My first appearance in court – Olanipekun
By Asiwaju Wole Olanipekun SAN
I was lucky to be one of about three hundred of us that were called to the Bar in July, 1976. To all of us, it was a new dawn; a new beginning; a ‘birthday’ of sorts; and if you like, a day of open heavens. The Chairman of the Body of Benchers, who chaired the ceremony, was Honourable Justice G. S. Sowemimo, GCON.
As a young lad, I particularly looked at the array of eggheads in the profession who lined out to call us to the Bar, they included Honourable Justice Adetokunbo Ademola, GCFR, former CJN, Sir Danley Alexander, former CJN, Honourable Justice Augustine Nnamani, SAN, former JSC, who was then the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Honourable Justice Mohammed Bello, GCON, Chief Toye Coker, SAN, Chief Dr. G. C. M. Onyuike, SAN, Chief T. O. S. Benson, CFR, SAN, Hon. Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams, GCON, Chief R.O.A. Akinjide, CON, SAN and Hon. Justice A.G. Irikefe, GCON. The likes of Alhaji A. G. F. Abdul-Razaq OFR, SAN, Hon. Justice Kayode Eso, CON, Chief F. R. A. Williams, CFR, QC, SAN and Hon. Justice Mamman Nasir, GCON, were also in attendance. Right there, I gazed at the array of the potentates of the legal profession therein assembled, and inside me, I fervently prayed to God that come one day, I would be like them.
After we were called to the Bar, I proceeded therefrom to enlist for NYSC, and was subsequently posted to Ilorin, Kwara State. I did my primary assignment at the then Kwara State College of Technology (now Kwara State Polytechnic), where I lectured Accounting and Business Law Students in Company Law, Business Law and Legal Methods.
It was after this service year, in July, 1977, that I forayed into legal practice, as a junior counsel in the Chambers of Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi & Co. at No. 107, Emir Road, Ilorin. I was the first junior counsel to be employed at the Chambers, and my Principal, the late Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi, treated me like his nephew, while I took him like a big uncle. I enjoyed my stay with him, as he gave me a free hand to explore the practice of law.
The very first day he led me in court, we appeared before the Honourable Justice Gilbert Obayan in a divorce matter, Okin v Okin. By 9.00am, the court sat and there was a call over of the cases for the day, in the process of which Obayan J. stood down our case till 12 noon for definite hearing. My Principal, Alhaji Oniyangi, asked me to wait in court, while he drove back to the office, with a promise that he would be back by 11.30am so that he could lead me in the hearing of the matter at 12.00 noon.
By 12.00 noon, when the case was called for hearing, my Principal was unable to make it back, as he had to leave Ilorin for Benin shortly after he left the court in the morning on an impromptu, very urgent assignment. He sent a message to me that I should plead with the court to adjourn the matter, and so I did; but, the Judge would not take such a plea from us, as he insisted that the matter must go on.
As you can imagine, I was nervous and had the shakes. I informed the Judge of my being a green horn, having just been called to the Bar, but he insisted that the case must go on that day as it had been on the cause list for too long. In those days, oral advocacy was in its primacy, unlike now when written addresses are prepared and merely adopted at the address stage. I had no choice, but to conduct the trial.
Before adjourning the matter for judgement, the Judge applauded my performance and encouraged me to keep it up. That was the tonic I needed to dive into active legal practice, without any further trepidation.
Culled from Chief Wole Olanipekun’s interview with Thisday Newspapers
Dear readers, we really need your support to keep on serving you with authoritative, truthful, and juicy stories everyday. For your support, please reach out to the editor @email@example.com