Describing the All Progressives Congress National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire in different images, a majority of his schoolmates, political and professional associates flagrantly referred to him as rascally on the occasion of his 50th birthday at the weekend, but not without extolling his virtues as a renowned legal luminary, teacher and prominent Lagos politician. Shola Oyeyipo writes
On Thursday, October 6, 2016, fierce lawyer, prominent Lagos politician and fervent academic, Dr. Muiz Banire, who was in the Lagos State Government for about 12 years, where he manned the ministries of Special Duties, Transportation and the Environment, joined the golden club as he turned 50. And as it is usually with him, it was a different kind of celebration.
It started with an early morning prayers put together by the University of Lagos Muslim Alumni (UMA) and ended with another prayer session held at the Bab-Es-Salam Home on Joel Ogunaike, G.R.A, Ikeja, Lagos.
However, there was something quite pertinent about the event, which attracted quite a number of high caliber individuals from the legal, political and the academic community despite the fact that invitations were not sent out for the prayers – everyone, who had the opportunity to address the gathering at his Oduduwa Crescent, GRA home, had something positive to say about Banire, even as the appellation ‘rascal’ resonated jocularly with the audience.
The occasion attracted the presiding judge of the Enugu division of the Court of Appeal, Justice Helen Ogunwunmi; another Appeal Court judge who was recently nominated for elevation to the Supreme Court, Justice Sidi Bage; a no-nonsense judge, Justice Bunmi Oyewole of the Court of Appeal, Calabar division and a number of his friends in the legal profession.
Other notable persons present at the event were the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase; Chairman, Protea Hotel, Alhaji Tajudeen Owoyemi; Dr. Rasheed Okiya; Kayode Tejuosho and his wife, Hon Funmi Tejuosho of Mushin constituency (I), former Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye; the Secretary to the Ogun State Governor (SSG), who represented Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Mr. Taiwo Abiodun Adeoluwa; the chairman, Autoreg, Wale Sholanke; Mr. and Mrs. Femi Okenla; renowned Muslim cleric, Prof. Amidu Sanni; the Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Prof Ishaq Akintola and the missioner, Anwarislam, Alhaji Abdulrahman Olanrewaju.
Also in attendance were Mr. Leke Pitan, Teju Philips, Dr. Ade Omosule of Hillstar Hospital, Dr. Ebenezer Abayomi, Alhaja Fatimoh Oguntade, Mrs. Olowe Olukemi, the chairman, GRA Residents Association, Mr. Tunde Adewale, the coordinator, United Action for Change (UAC), Comrade Niyi Akinsiju, the celebrator’s elder brother, Alhaji Rasak Banire, his elder sister, Alhaji Raimah Banire, his wife, Alhaja Jamila Olufunmilayo Banire and members of UMA, Alhaji Akeeb Oladokun (President), Alhaji Mumini Alao (Deputy President), Alhaji Lere Alimi (former president), Alhaji Abdulateef Bakare (chairman, Board of Trustees), Alhaji Rasak Oladejo (BoT member), Alhaji Shuaib Afolabi Salis (BoT member) and many others too numerous to list.
It was basically prayer and sermon sessions, both at his home and at the orphanage. It however provided an opportunity for old friends to reunite, the reenactment of the old supremacy rivalry between old students of UNILAG and Lagos State University (LASU), throwing banter, particularly by those who painted Banire’s doggedness, fearlessness, truthfulness and the ability to say things as they are without bothering about whose ox is gored as sheer rascality.
For instance, Justice Oyewole had this to say about him: “He is very troublesome. But thank God his troublesome nature is positive. His life is an example of what can be achieved by hard work and consistency. He is intelligent and very hardworking. Yet, he manages to do everything he does well. What he does in the legal profession is so much. I don’t know how he finds time for politics and fights for peoples’ interests. He is not bothered about pecuniary gains and above all, he is still spiritual – no wonder he has achieved what he has achieved today”.
For Justice Ogunwunmi, who is his family and who came purposely for the prayers, “He is a wonderful person. Very intelligent; I like him. Diligence is the mother of good fortunes and we thank God for blessing him. He is very friendly to the bench. The first case he handled before me, he did not win and that did not affect our relationship. Every member of the bench, we have a lot of respect for him”.
On his part, Justice Gbagi said: “He is my friend. We are here to celebrate him. I didn’t know he is just 50 years. He had always demonstrated the strength of 50. We have maintained a relationship, not just in the court but even outside the court. He appeared before me. He lost before me and he has never shown any grudge. He has never asked why because he would collect the record and see why he lost”.
In the message delivered on behalf of Governor Amosun, the SSG said: “His (Banire) goodwill transcends Lagos because he is a good person. He was one of those people that stood the ground fully that we should be given a chance. His calculation was that it was Amosun that could stand against sitting Gbenga Daniel. He is one of our tacticians. He supported the governor in 2015 without making a show of it. He has uncommon wisdom and humility. His type is not very common. He is a stable pillar relied upon in the governance of Ogun State”.
Abiodun however added that: “Though he may be younger, but he is our leader”, saying “His conduct was part of why I took up the job in Ogun State because he never lost his head in politics.”
On her part, Hon. Tejuosho had this to say: “Not only is his family celebrating him, but his friends are always celebrating him because Dr. Banire is a nice person. He stands by you in time of need. He does not pretend. I have been in the Lagos State House of Assembly, not because I am the best but by the grace of God and the support of Dr. Banire.”
The GRA resident association chairman, Adewale said: “He does not discriminate against any religion contrary to his. He has done a lot for GRA Ikeja; trying to turn it to modern city within the mega city with his money. Before you could spend up to N2m buying fuel monthly but we are now enjoying light because of his interventions.”
There were so many other positive commentaries about him, but apparently, what was more rewarding for him were the spiritual aspects of the celebration. The trio of Prof. Sanni, Prof Ishaq and Alhaji Abdulrahman Olanrewaju, who handled the two segments of the prayers, enjoined him to remain steadfast in his piety, for which he is also very renowned. They also prayed for the sustenance of God’s favour on him and they generally appreciated the Almighty Allah for the favour He has shown the lawyer-turned politician, who always says he is a “professional in politics and not a professional politician.”
While Sanni admonished the people that at the age of 50, anyone should be aware that death could come at any time and as such should continue to do the will of Allah, Olanrewaju on his part tacitly advised Banire to join the league of elders by being more tolerant and learn how to forgive those who offend him, saying “God is the giver of all things, Banire should continue to be grateful to God for what He has done for him”.
Asked how he felt when people referred to him as rascal despite the record of his positive contributions to humanity as noted by many people, Banire said: “The way I feel is that I am not gifted to sentiments about things. I see things objectively and I stand my position. Even if the whole world faces one position and I am not convinced, I stand my position. That is how they ended up with that”.
Though he had earlier promised the people that he would be talking at the reception held with the less privileged babies, he eventually didn’t say much. He only spoke in parables, saying he owed everything to God.
“I feel the grace of God. I will continue to express gratitude to Almighty Allah. I know nothing happens without the knowing of God. Everything is exclusively in His custody. You cannot worship God and individual at the same time, you must be selective. For me, I am convinced about the need to get closer to God. Nothing happens without God’s endorsement. If we (Nigerians) are Godly as a people, it would reduce the tension in our midst.
At the end of the event, Banire had been described by several names: teacher, leader, mentor, philanthropist, courageous and dogged fighter, honesty personified, good husband, good father, true democrat, highly spiritual, hardworking and many more.
At a point during the prayer session in the morning, President Muhammadu Buhari’s congratulatory message signed by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adeshina was read to the gathering, which admired the content of the presidential letter.
He is very troublesome. But thank God his troublesome nature is positive. His life is an example of what can be achieved by hard work and consistency. He is intelligent and very hardworking. Yet, he manages to do everything he does well. What he does in the legal profession is so much. I don’t know how he finds time for politics and fights for peoples’ interests. He is not bothered about pecuniary gains and above all, he is still spiritual – no wonder he has achieved what he has achieved today