Akinjide: Enviable Life of a Legal Icon

Richard Akinjide

Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide, SAN, laid still after breathing his last on Tuesday, April 21, but before he made his last ‘submission’ to the final arbiter, he had already been ‘discharged’ and ‘acquitted’ that he lived life to the fullest and gave his all. Funke Olaode pays tribute to this legal czar, who conquered his world

Chief Richard Akinjide, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, shone as one of the brightest of his generation. His intellectual prowess in both international and national affairs was equal to none. He was an embodiment of law. He breathed law, lived law and ate law. Akinjide made a success of law both in name and fortune. He was highly influential and well connected.

Although he’s been around for a while, what constantly threw his name up was his political calculation of the twelve two-third (12 2/3) judgment, that ushered in the Alhaji Shehu Shagari government.

An encounter with Chief Akinjide at his ‘The Rock’ residence tucked inside Idi-Ishin in Jericho GRA Ibadan, birthing an interview titled: ‘I Am Fulfilled’, cemented a relationship that would last till the end of his days on the planet earth.
Akinjide meant different things to different people, because of his political ideologies. And the relationship he had with this writer was no less than filial.

Born on November 4, 1931, in the Aperin area of Ibadan, in the then Western Region. His grandfather was Akinjide; his mother hailed from the Balogun Oderinlo family from Mapo area. His maternal grandfather, Balogun Oderinlo was a warrior and his statue is by the side of Mapo.

The late Akinjide was a lucky fellow with an enduring pedigree. His father was a big-time trader and farmer. And being the first child and the first grandson, everybody doted on him. That the late Akinjide was brilliant was an understatement.

He enrolled at St. Peters Primary School, Aremo in Ibadan and later proceeded to Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, where he sat for the Senior Cambridge School Certificate and emerged with a distinction. In 1952, he boarded MV Accra ship to England and landed in Liverpool. In England, he enrolled at the University of London where he had LLB in Law and was called to the English Bar in 1955.

He also obtained a certificate in Journalism. He returned to Nigeria in February 1956. He was subsequently called to the Nigerian and the Gambian Bar and became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1978. When he returned to Nigeria after his studies, he practised briefly under S.L Durosaro before setting up his own practice, Akinjide & Co. Upon returning to Nigeria, he got entangled with politics having been a regular visitor at The House Commons while in London.

He was vibrant as a young politician, and at the age of 29, he became a lawmaker representing Ibadan at the Parliament. He later became the Minister of Education in the government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa during the First Republic. He continued to blaze the trail as a politician and legal practitioner. He was the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president between 1970 and 1973.

A member of the judicial system’s sub-committee of the Constitutional Drafting Committee of 1975-1977, he later joined the National Party of Nigeria in 1978. He became the legal adviser of the party and was soon appointed the Minister for Justice under the administration of President Shagari in the Second Republic.

Akinjide’s legacies are eternal. It is significant to note that it was under his watch that Nigeria temporarily reversed executions of armed robbers, the abolition of a decree barring exiles from returning to the country.

The advent of democracy in 1999 saw the late Akinjide pitch tent with the PDP. His daughter, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide later served as the Minister of State for FCT. For the late Akinjide, he played his part and left the stage with honour and dignity. Akinjide came, saw and conquered!