The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has said there is a need for more cerebral legal practitioners to emerge in Nigeria in order to resist tyranny and expand what he described as frontiers of jurisprudence in the country.
Justice Muhammad said with more good lawyers, the fundamental issues of the rule of law and the basic human rights would be promoted and defended at all levels of society.
The CJN stated this on Wednesday during the public presentation of “Two Decades of Forensic Advocacy at the Inner Bar,” a collection of legal writings In honour of Yusuf Ali (SAN).
The book presentation, which held in Abuja, was chaired by Justice Muhammad and attracted many of the leading lights in the Nigerian legal circles, including Prof. Wahab Egebwole (SAN), who spoke on behalf of the editors of the book, the Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University, Prof. Olarenwaju Fagbohun (SAN), and the President, Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Olumide Akpata.
Others who graced the occasion included Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), Kehinde Elejo (SAN), Dr. A.W.A Ibrahim, among others
In his speech, the CJN, who was represented by Justice Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, said: “As judges, when you read some briefs, you are like ‘Oh, my God!’ because you are aware of the kind of research that was involved in ensuring that justice is done, considering the facts and all the available laws.
“So, when briefs are written with a view to espousing the law and are ingeniously written that you step back mentally and say ‘Wow, this is good. This person has thought things through,’ that is the kind of briefs that usually emanates from the chambers of Yusuf Ali, SAN. But that is not to say I always agree (with his assertions). But I always admire the level of work he puts into his briefs.
“When good briefs are read and judgments are written, they espouse the law and expand the frontiers of jurisprudence in a matter. It is a thing of inspiration to the legal profession in Nigeria.
“For tyranny to succeed, you must first eliminate good lawyers.”
The CJN described his impression of Yusuf Ali (SAN) as a noble gentleman, adding: “He is a person that has shown such depth of knowledge, creativity, erudition, and research in his briefs. He has also been a man that has helped in shaping the present jurisprudence in Nigeria in so many areas, particularly the area of human rights.”
Speaking on the motivation to compile the book, Prof. Wahab Egbewole (SAN) said, “The whole idea was to examine the honouree through the cases he had handled as an advocate.
“This project was informed by our perception of the honouree as a person whose works must be showcased for the upcoming generations to learn and be inspired from.
“It was not difficult for us to get learned seniors and colleagues to buy into the idea of writing their comments on cases handled by Yusuf Ali, SAN, in his two decades of sojourn at the inner bar.”
In his remarks, Oba Rufus Olarewaju Ajayi Ogidi Olu Obagbaja Arolagbade II, Oba of Gbomina Ekiti Kingdom, in Kwara state, said there was a decline in the number of good lawyers in the country worthy of mentoring the upcoming generations.
He said, “Though a first-class graduate of law from UNILAG, I learned from Yusuf Ali, SAN, before I mounted the throne of my forefathers. He is an expert. He is good not only knowledge but in character and in his religion.”
Oba Arolagbade II, recommended that the collection of legal writings “Two Decades of Forensic Advocacy at the Inner Bar,” in honour of Yusuf Ali (SAN) be adopted by all institutions of legal studies and practice in Nigeria and read by younger lawyers to imbibe the knowledge therein into their practice.
On his part, the honouree, Yusuf Ali, reiterated his view of the rule of law, saying there would be a better society when it is given a principal place in the affairs of the nation.
“It’s in our interest to observe the rule of law. We should not jettison it on the grounds of convenience,” he said.