Acknowledging Nigerian Great Legal Luminaries by, Prof Auwalu Yadudu
(A response by Professor Auwalu Yadidu on behalf of Honorees at the 17th Conferment of Honorary Fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies NIALS, Abuja on February 22, 2022)
Firstly, l must confess that l have no idea why the choice fell on me to give these remarks. I can only surmise that l do so on behalf of the honorees not belonging to the Bench. Although l stand before you to speak for the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and two other colleagues, who all wear the Silk, l must enter a necessary caveat that we have not had any prior consultation on what to say.
I guess the organizers have exceptionally indulged me to shoulder such a role presumably owing to my seniority by age, call to the bar and appointment as a professor of law. For full disclosure, l am approaching my 69th birthday anniversary. I was called to the bar in July 1979 and promoted to the rank of professor of law by BUK in October 1995. I observed that the choice is exceptional because if these were formal proceedings before a court of law, l know where my proper place would be: somewhere else within the premises but not at the front bench. However l take comfort in the fact that, all three being distinguished professionals, fellow teachers and researchers, none may find cause to disagree with me on account of the few words l would utter.
To put matters mildly, we all are pleasantly surprised but deeply grateful to be conferred with the Honorary Fellowship of the Premier Legal Research institute in Nigeria: The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. We cherish very highly such an honour.
For me personally, l have scratched my head, in total astonishment, to understand what it is that l have done in my academic and professional career or public service to belong to such a distinguished league of Fellows which comprises legendary legal icons, judicial paragons and erudite academicians. How deserving am l to be placed along the side of Justice Teslim O Elias, who was Dean of Law, University of Lagos, the founding father of this lnstitue, a former Hon Attorney General of the Federation, a former Chief Justice of the Federation and Justice of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Or to rub shoulders with the distinguished Prof CO Okonkwo, perhaps the oldest Law teacher in the Nation. Or Mrs Folake Sholanke, the first female to take the Silk in Nigeria. Or the very jovial and extremely entertaining Prof David A Ijalaye, whose classes and seminars at OBafemi Awolowo University were a delight to participate in.
What could Prof Osipitan have done in his professional and teaching career or as a researcher to rub shoulders with Timi the Law, Chief FRA Williams whose towering height and colossal size in both physique and intellectual prowess were unmatched during his days. Or Justices Kayode ESO or Chukwudifu Oputa – whom Justice BELLO, the CJN, described as “the Socrates of the Supreme Court – and who both left their indelible mark on our jurisprudence, judicial pronouncements and verdicts. Or Prof AB Kasunmu , a foremost law teacher, advocate and author. Or Justice Maryam Alooma Mukhtar, another Amazon who reached the pinnacle of the judiciary to serve as Chief Justice of Federation.
Although Hon Malami may have briefly taught at Usman Danfodio University and is the incumbent Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, l would think he too would find it hard to comprehend which of his modest accomplishments has qualified him to be elevated to sit on the pedestal occupied by the likes of Justice ML Uwais, so far the longest serving Chief Justice of the Federation or Justice Abdul Koroma, a former Justice of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and head of the judiciary in Sierra Leone or the foremost constitutional lawyer, author and Advocate, Prof B O Nwabueze. Or evenJustice Zainab Bulkachiwa, the former President Court of Appeal.
I can visibly see Prof P O Idornigie scratching his head in equal amazement wondering how has he been found deserving to join the ranks of Justice IT Muhammad, the Chief Justice of the Federation, former law lecturer and Chairman of the Governing Council of NIALS. Or Justice UMARU Abdullahi, former President Court of Appeal, Former Chief Judge Katsina State and Chairman of today’s occasion. Or join the ranks of Prof IA Ayua, a former Director General of NIALS, Solicitor General of the Federation and, for many years, a distinguished professor and Dean of Law at ABU Zaria and Benue State University. Or Prof Jadesola Akande, former distinguished professor of Law and Vice-chancellor, LASU and another Amazon in the legal profession which doesn’t recognize ladies at the Bar.
But here we all are standing before you: honoured and elevated to the Premier League of towering Judicial Officers, living and deceased, who have served the nation meritoriously. To be among outstanding legal luminaries, living and deceased, who are household names and revered advocates and legal scholars of local and international repute. We are deeply grateful to the Governing council and the DG of NIALS for the recognition and the accolades.
For me personally, today’s occasion has afforded me an opportunity to reminisce. In 1997, l had the rare privilege to deliver a Special Lecture, similar to the one just presented by Prof Osipitan, on the occasion of conferment of similar honours to very deserving legal icons of the day. The title of my presentation was: The Nigerian Legal Profession: Towards 2010 and was published by the NlALS.
However, going through the list of it’s Publications on display, l cannot locate it. I am not too sure if it is out of print. Although l cannot recall the central theses of my presentation – and they may have no relevance or resonance today – little did l know then that today, a whole decade and a half later, would be my turn to be honoured. Only recently in February 2020, just at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, NIALS was gracious enough to host me on a one-year sabbatical leave. Regrettably, l could not fully utilize the facility offered nor spend much time within its premises due to the prolonged lockdown period. l recall that the most l could offer or participate in were virtual seminars.
Moreover and at the risk of personalizing matters, l know that the Chairman will indulge me one more favour to seize this moment to offer prayers for the repose of Mallam Alfa Ladan and Dr Abdulmuyassir Ladan. The former being Prof Tawfiq’s father of blessed memory and the Headmaster of Dantata Memorial School, Kano, my alma mater. He enrolled me to start off my elementary education in 1960 and nurtured me during those faltering infant days at the school. The latter was Tawfiq’s elder brother, a class mate of mine at ABU Zaria and fellow learned colleague called to the bar on the same day in 1979.
Professor Auwalu Yadudu, a legal scholars at the Bayero University Kano was Legal Adviser to former Military Head of State, General Sani Abacha
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