Legal luminary, Taiwo Osipitan is a Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria. For over 34 years as a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, he has combined lecturing with active legal practice. In this interview, he takes a walk down memory lane with Vanguard, talking about various issues. Excerpts:
By Dayo Adesulu
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 courtroom and that of the courtroom 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 the Nigerian education system. There is also an upsurge in the commercialisation of education in Nigeria. The economic inflation in the country made teachers nationwide not to give in their best to teaching. Teachers are not adequately remunerated, thus they have not been putting their best into teaching. Not many people who are teaching nowadays have love of teaching in their hearts. 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 educational standards. We also have instances of people setting up primary and secondary schools for only commercial purposes and 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, I went to St Jude’s Primary School, Ebute Metta, Lagos. I then proceeded to Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo Town in Oyo State. These schools assisted in shaping my careers 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 as the best university in Nigeria shaped my life.
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. 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 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 regret in life.
You said that your four children are all lawyers, did you influence their decisions?
I only influenced one of them who was studying International Relations at Covenant University. One day, I went to his school and discovered 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 many of them from my secondary school days. 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 regrets except about 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 I dedicate the award to the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos.
Your autobiography revealed a lot about your achievements. How did you 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, Heavens 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; obtained my Bachelor’s 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; 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; conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2002 and have since my appointment in 1983 as then Lecturer II at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, lectured for over 34 years.