By Oki Samson
* Pays homage to Sagay, Ahonaruogho, Uwensuyi-Edosomwan, others

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN yesterday delivered the keynote at the University of Benin’s Luncheon to celebrate six newly honored Senior Advocates of Nigeria who are products of the 50-year-old citadel of learning.

Pivoting his eminent speech on six virtues of honour, selflessness, hard work, dedication, commitment, and leadership, the learned fellow commenced: ‘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.’

With a point to ponder for all, the former Governor of Lagos remarked: ‘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’

He heaped praises on his teacher Prof. Itse Sagay who turned 80 in 2020, ‘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.
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. He and his team gave so much of themselves, so that we could become.’

The erudite lawyer who became a SAN himself in 2004 also praised 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, and Mr Yusuf Asamah Kadiri, SAN for their hard work and dedication towards ensuring that UNIBEN law graduates who are qualified can attain the leading status.

He extolled the chairman of the event, Chief Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan, SAN who ‘broke the glass ceiling in 2000, by becoming the first law graduate of this university to take the rank.’

‘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.”, he eulogized the Obasuyi of Benin Kingdom.

Now in its 50th year of existence attained in 2020, the Minister celebrated the farsighted and visionary commitment of the founders of the institution who sought to develop Nigeria’s human capital. He also thanked the Vice Chancellor of UNIBEN, Professor Lillian I. Salami, the Alumni Association, and the organizers of the luncheon.

On the implication of the status of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Fashola was emphatic. ‘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’, he urged all new and existing SANs from UNIBEN.

To aspiring SANs, he encouraged, ‘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’.

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