A wise man said, “It is madness to make fortune the mistress of events, because by herself she is nothing and is ruled by prudence.” I don’t know how far you might want to agree with this statement but I am sure that prudence is certainly profitable to direct ones affairs. However, the big question is whether “Diligence,“ or prudence alone as asserted by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra “is the mother of all good fortune?”
The immediate cause of these cogitations is the good fortune associated with the Law Chambers of Olujinmi and Akeredolu (O & A) which has produced four Attorneys – General at different levels in Nigeria, of legal practitioners who are either still of the Chambers or have passed through thereof at one time or the other.
The Law Firm is a partnership of which Chief Akin Olujinmi, CON, SAN and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN are the principal partners. Now, I put it to you that you know or ought to know that Chief Akin Olujinmi was a former Attorney – General of the Federation (of Nigeria). Yes, it was that same Chief Akin Olujinmi who occupied the office between 2003 and 2005. But he was not the first Attorney – General from that Chambers. His partner, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Aketi) had been Attorney – General for Ondo State between 1997 and 1999. He later went on to become President of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Now, it came to pass that some years ago, certain young men just then qualified as legal practitioners, looking for where to commence their careers, joined or were employed in this Law Chambers. Two of them were Ojo Adebayo Esq., and Oluseun Abimbola Esq. They left after some time and set up their own practice. However, what is interesting is that Ojo Adebayo Esq., is the immediate past Attorney – General of Oyo State and guess who succeeded him in office? It was Oluseun Abimbola Esq., who is the current Attorney – General of Oyo State. May we also put it on record here that a former member of the Chambers also currently occupies the office of Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, in the person of Hon. Michael Adeyemo. Meanwhile, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN is the Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming elections in Ondo State. We can only wish him success.
You might want to ponder the following words credited to Eric Ambler as follows: “Yet, when these facts are seen side by side with other facts in the case, it is difficult not to become lost in superstitious awe.“ On our part, we will counsel against being superstitious, instead of which we recommend diligence, coupled with prayer.
The Jurisconsult went on the trail of one of these Attorneys – General, Ojo Adebayo Esq., (OJ) whose law practice is also in partnership with a former colleague, Kazeem Gbadamosi (KGB), a former Chairman of the Ibadan Bar, also formerly of Olujinmi and Akeredolu. We had the following conversation with the former Attorney-General:
Your former colleague from Olujinmi and Akeredolu succeeded you in office as Attorney-General of Oyo State, what’s the secret that all of you are becoming Attorneys-General?
In fact, we were also called to the Bar in the same year, 1993. The fact of the current AG being formerly of Akeredolu and Olujinmi like me, is coincidental. And he was not the only person who was considered for the office. Others too were considered, only that he was the preferred person.
Some have advocated a separation of the office of the Attorney-General from that of Commissioner for Justice or Minister for Justice, with benefit of experience, what is your opinion?
I don’t see any purpose the separation would serve. The problem is not the combination of the offices but how independent minded or how competent the person occupying the office is.
But how can the AG be made more independent, especially in taking decisions which have political implications?
The Attorney-General is the Chief Law Officer. He needs only to refer to the relevant Laws when giving advice and with that, there should be no problem.
What can be done to solve the slow administration of justice, both criminal and civil, in this country?
I agree the administration of justice is slow. One step towards solving the problem is the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. The number of adjournments in criminal proceedings have been limited, likewise the provisions limiting the right of appeal. Civil Procedure too should follow suit. Judges taking notes in long hand should be stopped. These measures will enhance speed.
In your opinion, what is the ideal frame of time within which legal disputes ought to be resolved?
I think 6 months is sufficient to resolve disputes. Anything beyond that is not reasonable.
We have had some contradictory judgments and rulings in this Country, on PDP Convention, on Abia Governorship, what is your comment?
These are very unfortunate. But Judges are not only to blame but lawyers too. Filing two similar cases on similar facts is an abuse of Court process. Could such occurrence be collusion between lawyers and the Judges involved?
When lawyers are in government, it is perceived that their statements do not necessarily reflect the position of the law, what is the problem here?
The problem is the occupant of the office or the person making the statement. Like I said at the beginning, it is a question of integrity. But this affects lawyers not in public office too, depending on where their bread is buttered.
How can the problem of corruption in the administration of justice be addressed?
Simple, appoint people of integrity as Judges, whose primary purpose is not acquisition of material wealth.
So what is wrong with the current system of appointment?
The current appointment process is open to a lot of abuse. It sacrifices merit for mediocrity. Federal character is not bad but bring the best from the area to be represented.
Have lawyers in government made any impact in governance, positive, negative or no impact at all?
We cannot group lawyers in government together. It depends on the individual, whether the person is ready to serve humanity. The excellent performance of Fashola (Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN, now Minister of Power, Works and Housing) as Governor in Lagos State is a reference point.
Your practice has been based on a partnership now for a good number of years, what can you say in regard to partnership model in legal practice?
Partnership should be encouraged among lawyers. Two good heads are better than one. Consider my time in office, it would not have been good enough for the office if our practice had not been a partnership.