Pa Adeniran, Quintessential Citizen, at 93

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Ferdinand Ekechukwu

Hi Ferdinand, where have you being I had wanted to reach you.” The normal voice at the other end of the phone had announced, as I made to reach him same week. “My birthday is on Thursday 23rd of March, it’s going to be in my house here.” But just then I had thought to myself that I need not be reminded that it’s his birthday. Neither do I need to be informed of the venue nor the form it will take. Based on my knowledge and understanding of the celebrant, there’s this tradition of how he celebrates his birthday, which he has maintained overtime.

But his typical unassuming nature compels him to remind his acquaintances. For those familiar and close to the celebrant, especially his immediate lovely family, his wife, Dr. Mrs. Florence Abiola Adeniran, a retired director of medical services, Lagos State, his children Abiodun and Oyinade, and his retinue of aides and protégés, it’s always a day to look forward to. It’s always a day to celebrate with Pa Adedapo Aderibigbe Adeniran Esq., fondly called Baba.

Notwithstanding, every other day spent with the King’s College Lagos Old Boy is worth celebrating as much as valued, for the work of God is made manifest in the life of the quintessential senior citizen. Pa Adeniran is a man so dear to me, and to so many others, far and wide.

It was, therefore, worthwhile on the occasion of his birthday anniversary recently and, as it has always been, guests from all walks of life, as a mark of honour and respect, came to felicitate with the man of letters. Prior to the arrival of visitors, a special prayer session had been conducted to usher in the ceremony. Dignitaries who graced the day cut across banking, through to the business sector, on to the judiciary, to politics, academia, and health.

Among the high society guests at the event, were: Otunba Subomi Balogun, whose entourage had caused a pleasant scene on his arrival, momentarily halting vehicular movement on Bamgbose Street and it’s adjoining roads; a two time minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Engineer Olawale Ige; Prof. & Prof. Mrs. Emmanuel Elebute; Mr. & Mrs. M. A. Fashanu; Engineer C. O. Idowu; Barrister Segun Munis;  Mrs. A. Gbajabiamila; Dr. Mrs. Abimbola Holloway of Quality Medicare and a host of other important personalities, as well as friends of the celebrant’s children. Such was the caliber of persons who turned up at the occasion with other esteemed guests, friends and family members, relatives and well wishers that the low key event was almost upturned. But then, there was enough refreshment for all who attended and even more that some had to take home. And there were offerings in moderate sum to the celebrant in appreciation. In return, the celebrant handed out copies of his two well known books: The Futility of The Land Use Decree 1978, and Nigeria: The Case for Peaceful and Friendly Dissolution.

Those who could not make it, due to their busy schedule, been that it was a work day, sent in their goodwill messages with their gifts in tow. Others called in through phone to extend their heartfelt wishes. Even the heavens sent in blessings and angels showered the guests with drizzle. The air of affection given to the celebrant by those around him, young and old, was palpable.

A man of many parts that he is, he never ceases to amaze. It’s like he seizes every opportunity to regenerate. On this occasion he was completely without his walking stick as he paced about exchanging pleasantries with close friends, family members and well wishers.

His doggedness and energy at 93 is a pleasant surprise. He goes out to visit friends and still attends functions. He still finds time to discuss happenings within and outside the polity, especially developments in the judiciary and updates in the legal system. He had favoured Donald Trump during the campaigns and build up to the US Presidential election.

On one occasion in recent past, he had called me past midnight, asking for a particular story in the dailies involving Justice Adeniyi Ademola and that two editions of the Punch newspaper be brought to him. He’s always quick to broach major and minor incidents of human interests within the society that in the week of his birthday he had discussed the unfortunate suicide of Dr. Allwell Orji, the man who killed himself in the Lagos lagoon. He wondered, as at the time sketchy details were available, what exactly could have induced him to take his own life.

He’s peeved by the numerous frequent killings attributed to elements of Boko Haram and the rampaging Fulani herdsmen that hardly a day passes without his thoughts on the shenanigans. His newly reprinted critical book on the way for Nigeria’s peaceful settlement, or restructuring, as is recently canvassed, had foretold some of the current situations. He is never bored as he fascinates you with talks, regaling you with stories of old Lagos, and his relationship with his mates and Alma mater – Baptist Academy and King’s College Lagos – always almost on every encounter.

The celebrant, Pa Adedapo Aderibigbe Adeniran is an accomplished lawyer, humanitarian, prolific writer and a classical historian. Indeed, he is an unrivalled encyclopedia on the pedigree and antecedents of all the leading families in Lagos and its environs, according to someone very close to him. And the ultimate arbiter in virtually all disputes within his vicinity on Bamgbose Street and, by extension, it’s axis on Lagos Island.

A particular case that played out not long ago involving one Engineer X and his tenant, one Ms. X, comes to mind. The former, allegedly, evicted the latter through a judgement obtained at a purported Magistrate Court 13, Igbosere Lagos State. Upon getting wind of the incident, through a good citizen who had just mentioned the incident to him, Pa Adeniran in his magnanimity, had painstakingly ran through his contacts and obtained a comprehensive list of Lagos Magisterial District.

After perusing the document it was discovered that the said Court 13 where the order was obtained was cloned! The case was reported to the DPO at Lion Building on Lagos Island, investigation was carried out, and the culprit was eventually arrested after a failed attempt. He was subsequently released when he pleaded to settle out of court.

Born on the 23rd of March 1924 at 191 Bamgbose Street, Lagos Island of Lagos State to Mr. Samuel Adegun Adeniran and Princess Lydia Adeoti Adeniran. He attended Baptist Academy Primary School on Broad Street before proceeding to King’s College, Lagos in 1938, where he passed the Cambridge School Certificate exams with a Grade 1 distinction and exemptions from London Matriculation, Cambridge Previous and Oxford Responsions. This gave him the privilege of gaining an automatic admission to any British University.

He left the shores of Nigeria to Britain in 1949. There, he enrolled in the Inns Court of Law School at Lincoln’s Inn London, and was called to the English Bar  on February 7, 1956. He distinguished himself by being the only Nigerian to get Second Class pass in what was considered to be the most difficult subject of the curriculum, Real Property. His favourite subjects are Biology and Latin.

Some of his remarkable feats and moments are worth highlighting in this piece. For one, he’s one of Nigeria’s distinguished lawyers, with illustrious legal practice spanning well over four decades, with an exceptional specialisation in criminal law, property law, and constitutional law, the latter he occupied with the affairs of government, and was influential in shaping it’s policy.

Two, by dint of his sociopolitical sagacity, he moved the landmark motion that facilitated the disengagement of expatriate (foreign) lawyers from legal practice in Nigeria, during an Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Kaduna in August 1963.

Three, by virtue of his sterling performance during his active days, he held brief for the Action Group political party. And he is “a distinguished author who thrives on venturing where others fear to tread. The titles of two of his most well known books provide confirmation that he is not one to dodge controversy”.

Four, and just for the sake of space, he is a social critic and political commentator. The likes of Anthony Enahoro, David Garrick and George Garrick, Reverend Osinulu, David Soremekun, Henry Omenai, Olu Apata, R. O. Okagbue, B. C. Nwosu, and L. O. V. Anionwu are his contemporaries from King’s College. He actively took part in the pre-independence national discourse. He handled celebrated cases.

It was with utmost respect and immense admiration that I joined friends, family, relatives, well wishers, associates and members of King’s College Lagos Old Boys to wish Pa Adedapo Aderibigbe Adeniran Esq. a most resounding birthday and many more celebrations to come in good health. Cheers!