By Soni Ajala
The 18th century English Ballad, George Bernard Shaw wrote; ‘Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I get to hold for a moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before turning it over to future generations’.
A lot of creative ink has been spent in evaluating and sometimes comparing the existence of human beings on planet earth with the chemical bye-product called candle. Celebrated song writers and singers have held the world spell bound with timeless songs depicting the sojourn of man on earth as a candle in the wind. Thus, the most illustrious of such breath taking songs was the rendition by Sir Elton John, the English pop icon in honour of the deceased Lady Diana, Princess of Wales. Thus, a human life that trudges on and counts 60 years by all stretch of logic and perhaps reason is deserving of clinking the glass. Where however, the life of such a human being in a manner of speaking bestrides his time like a colossus, a celebration of such life is therefore non-negotiable. That is the case of a quintessential gentleman, humanist, consummate teacher, respected scholar, eminent jurist, administrator par excellence, patriot, husband and father, Awa Uma Kalu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who turns 60 years on March 9, 2013.
Awa Kalu who was born on March 9, 1953 hails from the Ohafia Community in Abia State. His parents were devout Christians of the Presbyterian denomination. He had his early education at Anglican Grammar School, Umuahia and the famous Methodist College, Uzuakoli. He proceeded immediately to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife to study Law. At Ife, he distinguished himself as an academic numero uno and won several elite awards. Some of such awards were Olu Ayoola prize as Best Over-all LL.B. part 1. Student; Irvine & Bonner Scholarship as best over-all LL.B. part II student and Justice Madarikan prize as best over-all final year law student. He graduated in 1977 and earned the LL.B (Hons) Degree of the prestigeous University.
Awa Kalu fondly and variously called Papa, Papus and Prof. by his friends and peers maintained the streak of excellence at the Nigerian Law School, where he was admitted and called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978 and is a member of the unparalleled ‘class of ’78 that boasts of Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and indeed all superior courts of record. After his compulsory NYSC programme in Sokoto State as Pupil State counsel, he enrolled at the Law Faculty of the University of Lagos for his Masters degree programme in law. Thereafter, he settled down at the University of Lagos as a lecturer before he was head-hunted by the venerated scholar and administrator, Professor M.J.C. Echeruo to transfer his services to the then young Imo (now Abia) State University to work with great scholars like Professor Oye Cukwurah and Professor Osita Eze to establish a veritable law faculty.
As a foundation staff at the then Imo State University established by the government of the visionary Chief Sam Mbakwe, Awa Kalu worked tirelessly with his colleagues to ensure that the products of the school especially the law faculty measured up to the accepted professional standard. The young law faculty despite its teething take-off challenges strived to give the very best to her students through the uniting and selfless contribution of Awa Kalu and his team of youthful but dynamic professional colleagues.
Till date, most students that passed through the institution under the coaching skills of Awa Kalu remain grateful that he painstakingly taught them the nuances of the law of Evidence, Torts, Criminal Law and other law courses that effectively equipped them for legal combat in all spheres of human endeavours. That goes to say that as Awa Kalu marks his diamond years on earth, his foot print in the sand of time, particularly in the field of law qualifies him to relish and perhaps appropriate the timeless reflection of George Bernard Shaw. Divine truth they say is that ‘man in the inner recess of his soul essence never achieve happiness nor measured by filthy lucre but rather by the quality of generation next that his life impacted positively to the benefit of mankind.
It therefore stands to reason that inspite of the illustrious accomplishment of Awa Kalu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, his real bench mark as we celebrate his 60 birthday is the galaxy of his ex-students who are dominant figures today in commanding heights of our national life. As he turns 60, Awa Kalu, SAN deserves a befitting toast for his contribution to legal education, legal scholarship, advocacy and character moulding. Prominent amongst his former students are Senator Anyim Pius Anyim GCON, Secretary to Government of the Federation; Chief Ume Kalu, Attorney-General of Abia State; Mr. J. U.K Igwe, SAN; Elder Paul Ananaba, SAN; Prof. Anselm Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman, Human Rights Commission; Chief Emeka Wogu, Hon. Minister of Labour & Productivity; Hon. Uzo Azubuike of the House of Representatives; Chief Chuka Odom, former Minister of State for FCT; Professor Nnamdi Obiaeriri, Associate Professor Chris Anyanwu, Associate Professor Sam Erugo, Dr. K.U.K. Ekwueme, several judges of various State/Federal High Courts, corporate executives etc.
As an advocate, Awa Kalu is painstaking. He leaves no stone unturned. He is meticulous and abides always by the ethics and doctrine of the legal profession. He enjoys the respect and admiration of his seniors, mates and juniors alike. In 1989, he was appointed Special Adviser to the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. He had the unique opportunity of serving two Attorneys-General in a stretch, Hon. Prince Bola Ajibola SAN and Hon. Sir. Clement Akpamgbo SAN. It is worthy to note that Awa’s tenure and records of advancement of frontiers of legal education alongside Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN (his co-Special Adviser to the duo of Attorney-General of the Federation at the material time) at the Federal Ministry of Justice is yet to be surpassed in recent time. It is on record that Kalu and Osinbajo revitalized the production of all Nigeria Law Reports; revised the Laws of the Federal 1990; mid-wifed the Company and allied Matters Decree 1990 & the BOFID; pioneered the publication of the journal of the Justice Ministry known as JUSTICE and co-edited numerous books as well as academic publications.
Awa U. Kalu has selflessly served his fatherland diligently and meritoriously. At different times he was Secretary National Committee on Corruption and Economic Crimes; Secretary National Committee on Malpractices in Banks and other Financial Institutions; Member, National Committee on Town Planning Law in Nigeria; Member, Editorial Committee, All Nigeria Law Reports; He was also a member of the Nigerian delegation on the Democratization Process in Ethiopia, 1992; Member, Nigerian Delegation to the 46th and 47th Session of the UN General Assembly 1991 and 1992; Delegate, Human Rights Workshop, Banjul, the Gambia, 1989: he also provided a platform for robust academic and intellectual pursuit vide the publication of Lawyers’ Bi-Annual, a journal of Nigeria and Comparative Law of which he is the Editor-in-chief.