By Eric Teniola
ON March 29, the Body of Benchers honoured 132 outstanding lawyers in Abuja. The Body of Benchers is a statutory body established by the Legal Practitioners Act of 1962 responsible for the call to the Bar of persons seeking to be legal practitioners as well as disciplining of erring lawyers. Among those honoured by the body was Alhaji Abdul Ganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrazaq, 91.
He is number 460 in the Nigerian Legal Practitioners list and the first lawyer from Northern Nigeria. He was called to the Bar on February 8, 1955 but was enrolled to practice on April 1, 1955. Among his colleagues at that time were Mr. Justice Victor Orereko Ovie-Whiskey, who was number 437 and called to the Bar on August 6, 1954 but was enrolled on December 18, 1954. Chief Michael Adedapo Omisade was number 513, called to the Bar, February 7, 1956 but enrolled on March 23, 1956. Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide was number 509, called to the Bar on February 7, 1956 but enrolled on March 12, 1956.
Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya was number 535, called to the Bar on June 19, 1956 but enrolled on September 15, 1956. Chief Akin Olugbade was number 402, called to the Bar on November 24, 1953 but enrolled on January 2, 1954. Mr. Justice Francis Ome Nwokedi was number 459, called to the Bar on November 23, 1954 but enrolled on March 26, 1955. Chief Nabo Bekinbo Graham Douglas (1926-2006), that tall imposing figure from Abonema, was number 493, called to the Bar on June 28, 1955 but enrolled on December 3, 1955. Chief Graham Douglas was the second Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, after Chief Alade Rotimi Williams (1920-2005); while Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987) was the third SAN. Chief Awolowo was number 168, called to the Bar on November 18, 1946 and was enrolled December 24, 1946.
Justice Sir Louis Nwachukwu Mbanefo (1911-1977), the first lawyer from the old Eastern Region, was lawyer 127, he was called to the Bar on November 18, 1935 and enrolled on August 13, 1937. Justice O. Shomolu was lawyer number 178, was called to the Bar on January 27, 1947 and enrolled on March 27, 1947. Justice Godfrey Charles Ubaka Agbakoba was lawyer number 303, was called to the Bar on June 6 1951 and enrolled on August 7, 1951. Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (1910-1966) was lawyer number 262, called to the Bar on January 26, 1950 and enrolled on March 31, 1950. Justice Timothy Akinola Aguda (1923-2001) was number 339, he was called to the Bar on July 1, 1952 and enrolled on July 19, 1952. He was number 339. Chief Olu Akinfosile was lawyer 665, was called to the Bar on November 26, 1957 but was enrolled on May 12, 1958. It was a deserving honour for Alhaji Abdulrazaq, who because of his health was represented by his first son, Dr. Alimi. But equally deserving was the award given to him by the people of Kwara State when they elected his son, Abdulraham Abdulrazaq as their governor on March 9, which was a collective effort involving prominent people of Kwara State, including Alhaji Lai Mohammed (67) from Oro and others. The governor-elect is the Managing Director of First Fuels Limited and and an ex-student of Government College, Kaduna.
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Nothing will please Alhaji Ganiyu Abdulrazaq as a proud father than for his son Abdulrahman to perform in terms of governance in Kwara State. There is a wall of difference between winning election and governing well. Elections make fundamental contributions to democratic governance. The main purpose of democracy is not only to win elections but good governance. What the people of Kwara State want is not a mere change from Saraki dynasty to Abdulrazaq dynasty but a positive change for the better. The OTOGE movement was a clarion call for good governance. The same forces that drove the Saraki dynasty out of power are still around and more reinforced and alert.
Between 1952 and early ’70s, two important figures played prominent roles in the sub-region that we now call Kwara. They are Alhaji Abdulrazaq and Chief Josiah Sunday Olawoyin who died in 2000 at the age of 75. Chief Olawoyin was an ally of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Asiwaju of Offa. Then came Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the late Waziri of Ilorin. Then came Chief Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo (78) from Okeonigbin in Kwara State, who became a Commissioner in the state, elected senator in 1979 and elected governor in August 1983. He became a minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo. Then came Chief Ayo Opadokun, the former Secretary of NADECO and now Alhaji Lai Mohammed. With the gubernatorial election last month, the torch has now been passed to the Abdulrazaq family.
Public Service runs in the family of Abdulrazaq in Ilorin. Twenty years ago, the first daughter of the family, Khairat Abdulrazaq Gwadabe was elected a Senator in Abuja. Abdulrazaq himself entered politics as early as 1952. Between 1957 and 1960, he was a member of Northern House of Assembly. He became the Nigerian Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire between 1960 and 1962. Between 1962 and 1964, he was a cabinet Minister of Nigeria Railway Corporation and a Member of Parliament.
Following the creation of Kwara State in 1967, he was appointed Commissioner for Finance and later Commissioner for Health and Social Welfare by Governor Femi David Lasisi Bamigboye (1940-2018). In 1975, General Murtala Mohammed appointed him as a member of the 50-man Constitutional Drafting Committee. He was later made the Chairman of the sub-committee of the Executive and the Legislature. Other members of the sub-committee were Dr. E. Eleazu, Alhaji Sule Ganiyu, Dr. I. Ahmed, Dr. Kole Abayomi, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Dr. G. A. Odenigwe, Mr. S.G. Ikoku, Alhaji Shehu Malami and Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe.
It was at the Constitution Drafting Committee that I first met Alhaji Ganiyu Abdulrazaq. He is a very simple individual. A gentleman to the core with high intellect. He lives in a world of ideas. I met him at the time he was losing grip on Kwara State politics. Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012) alias OLOOYE was emerging as the leader of Kwara State politics. Before 1974, Alhaji Abdulrazaq was the leader, especially in Ilorin. In 1976, I wanted to write a book on Alhaji Abdulrazaq. He insisted I should not, pleading that “my story is not yet over”. Because of Dr. Saraki’s dominance in NPN at that time, Alhaji Abdulrazaq opted for the GNPP of Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim in 1979. It was at the Constitution Drafting Committee that he served the nation best.
He seconded the bill on the Presidential System of Government in the Constituent Assembly. Nothing will please him today than seeing his son, Abdulraham, being sworn-in as governor of Kwara State on Wednesday, May 29. The inauguration will no doubt bring back his glory in Kwara State.