MOHAMED BABATUNDE FAWEHINMI: CELEBRATING THE PRICELESS LEGACY OF AN UNUSUAL MAN, WHOSE GREATNESS WAS IN HIS GOODNESS
The homegoing formalities of Mohammed Fawehinmi aged 52 began on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, with a Service of Songs and Night of Tribute held at Archbishop Vinning Memorial Church, Lagos and was concluded on Friday, August 27, 2021, with his burial at the Gani Fawehinmi Compound, Oka, Ondo.
I was privileged to anchor the Night of Tribute and went home sober and I have been since then. I am sober not only because a great man departed. I am sober also because this state helps me to internalise one of the greatest lessons I picked from the plethora of testimonies of his impact on the lives of everyone he related with. Among other numerous traits, he was a bridge. He stretched himself across humanity at huge sacrifices to make unforgettable differences in the lives of men and women he interacted with, beginning from his immediate and extended family.
To be a bridge, you must believe in the dignity of the human person of every person enough to have the thoughtfulness to give everyone you meet the respect and attention his/her individuality deserves. To do the above, you must be without guile and the arrogance that afflict the souls of small men and women as a result of their noble birth and attainments in life. The milk of compassion must be flowing freely from the gland of your humanity.
I began to relate with him closely when in 1988 my uncle, Chief Gani Fawehinmi took responsibility for the tertiary education of my twin brother and me. The truth is that I never saw him angry with anyone and it was not because he was a sissy or a fool. He was sound, smart, bold, firm and alert. He had only trained his humanity not only to accommodate people but also their excesses. He did not cast down. He was always lifting up.
He carried other people’s burdens, yet he chose not to be a burden to anyone. He was a perfect personification of a good man. He was a conscience of respect for humanity and dignity of the human person.
Mohammed Babatunde Fawehinmi was a rara avis at striking and servicing human relationships, paying no attention to his personal gains. In fact he took the bullets for us as his cousins from his dad when we lived together. He loved in words and in deed.
Many years ago, we had a barbecue business, operating from Lagos State University, Ojo. We were based at 11, Balawa Street, Pedro, Lagos, being housed by the compassionate, Mama Soriyan. We needed to move our grill from Pedro to LASU. My twin brother, Kehinde Akinlami reached out to him to give us the driver. His driver was not available. Egin Moh as we fondly called him was in court that Monday morning. Very early, he drove to Gani Fawehinmi’s Chambers, Anthony Village from Mafoluku where he lived, took my brother from there to Pedro, put the massive grill in the trunk of his car, tied same with rope as the same could not close due to the size of the grill and drove all the was to LASU to drop the grill and my brother.
This was an index of the kind of man he was. He had every reason not to do what he did. His driver was not available, he was in court, the long-distance between Pedro and LASU, the beauty of his sleek car and the damage the grill could do to the same, encountering the ire of men in black for using a pleasure car contrary to purpose. He defied them all. He chose to make that an unforgettable difference as the same was his habit.
Three days before his passing, in the midst of his life-threatening ailment and acute discomfort, he had gone to the laboratory to run some tests and on his way back, he was at the bank to make a withdrawal. He handed the withdrawn cash to his younger sister, Dr Idiat Aliyu as birthday gifts to her precious children, who celebrated their birthdays. Nobody knew he went to the bank until his death was announced and his account officer called as he was surprised, haven seen him at the bank three days earlier.
He was in a wheelchair for 19 years as a result of a car accident he had, yet he never pitied himself. With him, there was no dull moment. He was the encourager, asking after the welfare of everyone around him and beyond. His sister, Simbiat told the story of some clergymen who came home to pray for him that he may walk. As he saw the sister passed, he invited her and appealed to the clergymen to first offer prayers for her that she might have a child as she had some delays after marriage. That was Mohammed Babatunde Fawehinmi, always putting others before him.
He was a great man, whose greatness was in his goodness. Some men and women are great but they are not good.
You will notice that I have not written about his exceptional brilliance as a lawyer, his fieriness as a consummate social and human rights advocate and his impeccable business acumen. These were what he did and they are worth celebrating but more worth celebrating was WHO he was, a GREAT and A GOO MAN, who served himself hot and delicious to humanity as the bread of hope. He was a steward of his tangible and intangible possession.
This is how I want to be remembered too. His death and memories of his humanity are pointers to my sober self that I have a lot of work to do on the man I must keep striving to become: a man whose GREATNESS is defined by his GOODNESS.
Here is my regret, I wish I made intentional efforts to be closer to him in his later years. I would have learnt much more from him and the working of his compassionate mind and I would have been more than a cousin to him but a friend, who a man like him would have cherished. I am learning to be closer to members of my family both from my father and mother’s side.
I am sober. As he goes to his grave, I go on my knees: Lord helps me, that my greatness might be defined by my goodness in service to you and your dearly beloved humanity.
Sun re o dearly beloved Egin Moh. The General of the people, your unforgettable legacy lives on.
I am ONIWASU Taiwo AKINLAMI