Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected])
Like torrential rain, encomiums showered on retired eminent jurist, Prince Bola Ajibola, when he hit the milestone age of 85 years, recently.
To mark the day, the Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, which he founded, held the 13th Founder’s Day Lecture at the university’s Bola Ajibola College of Law (BACOLAW) Auditorium, in honour of the retired Judge of the International Court of Justice (IJC) at The Hague, Netherlands.
It is noteworthy that the Senate and Governing Council of the university put the Founder’s Day Lecture as a major event on the institution’s calendar to mark the birthday anniversary of Ajibola, who is the proprietor of Crescent University and incontestably Nigeria’s longest serving Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
Moreover the day provided an apt opportunity to present laurels to four distinguished Nigerians, namely, Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed Mamara, Alhaji Rafiu Ebiti, Sheik Caliph SA Adenekan and Prof. John Adewale Abolurin, who won this year’s Bola Ajibola Community Award for Excellence. The award was bestowed on them in recognition of their contributions to philanthropy and human development.
The Bola Ajibola Community Award was instituted in 2018 to recognize and reward excellence in personalities who have made their marks in different endeavours.
Alluding to a popular quote of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Ajibola said that the “recognition of greatness in others is in itself greatness,” and stressed that the 2019 awardees eminently qualified for the award.
Prince Ajibola’s birthday anniversary happened in the heat of the allegations that the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, did not declare his assets. For this, he was charged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, but he filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, where he spiritedly challenged his arraignment. Eventually, the trial went on and he was found guilty, though he has appealed against the judgement.
For Ajibola, the mere whiff of such allegations against a sitting justice of the Supreme Court was a troubling development, especially as it came long after the Department of State Services, DSS, had raided the homes of some other jurists as part of the anti-corruption campaign of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. In the ensuing legal ping-pong over whether the former CJN should step aside or not, Prince Ajibola bared his mind in an interview with a newspaper.
He said: “It is a very delicate matter, the moment a judge is to take a decision on an issue linking up with himself, connecting his own proprietary, being found wanting on issues of which he is supposed to be a judge as CJN, it is stepping on very dangerous ground and a very special care should be taken and that care should be one in which he should be free from any iniquity himself.
“He should not be found wanting, he should not be suspected of anything at all. In other words, he should not be corruptible. As a result, once the CJN is tainted, it becomes a terrible situation for the judiciary and the judiciary must handle with care and trepidation. Because he should not become a judge unto himself. But having said that, such allegations must be carefully looked into, must be carefully checked. He should be given the opportunity of being heard.”
More than three decades ago, when he was the Attorney General of the Federation, during the regime of former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, he had presided over the country last Law Reform. At the time, the incumbent Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo served as his Special Assistant, and the cankerworm of corruption had featured prominently in their work as they looked at the legal structure for combatting “grand corruption: as VP Osinbajo loves to describe it.
Ajibola has spent his life in the service of humanity, starting off as a legal practitioner, rising to become a distinguished jurist and philanthropist.
When the providence provided the opportunity after he had served as Attorney General, he was elected as Judge of the International Court of Justice (IJC) at The Hague, where he served until his retirement as a jurist.
A product of Baptist Boys’ High School Abeokuta, Ajibola also served in other high profile capacities