As it is usual, I celebrate my brother, my friend, my senior and my benefactor, Chief Wole Olanipekun, this time as he bows out today March 30, 2023 as the Chairman, Body of Benchers after a one-year, action-packed meritorious service to the legal profession of Africa’s most populous nation.
About eight years ago when my daughter was called to Bar, I saw firsthand the intimidating glamour of the occasion as well as the aura and prestige attached to the “Chairman of the Body of Benchers” at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. Chief Olanipekun was not at the event. My wife and I took pictures with Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN and Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN and others at the occasion.
Few days later, I asked Chief Olanipekun why he was not Chairman of the Body of Benchers then since he had been President of the Nigerian Bar earlier. He informed me told that there is a structure, an order for the ascension to the position and that his time would come later. I didn’t even remember when he became the Vice Chairman of the Body as he never made much reference to the position then. But few days to his assumption of the prestigious position last year, a certain ranking lawyer was opposed to the election of Chief Olanipekun as the Chairman, Body of Benchers. I put a call to him when I heard the news.
It was then that he told me that he had been Vice Chairman for about a year earlier and there was no problems and it was better to ignore the intrigue. As God willed, Chief Olanipekun assumed the office and the rest is history. Not being a lawyer myself, I knew little of the routine duties of the Chairman which at any rate was just for a year. But I knew the legal luminary was always fully engaged in and outside the country. I was therefore completely taken aback sometimes in July last year when Chief Olanipekun was asked to recuse himself from the exalted position by the then NBA President.
Without prodding and by my own conviction, I wrote an article in his defence. In what has now appeared to be a deliberate orchestration against Chief Olanipekun, the new NBA President jumped into the same mischievous boat and even boycotted one of the two “Call to Bar” ceremonies that Chief Olanipekun presided on.
In spite of intrigues orchestrated against his leadership, Chief Olanipekun maintained his emotional equilibrium and integrity. He emerged victorious and vindicated. The icing on the cake of his tenure was that a vote of confidence was also passed on his leadership of the Body of Benchers.
Apart from the statutory Call to Bar ceremonies, it is on record that Chief Wole Olanipekun served the Body meritoriously. He initiated a strategic meeting with President Buhari in support of the interests of the Body of Benchers; he was invited as a special guest by Gov. Nyesom Wike to the commissioning of the Law School Campus which was built by the governor in Port Harcourt during which occasion the governor named a big complex within the campus after the Chief.
One year in office is like a twinkle but for someone that is focused and well prepared and determined, one year was enough for pass for a four-year tenure! Throughout his tenure, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, refused to be distracted while his traducers gasped for breath. His stint as Chairman, Body of Benchers brought pleasant and plenty traffic to the association.
He awarded scholarships to many students and positively touched the lives of many others including myself. Olanipekun built a court complex for Ekiti State Judiciary and during his tenure, he was recognised with a honorary degree by Federal University, Oye Ekiti. He was also appointed as a Visiting Professor of the same University.
Without doubt, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN has been blessed by God, and he in turn continues to bless his constituency, his legal profession and humanity at large. He who God loves, no man can curse. Our people say that those who wait for the downfall of the blessed one are like those who spend their eternity at the riverside waiting to catch the crab in sleep. Once again, congratulations to Chief Wole Olanipekun on the meritorious completion of his tenure as Chairman, Body of Benchers.
Dr Gani Adeniran, Ajangboju Akobo wrote in from Ibadan, Oyo State.