The happiest woman on earth on the evening of March 1, 2021 was a Nigerian, a Senior Advocate, a matriarch and a grandmother, watching via ZOOM, her beautiful mulatto granddaughter, about the age of eight or nine, playing her banjo-sounding acoustic guitar and serenading her with the song: What A Friend We Have In Jesus. A song specially adapted for grandma who bears the same name with her: Abimbola Williams! A grandma who was marking her 80th year on earth, even though she doesn’t look that antiquated. She could pass for a woman at 70.
For me as a journalist and a biographer, watching Chief Mrs. Abimbola Williams-Akinjide SAN’s 80th birthday live on my iPhone, a grand birthday watched virtually by invited guests from all over the world, the virtuoso performance of the little granddaughter Miss Abimbola Williams was the showstopper. The jewel in the crown of that evening’s splendid birthday celebration which attracted a resounding applause from VIPs like the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, GCON, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Commonwealth Secretary-General 1990-2000), Chief Mrs. Folake Solanke SAN, Nigeria’s first female Senior Advocate, Chief J.K. Randle, the renowned accountant and socio-political commentator, Julie Coker, the former beauty queen, iconic TV journalist and broadcaster who herself was 80 in 2020, Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN, Olumide Akpata, President of the Nigerian Bar Association and many distinguished Nigerians, home and abroad.
As a grandfather myself with a young granddaughter, I could easily resonate with the pristine picture of this young lady giving the “keynote address” which started with an Anglicized Yoruba greetings: “Ekaasan, grandma.” (Good afternoon grandma). She then continued: “I will like to wish my grandma a happy 80th birthday. You are kind and very warm-hearted and I love you so much. As your namesake, I will follow in your footsteps. I have so many great memories of you that I will always remember. Today, I am going to play a song for you and I hope everyone listening will enjoy it. May the Almighty God bless you.”
She then started to play her guitar and sing along to the familiar tune given a new twist. I can imagine Mrs. Abimbola Williams-Akinjide’s head swollen with pride and joy. With everybody chorusing the fact that at 80, she is still young-looking, beautiful, godly, Holy Spirit-inspired prayer warrior and a passionate woman with law in her blood.
At the age of her granddaughter who wants to follow in her footsteps, Mrs. Williams-Akinjide was already acting prophetically as a little lawyer. She told me in my forthcoming book, “COURTROOM AND LAW FIRM STRATEGIES—Senior Advocates Share Their Experiences,” about how as a little girl she had a lawyer’s instinct and attitude, up to the point of appointing her famous uncle, the late Chief F.R.A. Williams as her childhood lawyer:
“I remember my father and my uncle confirmed that as a little girl, anyone who annoyed me in the household got reported by me to my uncle. I would say: ‘You just wait. I will sue you. You will get a summons.’ I would then march to the office, report whosoever offended me to my uncle indicating that ‘I want to sue the person’. He would then call his clerk, he would scribble something on a paper and give the clerk with instructions to serve the person I reported. The clerk would follow me and we would go and give that person the paper. I would be saying something like: ‘You will see trouble. I have told my lawyer to sue you.’ That was how I got pacified when anyone annoyed me. I grew up knowing that law was something that one would use to seek redress for wrongdoing. If as a child I could take that action, then that satisfied me that there is something in law that is useful for redress when you are wronged. You can get redress through the law. My interest, of course, was in becoming a lawyer just like my uncle, just like my grandfather. My uncle’s children share this passion along with majority of their own children who are now lawyers, including my eldest son.”
It was an evening of tributes to Mrs. Williams-Akinjide. In a column like this, it’s not possible to report every tribute. Let me confine myself to two tributes that capture the essence of the ageless birthday girl, an advocate per excellence and a woman strong in spirituality. Let’s hear from the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo, the great cross-examiner I surely hope to interview and include in my forthcoming law book, COURTROOM AND LAW FIRM STRATEGIES:
“If ladies could look as pretty as this at 80, both yourself and your ‘twin’ sister and friend Dolapo Sokefun, there must be something that you must teach and tell the rest of us about how to look so young and so pretty and so good-looking. Professionally, you represent a breed of lawyers that at some point defined the legal profession in Nigeria: well educated, well-bred, integrity, ethical conduct and self-assured. Nobody needed to second-guess your motives when you made commitments and undertakings in court. Because we all expected the utmost forthrightness from you. And we were always right. So, in many ways, you are the model lawyer—male or female—and exemplary Senior Advocate of Nigeria. And I just heard Chief Mrs. Folake Solanke SAN, the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria say so many great things about you. And they are all very well-deserved. But as an aunty, you have always been very kind-hearted, loving, generous and concerned about everyone’s health and well-being. Through the years, you have been consistent in that excellent character and we are all immensely proud of you. We are all honoured and so blessed that you are part of our lives. I think the most important accolade is the one Aunty Dolapo Sofekun talked about: that you are a child of God, but not just in word but in deeds as well. So today, I pray that you will live more years in joy, peace, in divine health and prosperity.”
Chief Emeka Anyaoku: “The last time I saw you, I couldn’t believe you were nearing 80. There must be ladies eager to obtain your secrets for looking as well and as fit, as attractive and as pretty as you are today. Your late husband Chief Richard Akinjide was a good friend of mine. I remember how he chaired the exhibition of my life so far at the Booksellers in Ibadan. He was a very happy man and he told me he was very fortunate to have married you. One of the earliest speakers spoke about the happiness you brought to him for the remaining years of his life. Bunmi and I are delighted to raise our glasses to toast to your 80th birthday and to express our prayer that our Good Lord will give you many more years of good health and happiness.”