Wole Olanipekun & Co. Symposium Held In Honour Of Chief Olanipekun’s 70th Birthday

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I am deeply honoured to have been asked to chair this symposium of the WOC Justice Summit in celebration of the 70th birthday of my dear egbon, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN.


First, if you look at Chief Olanipekun’s photographs when he was 40, 50, 60 and now 70, it is evident that nothing has changed, he looks exactly the same.


I can hear some trouble makers saying it is his bank accounts you should look at for any changes. Let me speak for my egbon on that, let us just say that his finances have grown from strength to strength.


I have advised that he needs to spend some of those hard currencies now. I suggested he should buy a jet, it will make his journeys more pleasurable, and not a big jet, a small one will do so that all these naysayers will not accuse him of showing off.


But we thank God for giving him such sound physical and mental health, and an ever-youthful physique and disposition.


Many years ago, I said to Chief Olanipekun that he is becoming Nigeria’s most consequential constitutional lawyer since the legendary Rotimi Williams, SAN, of blessed memory, going by the number and range of constitutional matters in our superior courts in which he has acted as counsel.


I now know that I might have understated what his relevance would be because clearly given the number and variety of major cases he has been in and many of which he has won, he is probably one of the most consequential and influential lawyers in the Commonwealth.


Chief Olanipekun’s great intellect, his mastery of the law, its substance and its technicalities, his incredible ability to get to the heart of the matter and to let whole panels of judges see his sometimes daring points, his disarming wit and humour, his sometimes lyrical and poetic submissions quoting from the classics and the Scriptures, make him easily one of the most outstanding minds in the legal profession in this or any other generation.


But I am sure that what must give him as much if not more satisfaction as his accomplishments in the legal profession is how he has affected the lives of hundreds, if not thousands who cannot repay him for his kindness, his many charities and philanthropies and his several contributions to the growth and reach of the gospel.


I am especially thankful to God that the tributes that are being paid to you today are not being said at a memorial service or “celebration of life”, as we call it when you are gone, but in your lifetime.


There simply is nothing comparable to seeing your legacy in your lifetime; a father of four lawyers Dapo, Bukola, Bode and Temitope, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Dapo and Bode, and the elder Senior Advocate Dapo, has a Doctorate in Law.


But I am sure Chief Olanipekun will agree that his best partnership is not Wole Olanipekun and Co., it is with his sweetheart of many years and mother of his children Erelu Omolara Olanipekun, our dear aunty, without whose unfailing love and support, he undoubtedly would have been far less successful.


I have had many conversations with Chief Olanipekun through the years and invariably we come back to the elephant in the room – will the legal profession as we knew it survive another fifty years given the gridlock in processing cases through the courts and the question of the integrity of the legal process, or better still integrity of actors in the legal process in Nigeria?


Regarding delays in Nigerian Courts, the UK court of appeal had on occasion to comment in the case of (IPCO v. NNPC [2015] EWCA Civ 1144) where a challenge to the enforcement of a Nigerian seated arbitration tribunal award came before the English Court of Appeal.


The court referred to the delays in the parallel proceedings before a Nigerian Court as catastrophic and that it could take a further 30 years to resolve. Incidentally, the expert witness who testified on delays in the Nigerian Courts was a former Justice of the Supreme Court who testified that a case could take 20 to 30 years to resolve a case in a Nigerian Court.


On the integrity of the legal process and its key actors, judges, and lawyers, most of us here who have practised in our courts and who still practise know at least anecdotally, that many important cases today are under a shroud of doubt as to whether outcomes would be influenced one way or the other.


I look forward to the conversations we will have today and may I suggest that we focus on practical and implementable ideas, not a rehash of the problems – we are all experts at knowing the problems already.


So, let me again congratulate my egbon on his 70th birthday and remind him that his best years are still ahead of him.  As the Scripture says, “and the path of the just is like the shining sun, shining brighter every day unto the perfect day.” So, it shall be for you and all yours in Jesus’ name.


May I, therefore, welcome you all to this event and wish you an enjoyable afternoon.


Thank you.