Born 16 November, 1936, in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria, his parents hail from Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State Nigeria. Hon. Justice Babasola Opeoluwa Ogunade, was trained as a Teacher at St. Andrew’s College, Oyo. After a short but successful teaching career, he proceeded to study law at the University of London and graduated in 1970. In 1972, he was enrolled as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and thereafter commenced his career as a Legal Practitioner, first as an associate and later partner in the Law Firm of S. M. Olakunri & Co.
He practiced as a lawyer until December 1991 when he was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Ogun State. In the course of his career as a High Court Judge, he was one of the Judges whose Courts were designated as anti-corruption courts by the I.C.P.C.
After a successful and stainless career as a judge, having attained the mandatory retirement age of 65 years, he retired in November 2001.
As a retired but not tired law practitioner, Justice Ogunade went back to joined his former partner, Chief Olakunrin as a consultant. Shortly before his retirement, Chief Olakunrin had made available to him a chamber. There, he met other consultants, including two very eminent judges, late Justice M.A. Odesanya and Justice A.B. Karibi-Whyte.
He did that for about three to four years before he finally decided to devote his entire time and the rest of his life to the full service of the Lord in His vineyard as the Chancellor of Lagos West, Anglican Communion.
Apart from being a Chancellor of the Diocese of Lagos West, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Justice Ogunade is also the chairman of the House of Laity of the Church of Nigeria.
Justice Ogunade was for many years a member of the Ogun State Law Reporting Committee both when he was a Legal Practitioner and as a Judge of the High Court of Ogun State. Baba Ogunade as he fondly called was an active member of the Nigeria Bar Association and also a member of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association.
Being more known for his service in God’s vineyard, Justice Ogunade was actively involved in the establishment of the Ajayi Crowther University.
Recently, he celebrated his 80th birthday in Lagos. In this interview with THE DAILYBELLS NIGERIA, Justice Ogunade bares his mind on life at 80, corruption in the judiciary and some other interesting issues. While blaming greed and the society at large as major causes of judges collecting bribe, he pointed out that no judge has any business collecting bribe.
Relax and enjoy the interview of this exceptional Nigerian courageous icon.
By Adejuwon Osunnuyi
For sometime now, the issue of corruption in the judiciary has been on the front burner. My Lord sir, how do you react to this?
Recently, I was reading in the newspapers, people were condemning General Olusegun Obasanjo on what he said about the National Assembly. Amazingly enough, quite a number of the commentators were now saying why single out the National Assembly for corruption, that the National Assembly is not the only corrupt institution.
But before this happened, it is like everybody in the country believe that it is a cest pool of corruption. Everybody was commenting on it. Corruption in the judiciary is even such that it amounts to insecurity in the country. How many people do we have in the National Assembly? A little over 300. Are they all corrupt? Are you talking of the institution being a corrupt institution? Or are you talking of the judiciary being a corrupt institution? Are you talking of the personnel in it?
This is reason I believe that in this country, we are just taking advantage of the platform that we exercise our freedom. We are destroying ourselves. The judiciary is made up of human beings and it is not angels who are there. As human beings, we are not all the same. We don’t have the same makeup. We don’t have the same satisfaction in life. We don’t all come from the same background. That is why in an institution, you will see all manners of people. But I humbly suggest you don’t because of that condemn the entire institution. Take away the judiciary in this country, what else do we have? We all have to resort to self help because I believe that is the alternative. As it is now, they all condemn the judiciary. With all the trouble going on in Ondo, where did they go? Did they go to the customary court or did they go to the oba‘s palace to settle it for them? Or did they go to their various secretariats to solve it? They still went to the same judiciary.
Some were hailing what the Supreme Court had done, some were hailing what the Court of Appeal had done and some were saying the judiciary is the cause of problems in this country. I think it is wrong to condemn wholesale the judiciary. Yes, there may be individuals who corrupt the institution. I am not denying that. But how many judges do we have in the country? We are talking about two in the Supreme Court who the DSS said they have taken. We are talking about two or three in the federal high court. How many judges do we have in the Supreme Court? How many do we have in the Court of Appeal? How many do we have in the federal high courts not to talk about state high courts? I know it is not these alone that constitute the judiciary. We still have the Industrial Courts there and we still have the Customary Courts. There might be individuals who did wrong. I am not defending them. I am not by any means defending anybody. But I think we should be careful about how we condemned the entire judiciary.
I think this happened because people see judges as being next to God and people in position to determine whether one should live or die. Against this background a judge is now being seen as having a price to deliver judgment one way or the other. How do you react to that?
I still say we should concentrate on individual cases. You don’t come and condemned the entire institution. You said it rightly, take away the judiciary, it is like you are having no other area to go. God has given so much power to the judiciary. That is why when a judge is appointed, he takes two oaths. One is the judiciary oath and the oath of allegiance to a state. In the judiciary oath, it says I am going to do justice to everybody irrespective of creed, tribe, and relationship and I want to believe that nobody in his right senses will forgets that undertaking.
More importantly, I would tell you this. It is because in this country, oath taking is ceremonial. Doctors, when they have finished and are being commissioned, don’t they take oath? They agreed to take it that life is sacred. How many times do they go on strike in this country when people are really seen to be dying, they forget about their oath. But if only people would remember, the judiciary oath is different because we are not just taking oath to mouth. You are taking your oath as an oath to God. But I made a practice of reminding them that because you are taking oath before God that you are going to face the consequences if you give a false oath. So any judge who has taken an oath, to be honest in doing justice without ill-will, and without any consideration, goes back on it, it has repercussion.
Of course it is not because we all pay lip service to religion in this country. That is why you can even talk about it in the church. The church also talks about corruption. They identified corruption in the church. In my view, it is not because we take oath as a matter of ceremonial, which should not be, a judge does something that is wrong and you are able to ascertain that the man is corrupt. I can tell you one thing, the behavior of people, I have experienced it. You are sitting in the chamber all by yourself. Your secretary is removed from you, the court is cut off. You are just seated by yourself in a room. A lawyer, what he is doing outside, you don’t know. He probably will tell his client, “Oh, he is my friend, I know him. I will go and see him after. He gets his client outside, he walks along the judge’s area, probably goes as far as where his secretary is, and then he goes back and tells his client, “Haven’t I told you. I have fixed it, I have seen him for you, and it is okay. Give me money to give him”. How does the judge know this?
In a way, are you blaming lawyers for this?
I am not blaming lawyers. I am telling you the practice. I am telling you how it happens. How does the judge now know about this? Assuming that he now goes back to his client and told him I have fixed it. The judge didn’t know and has nothing to do with it. Now the judge hears the case and he gives judgment on merit. What is going to be the verdict of the man who has given money to give to the judge? Ha! That judge had taken money from the other person. In some cases, it happens.
You have been in there and must have gone through a lot.
I am a door. I have seen inside it as a practicing lawyer and as a judge.
But was there ever a time that you came under pressure as a judge?
Of course yes.
How did you manage the situation?
In fact, anybody who attempts it knows that he is going to the wrong person. I give you one live example. This happened in 1997. I was in a division in Ogun state and they had chieftaincy dispute there and it had to do with kingship of that town. The throne had been vacant for many years. It happened that it was within the town of my own origin, even though I was not born there. But my father is from there and I was so close to that area. And the circumstances were such that you will need to persuade people that you have not been given some other considerations because the judiciary has no house of its own there.
So, I lived in a hired accommodation and the owner of that hired accommodation, it was his son who wanted to be the king. I was in Lagos and I returned to the place and I came and found a letter written to me saying it is all over the town that I have taken a bribe of N1 million. But remember that your father had a good name in this place. Your brother has a good name, we know them. So, don’t soil their name. Return the N1 million to the person from whom you took it. I look at the letter and said this one or two things. I said this is cheap blackmail or they just wanted to find a way of luring me to their side. I made up my mind that I have taken an oath that I was going to do justice to all manner of people and that I am not going to go outside the procedure of the court. I was the only high court judge in that area and the only one who could deal with the matter. It would take the Chief Judge to transfer the case out of the division. The day that I resumed and saw the letter, I called all the lawyers involved, 16 of them and read the letter to them and said to them, “please feel free to apply that your case be taken away from here, but as for me, I am not going to excuse myself from this case. But if you apply under the rules that you don’t trust me to do the case, I would gladly allow you to go’. So, I left them and went to the open court. Each of them now said, sir, we would not deceive you, we were in town this morning and we heard it all over the place. One of them was a respectful person and older than me and many of them are from Lagos. That one now said, look don’t let us tell you lies. Immediately we arrive and went to the place we normally have our meal, they said you have just come to waste your time. The case has already been decided. The judge has taken N1 million. It is all over the place.
He said he tried to persuade them that not that man, he won’t take money from anybody, that they were only deceiving themselves. He told them to go to court and see what would happen. Another of the lawyers was my own classmate at the Law School. And he said for how many years have I known you? We knew you in practice and some of us that have appeared before you on the bench, we knew you won’t take money from anybody. As for us, this case is going to remain here. And I said it is okay if you have so much confidence in me. I now went to the open court and read out the letter and interpreted it in Yoruba and told them if you don’t like it, take it away from here. It is only one case and I have several others to do. I have already told your lawyers and they told me they are not taking the case away. But you are their clients, apply for this case to be taken away. But one thing I can assure you is that chieftaincy disputes takes up to five or six years. But one thing I can assure you is that this one here will not take up to a year because I have read the papers and I will use the rules of court to see that I get this done quickly.
Given your experience, what do you think would make a judge to want to accept bribe?
Greed. As simple as that. It is greed. Nothing else particularly these days. When I went on the bench, I didn’t know what I was earning until about six months because nobody gave me pay slip. It was when I needed money from the bank and I sent my secretary to the bank and he came and said the manager said I should see him and I said for what? Because I took my money to Abeokuta and deposited it in the bank and I believe my salary was being paid regularly there. So, I was expecting I should have a lot of money in the place. The bank manager obliged and he came to see me and he said this is your bank statement and I saw what was being paid there regularly. And I said do you mean that this is exactly what I am being paid and he said yes.
It was then I sent for the accountant in the judiciary and complained he was not giving me pay slip. He went to bring it and I saw what I was being paid and I said is this what I am being paid and he said yes. But I knew what would happen before I went there. I heard one or two judges complaining in the past. Judges who had had reputable practice, who were saying the judiciary is nothing. All that is there is prestige and name. But after you have done what you could do at the bar, you have gathered experience; you are now able to transfer it back to the bar for the improvement of the bar and for the good of the society.
I am quite satisfied the way I am and I am sure that whatever I was earning, I have to cut my clothes according to my cloth. What I am unable to do, I am unable to do it. Finished. But you see, when you want to please everybody, where do you find yourself? This society does not help matters. They see you, they say he is a high court judge. The belief of everybody is that you are awash with money. They are doing that ceremony there, you are cordially invited. Donation will be kindly received. In some cases, if you give what you have, they would say my Lord, we expect you to give more. So it is a question of you knowing who you are and knowing that at the end of it all, you will leave office. How do you want people to see you? Do you want people to respect you? But there are people who said I am a judge, I should live like a judge and throw away respectability and they have to cut corners to maintain that self ego status. In my view, that is what they do. I don’t take bribe and I don’t know what makes them to take it. But these days, no judge has any business taking bribe.
So if they do, what should be done?
I say that any judge who is adjudged to have taken bribe should be sent to jail. They should be sent to jail like any other person and dealt with as criminals because these days, I don’t see any reason for it. The service condition has improved and some states really went out of their way to make them really comfortable. So why should any judge start taking bribe. What for? Except you are greedy or you have no fear of God. You take bribe, a person is wrong and you say he is right. Remember you are appearing before a judge where you don’t need any advocate, at the end of your days on earth, you won’t need an advocate before Him. It is what is written down. I believe so much in the bible. I think it is the Revelation that says that on the last day, two books would be presented. One would be opened, the other would also be opened. If your name is not found in one, you are thrown into a lake of fire. I believe in it. I believe that hereafter, there is still judgement.
Sequel to the incidence of the judges facing allegation of corruption, the NBA has now set up a committee to review the code of conduct for judges and other judicial officer. What kind of reforms would you want to see in the new rules being considered?
I want to suggest to the NJC to put judicial ethics in the fore front of their considerations. Look at the way recruitment is made into the bench. In my view, that is fundamental. Don’t let it be ethnic balancing. Don’t let it be state balancing. Appoint people to the bench purely on merit. Some states even now go to the extent of asking people to apply. To me, it’s so ridiculous. You want o be a judge, you apply! Is not done.
So, how were you appointed a judge?
Look at this. That is my patent letter. (He showed the document) When I was appointed a judge in 1991, that was the only thing I had when I was appointed a judge. I didn’t have any letter stating conditions of service. That one was signed by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, because he was the President then. I didn’t have a letter stating that I would be entitled to N5,000 a month as salary. You will be given free accommodation because it is the norm. I don’t have a letter telling me that I would be given loan to buy a house. I went there without a letter. The only other letter that came was the letter from the Chief Judge saying that he has been directed to inform me that I have been appointed a judge. Congratulations. The day of your swearing in would be announced. That is what I had. It was like taking a blind letter. But having taken it and having known that the constitution bars me from practicing again, from appearing before a judge, I appreciate the sacrifice, the enormous sacrifice that I was called upon to make. I have an option to say thank you very much, I don’t want it.
I think I must say this and I am not saying anything immodestly that I didn’t apply to be a judge. If anything at all, it was offered to me three solid times and I rejected it on each occasion. The fourth time it now happened, it was like a blackmail. We were at an occasion with my wife, where some judges of Ogun state were present and they called me and said, come Mr. Ogunade, we understand that they invited you to come and be a judge and you are bluffing us. You think you are the best lawyer in Ogun state. It’s just that we see something in you that we think you should contribute to the bench. Another one called my wife and said, madam, are you the one that said your husband should not join this group of poor people. And she said she knows nothing about it. My uncle was sitting beside me and he now said, you’ve now heard with your ears, that people were inviting you to come, go and consider it. And I said okay, I would fulfill all righteousness. Do I need to bring a CV, the CV was just half a page. But they said even if you just put your name, it is enough to consider you. Which was what I did. But they made a futile attempt the first time but I wasn’t taken.
So, how were you finally appointed?
The Chief Judge called me and asked me, “Are you angry?” I said I wasn’t. I want to let you know one thing that I enjoyed my practice as a lawyer. It gave me all the freedom. It isn’t so much about the money I make, but it gives me the freedom to do what I want to do. It enables me to really contribute to the society. I know the amount of free cases that I did, what they now call pro bono. The number that we were doing in our chamber, the number I have handled freely but I enjoyed it. So he said this is a real thing and you have to come to the bench but I said you have tried sir but don’t do it again, I am not coming. Not too long after that, a vacancy occurred. He didn’t ask me any thing.
All I knew was that one day, I had a case in Ikeja, my chambers was in Igbosere. I returned to the chamber that day only to find a crowd in the chamber and I was asking those in our front office that what was happening there. My lord, you’ve been appointed a judge and I said which judge? I didn’t apply for one. And that was it and that was how it came. You know what? I started pleading with the people not to go about announcing it because people were owing me money. The moment they realized that I have been appointed a judge, they won’t pay my money any more.
There is a trend that we now see in the judiciary that wasn’t happening in the past, books being launched in honour of sitting judges. Is it not capable of prejudicing a judge?
I think the former CJN who just retired gave a directive that there should be no book launch in respect of a sitting judge. You may as a judge want to put your experience on paper. You don’t launch it. If you have the fund to print the thing, print it and distribute it freely. At my 80th birthday, they did a book. That book didn’t come of my own free will. A lot of pressure had been put on me since I retired that there is so much that I know, particularly about the church. People want to learn, put it on paper. But I said if anybody wants to know, they would know from the speeches that I have made. Those three priests who put together that biography, tried for one good year before they could persuade me. I said do what you want to do and they had to keep coming in here.
I have retired for 15 years, even if I should have the money to publish a book to sell, I don’t see anybody coming in here to say I’ve done it because I want to corrupt myself. But even for a sitting judge, again I tell you this, many times you find that these books are written in the name of a sitting judge, I have seen it happen, the judge might not even get one quarter of the proceed. Some people will get themselves organized, they would write it, commercialize it and corner all the money. So if you don’t want to find yourself in an embarrassing situation, don’t permit it. Wait, if God gives you life and you retire, you can put all your experience on paper.
So why should any judge start taking bribe. What for? Except you are greedy or you have no fear of God. You take bribe, a person is wrong and you say he is right. Remember you are appearing before a judge where you don’t need any advocate, at the end of your days on earth
How do you see the anti-corruption campaign of President Mohammadu Buhari?
A lot of people give it all sorts of name. But let’s look at the short time that he was Head of state. Between 1984 and 1985, what was his mantra then? What exactly did he do? It was when you find that people are being clamped into jail for 84 years, 60 years and that kind of things. On what grounds? On grounds of corruption. He was able to do that as a military man. It may well be that he still has the vestiges of the military in him. Those who know him will be able to tell. I don’t know him. But from what they put in the papers, he was not a wealthy man. He has been head of state, albeit for 18 months. Within that period, he had the opportunity of amassing wealth. He could have said, you be my front, be the director of the man, you be my front, go and be the managing director of an oil company and when he comes out, he would now be swimming in money. At the beginning, he did say he was going to fight corruption head long. Isn’t corruption really killing us in this country?
If a man comes and say this is what I am going to do and he works on available facts available to him, why do you now say he is just an unforgiving man. Now there is this big one they are talking about, the matter is in court and we should be careful not to comment on them. But allegations are being made. Money that should have been used in buying weapons were distributed all over the place. Is it a fact that that money was there? Is it a fact that the money was distributed? If that is the truth, should he now fold his hands and do nothing about it. They did say he was doing it only at the federal level, he has not done it on state level. I am not an EFCC man, but I believe that the EFCC works on information.
If the states have not approached the EFCC, if a new governor has not approach the EFCC, to say that my predecessor has stolen all the money in this place, how does it becomes the duty of Buhari to start probing into the states. Are there separation of functions between federal and state? For me as a person, I will support anything he does within the law to stem corruption in this country. As he is doing it, as he is fighting night and by day, are we still not having corrupt cases, should it not be the concern of all of us. Is it time for people to now be praising those who are corrupt because they still celebrate them. Oh, it is because he doesn’t belong to their party that he is doing that. Is it right.
You are appointed to take your office for four years, you have your office and you are now alleged to be having mansions all the place, you are alleged to be having industries here and there? Have you been living within your legitimate earnings? You are a company secretary, you are reputed to be having a house in Abuja. When they accuse you, you have not come with a mortgage paper to say that I build those houses to say that I took a loan. I just want to believe that we should comment on facts that are available. Some of our comments are really so political, and some are just anti-nationalistic. We find a disease that is destroying us, somebody is doing something about it and we are all condemning him.
In spite of the beauty of ACJL 2015, we still experience delay in criminal justice administration. What has been responsible for this?
I had been a judge. People bring their cases to me in court. Their lawyers bring their cases to me in court. I work by the rules, I work by the law. You bring a matter before me, you are the prosecutor, you are the one who will tell me that this one that I have brought before you, the law enjoined me to do this and that for him and that is what I brought before you. He has applied to you, do what you have to do. But it takes two to tango. The criminal who have a lawyer, that one comes, he cooked up something, whether right or wrong, he might say, milord, you don’t have jurisdiction to deal with this matter. The moment he raises jurisdiction, he forgets the facts of the case. We deal with the issue of jurisdiction.
At the end of it, I say I have jurisdiction to deal with the matter. He says I am going on appeal. You have no right to say he shouldn’t go on appeal. I was speaking with a retired justice of the Supreme Court not too long ago, and I said why are we having so much congestion in the Supreme Court. That Supreme Court is now like the high courts having so many cases. He said what they are facing there are all these interlocutory appeals.
The ACJL Act is supposed to take care of that but lawyers will go from the high court to the Appeal Court and to the Supreme Court. I can tell you this, it takes a bit of courage to do what you must do. A judge comes to you and you find that this one is being mischievous. After all you look at the law. If his argument is not right, you over rule him there and then. Let him go on appeal if he likes it. They know me by the number of cases that I have done. But these days, you don’t have it because there is too much intimidation all over the place.
What is your view on targets given to judges as regards cases being handled in courts?
Where a judge is lazy, you will know. If for instance, a judge says he is only able to deliver two judgments, he has a query. If he is only able to deliver two judgments, he should explain why this is so. But because they now give targets, judges say they must deliver, I must deliver at all cost. People come before them, he says no, no. I can’t wait, I can’t adjourn. He goes on to do shoddy work they now shift the congestion from the high court to the Appeal Court. The NJC itself sends queries to them in the high court, lets know the number of cases you have done irrespective of whether the cases you have done are thoroughly done or not. I think the NJC should re-examine itself. They should not make the judiciary and the high courts look like a factory where they do mass production.
In my view, that’s what it is because when you say tell me the number of cases you’ve had, how long does it take to take a trial in the high court? No matter how much it is, no matter how little it is, it would take the best of three to four months. Even if it is a summary trial in a civil case, it takes up to four months to deal with it. And you are now asking me to produce mass production! That is not how a court should be. It should be concern with quality and justice in what you are doing. That chieftaincy case I told you about, I gave judgment in 1998. Up till this hour, it is still hanging in the Supreme Court. It took eleven to 12 years for the Court of Appeal to deal with it.
It’s been with the Supreme Court almost six years now. The NJC should re-examine itself. The NJC should review itself. The NJC should act as a judicial institution not as political institution. The politicians might say what they want but we are the ones who knows what is involved. You can’t ask them to do shoddy work all because we want mass production. If you are not a lazy man, you will know how much you can really do.
What do you have to say about the underfunding of the judiciary which has been recurring over the past years? How can this be overcome?
Is there no provision in the constitution? Are we still going to be looking for it? It is in the constitution. Why don’t we have people to fight for it? I recalled one or two lawyers were in court fighting for it. When JUSUN also went on strike, it was also one of their demands. But what happened to it? They did not pursue it to a logical end. It is a constitutional provision but they allow everybody to do what they want to subvert the provisions of the constitution. These days, a chief judge would go cap in hand to the state governor and the state governor would bluff him saying I don’t have money for this or that.
If you want quality judiciary, you pay for it. You can’t get it on the cheap. Pay those who are doing the work and stop them from looking over their shoulder. Pay them what is due to them. If after you’ve done that and anybody looks over his shoulder, let him go and face the music in the court. Judges abroad, they go on and on and on because they are satisfied because they give them what they need. They are satisfied with where they live, the working condition is good.
While I was still on the bench, a former governor came to me in Ijebu Igbo where I was. He came there bluffing. The ceiling of the corridor was falling down. I had repaired it several times with my own money. I now said he should come and see it. He said this one is easy. I can climb and repair it but I said don’t climb here. I took him round the whole premises and I now took him to my chambers. As he was entering my chambers, he went through my robbing room. He saw books all over the place. He said why are all these books here and I said they are my personal books and everywhere I go, I was carrying those books with me. In the chamber, I had a shelve where we had all the books. Then I was asking him, how do you want me to work without the books? I had to be buying my own law reports and books because I am a legal practitioner.
He wants the judges to be buying books by themselves. I said this room where I am sitting, in practice, my clerk doesn’t sit in that type of room. He now took a seat and said my lord; I didn’t know it was this bad. He told me something would be done but nothing happened. I saw him a number of time after that and he would ask, has it been done and I would tell him if it has been done, you will know because they would take the money from you. They just pay lip service all over the place.
I must admit there are some states which do whatever they can to make their judges comfortable. But by and large, quite a number of Chief judges would have to go to the governor, cap in hand. But they bluff them. When a judge would have to sit in his house without light and you now expect him to deliver judgment. After everybody had talked and they have gone home, he doesn’t have a research officer, he is the only one left in the chambers to look at all the evidences that have been led, to look at the cases cited before him and see whether the lawyer who has presented a case is not being mischievous. He has to look for law reports before he can make a judgment and he hasn’t been given the facility. How does he perform? You now ask them to deliver so much judgments. It is ridiculous. I think the NJC itself is being political.
It’s been about 15 years since you retired from the Ogun State Judiciary. How have you engaged yourself?
Before I retired, I came to Lagos one day to see my partner, where I practiced before I moved to the bench, Chief Olakunrin and he said, ‘milord, come, let me show you something’. He took me to a new office he was building on Igbosere road and he said to me, ‘that’s what I have been building. You are not going to the Court of Appeal. So when you retired, you can retire here. We went inside there and he said ‘pick one of these rooms that you would use as your own chamber and whatever you want me to put in it, I will put in it’. Well, that would tell you that we enjoyed very good relationship. He offered me a place where I could be a consultant. And there I was adjoined some other consultants that we had, including two very eminent judges. One of them was the late Justice M.A. Odesanya. He is Rasheed Gbadamosi’s uncle. He was one of those involved in the treasonable felony trial.
He defended some of those who were tried then. He also defended Wole Soyinka when he was accused of sabotaging the Premier. The other one was Justice A.B. Karibi-Whyte. He retired from the Supreme Court. At one time, he was at the International Criminal Court of Justice. So, those were consultants in the chamber and I had the priviledge of joining the chamber also as a consultant. That I was doing for three to four years, so to say, not every day, but I could be there for two to three days in a week. But in due course, I found out that legal practice had changed from what I knew it to be. I started finding that at my age, and the practice that we had in chambers, its going to be a bit difficult for us to really have meaningful practice.
We had quite a few matters on which I consulted, I just decided that, already, I am the Chancellor of Lagos West, Anglican Communion. That was the diocese we started barely two years before then and you know what it is starting a new foundation for things like that. It was a lot of work and in this part of Lagos West. Lagos West at that time included Ikeja, Somolu, Bariga, Badagry, Ota, Ikorodu etc. It is a wide area and there was a lot of work we had to do and the Bishop was working, and would say Baba please come in as soon as possible as we had a lot to do then.
So, I decided I would rather be going to the diocesan office and do some work there. But of course at the same time, I was also involved in one or two other things. At that time, we were working for the establishment of the Ajayi Crother University. I was involved in that from the very beginning in 1996. So, I had all those activities taking my time. It then meant that I don’t have to go to Lagos regularly. Sometimes, I go there at 12 noon and leave at 2 p.m. But I found that it is more gainful if I engage myself in these other activities and that exactly is what I have been doing.
When you are not handling judicial matters, how do you relax?
I have my church society, I go to the church. I don’t have too many close friends. If you are asking for my close friends, I think I have just about three or four. I have a lot of associates, particularly in the church. But if you are really asking me friends whom I have known, with whom I can discuss confidential matters, may be they are zeroed to only two. And it is because they are my childhood friends. One of them I had known since 1945. The other I knew since 1952 and we are still friends till today.
How does it feel to be 80?
I don’t know. Only God knows because nobody is ever sure how long he would be. I go to parties and I see people and when people are praying and saying, you are going to be 90, you are going to be 100, I don’t say ‘amen’.
Why! Because we are all God’s creation and as God’s creation, I think in Psalm 139, it says that “before you are formed, I have already known you and all about you are written in my palm”. And what he has written, what he has decided, nobody can add to it and nobody can take away from it. Somebody may be asking that why do people die young, nobody can answer that, not even doctors. They give reasons within scientific areas, because there are illness that would take somebody away at the age of 50. Someone may have it at age 50 and goes on to live till age 70 or 80. All that I can say is that I praise God that I was able to come this far. It is not my doing, it is not by my power but God makes it possible and gave me the grace to be able to walk, to see and to talk. The way I feel is that I want to praise God.
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