Some youths on Monday booed a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome as he made his way to into the venue of the 14th Annual Chief Gani Fawenhimi Lecture, where he was slated as one of the discussants.
The angry youths who blocked Ozekhome from getting in the high table accused him of shielding looters. The venue of the lecture at the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos became rowdy when the youths insisted that the SAN would not be allowed into the lecture hall.
The protesters accused Ozekhome of defending personalities like Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state, former First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan and Senate President Bukola Saraki among others, who they labeled as corrupt, contrary to the ideals of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
The development forced the keynote speaker, a former Dean, Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, Prof. Demola Popoola to stop his paper for about 20 minutes.
It took the intervention of the Chairman of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Adesina Ogunlana; and that of Mr Richard Akinola, to shield Ozekhome from the irate youth. Mr Femi Falana SAN, who was also at the event, had to leave the high table where he sat among others to placate the youths and calm them down.
Fawehinmi’s son, Mohammed told the protesting youths that his late father did not believe in violence but rather was very democratic, stressing that the late Fawehinmi would not have approved what they did because Ozekhome was at the event for a purpose.
“This gathering is a democratic gathering and it is a gathering in which security should not restrict anybody”, he said, adding that he was about nine years old when Ozekhome was working as a counsel in his late father’s chamber.
Ozekhome finally made it into the high table to join other discussants, including musician, Seun Kuti; publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore, former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori.
When he eventually stepped into the podium to address the gathering, Ozekhome stated that he was very close to the late Fawehinmi, adding that together they formulated and started the publication, “Nigerian weekly Law Report” .
He recalled that when in 1983, the NBA said that lawyers should not defend alleged corrupt politicians under the administration of Gens. Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon when they were fighting corruption, “but Gani said No; these people are entitled to their rights.
“By Section 36 of the Constitution, every person’s innocence is presumed; I was with Gani when we were defending the so-called corrupt politicians.”
“Gani fought across the country handling many cases including controversial ones.”
The senior advocate continued, “I am just coming now from the court where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, wanted to freeze the account of a citizen via ex parte.
“I just stopped them again for the 20th time, I will continue to fight the government which looks the other way when corruption is recorded in their system.
“I have told Mr Magu three times to prosecute at least one person in their government so that we can show that corruption is being fought.
“The Shiites that were mowed down during their protests, the massacre in Southern Kaduna, Enugu State and so many other incidents are as a result of lack of true federalism and restructuring,’’ he said.
However, Ozekhome’s speech was punctuated by the protesters who shouted “lies, lies, lies’’ even as the senior advocate said he would not be intimidated and called them hired protersters.
Falana gave clarifications that the account given by Ozekhome should not be misunderstood to mean that Gani was a defender of corruption.
He stated that Gani took on some cases to expose corruption and corrupt politicians.
“He never filed a stay of proceedings. If you have a bad case, Gani would simply tell you that you have a bad case. Go and find out from your history books, Gani never defended anyone being tried by the EFCC or ICPC, I need to correct that misconception,” Falana said.