The family of the late lawyer and activist, Gani Fawehinmi, has rejected a posthumous national award, citing the inclusion of former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, in the list of awardees.
Mr. Fawehinmi was known of his consistent demand for adherence to the rule of law, battle against military dictatorship, and defending the rights of the oppressed in the society while he was alive. The Fawehinmi family said it was rejecting the award for their late patriarch because of the inclusion of Mr. Babangida on the list of awardees.
The family explained that Mr. Babangida severally detained and tortured their late father while in power and that during one of those illegal detentions in Gashua, Yobe State in 1987, his (late Fawehinmi) cell was sprayed with toxic substances.
"The cumulative effect of that dastardly action led to our father, a non- smoker, contracting lung cancer which eventually led to his death on September 5, 2009," it said. "We therefore, find it morally incongruous and psychologically debilitating for our family to stand on the same podium with General Babangida to receive awards."
It also said it was turning down the award because of the corruption in the polity, especially with the allegation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, failed to remit $20 billion to the Federation Account; and the millions of naira being expended to celebrate the centenary, which it said could have been channeled into the nation's teaching hospitals.
The oldest son of the late lawyer, Mohammed, in a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Pius Anyim, said though the family was appreciative of the honour, it would be improper to accept it.
As part of the activities marking the 100-year existence of Nigeria, the federal government, last weekend, released a list of 100 Nigerians and friends of the country for conferment of Centenary Honours Awards.
Mr. Fawehinmi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who died on September 5, 2009 at 71, was one of the two listed in the "Outstanding Bravery and Public Spiritedness" category. The other was Michael Chukwugekwu Ihuka. The awards ceremony was held on Friday at the Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja.
The former president, who ruled the country between 1985 and 1993, was listed in the category of "Outstanding Promoters of Unity, Patriotism and National Development." Other listed alongside the former president were Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and Ernest Shonekan. Others were Sani Abacha, Umaru Yar'Adua and Theophilus Danjuma.
The Fawehinmi family also said it was rejecting the award because of last Monday's killing of dozens of students of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, and the reported abduction of 20 female students in Borno State by the Boko Haram sect.
Stating that Mr. Fawehinmi was empathetic to the sufferings of Nigerians, the family noted that if he were to be alive, he would not be winning and dining with all the glitterati at a Centenary celebration under these circumstances.
The family lamented that in the past few weeks, the polity had been "assaulted with putrid odour of corruption with the alleged $20 billion missing in NNPC, a development that became the Archilles heel of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the suspended Governor of Central Bank."