By Cosmas Omegoh and Ndubuisi Orji
“ALL the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,…” says Williams Shakespeare in one of his writing.
For social critic, Tunji Braithwaite, it was time to exit the stage, as he passed on after 82 eventful years, yesterday, while Christians worldwide were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
His death effectively drew the curtain on his many years of political and social activism.
A man of many parts – lawyer, activist and politician – he would be remembered as a man who was never afraid to say his mind at any given time and on any issue.
Although, he had a very successful legal career, Braithwaite’s foray into politics did not produce the desired result for him.
Born in 1933, he was educated at the CMS Grammar School between 1946 and 1953, sat for his ‘A’ Levels at the London University at Kennington College in 1955, enrolled as Law student at the Council of Legal Education, London in 1957, graduated as a barrister in 1960 and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in February 1961. Thereafter, he signed the Rolls of Barristers at the High Court of Justice, Strand, London before returning to Nigeria, where he was enrolled as a Barrister and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in March 1961.
A fearless and controversial lawyer, Braithwaite in 1962 at barely 27, was one of the legal team that defended former premier of Western Region, the late Obafemi Awolowo in the celebrated treasonable felony case brought against him by the Federal Government. He also represented the late Afrobeat icon Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and his brother, Beko Kuti in the famous unknown soldier saga in 1977. In the case to seek redress against the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo, who had detained the duo, Braithwaite fought through the High Court to the Supreme Court.
Braithwaite joined politics in 1978 with the launch of his party, the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP) on October 7, 1978. In December 1978, three political pressure groups joined the party. However, the party was denied registration by the electoral commission based on insufficient grassroots support, an action he termed “ neo-colonialist nonsense,” because to him, “ you don’t need permission from any government to form association, to canvass for political positions, so that was where our disagreement started from.”
NAP was eventually registered prior to the 1983 general election and was one of the six political parties that participated in the presidential election that year. The campaign slogan of NAP in the 1983 presidential election was a promise to rid Nigeria of rodents, rats, mosquitoes and cockroaches, euphemism for corruption. The party ceased to exist after the military junta of Major General Muhammadu Buhari took over power in 1983, few months after the election.
However, the party came back to life in the present political dispensation, following the mass registration of political parties, after late Gani Fawehinmi floored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in court over the non-registration of his party, the National Conscience Party (NCP).
Braithwaite was a member of the 2014 National Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan to fashion out solutions to some of the problems confronting the nation. Until his death, he was in the vanguard for the implementation of the report of that conference.