TRIBUTE TO A LEGAL ICON – LATE CHIEF RICHARD OSUOLALE AKINJIDE (SAN)
Death is a part of life. Chief Osuolale Abimbola Richard Akinjide has come and gone but the memory of his traverse on the planet earth will continue to linger till the end of time. A seasoned renowned Nigerian Lawyer, highly cerebral and astute politician of note in his life time.
Chief Akinjide who was born in the city of Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State in the Southwest of the country in the early 1930s to an influential family of warriors, was a foremost lawyer and Ibadan High Chief. He attended Oduduwa College,Ile Ife from where he passed out in Grade One (Distinction, Aggregate 6).
A Frontline Yoruba leader, Chief Akinjide was a Minister of Education in the First Republic during the Government of Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and Minister of Justice in the Second republic, during the administration of President Sheu Shagari.
He was a member of the Judicial systems sub-committe of 1975-1977 and later joined the National Party of Nigeria in 1978. He became the legal adviser for the party and was later appointed the Minister for Justice.
It was under his watch as Attorney General that Nigeria temporarily reversed executions of armed robbers, abolished a decree barring exiles from returning to the country and many other reforms.
The man , Richard Akinjide will forever be remembered in the political history of Nigeria especially for his witty and cerebral prowess in profering a solution to the circumstances surrounding winner of the 1979 General election. When it was apparent for the then winner of the Presidential Election, Alhaji Sheu Shagari to fulfil the second condition given by the electoral act for a presidential candidate to be declared a winner, which was that candidate must have one quarter of votes in two thirds of the states of the federation.
This was where Akinjide’s mathematical ingenuity played out against a team of seasoned mathematician assembled by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, his close rival, who had gone to court to challenge if Shagari had satisfied the requirement of one-quarter of votes in two-thirds of the states of the Federation. The controversy on how to get the two-third of nineteen (19) led to a legal tussle between the two parties and their loyalist. While defending Shagari in court , Akinjide argued that the two-thirds of 19 is 12 2/3 and not 13.
Convincingly, in his argument, the Supreme Court eventually upheld the verdict of the election tribunal and ruled in favour of Shagari.
When eventually Shagari became Nigerian President, Akinjide was rewarded for his “Mathematical Wizardry” in court with the portfolio of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation.
The late legal luminary believed Nigeria’s problems started when the military returned into government. He said military has no business in government but rather to protect territorial integrity of the nation. He attributed military incursion into politics as the greatest mistake we made in the history of Nigeria and had hope this country will never make that mistake again.
Akinjide had maintained that Nigeria , come what may, will remain one indivisible entity. He was a member of the parliament when Nigeria was granted independence on October 1, 1960. Also,he was a member of the confab called in 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan to chart a way forward for Nigeria.
Late Chief Richard Akinjide foray in both legal and politics of Nigeria shall forever remain indelible in the history of our great country.
Chief Akinjide would be sorely missed.
May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.
*Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye*