Five members of the Nigerian legal profession replaced another five as state chief executives, following the inauguration of new administrations in the country last month. In this write up, ADAM ADEDIMEJI looks into the lives and achievements of these lawyers in politics and the changes they tend to bring to the polity given their background as attorneys.
Roscoe Pound, the great American Sociological Jurist once described law as an instrument of social engineering and lawyers as social engineers. As learned people, Pound submitted, lawyers are expected to use law to find solution to social and political issues of their time.
In Nigeria, it is not strange to have lawyers and members of the legal profession occupying important political positions. From colonial days and immediately after independence in October 1960, notable Nigerian lawyers have always occupied positions of authority or played leading roles in government. These distinguished personalities of the bar and the bench are usually found in the forefront of playing leadership roles in the government both at regional and at the central administration.
Not only was Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of Western Region, a lawyer, he was a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the highest and most prestigious rank any lawyer can attain. When Awolowo ceased to be Premier and was succeeded by Chief Samuel Akintola, the man who later became Deputy Premier to Akintola, Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode was also a lawyer. Fani Power, as Chief Remi was known, was a remarkable personality who brought the knowledge of law to bear on his activities on the political turf.
Other notable lawyers in high positions in government then included Bode Thomas; Chief Theophilus Benson; Dr. Teslim Elias; Justice Adetokunbo Ademola and many more.
The trend is not peculiar to Nigeria as some of the worlds most famous and effective leaders have been lawyers. The likes of Abraham Lincoln; Margaret Thatcher; Bill Clinton; Mahatma Gandhi; Tony Blair; Thomas Moore and the current President of the USA, Barack Obama, are all lawyers. Little wonder, many lawyers have distinguished themselves as leaders across the globe.
As Nigeria settled down to government business last month, it emerged that the legal profession once again produced six of their own as ambassadors in government. They are, Professr Yemi Osinbajo; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Simon Bako Lalong; Professor Ben Ayade; Nyesom Wike and Mohammed Abubakar who were sworn-in as Vice President, Governors of Sokoto, Plateau, Cross Rivers, Rivers and Bauch States respectively.
Five of them succeeded another five lawyers in the outgone dispensation. They are: Babatunde Fashola (SAN); Sullivan Chime; Godswill Akpabio; Lyel Imoke and Ibrahim Shema who presided over the affairs of Lagos, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Katsina in the last Goodluck Jonathan-led administration which terminated on May 29.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President
Yemi Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Lagos in 1978 and was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1979. He again received a Master of Laws degree from the London School of Economics in 1980. A professor of law, Osinbajo is often celebrated as a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos State, given his landmark and game-changing reforms.
Prior to his service to the Lagos State Government, Osinbajo was Head of Public Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos and Special Adviser to Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice between 1988 and 1992. He has over 31 years of litigation experience including significant trial and appellate work. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Osinbajo is presently the Senior Partner at Simmons Cooper Partners, a leading commercial litigation and corporate commercial firm with a multi-jurisdictional competence spanning Nigeria, the United States and the United Kingdom.
A member of the International Bar Association and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, Osinbajo is Co-founder & Board Member of the Convention on Business Integrity and the Justice Research Institute Ltd. In 2007, he co-founded with his wife Oludolapo, “The Orderly Society Trust”, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting good governance among other objects. He is a lucid author and much sought after speaker both locally and internationally. He is actively involved in the pursuit of legal education and justice sector reform in Nigeria, and is Pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Olive Tree Parish, Banana Island.
A native of Ikenne, the home town of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and husband to former Western Region’s Premier’s granddaughter, Osinbajo has authored, co-authored and edited several books including The Unification and Reform of the Nigerian Criminal Law and Procedure Codes; Law Development and Administration; The Annotated Civil Procedure rules of The Superior Courts in Nigeria; and,”Cross Examination: A Trial Lawyer’s Most Potent Weapon”.
Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State
Aminu was born on January 10, 1966 in Tambuwal Village in Sokoto State. He attended Tambuwal Primary School till 1979 and proceeded to Government Teachers’ College, Dogon-Daji, where he obtained the Teachers Grade 11 Certificate in 1984. He attended Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, where he read Law, graduating with an LLB (Hons) degree in 1991 before proceeding to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos and was called to the Bar in 1992.
He also attended Telecoms Regulatory Master Class, Bath UK, 2004; Lawmaking for the Communications Sectors, BMIT, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2004; Regulating a Competitive Industry UK, Brussels, 2005; Tulane University – International Legislative Drafting, 2005; Stanford Graduate School of Business – Influence and Negotiation, 2008 and KSG Harvard – Infrastructure in Market Economy, 2008.
An active member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), he was PRO, NBA, Sokoto State chapter from 1996 – 1997; member of the Constitution Review Committee of the NBA, 1997–1998; branch Secretary, 1997–1998 and Assistant National Financial Secretary of the NBA, 1998–2000. Tambuwal is also a member of the Body of Benchers, Nigeria; International Bar Association, and the American Bar Association among others.
Tambuwal started learning the legislative ropes from 1999 when he was appointed as Personal Assistant on Legislative Affairs to Senator Abdullahi Wali, the then Senate Leader.
In 2003, he contested for a legislative seat as representative of the Kebbi/Tambuwal Federal Constituency and won. In 2005, he became the Minority Leader of the House until he defected to the PDP. Upon his re-election in 2007, he was elected the Deputy Chief Whip.
He was a member of various committees in the House of Representatives.
He was leader of the Nigerian delegation to African, Caribbean, Pacific & European Union Parliamentary Assembly (ACP-EU) and served as Vice-Chairman, Economic Committee ACP-EU, held in Prague, Czech Republic in April 2009.
On October 28, 2014, Tambuwal formally defected from the ruling PDP to the opposition APC and few days later his security details were withdrawn by the Inspector General of Police a move that was criticized by a many well meaning Nigerians as being barbaric and undemocratic.
He contested and got elected as governor of Sokoto Sokoto State during the last General elections held on April 11, 2015.
Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State
Wike was born to the family of Reverend and Mrs. Nlemanya Wike of Rumuepirikom community, Rivers State. He holds degrees in Political and Administrative Studies as well as Law. After a brief stint with private legal practice, Wike was elected twice as the Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and served for two terms from 1999 to 2007. While in office, Wike also served as Deputy President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, in 2004 and was later elected the President of ALGON. He also represented Africa as a member of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum.
Wike distinguished himself as the best performing local government council chairman in Rivers State. As council chairman, he embarked on iconic projects that re-defined council administration and set the right example for his colleagues.
As ALGON National President, Wike played a pioneering role in national security and primary healthcare, leading all local councils to commit themselves to high level grassroots development across the country.
Between October 26, 2007 and May 28, 2011, Chief Wike served as the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt and was appointed the Director-General of Governor Amaechi’s re-election Campaign Organisation. On July 14, 2011, Chief Wike was subsequently appointed and sworn-in as the Minister of State for Education.
Following a cabinet shake-up, Wike emerged the nation’s Supervising Minister of Education on September 12, 2013.
As the Minister of State for Education, the fundamental programmes that were driven by Wike include the creation of access to quality education for 9 million Almajiri children in Northern Nigeria through the construction of dedicated schools in affected states, construction of basic education vocational training schools for out-of-school children in Southern Nigeria and Special Girl-Education Schools for less privileged girls in 16 states of the country.
The former Minister of State for Education also championed the free distribution of books across the nation. An estimated 60 Millions of textbooks and library resource materials have been distributed since 2011.
Determined to ensure that teachers have the capacity to deliver on the Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan administration, the former Minister initiated the training of close to 500,000 basic education teachers and school administrators.
As the nation’s Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Wike took proactive measures to resolve key challenges in the basic and tertiary education levels. Under his watch, the Federal Government established four new Federal Polytechnics, with one sited at Bonny, Rivers State. Wike facilitated the N1.3trillion Intervention fund for public universities in Nigeria, the very first of its kind aimed at reviving university education in Nigeria. He facilitated the revival of infrastructure in 51 State and Federal Polytechnics and ensured the construction of micro-teaching laboratories in Colleges of Education in Nigeria.
Wike became the PDP’s governorship candidate for the 2015 election in Rivers State on December 8, 2014 and went ahead to win the gubernatorial elections in the State.
A holder of several traditional chieftaincy titles, Wike is happily married to Justice Eberechi Nyesom-Wike, a High Court Judge with the Rivers State Judiciary, and blessed with three children.
Professor Ben Ayade of Cross River State
Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade was born on March 2, 1969. He studied at the University of Ibadan, Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma and Delta State University, becoming a Lecturer. An environmental consultant, he was appointed Chairman of the Ecological fund, Chairman of the International Institute of Environmental Research and a member of SPAC. He worked on Groundwater Remediation in Nigeria, and invented a sewage treatment plant based on solar energy. He won an award from the government of Japan for outstanding research into Global warming in Africa. He became a member of the Nigeria Association of Petroleum Engineers and the Cross River State Poverty Alleviation Board.
Before his election as governor, Ayade is a Senator of the federal republic of Nigeria representing Northern Senatorial District of Cross River State.
Muhammed Abubakar of Bauchi State
Abubakar was born on December 11, 1956. He attended Native Authority Primary School, Jos and Tudun Wada Primary School, Kano, from 1963 to 1969; Government College, Kano, 1970 to 1974.
In 1974, he enrolled for the one year programme of the School of Basic Studies, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, after which, upon successful completion of the programme, gained admission into the institution to study law in 1975.
The governor completed his law studies in 1978, attended the Nigeria Law School from 1978 to 1979, had his mandatory National Youth Service Corps and joined the services of Bauchi state’s Ministry of Justice as a Pupil State Council.
Among key positions he held while serving with the state government were Head of Legal Drafting Department, Bauchi State House of Assembly (1983), Director, Public Prosecution, Ministry of Justice (1988) and Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice (1990 to 1993.
After leaving the services of the state government, Abubakar was at different times, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kogi, Delta, Plateau and Rivers, and afterwards elevated to the position of National Commissioner in charge of Borno, Jigawa and Yobe.
Abubakar served the Nigerian bar as Chairman, NBA, Bauchi State chapter from 1996 to 1998.
Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State
A native of Ajikamai in Shendam Local Government Area of the state, Governor Lalong was born on May 5, 1963. He had his Primary School Education at R.C.M. Primary School Shendam obtaining his First School Leaving Certificate in 1977. He finished his Secondary Education at G.S.S Shendam obtaining his O’ Level Certificate in 1982 and S.P.S Keffi for his A’ Level in 1986.
Lalong studied Law at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree in 1990. He went to the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School and was called to bar in 1991. He obtained his Masters Degree in Law (LLM) from the University of Jos in 1986.
Lalong started his professional career in 1992 with T- Obot & Co. Legal Practitioners, Jos immediately after serving the mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) in the Legal Unit of Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) Abuja. He also worked with Victor Fomwul & Co. Jos from 1997 to 1999 as a Managing Partner. He later established his own chambers and was the Principal Partner of Simon B. Lalong & Co. Legal Practitioners.
In 1999, he contested election into the state House of Assembly andwon on the platform of the PDP. He was subsequently elected as the Speaker of the State House of Assembly in October 2000.
As Speaker, Simon Lalong’s rare leadership qualities earned him the record of the longest serving Speaker in the history of Plateau legislature (2000 – 2006). Also, while serving as a Speaker, his leadership qualities endeared him to his fellow Speakers across the 36 states in Nigeria who elected him twice as Chairman, Nigerian Conference of Speakers from 2001- 2002 and later as National Chairman, forum of all former Speakers of Nigeria.
Lalong contested for the Governorship in Plateau state in the April 2015 elections under the Platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and won.
These lawyers, no doubt are great leaders who many expected would deploy their legal skills and knowledge to find solution to the problems of the country so as to leave an indelible marks on the sand of time.