Hon. Justice Ilori: A Judicial Titan Goes Home – Tributes

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A valedictory court session was held last Wednesday, November 24, 2021, in honour of the 9th Chief Judge of Lagos State, Honourable Justice Samuel Omotunde Ilori at the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja. His Lordship who joined the Saints triumphant on October 12, 2021 at the age of 87, had an illustrious career. He also had an expansive Magistrate Court named after him, during his lifetime. He is here celebrated in Tribute by his daughter, Hon. Justice Olusola Williams (Rtd), Chief Mrs Abimbola Williams Akinjide, SAN, Hon. Justice Olabisi Akinlade and Olukayode Enitan, SAN. May the soul of the faithfully departed, rest in peace. Amen

Tribute to Our Dear Father

Hon. Justice Olusola Williams (Rtd)

Hon. Justice Ilori, the Family Man
Daddy was a responsible husband. I remember one time he travelled, and the DSTV subscription in the house had run out. He called me from London, to make sure I paid. He asked me to loan him the money…saying “Se o mo pe, nkan ti Mummy ma nwo niyèn.” A few years ago, when I went visiting, I saw him cleaning Mummy’s wound with methylated spirit or some other astringent. Interestingly, he called her a baby even as he winced. It is an open secret that, Daddy was the worst patient ever!
He looked after his wife, and that taught us how to be responsible. Like Sister Titi said, we all had to do vacation jobs. We earned money which we were to save, and use for extras in University. We learnt a culture of saving, and providing for ourselves.

A father to the Core, Daddy loved Children

Fatherhood was his very essence. He fathered many, from his large heart. A man who had eleven biological children and fully adopted three children, but made no difference between us all. He had yet many more children, some of whom were not his blood that he fathered and mentored. Only Daddy could have come up with the weird law that all his children, biological and non-biological, living under his roof had to come out to greet him when he came home from a hard day’s work. We all had to rush out as soon as we heard him tooting his horn. I guess he just loved the medley of “Daddy è kaabò; as Sister Titi mentioned in her tribute. But, his rationale for the law was, “mo fè mò oye òmò ti mo bi!”.
It is so amazing how he had time for his children, in spite of such a heavy workload! He had to come home to judge cases like …”The stolen fruit in the tree”, between a Lagosian and a cunning Ijesha man!

Daddy was a Disciplinarian Par Excellence

He poured so much into us. His parenting style was wonderful, but we didn’t realise it until much later. Daddy related to each one of us individually, personally, and knew us all well. He dealt with us individually…some of us ‘hummnn, koboko ya!’. Still, he knew when to stop the beating. I think I had withdrawal symptoms from the koboko! Someone like Ayo got a good talking to, that tamed him for days. Aboaba cut grass ‘so teyyy’! Sis Titi was facing the wall at home, on instruction given on the phone.
Bimbo was seen as delicate, and never beaten. I think Gbenga as the last born child, also escaped the koboko. Daddy taught us with strict discipline and hardship (which strengthened us), but never tried to break our spirit.
Like Aunty Yemisi wrote, Daddy taught us to be able to hold our own any and every where, to ask questions and discuss issues. Of course, when he cared to, he demolished arguments; but, at other times he deflected issues with humour, or only dignified us with a hiss. Or he would come up with something like: “Are you trying to talk like a stupid girl?”.
We had to come together as “Igbimò”(alabe shekele), to plan our discussions and arguments with him. Our first resolution was not to use the “tush” title Daddy for him in our deliberations, because he was too old fashioned. We gave him the title “Baba”. Daddy tried to resist that title sugbòn, “ihan igbimò jè”. In ra mo hian Igbimò….ki o ba dawò le o..o maa bò lube!” Unfortunately, we had a weak link…Ikèpò the Christian, who always repented and easily owned up when Daddy confronted us.

Baba of life!

He taught us never to have any sense of entitlement (guess that also helped a hardworking young man with many mouths to feed).

Once he dropped Kemi and I at GCA and left. We looked at each other and said: “wòn o ma fun wa ni pocket money!” But, we knew it was not a right, and braced up for a ‘lean’ term. He sent us money a few days later…I guess after he received his salary.
He was such a positive influence. He loved the legal profession, but Daddy never forced anyone to read law. He just expected us to be responsible and make wise choices, confident that he raised us right. Still he made law so exciting that Yemisi Kekere, Bosun, Gbenga, Mayowa and I, all read law.

He was a Born Teacher

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We were made to play scrabble games, that turned into stern grammar lessons. I remember him saying something like: “It is a simple rule of English language that a ‘q’ is always followed by ‘u’…so, what stupid word are you trying to form??”.
Daddy taught us respect. He respected any and every one. There was no high or low with him. He gave every human being his or her due. Even his grandchildren and great grand daughter of nine years, carried on real and meaningful conversations with him. He was never rude, nor talked down on people. He was humble and very comfortable in his own skin. There was never any preparation to receive VIPs; all guests were welcomed with warmth. He respected his children as individuals, and never shut us down even from a young age. I remember once Daddy asked Tunde how much he had saved from his vacation job, and Tunde replied that his account was his personal and private business. Daddy nodded, and respected Tunde’s position. The only problem was that when Tunde was going back to school and asked for money, Daddy reminded Tunde of the principle that everybody’s money is their personal business!
Daddy defined contentment. He was happy with his lot. He would never ask for favours. As Sope said, Daddy didn’t live a flamboyant life. He testified that Daddy always said to him; …”owo melo ni eniyan fè na?”.

He believed in Merit and Hard Work

Daddy was an activist. He would not demand special treatment or fight for extra benefit, but he would fight to ensure people were treated fairly. He went out of his way to help family members, but God help us his children if we did not work hard to earn our due. If you told Daddy that you needed his clout, for example, seek assistance with school admission, he would ask…”Kini ki nse ti mo ba de bè? Se mo ma dòbalè fun lecturer ni, abi ki nkunlè?” “Abi ki nkawò sèhi tèri ba?”.

He taught us to work hard, and to strive. We were expected to get things by merit, not favour. He was so proud of Poju, our Òga Òlòpa. He would have been so happy for Yemisi Kekere as she then was, now Honourable Justice Adelaja. Daddy Abiyamò tootò, has not stopped looking after his children. Since he departed, we have been experiencing rains of blessings….knowing him, Daddy is shaking things in heaven.

He taught us to be Grateful

Gratitude was a way of life with Daddy. He never took even us his children, for granted. In spite of the fact that he invested heavily in his children, he never demanded anything from us, or act as if being cared for in old age was his right. He thanked us for everything, apple, bread, books, Maltina, a day out…”Thank you my daughter”. “Thank you for coming to visit me. You know if you hadn’t come, I would just be alone here.”
He taught us sacrificial parenting craftily….”You need N100? Look in my wardrobe, under that blue agbada you will see something wrapped in a towel, open the towel, you will see a nylon bag, look in it, you will see an envelope…. bring that envelope. Ah, there is only N120 in it! OK…You take N80, and I will take N40. You need money more than I do.” Baba! Incidentally, he suspiciously never had more than that N120 or such sum in his wardrobe!
Daddy’s sense of humour was superlative. Those nicknames he was famous for include:

Kemi-Keminsin

Sayo- shankolo or shashansa
Sope- Somplicity
Gbolabo who graduated from Bombo to Gbolie
Anti Yemisi- O yemi gan gan
Layiwola was Layiwola kenge kenge

He could do Rhymes :

“Mo wa Titi titi ase Titi ti wa ni titi!”
Daddy lived a good life, though he had challenges like every human being and defied death so many times. His faith helped him to bear the loss of his daughter Lamide. He came out of one illness with an out of body experience, which strengthened and deepened his faith. He was undoubtedly Christian. Daddy taught us the way of Christ. He affirmed his faith so many times. He was so proud he obeyed God’s charge to him in that after life experience..to let his children serve Him.

As Gbolabo said:

“Dad was a Christian and a believer, and he raised us all as such”. He forgave easily, no matter how fierce his anger seemed. Most times, nobody else needed to intervene, but at other times, one of us children just needed to speak for the other, like Kemi fighting Daddy over his fight with Lanre.
We say thank you Daddy. We, your children, are grateful to you, and we are grateful to God for giving us such a great man as our father. We thank God, for the heritage we have been gifted with. AN INDELIBLE NAME.

Hon. Justice Olusola Williams (Rtd)

A Note of Comfort and Condolence to the Ilori Family

Chief Mrs Abimbola Williams Akinjide, SAN

In 1964 (May July), when I first met the Hon. Justice Ilori as a classmate in the three-month Law School Programme, there were others like him in that class who were destined for great heights: these include Hon. Justice Alfa Belgore (former Chief Justice of Nigeria), Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, SAN (former A.G. Federation), Hon. Justice Akinola Akintan of the Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Francis Owobiyi of the Lagos High Court, Mr. Dapo Fafiade, Chief Tobi Dafe, Chief Francis Ozomah of Niger Insurance Plc. Little did I know that our paths will cross again, on a closer family angle.
It so happened that my aburo, T.E. Wiliams, SAN (Tokunbo), the youngest son of Chief and Mrs Rotimi Williams, married Justice Ilori’s second daughter Miss Olusola Ajibike Ilori, who through the grace of God became Hon. Justice O.A. Williams, and now the founder of the Institute of Paralegal Services (IOPS). The WILLIAMS and ILORI dynasties were increased by two pretty daughters of that marriage, Eniola and Damilola.

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Hon. Justice Ilori’s Sound Judgements

There is no doubt that, Hon. Justice Ilori’s tenure in the Judiciary of Lagos State was a blessing in all respects. His illuminating and sound judgements in several areas of law, lent much to the administration of justice and the development of law overall. On several difficult and recondite issues of law, Hon. Justice Ilori always emerged as Socrates would. I saw this clearly first hand, whilst waiting for my turn to be heard in his court sometime in the 1980s. He had the difficult task, of dealing with the Estate of a particular famous religious leader.

Counsel for the estate, a seasoned SAN, argued before Justice Ilori on the spiritual aspect of promotion of the lineage of the said religious leader, by the several children he fathered through relationships which seemed to be very unusual. I recall Justice Ilori in a boomerang voice ruling against the argument presented before him, that the entire proceedings be stayed and the matter be referred to the Attorney-General of Lagos State and the Department of Social Welfare for thorough investigation. This was indeed, social engineering; social justice!

In the last years of his service in the Judiciary of Lagos State, the Almighty Father accorded him more grace and blessings, as the Chief Judge of the High Court of Lagos State. I had the privilege of working with him, as a member of the Judicial Service Commission of Lagos State. During his tenure, appreciable reforms were made in the Judiciary. The various appointments to the Bench under his watch were well screened, and turned out to produce Judges who are among the best in the Lagos State Judiciary.
It is sad to say goodbye to my class mate, my in-law and a respected Chief Judge.
The Ilori Family has lost a gem, indeed. “IPÈLÈ O, ÈYIN ANÒ WA”. I commend to our dear KEMI, SOLA and all their siblings, to hold on to the sweet memories of the noble and successful life of their patriarch. The Almighty Father will comfort and keep you all. I Pray that the soul of our departed Hon. Justice S.O. Ilori, will rest safely in the Lord.

Chief (Mrs) Abimbola Williams Akinjide, SAN

Tribute to Hon. Justice Omotunde Ilori (the HCJ Emeritus)
Hon. Justice Olabisi Akinlade

I met My Lord, a staunch member of Anglican Communion, at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral Church. However, I became close to him when he became the Hon. Chief Judge of Lagos State.

His Positive Contributions to Administration of Justice in Lagos
During My Lord’s tenure as the Chief Judge of Lagos State, he formed and chaired a Committee to improve the Administration of Criminal Justice in Lagos State, and I was the Secretary of the Committee. Other members of the Committee were the Controller of Prisons, Lagos State, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and other stakeholders in the Administration of Justice in Lagos State.
My Lord exhibited exemplary leadership skills during the meetings of the Committee, as he always chaired the meetings in spite of his tight schedule as the HCJ; hence, the Commissioner of Police and the Head of Prisons at the time, had no other choice than to attend the meetings where important decisions were taken to improve the Administration of Criminal Justice in Lagos State.

I make bold to say that through My Lord’s efforts, a lot of reforms were made in the Administration of Criminal Justice in Lagos State at the time. For easy access to justice, Magistrate Courts were built in Kirikiri Correctional Centre, inmates awaiting trial that had spent longer time in prison than the maximum period of imprisonment prescribed for the offences committed by them were released, under-aged children kept in the prison were released, and legal advices were promptly written by law officers. The Committee was very effective throughout its lifespan because deadlines were given for events, different assignments were given to each stakeholder, and members were also encouraged to give updates of events and assignments given by My Lord. I personally gained a lot, from My Lord’s exemplary leadership skills.

The Church Connection

Apart from crossing My Lord’s path as the HCJ Emeritus, we became closer when my society in AVMCC, the Band of Mercy made My Lord our society’s Patron, and he instantly became my Daddy as I fondly called him. As our Patron, he took much interest in all members and had affection for our families. Indeed, he was a doting father to us all.
Personally I will miss him; he was a brilliant jurist, a God fearing man, a good and caring father, a hardworking, diligent, honest Judge with zero tolerance for laziness and deceit.
I commiserate with my sister, Hon. Justice Olusola Williams, and the entire Ilori family. I pray that the good Lord will comfort and uphold the entire Ilori family.
May the soul of Hon. Justice Omotunde Ilori, through the mercy of the Lord, rest in perfect peace. Amen.

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Hon. Justice Olabisi Akinlade

Tribute to Justice Samuel Omotunde Ilori, 9th Chief Judge of Lagos State
Olukayode Enitan, SAN

I first met My Lord, Hon. Justice Samuel Omotunde Ilori (9th Chief Judge of Lagos State) as a very young Lawyer of less than two years at the Bar, through his friends who were my Principals Chief Adedeji Adefioye and Chief Duro Ajayi, with both of whom I cut my legal teeth in 1988/89.

Professionally

My Lord from that point was an object of tremendous fascination to me, due to his industry and brilliance, as well as his fatherly disposition in and out of the Courtroom. My Lord had the good fortune to have been everything a man could aspire for, as a pioneer staff of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice where he was Director of Public Prosecutions, Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, from where he then became the 9th Chief Judge of Lagos State. He shone brightly on the Bench, and the law reports speak eloquently of his brilliance.

After his retirement, My Lord blazed another trail by setting up Law Update Consultancy which became a Mecca for Litigants, Junior and Senior Counsel, as well as members of the Inner Bar who flocked thereto, to drink from the well of My Lord’s brilliance and erudition up till weeks before his passing.

Professionally, I had cause to do some work with him through Law Update Consultancy, unlike the atypical ‘oshomalo’ who seizes every opportunity to undermine others, My Lord never shortchanged me, but at all times ensured that my share of fees at 40% never stayed with him for more than it took the Client’s cheque to go through clearing. This was much unlike many others, with whom I cooperated with as a younger Counsel.

Personally

On a personal level His Lordship was a father and life mentor, who always had a word or two of wisdom and a bottle of wine available to share with me at each engagement, whether at home where it would often be, accompanied with either awo yimata, or with fried fish, or in his office where it got accompanied with peanuts or cashew nuts.

One of the life lessons I learnt from My Lord and which I hold very dear to my heart, is an out of chance encounter I was privy to, between him and one of his numerous Aburos (younger brothers) whose name I cannot remember, but whom My Lord referred to as ‘Defi’ in his Ijesha dialect (it is very much possible that he is here) and some of you may know who he his. Apparently, ‘Defi’ was going to turn 50 that year, this was sometime between 2006-2007. ‘Defi’ came to inform My Lord of his imminent birthday, giving an explanation of his plans, and how he was getting old and intends to begin to put things together. My Lord laughed and said in his Ijesha dialect ; “Defi, alè ti lè (David it’s not yet night); he then broke it down using himself as an example, that it is not yet evening nor night at age 50, and how after his retiring from office as the 9th Chief Judge of Lagos State aged 65 he never saw himself as retired, but as having been given an opportunity to ‘refire’ and that this ‘refiring’ period enabled him to earn more income than he made from his over forty years in Public Service. He went on to encourage Defi, that the age he was approaching is the beginning of a fresh lease of life, which he should approach with new vigour and determination.

I left him that day with that statement ringing in my head; “Alè ti lè”, and this informed my zeal to continue to pursue the quest to attain the epitome of my career as a legal Practitioner such that I remained undeterred when I was unable to succeed in the quest for Silk at past age 50, and ultimately attaining the rank at age 54.

My Lord loved life, and lived well. He was a bon vivant!

Thus, in remembrance of, and as a tribute to my Lord, I will urge that we all imbibe this statement which he epitomised, having by the special grace of God been able to ‘remain in harness’ even up till the very last week of his life; for indeed, until we depart this earth plane, ‘alè ti lè’.

May the eternal soul of Late Justice Samuel Omotunde Ilori (CJ Emeritus), rest in perfect peace. Amen.

Olukayode Enitan, SAN

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