MR. LATEEF FAGBEMI, SAN (LAWYER)
Interviewed by Funke Olaode
What attracted you to the law profession?
I have never dreamt of studying any discipline outside law. From my childhood even before I got into secondary school my dream was to be a lawyer. The propelling force was my passion for argument. The urge was further strengthened because of availability of a magistrate court within the vicinity. As a student at Offa Grammar School in Offa, Kwara State, we used to sneak out to watch proceedings at the Magistrate Court.
At the time of your birth, what kind of work were your parents doing?
They didn’t have western education but their native intelligence was equal to none. They appreciated the value of education. It was their aim that all the children should be educated.
What factor shaped your life while growing up?
My parents, particularly my mother shaped my life to become the man I am today. We feared her more than we feared my father though both were working to achieve the same goals using different approach. My mother was like a military man while my father believed in persuasion. And because of my mother’s high handedness we thought she was not our biological mother. It was later in life that we appreciated her.
How did you feel the day you become a lawyer?
It was a wonderful accomplishment that began at the University of Jos where I acquired my first degree in law and later did my masters at the then University of Ife. I did my tutelage under the renowned lawyer and legal titan, Chief Afe Babalola SAN. He so much trusted me and left me to handle responsibilities. I thank God that he groomed me and I also responded to training.
As I always say that if you want to make success in any training you must be prepared to study under law icons, big chambers and big offices where you get opportunity to be exposed to what you are not likely to get under a smaller lawyer. I became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1996. I left Chief Babalola’s chamber in 1999 to become my own boss. I feel happy taking the silk because it is a bigger responsibility and at the same time challenging because you need to mentor people both within and outside the court.
Recently you delivered a paper at the 15th memorial of the late Chief Bola Ige’s. How did your path cross with the late Cicero?
We used to exchange words in court and he once jokingly that I escaped being born a year before he was called to the bar. We had a great rapport that started a long time ago but became deeply rooted when both of us became Senior Advocates of Nigeria the same day in 1996.
What fond memories of Ige can you recall?
The late Chief Ige was a person who would not ignore advice. He was always willing to encourage the junior ones no matter the point you raised. Even if he had a contrary view, he would call you over discussion. He may agree and may not agree sometimes but he would allow you to air your views. He was accessible, down to earth, hardworking, and would not take anything for granted. Above all, he was a lover of humanity.
You have been consistent over the years what has been your strength?
I have no other job outside my law profession. I think more than anything it is the grace of God and my commitment to duty.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, what would you score yourself?
One must always look up for something to attain. To me, I will score myself nine over ten because I am satisfied with life and the level which God has helped me to attain. I don’t have money but I am satisfied with my job.
What lessons has life taught you?
You must have a dream and pursue it with determination. You have to be very patient without being complacent. You just always ensure that you have mentors to learn from and share ideas with.