A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Kunle Ogunba, pays glowing tribute to his mentor, Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo SAN, who died recently
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which was planted” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2. Life Application Study Bible, KJV.
That death is an inevitable end for all mortals is no gainsaying and every soul shall taste death sooner or later. However, in spite of this expected end for all mortals, the death of a loved one, close relative or acquaintance usually leaves a devastating sour taste in the mouth especially when the its latest victim is in still in his prime. Such was the blow from the ‘hind’ when I heard of the death of Sir Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo SAN in the very late hours of Friday the 5th of June, 2020.
As expected, the current lockdown (as being gradually relaxed) has witnessed a spike in online activities particularly several Whatsapp fora which is critically accentuated by the rising tempo of campaign activities occasioned by the fast approaching election of national officers of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). So, keeping with the pace of messages on the various group chats is herculean if not virtually impossible. One is then constrained to resign to fate and hope that important messages will not elude in the raging cacophony.
Such was the case on Friday, the 5th day of June, 2020 having been ‘offline’ for most of the day, on the verge of retiring to bed, I decided to concentrate on individual messages for quick digest, I consequently beheld a message from one of my United Kingdom-based learned colleague, Mr. Kayode Okenla thus, ‘Just hearing the news of Egbon Bonajo Badejo this evening. Great fine gentleman. May his soul rest in perfect peace’.
As if to make sure, I am in no doubt as to who he was truly referring to, his message was accompanied by the picture of Sir Bonajo Badejo in his silk regalia. My phone literally fell out of my hands and when I could muster enough strength to pick up the gadget, I sent a short response, ‘It can’t be true, my brother’. But I can understand that since it’s late into the night, he might have retired to bed just as I was about to do.
I frantically also sent a message to my learned brother silk, John Olusegun Odubela SAN for confirmation of this sad and unexpected news item. He had also obviously retired for the night as both of them eventually responded early in the next morning being 6th of June, 2020. I then began an arduous task online to confirm the veracity of the story which I did through the Facebook page of his younger brother and my secondary school mate, Mr Semoore Badejo who had posted the news just a few hours earlier. The shock of the news kept me awake almost all night, even though death is the fate of all mortals aforesaid the death of a very young Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is a source of immense sorrow to anyone especially for those of us who had related extensively with the latest victim of death’s despicable bang.
I had known, Mr Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo SAN since my secondary school days. Indeed, our paths crossed sometime in 1983-84 in the process of preparing for and concluding my final exams at the secondary school when he was already a lawyer, having been called in 1980 as I later got to know. When I finished my secondary school education at the Adeola Odutola College, the result of my Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board(JAMB) was not that impressive to the annoyance of my dad, the late Chief Joseph Adeoye Ogunba (of blessed memory) who decided that I should not stay at home but relocate to Omu Ajose Comprehensive High School to prevent idleness and enable me to fully concentrate on the JAMB examinations and even when the result of the initial WAEC examinations were good for purposes of University admissions, insisted on taking the entire process again to be adequately focused on the task at hand.
It was at that school, Omu Ajose Comprehensive High school that my path crossed with the ‘Badejo brothers’ as they were then known, which comprised of Semoore, Segun and Kayode Badejo, all of whom are cousins. They were also in the school for similar purpose and theirs was as a result of relationship to the very stern and acute disciplinarian principal of the school, Mr Okusanya who is still alive. Needless to say that the acclaimed disciplinary reputation of the principal of the school (at that time, Mr Okusanya) was what worked for my Dad in choosing the school. Since the school does not have boarding facilities and the distance between Omu and Ijebu Ode was quite a stretch in those days, it was decided that I stay in an off boarding environment entailing the renting of a private accommodation within the vicinity of the school, it was that arrangement that made me house mates to the ‘Badejos’.
No sooner had we settled into the rented apartment than I got to know a bit more of the ‘Badejos’, their elder brothers one of whom is the late Sir Bonajo Badejo SAN. Some of the older ‘Badejos’ (some are now distinguished Professors in their chosen fields) more often than not do come around to the school to pay visits to their brothers and cousins respectively.
One of the most frequent to that environment was the late Sir Bonajo Badejo SAN. The first time, he visited was one late afternoon in mid 1984, on his way to Lagos, he had a court appearance in Ijebu Igbo and he used the opportunity to visit. I remember vividly that he came in a ‘brand’ new 504 fully air conditioned saloon car and he was impeccable dressed in his lawyer’s waist coat with sparkling white bibs, I instantly became enamoured with the then young, dashing budding lawyer.
At that time, the choice of a career path was somehow a dilemma for a young man like me. I was seriously contemplating joining a military career (the various coups and counter coups and the ever changing military regimes played a significant role in that fantasy), a career in journalism (columnist like the late Dele Giwa, late Bola Ige, Dan Agbese, Wole Soyinka, Tai Solarin et al were mentors!) or perhaps, Law but the choice of studying Law at the university was sealed for me by Mr Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo SAN not by talking to me but by his appearance and conduct. When he left on that fateful day, I sought to know more of him from his brothers, I was then regaled with his numerous exploits in court appearances some of which they had witnessed. I was told or the travails of one of their distant relative Yekini, who was enmeshed in a criminal trial at the magistrate court in Ijebu Igbo necessitating ‘Broda Bona’ as he was fondly called to travel all the way from his Lagos base down to Ijebu Igbo to his rescue.
Stories of his stern countenance in court, his mien and serious warnings to brother Yekini (nicknamed YK, pronounced Yeekay) to desist from further conducts likely to result in a criminal charge really fantasized me as a youth in search of a career path and overtime during the course of my preparations for the JAMB papers (during which time ‘Broda Bona’ made frequent visits) made up my mind to study Law.
In that stead, without directly speaking to me, he was my mentor. I really wanted to be like him and always look forward to his visits those days. That I subsequently became a lawyer was by his indirect mentorship and dashing appearance as a young lawyer. It was therefore a rare privilege of immeasurable pleasure for me to learn when the announcements of those to be elevated to the inner bar was made sometime in February, 2010 that I was to be sworn in April of that same year with my chosen mentor. It was at that occasion that I renewed my ties (we lost contact after secondary school) with his brother and my classmate Semoore Badejo who has become an advertising guru as the CEO of Concrete Communications.
To say that Semoore was happy to see me was an understatement, we hugged each other firmly and took several pictures to celebrate the day.
Brother Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo SAN was a gentleman to the core and his religious upbringing is made to bear in his practice of Law. His secular and religious undertakings as reflected in his Knighthood of the Methodist Church and from what I understand, their father (also known to be a stern disciplinarian) was a pastor in one of the parishes in Ijebu Igbo in those days.
His sudden death at the unripe age of 61 is very painful, unexpected and a sad loss to those of us who had been in contact with him, his immediate family and the legal community in general.
We take solace in the fact that he lived an active Christian life and he will surely be resting in the bosom of the Lord at this moment.
May the gentle soul of Mr. Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo SAN (Brother Bona!) rest in perfect peace. AMEN.
May God in His infinite mercies grant his immediate and extended family the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. AMEN.