Simply put, marriages nowadays collapse on account of economic challenges and sexual incompatibility, a development which eventually has begun to take its toll on ladies, thus giving rise to the growing rate of single parents. Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire (SAN), an immediate past National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC), shares his experiences with Femi Ogbonnikan, on several divorce cases he has handled, how he met his wife, being born and bred in Mushin, Lagos, widely reputed as a haven for hoodlums. The former three-time Lagos State Commissioner in both Transportation and Environment ministries, corrects the erroneous impression that Mushin is a breeding ground for thuggery, cultism and other social vices
What gave you motivation to study law?
Well, interestingly, I never set out to read law, but fortuitously, when I was very, very young, for that matter, specifically, when I was in primary school, I used to be attracted to the late Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Fatai Atanda Williams. So, from that moment, I used to write my own name too, with Chief Justice. If you see any of the note books I used when I was in primary school, you would see that in each, I would put “Chief Justice Muiz Adeyemi Banire there. Along the line, I never imagine I would eventually read law anyway. In fact, the first admission I got was for “Economics” in the United States of America in which my uncle truly paid for everything, but at the same time, I got that admission, JAMB also offered me admission to read “law”. So my late elder brother, Tunde by name, insisted that, rather than going abroad to read “Economics” I should read “law” here in Nigeria, that the “law” was more professional than “economics”. And that was how I found myself in “law”, finally.
How challenging has your 27 years of law practice been?
It has been an interesting profession. It is not all that challenging, as far as I am concerned. The only thing is that there is too much jealousy in the profession. You can hardly associate much once you are into it, because it requires a high level of industry and dedication. You will have to prepare your cases and you will have to be analytical and a lot of other things. To that extent, you tend to devote a larger number of your time to the profession than other people would normally do in their own professions. So, it is not that tedious, except that it demands of us huge dedication.
What are your high and low points in the legal profession?
It has been exciting largely, I must confess. In the first instance, I am not saying that I am a lucky person, going into the academic in the first instance. I went into the academic early and I was able to come out extremely disciplined and analytical. To a large extent, it aided what I would call my modest achievement so far in the profession. But of course, the lowest I have come across in this profession was when I was alleged to have given a friend who eventually turned out to be a judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC) a bribe. I never appeared in my life before him. Money that I gave somebody out of sheer magnanimity and political gladiator wanted to turn the thing upside down. But the good news then was that I never for one day appeared before the whole Industrial Court, let alone that Judge’s court. I never did. I never had anything to do with him other than the fellow was my colleague when we were in the academics. Trust my own nature that, of course, when I see my colleagues, particularly in the academic, demanding assistance, if I am capable, I do it, without even looking back. I think that was the lowest thing, because I felt that, I succeeded to a large extent in maintaining my integrity. And those who know me would tell you that much that, I am not carried away. I don’t even believe in influencing anybody much less a judge. As far, as I am concerned, I don’t do that and I will never.
It appears your law career has been smooth, but seems slowed down when you ought to have attained the pinnacle, on account that you ventured into partisan-politics. Do you also think that way?
Certainly, it did. It did. It slowed me down because most of my contemporaries and juniors, and even one of my students became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) before I did. Even most of my contemporaries became SAN ahead of me and so many others became my seniors within the Inner Bar. And again, it is not that it has been rosy, I must confess to you, because like I use to tell some of our colleagues, I applied for SANship seven times before I eventually scaled through. And for those people who unfortunately, and “doubting Thomases”, it took me a long time. The good news is that, some characters felt it could be influenced by someone and probably it was influenced by me. But no! I used to tell them, go and look at it. All the criteria I met them. In fact, I had more than what were required. So, they should go back and look at it. As far as I am concerned, I was slowed down in the profession when I went into the government because during the time I was in government I could not practice and I wanted to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). I tried it academically, and academic didn’t work because I was not fully within the university system. So, it was not really rosy.
You were born, and also grew up in Mushin, reputed to be a haven for hoodlums. Why were you not cut out in truancy or crime by peer influence?
No! The good news is that, for instance, I don’t believe, either then or now, that Mushin people were and are largely thugs or miscreants. Particularly, when I was growing up, a larger percentage of us were dedicated to our studies and we were doing everything that was right. And I believe, to a large extent now, we still have majority of the people in Mushin being good in all ramifications. But only some few, quite naturally, in every 12, we have a Judas, we have them there. And may be, I would say, in view of politics again, unfortunately redress slightly into the abuse of all these truancy, cultism, thuggery and all those stuffs, all over the place. Otherwise, by and large, majority of the people living in that area are good people.
How were you able to cope with, and guide yourself against the proclivity to these crimes?
I must confess that, honestly, it is a misrepresentation. It is a wrong perception of the people of Mushin. We have a lot of good guys there. Even when I was growing up, it was competition galore, academically, among most of the guys we grew up together. And a lot of us today are occupying strategic positions in different parts of this nation. So, I believe that, honestly speaking, it is a wrong perception to continue to view Mushin from the point of thuggery or truancy. No! Only few of them there, like I said, in the recent time, are being promoted by some funny politicians, a development that tends to give the impression that, that place is a haven of thugs. But no, it is not correct.
As a Muslim, you have only one wife. Is it correct?
It is correct! That is the normal thing. There is a misconception in the interpretation of the Quran. My own religion doesn’t permit it from my own perspective of the Quran. It does not. But as a lawyer, people have their freedom to do whatever they like.
How did you meet your wife?
Well, I met her through her elder brother, Yinka.
Did she stress you before you could win her heart?
We met and of course, we liked each other, believed in each other. We started seeing each other and then, made a decision and it graduated into a marriage.
What was the attraction when you met her?
Because she was very and she is still industrious; beyond beauty, she is very industrious. She is somebody that is not a lavish type because she believes in extreme management of resources; that you must manage resources well. She is a good manager of resources; let me put it that way.
Is the fire of attraction still burning?
What does love mean to you?
Care. It is all about care, as far as I am concerned.
Marriage nowadays doesn’t last any longer. What are your takes on this trend?
There are so many problems with marriages these days. The major one, in my view, is the economic challenge. Most husbands and wives are unable to sustain their marriages because of the economic challenges that they have. But I can’t blame them. But the women too, unfortunately, in some instances, couldn’t enjoy their marriages as much. It is struggling here and struggling there. And in some few instances, they forget why the woman continues to struggle. Some of these men too, they tend to be lackadaisical and before you know it, there are crises in the marriage. So, economic challenge is a major one. There is always the issue of what I would call incompatibility, particularly sexual incompatibility is a major issue. And unfortunately, most religions these days, if you try to do otherwise, they would call it fornication. So, they go into the marriage and before they know it, they would discover they are sexually incompatible and challenges start. That is another problem that I have seen, particularly from my practice. Again, in some few instances, we have the problem of career. We have career women and we have career men. So, they will now discover that they are falling apart most of the time. So, before they know it, they are out.
Could that also account for the growing number of single parents?
I have just told you so many problems with that and why we have so many single parents. The first one is career. Some women do not want to leave their careers and they can’t compromise anything as far as career is concerned. Some even consciously just tell you outrightly that, all they want from men is to impregnate them and they take care of their children. They don’t want problems. In some instances also, someone would even struggle to get married. And after getting married, they will discover that, in pursuit of their careers, the man couldn’t cope and before they know it they are out of the marriage. There is the problem of the economy again. Most men, particularly young men around us now, they don’t even have jobs. They are unemployed. So, there are surplus women all over the place and they don’t have any choice than to get any man to get them conceived and have children. They take care of the child on their own because the young ones can’t even afford to set a home. So, we will continue to have more and more single parents all over the whole place. I think it is a combination of so many factors.