By Richard Nwankwo
When the leadership of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja muted the idea of inaugurating an annual lecture in honour of the Late Alao Aka Bashorun, a fine gentleman, activist extra ordinaire and bar leader, the support was spontaneous and unanimous.
Alao Aka Bashorun represents one of my earliest encounters with legal activism as a lawyer in Lagos. The period was about 1989, shortly after my National Youths Service programme in Port Harcourt, I arrived Lagos burning with the desire to explore the world of law practice and assuage the irrepressible passion that received limitless boldness from my incursions in the University unionism landscape.
I vividly remember our rustication in 1984, by the School authorities at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, under the leadership of that great administrator, Professor Ndili. The school had just increased our meal coupons from 50k to N1. This was at a time University Professors were earning about N1,000Â per month. My friends and I felt, and rightly too, that the increase would greatly erode the already very slim chances of a good population of the students from acquiring university education.Â We saw this as a travesty and quickly mobilized the students. So, like coup plotters, we struck.
It was about time, that comrade Olu Oguibe and other positively-tuned young men and women were holdings way in the Students Unionism Government. We were promptly rusticated by the school authorities without being heard, but we were able, and through divine grace, to sustain the lecture boycott until we were recalled. All that happened after that campaign is now history. It was this radical background that brought me into contact with the creme of seasoned lawyers who were working in Alao Aka Bashorunâ€™s Chambers at that period.
The Femi Falanas and Owonikokos to mention a few, but I still remember it was the peopleâ€™s silk, DeaconÂ Dele Adesina, SAN, who introduced me to Aka Bashorun. I remember visiting Alao Aka Bashorunâ€™s Chambers regularly in those days. I particularly remember a visit I made in company of one of my close pals, Chief Sunny Anyadiegwu.
I remember listening to his advice on how to live a good life, have a good practice and shun materialism. I remember the stories of his activism in England and his early years in Lagos. I can still hear the echoes of his comments on materialism and the dangers it portends for our society.
I remember his stories about a company in Port Harcourt that was on his retainership. He narrated to us how he visited the company on one certain day and saw the cleaners with umbrellas, sweeping the compound at about noon, when it was not raining. He could not tolerate this level of extreme idiocy and promptly took steps to remedy such usuriousness.
He told us how he quickly recommended the dismissal of those unserious cleaners and got them replaced. I remember the case Jennifer Madike V the Management of the National Arts Theatre which he handled in those days. The press hype, the delicate nature of the matter and the possibility of a flash back on account of the nature and quality of the leaders we had at the material time.
I remember his practice of going home after court sessions to change and put on his usual traditional dress. The courtesies, the encouragement, the suave disposition and constant readiness to assist younger lawyers. These are traits you hardly find in our todayâ€™s seniors. The inauguration of this Annual Lecture by the Ikeja Branch and the hosting of the maiden edition on the April 29, 2010, remain the realization of a tall dream.
Alao Aka Bashorun, to many, represents an amalgam of the finest culture at the Bar. As an accomplished lawyer and advocate, he was a hallmark of forensic advocacy; as a Bar Leader, he represents the zenith of professional competence, admirably suffused in the ambiance of radically- tuned finesse, deep in integrity and rooted in humane and selfless service.
At the Annual Lecture, a well-packaged and well-attended gathering, Chief Ayo Opadokun, the NADECO Chieftain and an unrepentant apologist of good governance drew applause from the gathering when he dug deep into his personal relationship with the late Alao Aka Bashorun.
He spoke glowingly about Aka Bashorunâ€™s union activism in England, where he led the West African Students Union of that era.Â This is one sure trait that ran through his entire life. Alao Aka Bashorun, was the first to carve a niche for the NBA. He brought into the Bar, vibrancy and a level of independence that was completely alien and unknown before him.
These were all echoed in the presentations of various speakers, especially Yinka Odumakin, Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Orji Kalu and a host of other speakers. The speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, who chaired the occasion also had something good to say about the late Alao Aka Bashorun.
As we remember this great man, a word must be said about his wife of many decades, who in the dying days of this great Bar man, stood by him, nursed him and fended for him until he succumbed to the cold hands of death. His death was a huge blow to the law community, the entire nation and his avalanche of admirers.
To his inestimable jewel, I make bold to say, that the entire nation appreciates you and your children, and we pray that the flame of selfless service, anchored on the finest tradition of love, hard work, perseverance and truthfulness ignited by your late husband, the great Bar Man, Alao Aka Bashorun shall never die in your hands.
I must also commend the leadership of my Branch, the Ikeja Branch of the NBA, members of the Law week Committee and the entire membership for this timely honour, given to a man who achieved so much within his trajectory on this planet, and got nothing in return from a hostile society that till date is still in the hands of semi-hoodlums.
Alao Aka Bashorun was an epitome of excellence, a yard stick of resilience and an amiable hallmark of tolerance.
Like his comrade in social justice, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, he fought a good fight, lived a good life and died a good man.
Alao- May your irrepressible and indefatigable soul continue to rest in perfect peace.