Saturday, 17 March 2018

Babatola Apata – Four Years Like Yesterday!

I still remember our last conversation. It was on the stairs of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Alausa. He told me he had read my article on garnishee proceedings in a business law journal and that he disagreed with some of the positions I took in the article.

I reminded him of the academic ‘fight’ on whether Land Use Act expropriate which was fought by Professors Jelili Omotola, Amos Utuama, and J. F. Fekumo. I challenged him to respond to the article. He promised to do so.

Then came the call. It was from Alex Mouka, the Chairman of the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association. He wanted me to inform Ade Ipaye, the Attorney General that Babatola Apata was dead.


We met him in Law School. His brilliance was as robust as his physical stature (That’s how Obafemi Awolowo described FRA Williams). He was the champion from Unilorin. Every university worthy its name in Law School must have a champion. Gbolahan was the striker of TeamUnilag, with First Class to boot. Team UNN was divided between Cheluchi and Nonso. OOU had their champion in petite Muinat. Sola led the team from Great Ife. I’m not sure LASU and UI came with any champion. But I recall the champion from Ekpoma, Steve.

Babatola’s name was on the lips of every Ilorin student. He was their rock. And his name was APATA. His fame preceded him. A new friend from Ilorin who I just met  told me proudly that if only one student was going to make First Class in Law School, it was going to be Tola Apata. 

As it turned to out, our set became the only set in the history of the Law School to write the Bar Finals twice in the same year. No wonder we didn’t produce any First Class. It was a session of maddening failure. Maybe Onigegewura should write about that terrible incident. One day…)

Like every brilliant genius, Babatola was calm and unassuming. We became friends. Of course, you only need to meet him to become his friend. I met him again in Port Harcourt (the city named after Lewis Harcourt by someone who was seeking his goodwill). He was then an Associate in G. Elias. He flew in to Port Harcourt almost every week.

Tola was not a one-way traffic. He was an all-rounder. In spite of his busy schedule as a litigator per excellence, he had time for the Bar. He was the Secretary of the Lagos Bar and it was in the service of the Bar that he had the accident which eventually claimed his youthful life. What a life! So bright, So young.

Tallest òmò tree is the carver’s choice for Gangan drum. Best of petals is the prize for the bride. Fattest calf is the butcher’s pick. Tola, our finest advocate, was death’s choice.

Continue to Rest in Peace, Babatola Eyitayomi Apata (May 6, 1973 – March 18, 2014)


Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Emir’s Library: A Memo to the Young Man Who Wants To Write Like Onigegewura

AS is a client who has become my friend. She is based outside Nigeria. On one of my visits to her country of residence, she decided to give her lawyer a treat. Don’t worry, this piece is not about lawyer-client relationship. The treat was to take me out to dinner in one of the finest restaurants in town. There is nothing in the RPC against that. RPC, by the way, is Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers.

I listened absentmindedly as AS began to reel off the names of the restaurants along with their star ratings. There was nothing like Amala Iya Oyo or Calabar Kitchen on the list. I lost interest.  Suddenly I became attentive when she mentioned the name Shakespeare.

“Is that a bookshop or a restaurant?” I interrupted.

“Of course, it is a restaurant!” She responded. Perhaps sensing my unintended disappointment, she quickly went on: “Ha! Lawyer and books! Let’s eat first and I will take you book shopping.”

That’s how I found myself in one of the biggest bookshops I have ever seen. Now, I want you to close you eyes for a moment and imagine a place like a quarter of Ikeja City Mall. You have done that? Now imagine the place full of books on every imaginable subject. Yes, that’s where I was taken to by AS.

The books were arranged from floor to ceiling, and from wall to wall. I knew I was not going to leave the place anytime soon. AS was equally at home. We separated as each of us went in search of our preferred choices. There were seats for you to recline on and browse the books in case you needed to take a break from standing at the shelves. There were assistants to help you locate a book or answer your queries. There was even free coffee to stimulate you.

There was this book I had read about thirty years ago. Yes, I read The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie in 1987/88. It is a collection of twelve chilling mysteries. I was particularly fascinated by two of the stories; The Fourth Man – a story about dual personality; and the lead story, The Hound of Death – a strange story about invocation of supernatural powers. I have searched for the book since the early ‘90s without success. You can therefore imagine my indescribable joy when I saw the book in the bookshop, as if it was placed there just for me.  

Last week, I saw a picture on Lukman Olaonipekun’s IG page. In case you didn’t know, Lukman [popularly called Lukesh] is one of the leading documentary photographers in Nigeria. The picture was that of the Emir of Kano, His Highness Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, His Excellency, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN. The picture was taken, I assumed, in the Emir’s Library in Kano.

The intense pleasure I derived from just looking at the well-arranged books was beyond what words could describe. I imagined being locked up in the library for weeks. I had actually slept in a library before. It was in my Egbon, Steve Ibitola’s office in Port Harcourt during my service year. He had left me in the office and went home. When the staff didn’t see his car in the parking lot at the close of work, it was assumed that he had closed for the day. They locked up and left.  And all the time, I was in the library! I had to wear his shirt, and wig and gown to appear at the High Court in Obiakpor the following day.

Back to the Emir’s Library. I know His Highness is brilliant, intelligent, and articulate. I also know that SLS used to love bow ties. By the way, what happened to His Highness’ rich collection of bow ties? Now,  through the lens of Lukesh, we have been given a rare peep into the other side of Emir’s life as a scholar and a lover of books. Adenike Giwa, my big sister, was there when the picture was taken. She told me that the photograph didn’t do justice to the Emir’s collection. According to her, all of them were impressed by the massive collection. I opened my mouth yakata when Lukesh was telling me about his experience.

This now takes me to the mail I received two weeks ago from a young man who wanted to know how to write like Onigegewura. I get mails regularly from readers who are interested in developing their writing skills.  This particular young man was very passionate and his passion was apparent from our exchange.

To start with, I belong to the school of thought that believes that you can learn to be a writer. To some, writing may be an innate talent. But many of the successful writers you see around actually developed their writing skill along the line.

So to my young man, I believe the starting point in your quest to become a good writer is to first become a good reader. What are you reading at the moment? When was the last time you bought or borrowed a book to read? When was your last visit to a library? In my introductory Information Processing class, I came across GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. I think the same thing applies to writing. When you read great stuff, you are likely to write great stuff.

I know of the challenges of the modern day social media assault on reading culture. Many of my readers have told me that ordinarily they don’t read anything more than three short Twitter paragraphs. I therefore consider it a privilege, and a very big privilege at that, that Onigegewura is succeeding to arrest people’s reading attention.

You may ask why reading is important to writing. Of course you know that writing is about perspective. Every writer writes from his own perspective. That’s why Soyinka’s Abiku is proud and condescending, and JP Clark’s Abiku is not. So by reading widely, you gain insights into different perspectives and cultures.

More importantly, vast reading exposes you to diverse use of language. Most of my books are usually marked with pens. Anytime I come across a new expression or a new way in which an old expression is used, I tend to mark it. I also learnt from His Excellency [HE] to keep notes extensively. I can’t recall attending a meeting with HE without him jotting things down in his ubiquitous notebooks. The current one is green. Last year, it was red.

For me, nothing excites me like a great expression. Let’s look at this: “But Al-Khafji stood deserted – a peppering of empty, angular buildings and forlornly looping power lines on the salt flats of the Gulf Coast.” Look at that! A peppering of empty, angular buildings! Such a vivid description! By the way, that’s from Robert Lacey’s book, Inside the Kingdom.  

Or this one from Bolaji Abdullahi’s new book, On A Platter of Gold; “The harmattan fog descended heavily into Eagle Square, thick as the conspiracies that ruled the night. Otherwise blinding lights of the early evening now wore a pale fuzziness that transformed everything to a ghostly negative pictures.” Ghostly negative pictures! My generation grew up before digital camera. We know how ghostly negative pictures were. What a fantastic way to describe the surreal atmosphere.

As you are already aware from my writing, I don’t like ‘big’ words. That’s one of the things I learnt from HAG [Ade Ipaye]. His briefs are always couched in simple but effective words. “Your words must come to you naturally. Dictionary is to confirm the meaning and the spelling.” From HAG, I also learnt not to make assumption about my readers. “Judges are human beings. They are learned but don’t assume that they know everything. They are usually grateful for every assistance they can get from counsel.”

What about inspiration? Inspiration is good. And it’s great when you are writing when you are inspired. However I have come to discover that sometimes inspiration may miss its flight or its flight might be delayed. What do I do? I start writing all the same. And you know what, sooner than later, inspiration usually catches up with me. My advice: Don’t wait for inspiration. Write.

What do you read? This is a good question. And my answer is read everything, to start with. In the beginning, be eclectic in your reading. Read everything you come across. Phlilosophy, religion, sciences, arts, photography, comedy, in fact everything.  As you move on, you may then begin to be selective. You learn different things from different books. 

Yoruba books top the list for me, anytime. From D. O. Fagunwa to J. F. Odunjo, from Oladejo Okediji to Akinwunmi Isola, from Delano to Afolabi Olambitan, from Kola Akinlade to Adebayo Faleti, in fact everything written in Yoruba. The gentleman who borrowed my Oladejo Okediji’s Binu ti ri, this is your final pre-action notice. It's not a gift. Please return it. The book is out of print.

Every Monday, I read Akede Agbaye and Alariya Oodua. Alaroye comes out on Tuesday. I must also include Nollywood movies. Most of the proverbs I used in King Sunny Ade and Abioro’s story were from one of Saidi Balogun’s movies. Yes! I bet you didn’t know that. Hausa and Igbo movies are very good sources of proverbs. Of course, Reginald Udom (Partner in Aluko & Oyebode) is my Igbo teacher. The Hausa proverbs are usually from Rafindadi Muhammed (Partner, Madyan Legal Consult).

Autobiography is also very good. Mind you, I said autobiography and not biography. Most of the biographies published in this part of the world, and I apologise if you are offended, are hagiographical. They are written to pander to the whims of their subjects. Even the titles are usually a turn-off. You see words like “Icon of ABC”, “Quintessential Statesman,” “Pillar of AXY”, etc. But I read them all the same. You don’t know where you are going to strike your next oil.

Finally, there is something very important you need to do if you want to become a writer. You have to WRITE! Yes, that’s very important. You have to develop a passion for writing. If you know Raphael James [I have written about him on this blog], you will see that he is an extremely passionate writer.

Writing is a skill and to become skilled in writing you have to write regularly. Adunni Phoenix is my aburo and friend. She is a fantastic writer. According to her, she writes everyday. Please check out her Facebook page for a stimulating dose of her writing.

It doesn’t matter whether what you write is publishable or not. Just write regularly. Write. Write. Write. Write and Write!

And before you know it, you have become a writer.

I wish you all the best.


Many thanks to Lukesh Photography for the photographs. In the event you decide to download the pictures, please indicate Lukesh Photography as your source. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Obafemi Awolowo’s Message on His Birthday

Chief Obafemi Awolowo would have been 109 years old today, March 6, were Baba Olusegun to be alive. More than 31 years after the death of the legendary statesman, his philosophy remains constant, and his legacies remain evergreen.

To mark his birthday, Onigegewura brings you the speech delivered by Papa Awo in 1976 on the occasion of his 67th birthday. It is a timeless speech and it is as relevant to today’s Nigeria as it was when it was delivered 42 years ago. It is titled A community in which a dog kills a tiger is unsafe to live in.


First and foremost, I would like to thank most deeply Mr. Gani Fawehinmi and other members of the Free Education Association of Nigeria for the tremendous efforts and expense they have put forward and gone into in organizing the various events, including this lecture, to mark my 67th birthday anniversary.

From year to year since 1963, my friends and admirers in different walks of life and in different parts of the country have laid on some arrangements to mark my birthday anniversary.

I am sincerely overwhelmed and profoundly grateful for this long and persistent demonstration of affection by the few I know as well as by the several millions I have never had the privilege of meeting.

When one is faced with this magnniturde of demonstration of affection in one’s life time, one feels naturally called upon and impelled to strive continually to improve upon one’s rating and specific gravity, in order not to let one’s friends and admirers down.

I assure my friends and admirers and other fellow Nigerians (whatever may be their private or public attitude towards me) that I will continue to justify the confidence and affection, which over the years, have been so munificently bestowed upon me.

I am happy and ineffably thankful to God to arrive at this 67th milestone in my earlthly journey. I am happy and grateful for successes and failures, and for all the defeats and triumphs.

I have come to learn from my personal experience that failure and defeat always serve as springboards for greater achievements for him who never acknowledges their potency, and who is prepared to meet the challenges posed by them – for they always pose challenges.

For upwards of ten years now, Nigeria has witnessed a long series of successes and failures. Instead of meeting both with equal mind, we are unduly ecstatistci when we succeed, and terribly depressed when we fail. Our national attitudes to public events are therefore wrong, and must be correctly orientated.

The fault is not in Nigeria as a physical entity that the structure of our society is like a pyramid with an extremely disproportionate base; it is we her sons and daughters that have failed to rise, from time to time, to occasions dictated by Nigeria.

An Ikorodu singer once rendered a song in which the following pithy saying occurred: a community in which a dog kills a tiger is unsafe to live in.

Last February – on 13 February to be precise – a dog did kill a tiger along a traffic-congested street with many people around, and got away with it. If that happened to a tiger, what can we say of the sheep and the lambs?

We must admit that at that tragic moment in time, we failed to display a spirit of vigilance and daring and a sense of patriotism and self-sacrifice which are among the indispensable ingredients of national integrity. By our failure, Dimka almost succeeded; and if he had succeeded the hand of our national clock would have been put back many decades.

Since that tragic event of February 13, however, our mood as a people does not show that we regard the event of that day as a stepping stone to greater national conquests. We have been unduly dejected, pessimistic and scared stiff about the future. If we persist too long in this mood, we will surely realize our fears, and will have none but ourselves to blame.

Let us, therefore, like good Christians and Moslems bless the tragedy that has befallen us and be of good cheer. Let us also realize that we have made a bad job of our past: ours is a long story of missed opportunities. Fortunately, however, opportunity is never lost for good. When, during the day, it is neglected, it goes back to its forgiving abode at nightfall to rest: but at dawn it is back again to knock at our doors.

In the devilish of act of Dimka, there is certainly the cloaked hand of the angel, if only we can take the trouble to discern it beneath the cloak and grasp it.

It behoves us, therefore, to recall vividly to mind and resolutely rededicate ourselves to national aspirations, and rally around the present military regime for the eventual and early realization of those aspirations.

Twenty-one years ago, free primary education was introduced in the then Western Region of Nigeria; and at the beginning of the next school year, the universal primary education for the whole country will begin.

I seize this opportunity to congratulate wholeheartedly all those who conceived, implemented, and benefitted from the old scheme, and to send my best wishes to all those who are labouring to introduce and implement as well as to those who will benefit from the new scheme.

May his soul continue to rest in peace. Happy Posthumous Birthday!


PS: The Free Education Association of Nigeria referred to by Papa Awo was an association formed in 1975 by Chief Gani Fawehinmi to champion the cause of free education in Nigeria. Earlier in 1974, Gani had published a seminal work on the subject, Peoples' Right To Free Education [At All Levels].

PPS: I have been wondering who the Ikorodu singer mentioned by Papa Awo was. Could it have been Nosiru Atunwon? My people from Ikorodu Oriwu, over to you.

Olusegun Obasanjo Is 81 Today: Source of Strength Revealed

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Ph.D., is 81 years old today, March 5, 2018. As a military officer, he rose to the peak of his profession as a General and a Military Head of State. As a politician, he was elected a civil President for two terms. As a scholar, he is a proud holder of Doctor of Philosophy Degree and he is also a celebrated author. As a farmer, he makes success of farming.

In case you have been wondering what the source of strength the former President is, Onigegewura will tell you today.

According to Baba Iyabo: “I have faith in my aided ability and support to overcome any disabling words, thoughts, actions or deeds from any quarter. I leave nothing to chance, I prepare but after preparation I leave room for the will of God which passes human understanding.

I have never been seriously caught off guard or disappointed because I always leave room for the worst after preparing for the best. And invariably, if you do not achieve the best you avoid the worst. I substitute faith for fear and hope for despair.

I react almost instantly when necessary to obnoxiously unacceptable acts, events and issues, deceptions and heinous crimes and gross injustices from any quarters to any quarters to the extent that such instant reactions have been inaccurately described as impulsive or temperamental. I am not moved by such description because what I will not accept, I will not accept, I keep no malice.

My disagreement or non-acceptance does not mean break in communication. I honour commitment and my word is my bond. I count a lot on honour and integrity because a man without honour and integrity is a poor man indeed no matter what earthly possessions he may acquire. I believe that life is too short for a man to be indolent or for him not to always attempt to do good.

Happy Birthday!

Credit: Olusegun Obasanjo, Not My Will, University Press Limited, Ibadan [1990]