All Hail The Incorruptible Judge, Prince Ajibola@ 80
Admirers are waiting to celebrate the former World Court Judge at The Hague, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN) as he joins the octogenarian club few weeks from now.
By Tunde Eso
THE world is thrilled as the former World Court Judge at The Hague, Nigeria-born Prince Judge Bola Ajibola (SAN), is set to celebrate his 80 years birthday few weeks from now.
The legal luminary, aside being a former Head of the Nigeria High Commission to Britain, is an international adjudicator, a mediator, ambassador, a humanitarian, a devout Muslim, and an accomplished proprietor of Nigeria’s great citadel of learning, Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Ajibola has made his impressive footprints on the sand of time,having written his name boldly in gold and on the wall of history. The president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has been a good role model for those who seek to be inspired by his exemplary life.
Apart from being the longest-serving attorney general and minister of justice at a stretch, Ajibola remains the only Nigerian who selflessly served his fatherland for over six years-between 1985 and 1991-as a minister without taking home any salary. He rather painstakingly paid back to the Federal Government 35 per cent of his regular monthly salary, 25 per cent of it to the NBA and 40 per cent to charitable/humanitarian organisations all over Nigeria, including the Association of the Blind, Red Cross, Red Crescent, Muslim Aid Group, disabled societies in Lagos and Benin among others. During the aforementioned period, he engaged the services of three legal practitioners that he was paying on his own at the Ministry of Justice for the publication of the Nigerian Weekly Law Report. As a man of integrity, Ajibola remains an incorruptible jurist on the bar and the bench.
In his days as attorney general and minister of justice, people looking for favours of his office would send in expensive wristwatches, clothes, jewelry, wall clocks and other valuables. On quarterly basis, the items were often sold at trade fairs, while the proceeds were often returned to the Federal Government coffers on his directive.
Once, a printing contractor who had been patronised by the ministry of justice brought a new car into his compound as a gift. On his knowledge, Ajibola quickly phoned the man to take away his car or risk a jail term.
Unlike many Nigerian public office holders who amassed billions of naira and concealed them in foreign accounts, Ajibola, after retiring from the world court at The Hague, decided to sell all his assets both in Nigeria -starting from Bola Ajibola Street in Ikeja, Lagos- and abroad in fulfillment of his pact with God to found a university—Crescent University, Abeokuta, to cater for the next generation. Whereas his colleagues at the World Court retired to bliss, he chose to retire to contentment and enduring impact on humanity through education.
In his national and international legal as well as arbitration assignments too numerous to mention, the incorruptible judge is synonymous with integrity, industry, credibility and discipline, the demonstration of which had been evident since his days as president NBA.
At the time he served at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to the time he led the Nigerian delegation to the Cameroon-Nigerian Mixed Commission, he successfully prevented the anticipated war between Nigeria and Cameroon with his foresight, as some powerful nations of the world were ready to support Cameroon in case the matter resulted in war. By and large, Nigeria generally gained more in the area of maritime delineation, which enabled the country to gain virtually all its claim on the offshore and the onshore. Although Judge Teslim Elias had written a legal opinion that Bakassi was a peninsular belonging to Cameroon, Ajibola made tremendous efforts to prove that Bakassi belong to Nigeria.
As an elder statesman, Ajibola was appointed to chair the delegation of not only his home state, Ogun State, but the South Western states and later the entire south of Nigeria to Conference of Political Reforms in 2005 where divergent views of various groups were discussed. The delegation successfully secured the N10b billion Lagos allocations from the Federal Government.
He has won dozens of awards and honours both within and outside the country. He also emerged the winner of the prestigious Sardauna Leadership Award in 2010.
Ajibola has put smiles on many faces as he donates secretly to refugee camps, motherless babies’ homes and hospitals.
Born on March 22, 1934 in Owu, Abeokuta, Ogun State, to Oba Abdul-Salam Ajibola Gbadela II, who ruled Owu between 1949 and 1972, Ajibola attended Owu Baptist Day School and Baptist Boys’ High School both in Abeokuta between 1942 and 1955. He obtained his Bachelors Degree in Law (LL.B) at the Horlborn College of Law, University of London, between 1959 and 1962, and was called to the English Bar at the Lincoln’s Inn in 1962. He retuned to Nigeria to practise law, specialising in Commercial Law and International Arbitration.Ajibola said his secret of longevity has been in the service of God.
In spite of his achievement, Ajibola is sad that Nigeria is not making use of history judiciously. “Nigerians have ignored the appreciation of the past, no regard for history,” the former temporary President of the United Nations General Assembly said. “We are not making good use of our past, in fact, we don't study history in schools any longer. So, we don't have memory; we don't think; we don't project rightly. It is very sad because if you don't have your pasts, how do you relate the present to arrive at what you intent to attain in future? If we don't take cognizance of our past, we are deluding our selves to see any bright future.
“I will give you good examples. The Americans looked into the past by looking back on the walls of Jericho, using that to make use of the power of sound. They have scientifically exploited the power of the sound to the effect that they were able to destroy people far away in the sea in order to destroy their efforts to do piracy. And this invention enables the Americans to set up University of Robot, and they got robots to carry out jobs in Mars so that they will not harm human beings. It was robot that gave Americans the indication that there was water in Mars. If they had not looked back, how would they have gotten all that?
“There were days of Obafemi Awolowo and others who gave us the inspirations to move ahead. Our future is deemed, and it is sad we are behaving reckless. We are backward as a country because we are not looking back to history to predict the future. It is very sad.”
Ajibola was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, member of the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration, member of the International Maritime Arbitration Commission, Paris; member of the Panel of International Arbitrators of the London Institute of Arbitrators and member of the International Advisory Committee of the World Arbitration Institute, U.S.A.
The inspirational judge said Nigerians must be given the opportunity by private electricity investors to discuss tariffs, instead of imposing exorbitant tariffs on the citizens, and urged government to support both public and private schools to fast track growth in Nigeria.
A lover of nature, Ajibola’s country home in Abeokuta is a mini-zoo, as all kinds of birds and animals can be found there. He is married and blessed with five children, all lawyers.
Nigerians have ignored the appreciation of the past, no regard for history,” the former temporary President of the United Nations General Assembly said. “We are not making good use of our past, in fact we don't study history in schools any longer. So, we don't have memory; we don't think; we don't project rightly. It is very sad because if you don't have your pasts, how do you relate the present to arrive at what you intent to attain in future? If we don't take cognizance of our past, we are deluding our selves to see any bright future….There were days of Obafemi Awolowo and others who gave us the inspirations to move ahead. Our future is deemed, and it is sad we are behaving reckless. We are backward as a country because we are not looking back to history to predict the future. It is very sad.