Legal luminary, Professor Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, is a Professor of Law and erudite Senior Advocate of Nigeria. For over 34 years as a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, he combines lecturing and active legal practice. In this interview, he takes a walk down memory lane with Vanguard and talks about various issues. Excerpts:
By Dayo Adesulu & Alex Kola Folorunso
HOW do you combine being a law lecturer and practitioner?
It has been exciting and also very challenging. As a lawyer, you need to appear in court in order to handle some law cases and you must also be back in the classroom to lecture.
As a lecturer, you must have the discipline to sit down to read and write. The experience in the classroom is being deployed to the boardroom and that of the boardroom is being used in the classroom.
There have been complaints that education in Nigeria is not what it used to be. Do you subscribe to that? What in your opinion, is the cause?
There is a general decline in education. I believe the economy has not helped Nigeria’s educational system. There is also an upsurge in the commercialisation of education in Nigeria.
Teachers are not adequately remunerated hence, they have not been putting in their best to teaching. Not many people who are teaching today do so because they love teaching. Lack of good materials to teach the students and dedication on the part of the teachers on account of the hardship in the country, contribute to the decline in standard of education.
We also have instances of people setting up primary and secondary schools for only commercial purposes, not for the love of teaching.
What was education like when you were growing up?
I went to mission schools. I attended All Saints Primary School, Yaba and from there, went to St. Jude Primary School, Ebute Metta, Lagos. I then proceeded to Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo town in Oyo State.
These schools have assisted in shaping my career and my person. Some core values of education were deposited in me in those schools. I am an indigene of Ogun State but my father attended a school in Oyo town. Of course, University of Lagos shaped my life.
Have you ever failed before whether in primary, secondary or tertiary institution?
I went to the best university in Nigeria, University of Lagos. I graduated from the Faculty of Law. I was never a dull person. From primary to secondary school, I was almost last minute dot com. In my first and second terms in secondary school, I failed but I worked harder in my third term and came top of the class.
Tell us about your parents and their contribution towards your education…
I lost my mother at a very young age, that was when I was 10 years old. Before her death, I can say that she was very caring. This year, my father will be 94 years old. When my mother died, my father began to play the role of a mother and a father.
Did you ever have difficulty paying your fees at any time?
I came from a very balanced family and background. My father, a lawyer, is blessed. I am a lawyer and my four children are lawyers.
So, we are comfortable. My father is an extremely brilliant man. So, I have no regrets in life.
You said your four children are all lawyers. Did you influence their decisions?
I only influenced one of them who was studying International Relations at the Covenant University.
One day, I went to his school and saw that all they taught was what I would have covered as a lecturer at the University of Lagos within two weeks. So after then, I re-directed him to study Law in the University of Lagos.
Who among your friends at school can you still remember and how many of them are still alive?
I still have so from my secondary school. Many of them are alive – both in Nigeria and abroad. We have a platform where we chat and discuss. Myself and members of my class of 1980-86, are still well bonded. More are alive than those who have died.
At your age sir, what are the things you wish you would have achieved that you never did?
At my age, I am a fulfilled person. I am a contented person. I do not have any regret except that of my mother who we thought would have lived longer but passed on. There is nothing that I wanted from God that He has not done for me.
How did you gain admission into the University of Lagos?
By God’s grace, it was through hardwork. I had my Cambridge result and also A- level result.
I had a late admission into the University of Lagos.
What does the University of Lagos’ Academic distinguished Professor’s award mean to you?
I feel honoured and dedicate the award to the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos.
Your autobiography revealed a lot about your achievements. How did you rise from the ranks and files to achieve all these?
I believe that in whatever you are doing, you require the grace of God and His blessing. I do my work. I teach my students. I also have destiny helpers who believe in me. Of course, heaven will only help those who help themselves.
I have been able to stay focused, preparing for my lectures and also writing my scholarly papers. So, I believe all I have achieved in life have been made possible by dint of hard work and the grace of God upon my life.
I started my formal education at Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo and later enrolled for a two-year A level programme after my GCE. I obtained my Bachelor of Law and Letters (LL.B (Hons) between 1977 and 1980 from the University of Lagos, Akoka and attended Nigerian Law School in 1981 where I distinguished myself by winning the Justice Somolu Memorial Prize for the best student in civil procedure.
I obtained a Master’s of Law degree with distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England in 1982 and a Professor of Public Law in October 1998.
I was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2002 and have since my appointment in 1983 as Lecturer II at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, lectured for over 34 years.