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Tribute to Justice M . N. Mba

By  Chukwuka Onyeaku

It was Francis Bacon, the 16th Century English Philosopher who once talked about the phenomenon of a wise man who made more and better opportunities than he met in his world.

This ancient philosopher might not have had any body in mind while propounding his philosophy, but the truism of his assertion was well demonstrated by the life and time of Late Justice Mgbokwere N. Mba. This was a man who rose from humble beginning to the commanding heights of Judiciary in Nigeria.

The story of his life speaks to how determination to excel and break the shackles of poverty and lack propelled him to become a man to be reckoned with in the society. It is a story that would inspire many of the present generation, of youths, who are asking questions about the long standing vexed issues of survival, and how to rise above the misery of poverty and difficulties of life.

The story of Late Justice Mba’s grift, hard work and determination to overcome obvious insurmountable odds in his early beginning in order to become successful in life is better told by members of his family.  However, as one who had studied him at close quarters during his life time. I crave the indulgence of his family and the people of Nneato to write this tribute on the Late Justice. One thing his life taught me among others, is that those who are able to conceive greatness in their minds, and are able to push for it. end up being great. Of course the kind of life a man eventually lives depends on what he is able to conceive in his head.

How   the late  Justice   M.N.   Mba  started   in   life  and  rose  to   become Customary Court of Appeal Judge in Abia State is a matter of history,  but the same history will remember him for so many laudable things. This was a man who had

penchant for hardwork, who frowned at idleness and deplored laziness. He created value from time and developed an attitude of mind, which made him pursue his legal education to a successful conclusion.

He achieved success in the midst of obvious odds and as such I believe that the greatest legacy he bequeathed to his children is hard work. Those who cannot undergo the rigour and discipline which success entails were never his friends.

His thirst for knowledge took him from Nneato Central School as a teacher to the Prestigious University of Ife (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife. where he began to read law. Midway to that, the Nigerian Civil war broke out and he left the University. As one who was determined to make it in life, the horrors of the war and its attendant hardship on the people of the Eastern Region did not deter him from pursing his ambition to become a Lawyer. Therefore, after the civil war in January 1970. the Late Justice continued his pursuit of law degree at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus where he successfully graduated from in 1972. So he was a Great Ife and a Great Lion. Thereafter, he moved straight to Nigeria Law School in Lagos and after completion of the Programme, he was called to the Bar in 1973 . Having equipped himself with legal qualifications, the Late Justice practiced Law for a while before joining the bench. Hence, he was a member of the Bar and a member of the Bench. A man’s life consists, no
t of what he gains, but of what he leaves behind. The legacy this late Justice left behind cannot easily be forgotten by historv. He was the first lawyer, the first magistrate and the first judge produced in his town, Nneato. This landmark record of achievements earned him respect and admiration among his people. He therefore became a role model to many of his people who took his footsteps and became lawyers. To crown it all, it is on record today that before he died, he had trained some of his children to become lawyers, among other graduates.  This was a man who was less in words but tall in character, a giant in intellect, a quantum in wisdom and good conscience, a stickler for details and merit who dispensed Justice according to law. and a judge whose judgments could hardly be faulted and overturned on appeal.

It is true that ability is of little account without opportunity, but opportunity if it is lost, cannot easily be regained. Justice M.N Mba (as he then was) hardly missed opportunity in his life endeavours. To him greatness was not only to be achieved in never failing but in rising each time one falls. For that the difficulties of his beginning made him better rather than bitter and the effective manner with which he managed the difficulties attested to his manhood. Looking at all the surrounding circumstances of his life made me believe in the saying that a wooden spoon invented by dint of handwork serves better and last longer than a silver spoon inherited by sheer chance or by accident of goodluck. It is not when a race started that matters but how well the race was ended, and often times, it is not the size of the dog in the fight that counts but the size of fight in the dog.

Members of the Bar who had opportunity to appear before his court attest to his humble disposition, handwork, diligence, painstaking, and thorough in handling of matters before him. The Late Justice combined the above attributes with fairness to all. worthy etiquette and decorum and he applied knowledge and wisdom in the administration of justice. God granted him the serenity to accept things he could not change, courage to change things he could and the wisdom to know the difference. As a minister in the temple of Justice, he never shut the doors of Justice against any one rather; he afforded every body who had cause to appear  before him the opportunity to state his or her case.

Also as an impartial arbiter in the temple of Justice, he constantly adopted and adhered to the principle of law propounded and enunciated by the Late American Judge Marshal (an eminent Jurist of his time), who said.


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