Passage of An Icon – NBA President’s Tribute to Late Chief Richard O A Akinjide, SAN

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The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has described the late Chief Richard O. A. Akinjide SAN as an Icon and a man of many parts who was generous with his time, intellect and experience. Mr. Usoro said this in a tribute to the legal icon who passed on in the early hours of today 21st April, 2020 at the age of 88.

Below is Mr. Usoro’s Trtribute:

  1. It was with great sadness that we received the news this morning of the passage of Chief Richard O A Akinjide, SAN, President of the Nigerian Bar Association between 1970 and 1973. The passage of Chief Akinjide has robbed Nigeria of one of its icons. This is a loss not just to the legal profession but a loss to Nigeria, as a nation, and it comes at a crucial time when strong and respected voices need to be heard in defense of our national ethos such as the rule of law, democracy, Nigerian unity and oneness as a nation, respect for the fundamental rights of our people and much more.
  2. Chief Akinjide was a man of many distinguished parts but first and foremost, he was a lawyer, a most distinguished one at that, and it was to the legal profession that he remained most faithful and was most passionate, even as a politician. The legal profession was the platform on which Chief stood at all times and it was the legal profession that showcased his talents and attributes and recommended him for other national assignments and services. It was on that podium of the legal profession that Chief Akinjide was most comfortable and indeed spent most of his adult life serving and defending the rule of law and justice. Illustrative of this is the fact that Chief Akinjide’s arguably most notable and distinguished political life was as the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation (“HAGF”) and Minister of Justice in Nigeria’s Second Republic under President Shehu Shagari, GCFR – a political office that then and up till date has almost entirely the trappings of the legal profession.
  1. It is also remarkable and noteworthy that after an illustrious career as a politician and Honorable Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Akinjide returned to legal practice and literally remained active in practice almost to his dying days. A number of distinguished politicians and political office holders of the Akinjide era were of that mold. In that bracket belongs legal titans such as the late Chief F R A Williams, SAN and Mr. Kehinde Sofola, SAN both of blessed memory who at some point in their lives and careers, held political offices but retired to full-time and very active legal practice thereafter and remained faithful to the profession up to their death. Late Kehinde Sofola incidentally was also HAGF and Minister of Justice in the second term of President Shehu Shagari, GCFR. That generation of legal practitioners and public office holders left a worthy example for today’s professionals who find themselves in public or political offices. Extremely few of today’s political office holders return to legal practice or their respective professions after political office.
  1. It of course takes complete confidence in oneself and one’s capabilities to turn ones back on political office and return to one’s primary profession. From that perspective, Chief Akinjide was a very confident and self-assured person. He knew that the profession made him renowned and created the pathway for his political successes, not the other way round. He therefore remained true and faithful to his profession no matter what political or public office he attained in life. We celebrate and commend his standards and fidelity to the profession to the politicians and public office holders of today, particularly our colleagues in public office.
  1. Chief Akinjide was also generous with his time, intellect and experience. As the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, he was outstanding, most distinguished and very welcoming. He was also, at some point, the Chairman of the Body of Benchers and until lately, never missed the meetings of the Body of Senior Advocates where he presided as the Chairman. I related closely with him during his time as the Chairman of BOSAN and he was always approachable and willing to share his knowledge and wisdom with those of us who were his children’s age mates. He mentored the young unreservedly. The Nigerian Bar Association and indeed the legal profession will miss Chief Akinjide but more so will Nigeria. To his immediate family, we offer our deepest condolences. Be assured that you are not alone in your grief; we grieve with you but take solace in the man that Chief was. Farewell, Chief, and rest well.
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