Friday, 15 June 2018

June 12 Elections: How Justice Akanbi Refused To Be Compromised, by Aare Afe Babalola

Then came the case of the century. Chief Abiola had contested for the office of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria on June 12, 1993. He was widely believed to have won what everybody agreed was the freest and fairest election to be held in the country.

Before all the results were released, the government of General Babangida annulled the election on the excuse, among others, that Hon. Justice Bassey Ikpeme had delivered a nocturnal ruling in the Federal High Court, Abuja, around 9.15pm two days to the election in which she restrained the conduct of that election.

The ruling was patently wrong on all fronts. The enabling law had provided that only the National Electoral Commission, NEC, Chairman, then Prof Humphrey Nwosu, could stop it. Yet the case was not on his application, nor was it his design.

Besides, it is an elementary principle of law that the court would not grant an injunction ex-parte at the instance of a party if the order would affect a large number of people, as in this case, a whole country.

Chief MKO Abiola waited for a whole year for the re-validation of his electoral victory. It was clear that the group of soldiers, led by General Abacha, who had come to power had tasted it and were not too keen to relinquish it. When nothing was done about his victory, Chief Abiola on the first anniversary of the elections declared himself President in the popular Epetedo Declaration. He was arrested soon after and hounded into detention in Kano.

A stunned nation gave tumultuous reactions.

A series of cases followed his detention and he was represented by several lawyers. Chief GOK Ajayi, handled some of the cases. Chief Jibola Olanipekun secured bail for him in the Federal High Court, Abuja. Chief Abiola was however advised to reject the bail. The advisers said he should not return home without his mandate and that the bail had some conditions.

I was of the opinion that the advice was wrong, and I know that proponents of that choice would have now realized what mistake they made. For one, the matter for which Chief Abiola was facing trial was criminal and not a civil suit. He was not a plaintiff or a defendant/counter-claimant in a civil case. So the question of returning home with a prize did not arise at all. In a criminal action, you either win or lose your case. A party does not return with a reward. For another, there is no bail without its own conditions. The essence of bail is to ensure the attendance of the accused person at his trial. So there is no absolute bail.

Curiously, Chief Abiola was advised to reject it and he did. We are all today living witnesses to the unfortunate consequences of that refusal and the folly in fighting for a right behind bars.

I represented Chief Abiola at a much earlier stage before matters went beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals. It was in the few days preceding the annulment. The suit was to decide whether he was properly elected or not, and was instituted by Bashir Tofa [Abiola’s challenger in the June 12 1993 elections]. I came into it with Chief Rotimi Williams.

I personally went to the Court of Appeal, Kaduna, when the issue of the legality of the election was going to be decided. My brief was clear and I was certain that I would win the case for my client. Chief Philip Umeadi, SAN, was representing the Federal Government and President Babangida. Hon. Justice [Mustapha M.] Akanbi was then the President of the Court of Appeal.

Justice Akanbi was a bright, forthright and incorruptible Judge. He knew the case was important to the judiciary and the country; in fact, the judiciary was also on trial. Justice must therefore be seen to have been done. To ensure this, Hon. Justice Akanbi empanelled ten Justices of the Court of Appeal. They were all assembled in Abuja. He did not disclose which five of them was going to be on the panel in order to avoid a situation whereby any of them would be reached and possibly corrupted. I was later to learn that he successfully resisted all efforts himself to be reached and compromised.

Having failed to reach him before the sitting of the court, the government felt uncomfortable. It was afraid that the court might decide in favour of Chief Abiola. And the big players in government would not like to be seen to disobey the order of the court. So the best thing was to ensure that the court never sat all.

I got to court very early with many lawyers who were to appear with me. I had my authorities set. Chief Umeadi was unusually late to court, and luckily the court too did not sit on time. When he came in, Chief Umeadi sat beside me.

Why are you here with all these books, Chief?” Chief Umeadi, SAN asked me.

Of course, the President of the country would be known today, and these books are the authorities to help the Justices to so decide.” I responded.

Chief Umeadi asked whether I had not listened to the radio. He added: “The election held on 12 June, 1993 had been annulled!”

When the court sat, we announced our appearances. Chief Umeadi, SAN stood up and informed the court so tacitly: “My Lords, there is no lis again before Your Lordships; the election has been annulled.”

I stood up and argued that the election could only have been annulled by a law, which must be gazette. Until that was done, Chief Umeadi’s information could not take the place of a gazette. The Court was inclined to adjourning so that we could all ascertain the truth.

Before we left the court, I stood up and told everybody present: “We are at the beginning of a journey the end of which nobody knows.”  

Source: Afe Babalola, Impossibility Made Possible – An Autobiography

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Pasuma’s First Booking Office: A Short Memo to a Young Professional by Onigegewura

Abdul Wasiu Odetola is his name. You may not be familiar with the name. But I am pretty certain that you have heard of Wasiu Alabi Pasuma. Wasiu Odetola is Wasiu Pasuma. He is arguably one of the leading musicians in Nigerian today. From Fuji of which he is one of the overlords, he has made successful forays into the field of hip-hop. He has collaborated with most of the top hip-hop stars of today.

Pasuma clocked 50 last year. To commemorate this golden milestone, he published a pictorial book detailing his musical odyssey. Many thanks to Hakeem Alimi [Ajala Jalingo] and Bintu Ogunjimi-Ijelu [Oyeladun], two Nollywood veterans, who went out of their way to ensure I got a copy of the book. Onigegewura is not ungrateful.

One of the photographs in the book is the image that appeared at the top of this write-up. I hope you are able to see the picture clearly. That’s Pasuma’s first ‘booking office’. The office is at Fafolu Street in the hinterland of Mushin. The second picture is that of the recording company where Pasuma signed his first record deal in 1993. Of all the photographs in the book, I found those two most riveting.

The first time I met Pasuma was at London Heathrow Airport in 2003. That was 10 years after he signed that first record deal. On arrival in Nigeria, I overheard an elderly lady at the airport telling everyone who cared to listen that she was going to tell all her friends that she saw Pasuma. In the fashion of a typical African mother, she was praying intermittently for his success and for her children to be successful like Pasuma.

I looked again at the photograph of the booking office. The journey to stardom must have been pretty rough for the then young Wasiu.

Like the elderly woman at the airport, what most of us tend to see is the success. We see the glamour. We see the trophy. We see the plaque. We see the wealth. We see the riches. We see the cars. Of course, we see the 'accolades' and the 'assurances'. And we pray to be like the superstars. But how many of us see the ‘booking office’ at Fafolu Street, Mushin?

It takes constancy, diligence and dedication to get to the peak of whatever your profession is. I know that the terrain is rough and the weather is inclement for the young practitioner who wants to make his mark in the profession. Many times the thought of leaving your profession must have crossed your mind.

My beloved young professional, every time you feel like calling it quits I want you to look at this photograph of Pasuma’s first booking office. The beginning is usually rough. It always takes time to build a structure that is designed to last. In most professions, experience comes with age. Most of the senior guys who are successful today have all passed through the College of Hard Knocks. If you ask them, they will tell you how it was rough for them when they began their practice.

I said it above that experience comes with age. I must add practice. This is important. It is important to ensure that while you are paying your dues, you are also learning the ropes of the profession. For instance, it will amount to double jeopardy if at the end of ten years of being called to the Bar, you are still struggling to distinguish between an averment and a deposition. Every time you read a new case, every time you draft a new pleading, every time you review a new agreement, you are getting closer to your dream of being a leader in the profession.

Again, using my profession as an example, one of the things I have discovered is that consistency plays a role in the making of a successful lawyer. By the time you are leaving Law School, you should have a rough idea of what you want to do. Don’t become a rolling stone that gathers no moss. It was Zeynab, the powerful singer from the Republic of Benin, who sang that ‘ma r’oko, ma r’odo, alé oni la ti ma so’ [the decision whether to go to the farm or the stream must be taken on the eve of the journey, and not on the day of the journey].

If it is legal practice, be focused on it. If it is academia, be resolute about it. If it is corporate practice, face it squarely. It is usually not easy to practice for 12 years and because you are yet to find your feet in litigation you then decide to move into the university to teach. The same thing applies to those who want to become state counsel. You may have to queue behind the people who were your junior at the Bar.

Face your passion. Work on your passion. Make your work your passion. Always have it at the back of your mind that you are working for yourself and not for the salary you are being paid. With this mindset, you will discover that you always put in your best in every assignment.

And mind you, don’t wait for all things to be equal before you change your mindset and attitude. All things may never be equal. I often hear people say things like: ‘if my boss can only increase my salary by N30,000, he will see the wonders I am going to perform’. In such a situation, you are no longer in control of yourself. You have ceded that control to your boss. Your boss may never increase your salary. Does that then mean that you will never perform your wonders and you will forever remain at that mediocre level?

You may not know this but I will tell you today. As a newly qualified lawyer, Aare Afe Babalola, Onigegewura's mentor, was employed by Mr. Olu Ayoola [later My Lord Justice Olu Ayoola] on the condition that the new wig would not be paid for the first six months. Aare accepted. A month later, the young man who later became Aare Bamofin of Yorubaland won a decisive victory for the law firm. The rest, today, is history. 

I have been fortunate to work with some extremely passionate young people. Let me tell you about a gentleman called Femi Daniel. As a young undergraduate, he co-authored a book with a fellow undergraduate. At the Law School, he published another very good book. When my friend who was then a Commissioner in a South West state asked me to recommend a Research Assistant, Femi was top on my list. Femi displayed his passion for work in his new assignment and in less than a year, my friend recommended that he be appointed as a Special Assistant to the Governor. That’s what being passionate does for you.

Excellence opens doors.

Have I told you about Jubril Yusuf? In the six months he worked with us before leaving for Law School [he was not yet called to the Bar at the time], Jubril proved himself to be an exceptional worker of uncommon diligence. The Big Boss II was so impressed with his passion for work that he told me that even if Jubril passed the Bar Finals with Pass Grade, he would employ him without any reservation. Of course, Jubril passed with flying colours. Big Boss II kept his promise.

What of Ephraim Ajijola? I met him when he volunteered to work with us for free. He came with a twenty page CV! And he was just a Year 4 Law Student at the time! He was Lord Chancellor of this, General Secretary of that, Vice President of this, and President of that! What a passion! He paid me the best compliments when he went to my alma mater for his postgraduate studies. He is working in one of the top law firms in Lagos at the moment. Akinola Folarin was also fantastic. In addition to his diligence, Akinola was also very particular about his appearance. He works in a leading law firm in Abuja.

Excellence opens doors.

One common trait shared by all these young men [and young ladies, of course! Opeyemi Dada, Titilayo Alimi, Jedalo Odusanwo and Salimat Salami, and so many others] is the passion they have for excellence. They were all undergraduate volunteers at the time I met them. Yet they clocked in the same hours as fulltime workers. They didn’t ask for any preferential treatment and they didn’t get any. They just wanted to learn. And all of them [save Jubril, Femi and Salimat] went to Olabisi Onabanjo University. They must be doing something right in Ago Iwoye. I have made a mental note to visit the school.

I am so proud of these committed young Nigerians. I am excited about their tomorrow. I believe in you guys!

Learn to love your work notwithstanding the current challenges. I know the pay is poor. I know your boss does not appreciate your worth. I know your colleagues are taking you for granted. I know that some of your friends appear to be doing better than you. I know your place is far from your office. I know life would be better if your salary is increased. All the same, love your work. Put in your best, always. I hope you remember what Khalil Gibran said about work: “…if you can't work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy.

Love your work. Work with joy!

Once again, anytime you feel like quitting, please do me a favour: Look again at the image of Pasuma’s first booking office. I hope to see you at the top!

I wish you a resounding success.


Image Credit: Pasuma - The Golden Son of Mushin [2017]

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Nnamdi Azikiwe: The Legend Who Came Back From the Dead

If we die and come back to life, 
we will certainly know the number of those who loved us. 
It is those who have been ill that could appreciate good health. 
If we had been poor in our first life, 
we will certainly know the value of eating delicious soup everyday
 –Hubert Ogunde
Let me start by telling you about Ade Love’s movie, Èyìn Òkú. I saw the movie at the National Arts Theatre around 1992. You don’t know Ade Love? Ha! Adeyemi Afolayan was one of the founding fathers of Nigerian Theatre. He was the father of the celebrated filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan. That Kunle is now regarded as a leading filmmaker shows that a fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Creativity runs in the Afolayan family.
Eyin Oku was a moving tale about a rich man [Ade Love] and his driver [Adewale Elesho]. They died in the course of a journey. The rich man was extremely generous whilst alive and he was always surrounded by family and friends who loved and adored him. On getting to heaven, he pleaded with the Almighty to be allowed to see what was happening to his family after his death. His prayer was granted. That was when he discovered that the people who claimed to love him for his generosity did not actually love him. His brother [Olafa Ina, I hope my recollection is correct] who was a major beneficiary of his wealth became the oppressor of his nuclear family. The driver was also allowed a peep into his own family. Like his boss, he was equally shocked by what his family members were doing when he was no longer around. 
The film and the opening quotation from one of Hubert Ogunde’s philosophical songs came to my mind  yesterday morning as I began to think about the legendary Zik of Africa.
Zik was one of the few people who were privileged to read their own obituary. It was in 1989. Nigerians woke up to hear of the demise of the legendary Owelle of Onitsha. Iya Agba described his death as ‘agbo-so-igba-nu’ - the heartbreaking news that will make you to throw away whatever you are holding at the time. Eulogies poured in from all over the world. It became a sort of competition to see who would describe Azikiwe with the most profound of epithets.
Suddenly the news filtered in. The man who planted the seed of nationalism in the mind of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was not only alive, he was in fact, hale and hearty! When I told Iya Agba that Zik was still alive, she replied that the legendary nationalist must be  Kokumo – One who refuses to die again. Zik responded to the news of his death with his characteristic humour: “I am not in a hurry to leave this world, because it is the only planet I know."
Azikiwe was larger than life. He ignited the fire of nationalism across Africa. The revered Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello stated in his autobiography that it was when he came to Lagos and met Zik in 1949 for the first time that he “began to see that we in the North would have to take politics seriously before long.”
To commemorate the anniversary of the death of the first Premier of Eastern Region of Nigeria, the first President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the first President of the Senate of the Federal Republic, and the third Governor-General of Nigeria, Onigegewura went into the archives to bring you the following tribute published in his honour by the New York Times in 1996.

Nnamdi Azikiwe, the First President of Nigeria, Dies at 91
By Howard W. French 
MAY 14, 1996

Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria's first President and a vigorous champion of African independence from European colonial rule, died Saturday in a hospital in his native eastern Nigeria after a long illness. He was 91.
Dr. Azikiwe, an Ibo from southeast Nigeria, presided over a democratic Government that was in power for a mere three years before the regional tensions that have marked the country's politics ever since led to the first of many military coups. But as a lawyer, political scientist, journalist, political activist, President and for many years Nigeria's elder statesman, Dr. Azikiwe towered over the affairs of Africa's most populous nation, attaining the rare status of a truly national hero who came to be admired across the regional and ethnic lines dividing his country.
After years of agitation for nationhood, Dr. Azikiwe became Governor General of the Nigerian Federation at independence from Britain in 1960, and President in 1963, when the country was declared a republic.
While in office, he introduced universal adult suffrage and moved to extend schooling throughout the country.
When Nigeria's civil war erupted in 1967, after a disastrous attempt at secession led by the Ibo general Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Dr. Azikiwe broke ranks with leaders from his own ethnic group who supported the bid to form an independent nation called Biafra.
For a time, his support of a united Nigeria earned him the scorn of many in his native southeast. But with his customary political aplomb, Dr. Azikiwe soon emerged from the ashes of a defeated Biafra to figure prominently in the country's triangular ethnic coalition politics.
He ran again for the presidency twice, in 1979 and 1983, during a brief interlude of democracy between military governments. But although he ran strongly in his native region each time, he ended up throwing his support to rivals from the north.
Early in his career, Dr. Azikiwe seemed to realize that his Ibo group, the smallest of Nigeria's three major ethnic sub-divisions, could never rule the country outright. This insight led him to form alliances with northern politicians from the Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic constellation that would give him a far greater say in the country's affairs than he could have hoped for alone.
Throughout his life, Dr. Azikiwe's alliance with northerners put him at odds with Obafemi Awolowo, a socialist-inclined leader of the Yoruba, the country's other important southern group. In the view of Mr. Awolowo's supporters and many other Nigerians, Dr. Azikiwe's compact with the north opened the country to domination by the north and by the military, whose senior officer corps is dominated by people of Hausa and Fulani background.
Born Nov. 16, 1904, in Zungeru in northern Nigeria, where his father was stationed as a colonial civil servant, Nnamdi Azikiwe attended English-run missionary schools. He then went to the United States, where he studied at Storer College in West Virginia, Howard University in Washington, D.C., Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Columbia University in New York City.
Dr. Azikiwe taught political science at Lincoln University for three years in the early 1930's before returning to Africa, where he founded the first of five newspapers he would create, The African Morning Post, in Accra, Ghana, in 1934.
In Ghana, Dr. Azikiwe became a mentor to Kwame Nkrumah, the Premier of that British colony who would go on to become the President of the first African country to free itself from European rule, in 1957.
Dr. Azikiwe returned to Nigeria in 1937 and worked as an editor and essayist before throwing himself into the limited local politics under colonial rule, becoming a member of the Legislative Council in 1948.
Making a name for himself as an outspoken advocate of independence, he went on to become Premier of the country's Eastern Region in 1954.
After he disappeared from public for several weeks in 1989 following the death of his wife, Flora, associates of Dr. Azikiwe announced his death, provoking an outpouring of emotion in his honor. Clearly relishing the affection shown for him, Dr. Azikiwe resurfaced from seclusion, saying "I am not in a hurry to leave this world, because it is the only planet I know."
As a traditional chief of the Ibo, Dr. Azikiwe is expected to have an elaborate funeral guided by ancestral customs. The Nigerian Government has also announced that he will be given a state funeral.
History Does Not Forget