March 19, 2024

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (1931-2023), by Eric Teniola

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (2), by Eric Teniola

IN 1975 Brigadier General Murtala Mohammed (November 8, 1938 – February 13, 1976), he was at that time a brigadier, approached Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams SAN (December 16, 1920 – March 26, 2005) to be the chairman of the 50-man Constitution Drafting Committee. Chief Williams told Brigadier Murtala Mohammed that he would accept the job on two conditions, among which is that Professor Benjamin Obi Nwabueze (December 22, 1931- October 29, 2023) from Atani in Anambra State must be a member of the committee. Chief Williams told me this story himself when I covered proceedings of the committee which were usually held in his residence in Ilupeju, Lagos. I asked why he insisted on his friend, Professor Nwabueze, to be a member of the committee. His reply was: “who else but Ben”.

Eventually, Professor Ben Nwabueze was appointed a member of the 50-man committee. The committee was inaugurated on October 18, 1975 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, then headed by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi(82), from Ilesha, Osun State, who later became the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister under General Ibrahim Babangida. 

 The committee was inaugurated before Brigadier General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976. The Secretary of the committee was Alhaji Gidado Idris, who was then the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture in Kaduna State. He later became Secretary to the Constituent Assembly and later Secretary to the Government of the Federation under General Sani Abacha (September 20, 1943 – June 8, 1998).

At the Constitution Drafting committee, Alhaji Gidado Idris was assisted by Mr. R.C. O. Nwokedi, Senior Assistant Secretary, Cabinet Office, Lagos; Mrs O.O. Onajide, then Head of News and Current Affairs Mid-West Television; Mr. A. Obilade, Lecturer in Law, University of Lagos and Dr. O.A. Obozuwa, former Lecturer in Law, Lagos State University and a Commissioner, Public Service Commission, Bendel State. 

Other supporting staff of the committee by then were Mr. E. Omofuma, Mr. O. Ogunade, Mr. J.O. Oyefeso, Mrs A. T. Kole, Mrs M.M. Wuraola, Mr. J.E. Ikebude, Mr. R.O. Akpabio, Mrs J.O. Adeyemi-Wilson, Mrs V.O. Odunuga, Mrs M.M. Albert, Mrs P.C. Adiele, Mr. A. O. Iyiola, Mr. E.O. Ajiboye, Mrs. J.T. Okechukwu, Mr. E.I. Ojogwu, Miss A.E. Anwana, Mr. J. A. Adesanwo, Mr. Ben Enahoro, Mr. N. Orekan and Mr. P. Nwajei.   

After the inauguration of the committee, Professor Nwabueze was made a member of the Legal Drafting Subcommittee headed by Chief Rotimi Williams. Other members of the subcommittee at that time were Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide SAN(November 4, 1930- April 21, 2020), who later became the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation in 1979; Alhaji Olufemi Lateeef Okunnu(90), former Minister of Works; Dr. Tajudeen Olawale Ayinla Idris(June 6, 1940- August 30, 2018), who later became Commissioner for Education under Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande and Chief James Ajibola Idowu Ige, SAN(September 13, 1930 –  December 23, 2001) who was elected the governor of Oyo State, 1979-1983 and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, 2000-2001.

The rest members of the committee were Justice Muhammadu Buba Ardo(1930- October 5, 1991) from Fufore, Yola in Adamawa State, former Chief Justice of North Eastern State (175-1976), Justice of the Supreme Court(1978-1979), Mr. S.M. Liberty, Attorney General of Borno State and Mr. Kanmi Ishola Osobu from Ilesha in Osun State. 

Mr Osobu was educated at the famous Ilesha Grammar School before proceeding to the University of London. Before his death in 1995, he had a flourishing bar practice in Lagos of which many lawyers, including Wole Obayomi, currently a partner and Head of Tax, Regulatory and Peoples’ Service, TRPS, Practice of KPMG and Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika SAN, passed through. Till he died in Ibadan, myself, Toye Akiyode, Yinka Guedon, Gboyega Amoboye (The Governor), Femi Ogunleye(now the Towulade of Akinale in Ogun State), Labake Adebiyi alias EVERYTHING LABAKUS, Jimi Aderinokun, Dapo Aderinola, Tunde Fagbenle and other journalists were associated with him. Egbon Kanmi Ishola Osobu alias PEOPLE’S LAWYER, a human rights activist was also closely associated with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. 

The last member of the subcommittee was Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrazak (November 13, 1927 – July 25, 2020) from Ilorin. He was the first lawyer from the Northern Nigeria and the father to the present governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. 

Professor Nwabueze married Rose Achike, in December 1961. The marriage is blessed with three sons and three daughters. He had his education at the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, England, 1956-1961; was a lecturer, later senior lecturer, University of Lagos, 1962-1965; senior lecturer, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1965-1967; acting dean, University of Nigeria, Usukka,1967-1970; Professor, School of Law, University of Zambia, 1970-1976; also dean, School of Law, 1971-1976; joined United Bank for Africa, Lagos and awarded Nigerian National Merit Award in 1980. 

In January 1993, under the Transitional Council, then headed by Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan (May 9, 1936 – January 11, 2022), he was Secretary (Minister) of Education and Youth Development). In October 2013, Professor Nwabueze was appointed into the National Conference Advisory Committee but withdrew on health grounds. He was replaced by Mr. Solomon Asemota, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Christian Social Movement of Nigeria as well as Coordinator of the Ethnic Nationalities Movement, ENM. 

To be concluded