The Main Auditorium of The University Of Lagos was, on the 19th of February, the venue of an august event; The Gani Fawehinmi Students Chambers (GFSC) Human Rights And Anti-Corruption Symposium. Usually held annually, it was the seventh of its kind since the passage of one of Nigeria’s finest activist, the late Gani Fawehinmi(SAN). It was always going to be special, and indeed it was.
It was graced by a number of high-profile dignitaries, most notably the incumbent Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, who was the chief speaker of the day, Alhaji Lai Muhammed. Other notables present include the chairman of the event, Professor Akin Oyebode, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Akin Ibidapo – Obe, the Dean of Student’s Affairs (DSA), Professor Tunde Babawale, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Mr. Jiti Ogunye, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, and Mr. Omowele Sowore, the CEO/Founder of Sahara Reporters. It was therefore an august event, made even more august by the caliber of guests in attendance.
The event kicked-off later than expected, to an audience that was quite large in number – a great proportion being students of The University of Lagos. Professor Oyebode gave the welcome address, following the rendition of the National Anthem by a Saxophonist. In his address, he stressed the importance of the event, not just to the late Gani’s legacy, but also to Nigeria as a people trying to emerge from the pits of corruption.
Professor Ibidapo-Obe was next to speak, he, being the first Nigerian to write a book that talked about Gani in extensive detail, said a lot about the man who, as he was quick to remind us, was the “Senior Advocate Of The People”. Then it was time for the DSA, Professor Babawale to speak. And yes, as expected, before he took the stage, there was this distinct chant from the audience of “bed space, give us bed space!” He was, however undaunted by this as he mellowed the harsh outbursts with a promise that the students would get accommodation soon. He encouraged the younger generation to embrace platforms like this, platforms which were according to him a rarity in his younger years. Next on the podium was the head of the Gani Fawenhimi Students Chamber, Omotayo Akinriwa who said a few words on the reason for being here.
Alhaji Lai Muhammed, gave his much anticipated address next. He talked about the government’s fight against corruption and the challenges being faced, most especially the one posed by the question of whether or not this administration in its dealings, follows the rule of law. He also stressed how vital the recovery of money stolen by past governments from the nation’s coffers is to the resurgence of our economy, now even more than ever due to the fall in the price of oil.
There was no shortage of excitement as Femi Falana and subsequently Jiti Ogunye spoke. The former, was critical of the government’s failures and implored President Buhari, through Alhaji Muhammed, to do better in his fight against corruption. He also mentioned the need to have a sanitised judiciary for a better Nigeria. Mr. Jiti, on the other hand, was supportive of the government’s methods, and dismissed the question of whether or not the government was adherent to the rule of law in its prosecution of alleged corrupt officials.
Other speakers like Mr. Suraj, and Mr. Sowore, among others also said their bits. The chairman brought proceedings to a close with his final words. He urged Nigerians, more specifically, Nigerian students to join the government in its fight against corruption and to remain aware of the goings-on around us.
It was a largely successful event, due mostly to the organisation of the GFSC, the faculty of Law, and the incredible guest and audience turnout. A Minister was present this year, maybe next year it’ll be the President. It is definitely something you wouldn’t want to miss next year.