Legal Luminary Profile: Chief Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN

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Chief Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, CON,OFR, FCIArb, Ph.D, Ph.D, LL.D, D.Litt, D.Litt, D.A, HonDL, JD, D.Phil, HonMA(HC), MA, LL.M, LL.B (HONS), BL, KSM, F.AES, FNIM, MNIPR, F.ITMN, F.ICA, F.chMC, FNIER, LFIBA, F.PEFON, FIMC, FchMC, FIARSA, F.hcd, FCLED, D.Arts, FIMC, F.IMS, FILAD, KSM, PHF,
AKAPAKPA VIGHIVIGHI EDOLAND ENOBAKHARE BENIN KINGDOM

Introduction

Chief Mike Agbedor Abu Ozekhome is a Constitutional Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, Pro-Democracy Campaigner, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), Bencher, Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM), Voice of the People (VOP), Senior Advocate of Nigerian Students (SANS), Notary Public of Nigeria, Patriot, Pan-Nigerian, Pan-Africanist, Author, Researcher, Scholar, Multi-Columnist, Philosopher, Thinker, Motivational Speaker, Social Critic, Public Affairs Analyst, Pro-masses Advocate and Knight of the Order of St. Mulumba (KSM). Ozekhome is a Chartered Arbitrator, Conciliator, Negotiator and Mediator.

As a student and lover of law, philosophy, logic, sociology, classics, literature, history, international affairs, and the scriptures, Ozekhome has a way with words. He possesses profound oratorical skills which enable him strike the right chord when he speaks, while painting mentally-recorded pictures with words. His deep erudition and incisive dissemination of ideas and strongly held opinions are a beauty to behold.

Place Of Origin 

The legal icon hails from Iviukwe town, near Agenebode in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria. His late parents, Chief Abu Ozekhome and Chief (Madam) Alimoh Abu Ozekhome, though of humble backgrounds, without material wealth, were keen lovers of education and knowledge, respected Chiefs and distinguished Community leaders, who inspired the young Mike and nurtured him with the best virtues and traditions of nobility, character and integrity that humanity can bestow – honesty, humility, good conscience, fear of God, hardwork, selflessness, service to humanity, courage and daring bravado.

Education 

This pro-masses prodigy attended St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Iviukwe, and St. Peter’s College, Agenebode, both in which he made the best graduating results in 1969 and 1974, respectively. He later attended the Baptist Academy, Lagos, in 1975 and the University of Ife (now ObafemiAwolowo University), (Ile-Ife), wherefrom he graduated in 1980, after losing one academic year to enable him change from his original course of English language to study to law, his passion from childhood.

His university externship was always with fiery Peoples Lawyer, late KanmiIsola-Osobu; while his NYSC was with the Federal Ministry of Justice, Yola, and later, Lagos, wherefrom he was seconded to the then National Provident Fund, Lagos (now known as Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund).

By 1982, Dr Mike Ozekhome was back to Ife to pursue his Masters degree programme in Law. He also lectured simultaneously, and thereafter, at the same Law Faculty.  Many of his students are today Judges, Justices of appellate courts,  Senior Advocates of Nigeria, top entrepreneurs, Diplomats, Captains of Industry, top military brass and Professors. He later joined the ever busy and pro-masses chambers of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, where he worked, first, as a junior counsel, later as a senior counsel; and finally rose to the highest position of Deputy Head of Chambers by 1985. In 2017, Ozekhome bagged his Ph.D (by Thesis) from Alliance International University, Lusaka, Zambia.

Ozekhome has handled many epochal cases that have helped to define and shape the legal regime and Nigerian legal jurisprudence, thus helping enthrone a favourable climate for the sustenance of human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law.

Law Firm And Legal Activities

In 1986, he founded the law firm of Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers, with thriving offices in Lagos, Abuja, Benin City and his home town, Agenebode. His law firms handle many cases probono. Ozekhome uses law as an instrument of social, political and economic engineering. He has handled and continues to handle many landmark cases that help redefine Nigerian Laws and jurisprudence, in all the appellate courts of Nigeria.

National Assignments Carried Out By Ozekhome 

In 2005, he was a federal government delegate to the National Political Reform Conference, (NPRC), representing Civil Societies. In 2009, he was a federal government delegate to the Vision 2020 Conference, to help chart a course for making Nigeria one of the twenty leading economies in the World by the year 2020, earlier in 2001, he had chaired the federal government panel that recalled many lecturers and students who had been politically victimized during successive military dictatorships. In 2014, he was a federal government delegate to the National Conference, wherein he was nicknamed the “Cicero of the Conference”, by the Conference leadership, for his sterling performance and contributions.

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Pioneer Founder Of Human Rights Organizations In Nigeria 

Ozekhome who speaks truth to power and crusades for human rights and Rule of law, is a strong pro-masses voice against impunity, corruption, repression and bad governance. Using law as an instrument of socio-economic and political engineering, Ozekhome in 1987 co-founded the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), the first human rights organisation in Nigeria. He was the pioneer Director of Legal Services and member of its Governing Board. In 1998, he co-founded the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who was chairman. Ozekhome was the National Vice Chairman, publicity and publications. He had, earlier in 1992, solely founded the Universal Defenders of Democracy (UDD), an international human rights and pro-democracy league. He also founded the Democratic Rights Agenda (DRA) and Peace Initiative (PI), a peace building and conflict resolution centre. Ozekhome was frequently detained several times, starting from 1986, on account of his human rights and pro-democracy activities, especially during despotic and repressive military juntas.

In 1990, Ozekhome was glowingly acknowledged by the Lawyers Committee For Human Rights, New York, in its 1989 and 1990 Annual Reports: “In Defence of Rights: Attacks On Lawyers and Judges”, as one victim of human rights abuses, in Nigeria.

Ozekhome’s Foundation, Books And Chieftaincy Honours 

Ozekhome later founded Mike Ozekhome Foundation (MOF), a wholly philanthropic and charitable organization, committed to helping the youth, widows, the poor, vulnerable and down-trodden. A consummate author who has written many law books and numerous national discourse books, he has attracted to himself numerous traditional and honorary chieftaincy titles from across the length and breadth of Nigeria, the most famous of which is AKPAKPA VIGHI VIGHI OF EDO LAND (Generalissimo and Commander of the traditional Armed Forces of Edo land). This is a title that was jointly conferred on him at Ekpoma, Edo State, on March 2, 2002, by all the 72 Traditional Rulers of Edo State, a feat never before achieved by any person.

National, International Honours And Awards 

Ozekhome has received over 400awards and honours, both locally and internationally. He holds the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Hons degree; Barrister at Law (BL); and 2 Masters degrees in Law  (LL.M), and another Masters degree (MA)  He also recipient of 10 honorary Degrees (honoriscausa), including a Ph.D, in addition to another Ph.D from Alliance International University, Lusaka, Zambia. These include Doctor of Laws (LL.D); 2 Doctor of Letters (D.Litt); Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil); Doctor of Administration (DA); Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD); Doctor of Letters (HonDL); Doctor of Arts (D.Arts); etc, from various Universities in Nigeria, USA, United Kingdom, Israel, Zambia, Turks, Carcos Island; and Belize City, Belize, Central America. A Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International, Dr Ozekhome is an International Ambassador of Peace, honoured with the award of Global Peace-Loving Citizen of the World, (GPLCW), the highest honour given out by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). He is also UN Ambassador [Eminent Peace]. He is a recipient to the keys of the cities of Atlanta, Georgia, and Dallas, Texas (2002) amongst numerous international awards.

He is recipient of the awards of Herbert Macaulay Leadership, African Global Integrity, Legend and Hero of Democracy, ECOWAS, Niger Delta Excellence, “Legal Icon in Nigeria”, by Guardian Newspapers, Icon of Peace, Icon of Societal transformation. Most Outstanding Young Person in Nigeria, by Jaycees International, Peter Benson Human Rights awards, etc.

Dr Ozekhome is Counsel at the International Criminal Court, at The  Hague, in The Netherland of 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century; UN Eminent Peace Ambassador; Ambassador for Peace, The Inter-Religious and International Federation for World Peace; Humanity Award by World Humanity Commission; Legal Adviser, Amnesty International(A.I.), Nigerian Chapter, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Youth Enhancement Organization (YEO), Member, Transparency in Nigeria (affiliate of Transparency International, Man of the year for Nigeria, by the American Biographical Institute (ABI), USA; Secretary-General, United Cultural Convention, International Man of the year by UCC, “Ambassador of Nigeria”, by the World Forum Federation (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015); inducted in to the American Hall of Fame (2011); honoured with a medal as one of the “Great Minds of the 21st Century” by ABI; “Lifetime Achievement Award”, by UCC; etc. Ozekhome is Honorary citizen and Ambassador of Goodwill to the state of Georgia, and City of Dallas, USA. He has been featured in many Biographies such as “Man of the Year, 1999”, by IBC, Cambridge, England, “One of 2000 Intellectuals in the World” by IBC, “One of the outstanding personalities of the 20th century” by IBC, “One of the 100 sports personalities of the 20th Century”, by Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Lagos State Chapter; one of the leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, published by GEM Communication Resources (2012); one of the 100 most outstanding lawyers in Nigeria (by Guardian newspapers), “The Patriot Recognition Award”, “J.S Tarka Leadership Award of Excellence” as “Kurutya U Bem” (Warrior of Peace)”, “Africa Development and Empowerment Merit Award” (ADEMA), “Lifetime Achievers in Legal Profession and Integrity Award, “Certificate of Meritorious Service & 21st Century Leadership Award”, “Certificate of Excellence 2020”, “Globe African Heroes Honours Award 2019”, Integrity Ambassador, “Business Hallmark People of the Year Award 2019”, “Award as Legal ICON of Nigerian (LIN)”, “Sir, Ahmadu Bello Sardauna Platinum Leadership Award”, “Distinguished Kingdom and Humanitarian Service Award, “Impact Humanity Achiever Award”, “Award of Advocate par Excellence”, “Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe Unity Award” as “Omeziri Ndi Igbo 1 Na Nigeria, “The Ada Idaha Ke Efik Eburutu, The Pillar of Strength of Calabar Kingdom”, “Award of ICON of Medical Development”, “Legal ICON of the year Award”, “Role Model Award”, Award of Excellence, Honorary Special Marshal by Federal Road Safety Commission, African Legacy Award, Africa Child Prize Award, Outstanding Achievers Award, Award of Excellence Gani Fawehinmi Students Chambers, Vocational/Community Service Award, Dividend National Achievement Awards, Gold Award, West Africa Leadership ICON, Presidential Pillar Award, Night of 100 Stars Award, Global Leader of Integrity Merit Award, West Africa Integrity Gold Award, “Legal Icon in Nigeria”, Legends Award, Great African Patriotic Achiever of the Year Award, International Exemplary Leadership Award, Pan African Partnership Golden Award for Professional Integrity & Productivity, National Hero African Hall of Fame Award, Outstanding Niger Delta Award, Professional Excellence and Humanitarian Service Award, African International Role-Model Leadership Gold Award, Diamond Award for Professional Excellence, Distinguished Service Award, “Peter Benison Award for Human Rights Advocacy” by Amnesty International, Knight of the Law Students Society (KLSS), Ecowas Distinguished Corporate Achievers Gold Award, One of the 50 leading corporate leaders of Nigeria, One of the Heroes of Democracy in Nigeria, Afenmai Millennial Award for Excellence, “Award of Honour” by Afemai Sons And Daughters Worldwide, “Special Recognition Award” by 8th Nigeria Festival of Awards; “Ambassadorial Award”; “Special Recognition Award” by “Pacesetters’ Schools”, “Outstanding Personality Award”, Nigerian Bar Association; Conferment of Award; “Golden Icon Award” by The Presidential Diary Magazine (PDM); The Patriot Recognition Award, The outstanding young person in Nigeria, The most outstanding Great Ife Alumnus Award, by Jaycees, One of the outstanding 100 youths in Nigeria.

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Ozekhome’s Fellowships 

Ozekhome is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration  (FCIArb); fellow, Academy of Entrepreneurial Studies (F.AES); fellow, National Institute for Education and Research (FNIER); fellow, Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM); fellow, Institute of Management Specialists (UK)(FIMS); fellow, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (F.chMC); fellow, Institute of Corporate Affairs Management (F.ICA); fellow, Institute of Trade and Management of Nigeria (F.ITMN); fellow, Professional Excellence Foundation of Nigeria(F.PEFON); fellow, International Association of Research Scholars & Administrator(FIARSA); fellow, Chartered Institute of Human Capital Development of Nigeria (F.hcd); fellow, Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC); fellow, Centre for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Development (FCLED); Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (FNIPR); Life fellow, International Biographical Centre (IBC)(LFIBA); fellow, Institute of Leadership (Assessment and Development Nigeria) (FILAD); etc, etc. Ozekhome has been conferred with the Honorary Special Marshal by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

Biographical Dictionaries In Which Ozekhome Is Cited 

Ozekhome has been featured variously in Dictionary of International Biography (“Who is Who in the World”), by IBC, Cambridge, England, 28th and 29th Editions, “Who is Who in Nigeria”, by NIBC, Lagos, “Who is Who in Nigeria,” by NewsWatch Publications Ltd.

Membership Of Some Organisations 

Amongst others, Ozekhome is a member of the International Bar Association (IBA), Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), African Bar Association (A.B.A), Pan African Lawyer Union (PALU), American Bar Association (ABA), Body of Benchers, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), National Executive Committee, Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Island Club, Usagbe Club of Nigeria, Etsako Club’81, Amnesty International, etc, etc.

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HUMAN RIGHTS AND PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVISM 

Ozekhome who speaks truth to power and crusades for human rights and Rule of law, is a strong pro-masses voice against impunity, corruption, repression and bad governance. Using law as an instrument of socio-economic and political engineering, Ozekhome in 1987, co-founded the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), the first ever human rights organization in Nigeria. The Orator was the pioneer Director of Legal Services and member of its Governing Board. In 1998, he co-founded the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who was chairman. Ozekhome was the National Vice Chairman, publicity and publications. He had, earlier in 1992, solely founded the Universal Defenders of Democracy (UDD), an international human rights and pro-democracy league. He also founded the Democratic Rights Agenda (DRA) and Peace Initiative (PI), a peace building and conflict resolution centre. He also founded the Mike Ozekhome Foundation (MOF), a wholly Philanthropic and Charity Foundation dedicated to helping the youth, the poor, widows and most vulnerable of the society. Ozekhome was serially detained several times, starting from 1986, especially during successive despotic military juntas, on account of his consistent human rights and pro-democracy activities. 

The generalissimo has over the years spoken truth to authority, challenged dictatorial anti-people decisions of any government in power, and insisted that the primary purpose of government which is security and welfare of the people cannot be compromised on the altar of fear, intimidation, sentiments and sheer emotion. An anti-corruption Czar who first propounded the theory that corruption is the 37th State of Nigeria, the wealthiest and most potent (which must therefore be killed before it kills us), Ozekhome has however kicked against impunity and insisted that the fight against corruption cannot be used to wantonly decimate the cherished rights, freedoms and liberties of the citizens; but must be fought within known parameters of Constitutionalism and the rule of law. Ozekhome’s crusades go beyond answering the questions. He also questions the answers. In discussing national issues with uncommon passion, Ozekhome does not leave any stone unturned and any turn unstoned.

Ozekhome’s passion for justice has pitched him now and again with authorities and ruling powers. He fights for the defenceless. He gives voice to the voiceless; empowers the weak, the poor, the denied, the pauperized, the traumatised, the marginalized, the hopeless, the oppressed, the hapless, the repressed, the subjugated, the ignored, the forgotten, and the struggling members of the hoi-polloi and Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”. In this mission, he was, over the years, (especially during successive military juntas), harassed, arrested and detained several times.

No words can more perfectly describe this legal prodigy than the very words of “Northern Youth Initiative for Peace and Good Governance” (NYIPGG), when it conferred on Dr Ozekhome, SAN, at Abuja, the “National outstanding Leadership Award, 2017 As Icon of Societal transformation”, on the 6th ofOctober, 2017. It wrote of Ozekhome in its citation, as follows:

“Integrity, credibility and success are not bestowed but are basically earned through an articulated vision, dint of hard work, professionalism and dedication. These are the variables upon which Chief Mike Ozekhome the Constitutional lawyer and human rights activists daily life revolves. He is a symbol of total embodiment and commitment to excellence in the act of public administration and management. He has continued to inspire and energize present and future generations by epitomizing outstanding management excellence, efficiency, transparency, prudence and selfless services in different capacities where he has served meritoriously”. A man who felt good is not good enough where better is possible, leaders makes things possible; exceptional leaders make them inevitable”.

Ozekhome’s Family Life 

Married to a lawyer and gender crusader, Lady (Chief) Josephine Mike Ozekhome, LL.M, with seven children, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a teetotaler loves sports and music, reading and writing, hot argument and debates, philanthropy, travelling and nurturing pets and plants.

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