PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and prominent Nigerians from all walks of life, on Tuesday paid tributes to Second Republic Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide.
Akinjide died on Tuesday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. He was 88.
Head of Public Relations Unit of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan Mr. Toyin Akinrinlola confirmed his death
Akinrinlola said Akinjide, who was also Minister of Education in the First Republic, was brought in dead to UCH at about 2 am.
A family source said Akinjide died at his Ibadan residence during old age-related illness.
An Ibadan high chief, he attended Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife where he passed out with a distinction
The legal luminary was called to the English Bar in 1955 before being called to the Nigerian bar. He was into private legal practice before venturing into politics.
He was counsel to former President Shehu Shagari in the historic presidential election litigation that followed the 1979 presidential election which he won against the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, based on the controversial 12 two-thirds permutation.
The Supreme Court ruled that the verdict that gave victory to the late Shagari’s defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) against Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN) should not be cited as a judicial precedent.
Between 1979 and 1983, Akinjide served in the Shagari administration as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
The frontline politician worked closely with NPN National Chairman, Chief Adisa Akinloye, Chief Busari Adelakun, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, Chief Sunday Afolabi and other top notchers of the defunct party to install Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo as governor of the old Oyo State in 1983.
Akinjide joined the defunct National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) in the 50s. He was a prominent member of the Western Regional Caucus along with his former teacher at Oduduwa College, Ile Ife, Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku (SAN), Chief Theophilus Benson (SAN), Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya (SAN), Chief Odeleye Fadahunsi, Chief Olu Akinfosile and Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu.
He succeeded Jaja Wachukwu in 1964 as Minister of Education.
Akinjide defected from the NCNC to Western Nigeria Premier Ladoke Akintola’s Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP), which he served as regional secretary.
As Education minister, his decision to appoint Prof. Saburi Biobaku as Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos to succeed Prof. Eni Njoku sparked an ethnic row. Wachukwu, an Igbo, appointed Njoku, also an Igbo. Akinjide, a Yoruba, appointed historian Biobaku, also a Yoruba..
During the protracted crisis, Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who was visitor to the university, kept mute.
In 1967, Akinjide declined the offer of Commissioner in the Western State under the military rule because the announcement was made on the radio before he was informed by the military governor.
In 1970, Akinjide became the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) national president having defeated Chief TOS Benson, in a keenly contested election.
Between 1977 and 1978, he was a member of the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) set up by the Murtala Mohammed /Olusegun Obasanjo regime to fashion out the 1979 constitution.
Until his demise, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was perceived as one of the elders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State.
President Buhari said that Akinjide served Nigeria and humanity with his rich experience and knowledge.
Buhari, in a condolence message to the government of Oyo State, the Olubadan-in-Council and the Akinjide family, recalled the remarkable impacts the late Akinjide recorded while serving as Minister of Education and Attorney-General .
The President’s message was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Mr Femi Adesina.
The message said: “The President joins the Olubadan of Ibadan Court, the NBA and entire Judiciary in mourning the legal luminary, who used his rich experience and knowledge to serve the country and humanity.
“President Buhari prays that the Almighty God will grant the departed eternal rest, and comfort his family”, the statement said.
President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, described Akinjide’s death as painful.
Lawan referred to Akinjide as a man who carved a niche for himself as a “walking encyclopedia of the law profession” during his lifetime.
The Senate President said Chief Akinjide lived a fulfilled life and carved a niche for himself as a walking encyclopedia of the law profession having made his mark on the sand of time before his exit.
He noted that the erudite lawyer made great contributions to the legal profession as well as to the political and constitutional development of Nigeria.
“Nigeria will miss Chief Akinjide’s sharp legal mind, broad knowledge and wisdom gathered over several decades of discipline and hard work,” Lawan said in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media), Ola Awoniyi
Gbajabiamila, in a condolence message by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasis, said the former minister lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation, especially by the upcoming generation of lawyers in the country.
The Speaker stated his thoughts and prayers at this time were with the family of the late legal icon, the people and Government of Oyo State, and members of the Nigerian judiciary.
He said it was to the credit of the late Akinjide as Attorney-General of the Federation that Nigeria temporarily reversed the execution of armed robbers as well as abolished a decree banning those on exile from returning to the country.
He wrote: “Chief Akinjide (SAN) was an embodiment of diligence and dedication to nationhood. He did not only live an exemplary life, but he also ensured that he used his knowledge and experience for the betterment of Nigeria.
“I recall the laudable ideas he brought during his tenure as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice. That he became one of the reference points in the Nigerian legal profession was not a fluke, but by dint of hard work.”
The NBA also commiserated with the family, friends and associates of the former minister whom it described as ”a brilliant advocate and one of the finest of the legal profession.
”Chief Akinjide was called to the English Bar in 1955 and the Nigerian Bar subsequently. He was steeped in the ethics of the Bar. His place in the history of the Nigerian legal profession is well secured.”the association added in a statement by its President, Paul Usoro (SAN.)
The statement which was signed by the NBA National Assistant Publicity Secretary, Akorede Lawal, added in part, “Chief Akinjide was a renowned leader of politics and thoughts. His contributions to the Bar as President between 1970 to 1973 were immense.
“And until his demise, he was always on hand as the oldest member of the exclusive “Former NBA Presidents Group”
The statement recalled that the former minister whom the NBA president “often consulted on important issues concerning the legal profession,” would be sorely missed.