Thursday, 7 December 2017

One Good Turn Deserves Another: A True Story by Onigegewura

What you are about to read is a true story that illustrates the saying: one good turn deserves another. One of the things I have discovered is that, in many cases, it is those ‘small things’ that we do or say everyday that culminate to become history. To us it might be insignificant, but to the person on the receiving end, it might be the most singular thing that changed the course of their life.

People may forgive and forget, but history does not forget. Let’s follow Onigegewura to the Central Bank of Nigeria where this story started in the ‘70s. The author is Chief S. Bamidele Falegan, the first Nigerian Managing Director of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria. Chief Falegan retired as the Director of Research of Central Bank of Nigeria.


“An example of a good turn deserving another, was in respect of three members of staff – two young men, Mr. Bode Leigh and Mr. Aderungboye, both clerks in the Research Department [of Central Bank of Nigeria] and a young woman, Miss Ajoke Ishola, also a clerk in my research library.

Chief S. B. Falegan
The three entered the bank with Grade I in their West African School Certificate Examination. However, due to the “unproductive policy” of promotion every two-years outside the Research Department, they were not only complacent but also wanted to be transferred from Research Department to the Operations Department where they could earn two-yearly promotions.

One day, I told the three of them that not only wouldn’t I transfer them out of my Department but I would not guarantee them any automatic promotion at the end of that year. I ended by saying, “If you don’t find your way to any of the universities in Nigeria with your good grades and equip yourself for the future, I will never promote you.”

I dismissed them from my office, only to discover the following year that they had all left the bank for further studies as I advised, with the following success trailing them:

Mr. Bode Leigh became not only Professor Bode Leigh, but also Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University. We later became good friends at St. Peter’s Church, Faji, Lagos where we met as worshippers and in the same church society, Christian Companions.

My first meeting with him after he left the bank was in the house of my later brother-in-law, late Professor Atanda Adenuga at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Unknown to me, he had told them of my influence in furthering his education; they had had all burst into laughter when he greeted me warmly and familiarly and I could not recognise him.

When Bode later became Commissioner of Lands under Alhaji L. K. Jakande administration in Lagos State, it was he who persuaded the Governor to allocate a piece of land to me and another to Chief Olu Falae where we both built side by side on Ahmed Onibudo Road on Victoria Island.

Mr. (later Dr.) Aderungboye, General Manager of Okitipupa Oil Palm Company whom I met many years later (after he left the bank) as the Operational Manager of the company which the Inter-State Securities Limited was helping to privatize. I led the team that was packaging the privatization and I was in the company’s guest house for two weeks. It was there he disclosed what I did for him. On my departure, he provided me with:

(a) oil palm seedlings free of charge for planting on thirteen of my twenty three acres oil palm plantation at Ado-Ekiti;
(b) the labour to deliver and plant all the seedlings on my farm site free of charge; and
(c)  ten big kegs of palm oil free of charge to me for the burial of my mother-in-law at Igbara-Oke.

In her own case, I came across Miss Ajoke Ishola, one Sunday in 2000 after the morning service at the Cathedral Church of Emmanuel, Ado-Ekiti. I saw a lady knelt down before me to greet me, full of smiles and radiance, in her natural habit. She had always been a vivacious socialite. She introduced herself as Mrs. Ajoke Oluwasanmi, nee Ishola of the Research Library of the Central Bank of Nigeria 1976.

I was taken aback. “How did you get to Ado-Ekiti?” I asked her. Her remark was that when I encouraged her to leave the Central Bank to further her education, she gained admission to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife to read pharmacy. She came to Ekiti for her National Youth Corp programme during which time she met her husband, Mr. Oluwasanmi from the famous Oluwasanmi family of Ode-Ekiti.

It was a warm embrace! I overheard her tell a friend, “That was my boss at CBN” she enthused. “Oga was friendly and tough” she concluded. She became very close to my family, especially my wife. I was privileged to be the chairman at one of her children’s wedding. She rose to the peak of her career and became Permanent Secretary, Public Service Commission in the Civil Service of Ekiti, from where she retired at the end of July 2011 after a meritorious service.”


Culled from My Yesteryears – An Autobiography of an Economist/Banker  by Chief S. B. Falegan, published by Bamboo Books [2013]. 

One good turn indeed deserves another!

Do you have a true-life story that you want Onigegewura to publish on how a good turn deserves another? Please forward your story to Our readers will be pleased to read and learn from your experience.

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I thank you for your time.

-Olanrewaju Onigegewura©
History Does Not Forget

The right of Olanrewaju Onigegewura© to be identified as the author of stories published on this blog has been asserted by him in accordance with the copyright laws. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Obafemi Awolowo: The Senior Advocate by Onigegewura

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Obong Ipkan Isong of Ibibio Land, belonged to that rare and exclusive club of people who excel in everything they do. Excellence was his creed and self-discipline was his principle. If there is a saying that summarises Awolowo’s life, it is: He adorns not, what he touches not. Indeed and in truth, Awolowo adorned and improved everything he touched.

His sterling achievements as a politician, an administrator and statesman continue to be the reference point in political leadership in Nigeria. In accepting his resignation from the Federal Executive Council in 1971, General Yakubu Gowon had this to say about Obafemi Awolowo:

“Your outstanding performance as this government’s commissioner for finance during one of the most critical and turbulent periods of our history will always be remembered. You demonstrated, consistently, great courage, forthrightness, leadership, and a spirit of understanding which helped us to get out of our financial disaster.”

As a journalist and publisher, Obafemi Awolowo also left his imprint of excellence.  His Nigerian Tribune is the oldest privately owned newspaper title in Nigeria today. First published in November 1949, Nigerian Tribune has continued to wax stronger more than 30 years after the transition of its founder.

I recall that we learnt to read Yoruba by reading Irohin Yoruba also published under Tribune titles. We also read Gbohungbohun published by Sketch Press. Later, MKO Abiola’s Concord began to publish Isokan. Those were the days when it was not a ‘criminal offence’ for children to speak their mother tongue. Nowadays, my generation that grew up speaking Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa is happy to declare, “My children can’t speak Yoruba!”  Omo to so ile nu, o so apo iya ko!

However, the aspect of Chief Awolowo’s life that holds a special fascination for me is his calling as a legal practitioner. This is only natural; having regard to the fact that Onigegewura practices law in the daytime and writes history at night.

From the day he was enrolled on Tuesday, December 24, 1946, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had left no one in doubt that he was destined for the peak of the legal profession. Unlike nowadays when lawyers are called to the Bar in thousands, in Awolowo’s time, lawyers were admitted in trickles. In 1946 when Awolowo was called, only seven (7) legal practitioners were enrolled.

First to be called that year was John Adejumo Kester who was called in January and who later became my Lord Hon. Justice Kester, the President of the Court of Appeal of Western Nigerian in 1967. Others were Chuba Ikpeazu who rose to become my Lord Hon. Justice Ikpeazu,  Judge of the High Court of Lagos in 1964; Funso Blaize, Edward Randolph, Akitoye Tejuoso (Lisa of Egbaland and Baba Oba of Oke-Ona) and Charles Egerton Shyngle. In the case of Shyngle, he had earlier been enrolled in 1925. His name was however struck off the rolls in 1934 before he was reinstated in 1946.

Awolowo began his legal practice in Ibadan. He quickly carved a niche for himself as a very competent legal practitioner. Awolowo’s clients found in him a very ethical professional whose word was his bond. According to Hon. Femi Kehinde: “He (Awolowo) had a very lucrative practice between 1947 and 1951.” Of his practice, Obafemi Awolowo said: "I had, among others, a fat Retainer from the  United Africa Company Limited."

When Awolowo was preparing to go into politics, he realized that he would not be able to devote a hundred percent of his attention to the case and cause of his many clients. He therefore decided to form a partnership with Chief Abiodun Akerele, the Balogun of Oyo, who was called to the Bar on September 11, 1948. Chief Awolowo was to be a sleeping partner in the firm of Awolowo & Akerele. The partnership was however short-lived and was eventually dissolved for reasons which need not concern us here.

That’s how Law lost Chief Obafemi Awolowo to Politics and Government, at least for the time being. As Leader of Government Business, Western Region from 1952, and first premier of the region from 1954, Awolowo’s primary occupation was governance. As his wont, he also distinguished himself as a first class administrator.

It was not until 1971 that Chief Awolowo found himself back in full time legal practice. In his letter to General Yakubu Gowon resigning as the Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Federal Commissioner for Finance, Awolowo informed the Head of State of his intention to go back to the profession of law and “to write if my professional engagements permit, three books which have always been very much on my mind.”

Immediately after his resignation took effect on July 1, 1971, Chief Awolowo resuscitated his chambers. It was as if he had never taken a break from legal practice. Within months he became one of the most regular faces in the courtroom. According to a learned mentor of mine who was then a young lawyer, it was always a joy to behold Chief Obafemi Awolowo in court marshaling arguments with the dexterity of a skillful advocate.

Little wonder, my Lords of the Supreme Court before whom Chief Awolowo appeared, were consistently of the view that Awolowo’s briefs of arguments were always “well-thought out and well reasoned…”

One of the first cases in which Chief Awolowo appeared as a counsel on his return to active legal practice is the popular case of Idundun v. Okumagba. It is doubtful if there is a lawyer in Nigeria who did not come across the case in Land Law. It is the case where the Supreme Court laid down the five methods of establishing title to land. You remember? Even my friend, Rasaq Ayinde – a surveyor – knew the case.

Another landmark case in which Chief Obafemi Awolowo appeared is the case of Odeneye v. Alakata, a case involving title to a piece of land purchased from Oloto Chieftaincy family which was alleged to have been sold to two different buyers. Chief Obafemi Awolowo appeared for the appellant while Mr. G. O. K. Ajayi appeared for the respondent.

In that case the issue before the Supreme Court was whether it was necessary for a Registrar of Titles to indicate whether an extension of time within which to apply for title to be registered is granted by the High Court Registrar. In other words, what is the effect of proceedings before a Registrar of Titles for an application to register title brought out of time.

Chief Awolowo, the Odole of Ile-Ife, through his forensic advocacy, succeeded in persuading the Supreme Court to hold that until an order extending time is made under section 5 of the Registration of Titles Act, proceeding of title could not be initiated.

Chief Awolowo’s practice was not limited to civil litigation. He was also at home with criminal proceedings. In the case of Gregory Godwin Daboh & Another v. The State, a case involving the interpretation of sections 419 and 516 of the Criminal Code, Awolowo  appeared for the first appellant. He appeared with Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Messrs Banjo Solaru and Dele Awoniyi, as well as his daughter, Mrs Ayo Soyode (who was called to the Bar in 1974).

In that case, Obafemi Awolowo displayed an uncommon mastery of classical advocacy. At the end of his submissions, which were both ingenious and creative, the Supreme Court admitted that: “these [Chief Awolowo’s arguments] are important submissions. They are impressive and require careful examination and consideration.”

The issue in that case is whether proof of conspiracy could be deduced from criminal acts of parties performed in common. The appellants, Godwin Daboh and Joseph Mordi, had been convicted by the High Court of conspiring to induce the Registrar of Insurance under false pretences to deliver Certificate of Insurance to Daboh’s company by falsely pretending that the company had credit balance in its account with the Bank of the North.

After listening to submissions of counsel, the Supreme Court held that proof of conspiracy is generally a matter of inference deduced from certain criminal acts of parties concerned, done in pursuance of an apparent criminal purpose in common between the conspirators.

Another interesting case involving Obafemi Awolowo, the Odofin of Owo, is the case of Tijani Bambe v. Yusufu Aderinola. In that case, whilst Chief Awolowo appeared for the respondents, his former Attorney General in the Western Region, the indomitable Chief FRA Williams appeared for the appellants. It was in that case the Supreme Court explained the meaning of the word ‘demurrer’ as having its origin in the Latin word ‘demorari’ meaning to wait.

A common thread that runs through all the cases in which Chief Obafemi Awolowo appeared as counsel is that of diligence and discipline. He was committed to the cause of his clients as well as the cause of justice. His arguments were always “logical” and “neat.”

Awolowo and his jewel on the day he became a SAN
In recognition of his industry and competence, Awolowo was conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1978. He was the 4th Nigerian to be so honoured. Chief FRA Williams and Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas were the first and second persons to be given the rank in 1975. Dr. Augustine Nnamani was the third. 

A word about Dr. Nnamani. His Lordship earned distinction as being one of the few lawyers to get to the peak of the legal profession as a Justice of the Supreme Court, as an Attorney General of the Federation, as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and as a holder of Ph.D in Law.

The foregoing is not and does not represent an exhaustive review of Obafemi Awolowo’s cases. It is but to give the present generation an idea of the ideal which Chief Awolowo represented and continues to represent. It is to remind our generation that with diligence, industry, hard work, concern for humanity, and faith in God, we can all get to the peak of our profession.

May the soul of Apesin of Osogbo, the Ajagunla of Ado-Ekiti, the Asiwaju of Yoruba, and the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria continue to rest in perfect peace.

Whatever your choice of profession is, please always remember these immortal words of the Sage: “Those who desire to reach, and keep their places at the top in any calling must be prepared to do it the hard way.”

Onigegewura is grateful for your time. See you at the top! And have a fantastic week!

-Olanrewaju Onigegewura©
History Does Not Forget

The right of Olanrewaju Onigegewura© to be identified as the author of stories published on this blog has been asserted by him in accordance with the copyright laws. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

How Wole Soyinka Emerged as the First Professor Emeritus in Ife

Prof Wole Soyinka... as a young man

“Shortly after his appointment to Ife, Professor Wole Soyinka, who was teaching in the university at the time, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first African to be so honoured in that category.

Prof Wole Soyinka
It was an important international recognition that brought much pride and honour to Nigerians generally, and the academia, in particular. The Council of the university met to examine ways in which it could honour and celebrate Soyinka for the honour he had just brought to the university.

The immediate past vice chancellor, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, and Wole Soyinka were close friends, and Arthur [Mbanefo] (the Chairman of the Council) knew them well. He had met Aboyade during the administration of General Obasanjo, and had become close to Soyinka through a mutual friend, Femi Johnson. For some reason, both gentlemen [Aboyade and Soyinka] had decided not to accept any honour from the university during the vice-chancellorship of Professor Wande Abimbola.
Chairman of Council - Chief Mbanefo

That notwithstanding, the university proposed honouring Soyinka by naming a street or building in the campus after him. Arthur [Mbanefo] thought differently. He suggested that the Nobel Laureate be offered a position of professor emeritus. That way, he reasoned, Soyinka would still have an academic relationship with the university, which would provide an office and staff for him for his lifetime.

The council agreed with Arthur and approved his suggestion to appoint Soyinka the first professor emeritus of the University of Ife… Soyinka thus became the first professor emeritus at Ife.”

Culled from A Fulfilled Life of Service by Arthur Mbanefo, published by Bookcraft (2015)