By Awa Kalu
It will be appropriate to note that the committee’s visit to Lusaka Zambia, coincided with the first trip by Dr. Nelson Mandela outside South Africa after his release from incarceration. I can still vividly recall His Lordship’s determined attempt to record with his camera, Mandela’s entry to the Hotel in the company of the late Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and equally late General Joseph N. Garba, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Chairman of the UN General Assembly at the time.
He acknowledged that it was his first time of deploying the very sophisticated gadget and his disappointment at not documenting the event, was total. His humaneness came to the fore on a further trip to Zimbabwe where upon the conclusion of our official assignment, our hosts offered us an insight into non-judicial life. A trip to a crocodile farm was the main attraction.
On a guided tour, we came by a massive crocodile that was out of water and very calm. Upon His Lordship’s enquiry, we were told that the adventurous croc had crossed boundaries in search of a female companion not knowing that its would-be companion was attached. A fight ensued between the two crocodiles resulting in a dislocation of the jaw.
The invading crocodile had to be tranquilized in order to have its jaw sutured. His Lordship just smiled and said ‘O mashe o’ (pardon the misspelling if any). Next on the itinerary was a visit to the Zimbabwe High Court. It proved a very intriguing experience as we heard details of laws which were deeply rooted in apartheid and the UDI in former Rhodesia.
His Lordship was appalled by a piece of legislation which forbade a black driver from overtaking a vehicle driven by a white man! We saw photographs of the judges that dealt with the very famous case – Madzimbamuto v. Lardner Burke, a matter arising from the Unilateral Declaration of Independence and which had extraordinary bearing on constitutionalism and revolutions. The assignment took us further to Tanzania where we attended a Training Programme of some sort organized by the Crown Agents.
Again, after the official assignment, His Lordship suggested a trip to observe wildlife at the Ngorongoro crater. Our base was Arusha and I do recall that I was reluctant to go on the trip having learnt that the trip was to be funded in Dollars. As a young lawyer, with a young family, I was determined to save my Estacode in order to make provision on more essential necessaries of life.
Once His Lordship found that persuasion would not work, he found a better strategy while in my hotel room, I heard a rap on my door and when I opened and found that it was My Lord, in the company of his wife, I knew there was no room for further excuses, ‘Awa’, His Lordship said, ‘it is time to go’.
I packed an overnight bag and off we went to what proved an unforgettable experience. Make no mistake about it, I was brought up in pure Christian tradition and thus never labored under any doubts about the existence of God.
Nevertheless, that fortuitous decision to accompany His Lordship and his lovely wife to Ngorongoro Crater put the existence of God beyond dispute and proved that even in wildlife in the animal kingdom, there is a modicum of respect for ‘bigger’ animals and a semblance of order. I recall that we had a reservation in a reasonably sized guest house located in a massive coffee farm. At night, huge guard dogs were released to ward off very dangerous predators.
All guests were advised to remain within in order to avoid surprises. We left the farm for the park the following morning and at the gate, we received instructions about the dos and donts of the park. Wild animals, we were counseled, could not be befriended and one for instance, was not to offer Bananas to monkeys and Baboons as visitors to an ordinary zoo tend to do. If one saw a Rhinoceros at rest, the car was to maintain a distance of not less than fifty feet or so in order not to cause annoyance.
His Lordship, out of curiosity, asked the tour guide if he had ever witnessed a Lion kill its prey. Just before the gentleman had the opportunity to answer, and as if on cue, we saw a frightened, very massive wilder beast fleeing from what in comparison was a little Hyena. As the scene unfolded before our very eyes, the Hyena in pursuit was joined by another and in no time, both Hyena’s held the wilder beast on its massive scrotum.
It was at this time that we saw the wonders of wildlife. As if the Hyenas were in contemplation of their next line of action, a Lion came out of the blues and headed to where the two Hyenas had the wilder beast under arrest. Once the Hyenas sighted the approaching Lion, they took off at great speed and we noticed that the huge animal was by then paralyzed with fear.
A kick on the jugular from the Lion brought down the huge animal with its throat torn. Another Lion now matched out with several cubs and in no time, only the carcass of the slain animal remained. Satisfied that the cubs had been fed, the Lion and Lioness escorted the cubs back into the recesses of the bush.
(Please pardon the reference to Lion and Lioness, it has been a while and I am not a Diarist) At this time, the two Hyenas returned just to lick the blood of their victim. His Lordship found it amazing that despite the handwork of the Hyenas, their reward was a mere pittance- all blood and no flesh.
He told me to ponder whether that spectacle did not suffice to explain the world of capitalism- ‘Monkey dey work, Baboon dey chop’. After a hectic day observing wildlife, we returned to our base in the farm and left the following morning for Arusha.
The abiding lesson from that trip justified what I had previously heard- ‘travel is part of education’. Of course, on our earlier trip to Zambia, His Lordship had taken his entourage to the Victoria Falls, itself a fantastic wonder to behold. We also took a visit to the vicinity of the Kilimanjaro Mountains. Our trip in totality, revealed that Africa is blessed and is far from being the ‘dark continent’ as earlier European travelers characterized it.
It is rather difficult because of the time that has elapsed, to recount in it minutiae, my off-the-Bench encounters with the deceased jurist. In sum, it will be a fitting tribute to affirm that on and off the Bench, His Lordship was a great man. It was by reason of his undeniable greatness that my wife and I proposed and His Lordship accepted, to stand as a Godfather to our last son, Somkele.
Of course, his second Godfather is another great man, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, His Lordship’s exemplary conduct I must recall, led all the members of the National Committee on Corruption and Economic Crimes to come to what was an unhesitating and unanimous decision to honour His Lordship when he retired from his meritorious service on the Bench.
Dr. Bayo Kumolu-Johnson proposed, and we all agreed, to celebrate his retirement in a unique way, at least by Nigerian standards. A luxury cruise on a Boat from mile 2, Lagos into the Atlantic and back did the magic. Good food, a live band, a comedian and wonderful conviviality provided an unforgettable experience for all who were aboard.
Justice Kayode Eso may have departed from this realm but we are left in no doubt that his footsteps will remain deeply implanted in the sands of time. Indeed, his signature which is easily decipherable from the landmark judgments he delivered will continue to guide the hands of judges yet unborn.