40 times between 1969 and 1996 - as well as physical assaults, assassination attempts, and unsubstantiated criminal charges. The recipient of several human rights awards, Fawehinmi rejected the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) — one of the highest national honours that can be bestowed on a citizen by the Nigerian government — on his sick bed in protest at the many years of misrule since Nigeria's independence in 1960. He died at the age of 71 on September 5, 2009, but his spirit has continued to inspire many through the work of the Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Organization (GAFAMORG) and the scholarship scheme he established in 1971 to enable the less privileged to gain access to education. Rest in peace, Gani Fawehinmi. Click here for pictures and more on Gani Fawehinmi, and visit our Discover Nigeria People section to learn about other inspiring Nigerians. Image source: Information Nigeria