Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me start my speech today by wishing all and one who are with us here today a very Happy New Year albeit belatedly, on the 28th day of the first month of the year 2021.
It is a matter to be extremely thankful for, because not a few people have sadly departed this planet in the throes of a virulent virus that changed our world in 2020 and which still continues to thrive in spite of efforts to bring it under control.
To all the dear departed, known and unknown, may their souls rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing to our civilization. In spite of the virus, we gather today for a very important purpose beyond wining and dining.
It is my humble view that this is a gathering to celebrate many values and virtues that make life really worth living and which are now regrettably not in enough supply. It is those values that I will speak about in this keynote address.
Let me start with the first that comes to mind, namely HONOUR; (in the sense of the VERB), and in this respect, the kind gesture of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Professor Lillian I. Salami, and the Alumni Association comes to mind.
I therefore would like, on behalf of all the Honorees (about whom I shall speak later), to thank the Vice Chancellor and the Alumni Association for the grace that informed this decision to honour our colleagues. I pray fervently that honour will never depart from the Vice Chancellor, the Alumni Association and all those unseen men and women who put this luncheon of honour together.
One of the things for which my wife, Abimbola has been a crusader about, is the need to celebrate the success of others, to Honour them, as an inspiration for promoting common Good.
We must therefore be, and are all, truly thrilled by this Gesture of Honour.
The other virtue about which I will speak is SELFLESSNESS. In a world where consideration for self now takes pre-eminence over selflessness, in a world where selfies (as in photographs) now dominate our conversation, I urge that we seek to enthrone more selflessness in our lives.
In this regard, I ask all of us to reflect and ask whether we will be here to celebrate senior advocates, if there were first no lawyers, and if we could celebrate lawyers without law graduates, and indeed if they could have been law graduates without successful law students.
The extended question in reflection is this: where would we all have been without our teachers in primary and secondary schools, in the University and the Nigerian Law School?
To all those teachers (lecturers if you like) living and dead, serving and retired I say thank you, I could think of none other as a symbol of our collective gratitude and appreciation of your selflessness than Professor Itsejuwa Esanjumi Sagay, SAN.
Professor Sagay was not alone; he had many good men and women who shared the burden with him and it would be invidious of me to attempt to name all of them.
Not only would such an effort be fraught with errors of omission, the time it would take suggests that our lunch would get cold, by the time I am done.
Therefore, to Professor Sagay I return, as the pioneer Dean of the faculty of law of the University of Benin, and it is his selflessness and that of those who worked with him that ultimately brought about this day and the success we gather to celebrate.
He and his team gave so much of themselves, so that we could become.
The elements could not have converged better than for six (6) graduates of the faculty he birthed, to be honored in 2020, the same year Professor Sagay turned 80.
Covid-19 made a party very risky, to celebrate Professor Sagay’s birthday, but I believe that I speak the minds of all who are here that we could never celebrate or thank Professor Sagay and his team enough.
Thank you very much Sir.
The next set of virtues and values I want to address are HARDWORK and DEDICATION. Without them, success such as we congregate to celebrate today is not possible.
- Chief (Dr.) Richard Oma Ahonaruogho, SAN
- Mr Adedapo Osariuyime Tunde-Olowu, SAN
- Mr Lotanna Chuka Okoli, SAN
- Mr Peter Adogbejire Mrakpor, SAN
- Mr Nureini Soladoye Jimoh, SAN
- Mr Yusuf Asamah Kadiri, SAN
A thunderous applause for your hard work and dedication.
Many, including my humble self, have walked your path. If it was difficult at the time I was preferred in 2004, I can only now imagine how much more difficult it must have been. There are many more qualified lawyers seeking the rank and therefore the competition is immensely magnified. The conditions that I have looked at for prequalification are more stringent.
For your dedication, hard work and ultimate success I doff my hat in admiration.
To all those in Uniben Law Alumni who are still aspiring, the magnitude of HARD WORK and the span of dedication it requires to succeed is not intended to deter but to challenge you to aspire. Afterall, you are the products of the great Uniben.
This brings me to the next subject of my focus in this speech which is COMMITMENT.
As I understand it from history, the University of Benin is the product of the farsighted and visionary commitment of men and women who sought to develop Nigeria’s human capital.
That vision has fructified manyfold, and it is still bearing fruit as is evident from the many products of this university who have, and are still occupying positions of leadership and responsibility in the private and public spheres of our nation.
That list is long and growing and I doubt that there could be a better tribute to the vision of the founders than what we gather to do today; to celebrate six (6) products of University of Benin who ascend to leadership role in the legal profession in the year 2020 when University of Benin commemorated its 50th (FIFTIETH) year of existence.
Of course, the rank brings fame and privileges, but it also imposes a huge responsibility of LEADERSHIP, to be used to improve the cause of justice and enthrone law and order for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria and her people.
You and I who are the beneficiaries of this rank must therefore always remember that we are products of Uniben. We must fly her flag proudly with our rank. We must not be afraid to break new grounds in the development of the law.
There perhaps would be no better time than now, in the 60th year of Nigeria’s independence to practicalize the motto of our university by putting all of our knowledge to the service of our Nation.
There are many ways to do this. But one that readily comes to mind is to offer our services in the Training and Development of the next set of Law students, Law graduates, Lawyers etc.
For the cause of law and order, no matter how difficult it is, we must find the courage to shatter any glass ceiling that stands in our way.
This is the Spirit of Uniben, where every good thing must be possible.
The spirit paved the way for all of us, when our chairman for this event, Chief Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan, SAN broke the glass ceiling in 2000, by becoming the first law graduate of this university to take the rank.
To our chairman, the Obasuyi of Benin Kingdom, I say thank you for your pioneering effort.
It is impossible to capture the essence of your pioneering effort in English, so permit me to do so in Yoruba by saying: “Tí orí kan bá sunwọ̀n, á ran igba.” The closest possible literal translation in English is that “when one person succeeds, it spreads a thousandfold.”
We have all benefited from your pioneering efforts, and although we are not yet one thousand senior advocates of Nigeria from the University of Benin, I believe that the day will not be far off.
My last word today, is to especially thank Chief Richard Oma Ahonaruogho SAN, an outstanding alumnus of this school for continuously organizing the periodic celebration of Senior Advocates of this university year in year out, even when he himself was then not successful in his application.
I am certain that when we have 1000 senior advocates, he will blow the trumpet for a celebration worthy of the occasion.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, learned Senior Advocates, thank you for your attention.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister, Works and Housing