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PROF. BEN NWABUEZE, SAN – Academic Giant & Doctorate Degree Holder Through Publications

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THE LEGAL PROFESSION: Today, we take a look at one of the most interesting professions – Law. In this profession, logic, intelligence, and regular update of knowledge keep the practitioner on course. If you go stale, you have no business going to court. Anybody who does that would surely be put to shame. Nigeria produced one of her first Lawyers in 1879. Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams; an Ijesha by origin (1855–1915) was also a nationalist and politician.  He was Chairman (now President of the Nigerian Bar Association) from 1900 till 1915. Other Chairmen of the Bar Association that succeeded him were:

  • Sir Kitoyi Ajasa –1937)
  • Eric Olawale Moore (1937–1944)
  • Alex Taylor (1944–1950)
  • Sir Adeyemo Alakija (1950–1952)
  • Jubril Martin (1952–1959)

SENIOR ADVOCATES OF NIGERIA (SAN) This title, abbreviated as SAN accommodates Lawyers with outstanding contributions to the practice of the legal profession; that have been so recognized. The title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) confers on legal practitioners in Nigeria, some privileges as Members of the Inner Bar.  To be considered, a lawyer must have been in legal practice or academics for not less than ten years. The conferment is made in accordance with the Legal Practitioners Act 207 Section 5 (1) by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria. It is to be noted that the title of SAN confers seniority on a holder who is considered senior to another member of the Bar who might hitherto have been senior at the outer Bar.

BENJAMIN NWABUEZE: Our focus is on Prof. Benjamin Nwabueze, better known as Ben Nwabueze, an academic, statesman, and legal luminary, Professor Ben Nwabueze was born on December 22nd, 1932 in Atani, Ogbaru Local government Area of Anambra State. His profile, a read at the Hallmarks of Labour Foundation that recognized him for excellence reads thus: ‘’Professor of Professors as he’s fondly called by his numerous admirers is Nigeria’s first academic Senior Advocate of Nigeria. A Teacher, Administrator, Businessman and former Minister of Education and Youth Development, Prof. Nwabueze earned his Doctor of Laws (LL.D) at the University of London in 1978, based on his three outstanding books – Constitutionalism, Presidentialism, and Judicialism, thus entering the record books as the second (since the death of Dr. T.O. Elias), the only Nigerian and African holder of a higher doctorate degree in Law by published works.

EARLY LIFE: Although, well supported by both father and uncle initially, the greater part of his Academic pursuits abroad were made possible by scholarship awarded to him for his academic excellence. A seasoned Academician, he was member of Senate of the Universities of Lagos, Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland between 1971 – 1978. He was appointed the University Assessor for Academic Appointments, Universities of Ghana, Lagos, Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University)  and  Jos between 1978–1979. He is also the first academic lawyer to be made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1978 strictly on the basis of his published works.

CAREER:  His academic pursuit started at the CMS Central School Atani, from 1938 – 1945; C.M.S Central School, Onitsha (formerly, African College), 1947 – 1950. He later went to London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, 1956 – 1961 and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1961 – 1962. From 1962 – 1965, he was Senior Lecturer at Holborn College of Law, London, and Senior Lecturer, University of Nigeria Nsukka, between 1967 – 1970. In 1971, he was Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Zambia and Director, Law practice Institute, Zambia, 1973 – 1975 Although, well supported by both father and uncle initially, the greater part of his Academic pursuits abroad were made possible by scholarship awarded to him for his academic excellence. Prof. Nwabueze earned his Doctor of Laws (LL.D) at the University of London in 1978, based on his three outstanding books – Constitutionalism, Presidentialism, and Judicialism, thus entering the record books as the second (since the death of Dr. T.O. Elias), the only Nigerian and African holder of a higher doctorate degree in Law by published works. He is also the first academic lawyer to be made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1978 strictly on the basis of his published works.

A seasoned academician, he was member of Senate of the Universities of Lagos, Dar-es- salaam, Nairobi, Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland between 1971 – 1978. He was appointed the University Assessor for Academic Appointments, Universities of Ghana, Lagos, Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and Jos between 1978 – 1979. A firm believer in publishing, Prof. Ben Nwabueze is the proud author of over thirty books and treatises with an average extent of 400 pages. They include; The Machinery of Justice in Nigeria; Constitutional Law of the Nigerian Republic; Nigerian Land Law and Constitutionalism in the Emergent States. Others are Presidentialism in Commonwealth Africa, Judicialism in Commonwealth Africa; The Presidential Constitution of Nigeria; A Constitutional History of Nigeria; Federalism in Nigeria under the Presidential Constitution; and Nigeria’s Second Experiment in constitutional Democracy in Africa in Five Volumes. He has written over 200 articles in academic journals and delivered more than 100 keynotes at local and international Conferences.

TEACHING RESEARCH & LEARNING: He is a household name in the Legal Profession and hardly, any other author is as frequently quoted in court judgments as Ben Nwabueze. Although, well known for his teaching, research and writing. A firm believer in publishing, Prof. Ben Nwabueze is the proud author of over thirty books and treatises with an average extent of 400 pages. They include; The Machinery of Justice in Nigeria; Constitutional Law of the Nigerian Republic; Nigerian Land Law and Constitutionalism in the Emergent States. Others are Presidentialism in Commonwealth Africa, Judicialism in Commonwealth Africa; The Presidential Constitution of Nigeria; A Constitutional History of Nigeria; Federalism in Nigeria under the Presidential Constitution; and Nigeria’s Second Experiment in constitutional Democracy in Africa in Five Volumes.

Ben Nwabueze has written over 200 articles in academic journals and more than 100 keynotes at local and international Conferences. He is a household name in the Legal Profession and hardly, any other author is as frequently quoted in court judgments as Ben Nwabueze. Although, well known for his teaching, research and writing; Nwabueze continued to participate in University administration. This erudite Professor was appointed to Professorial Chairs in the following Universities; Zambia, 1970 – 75; Ahmadu Bello university, Zaria, 1974; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1975 – 76; Anambra State University of Technology; Nnamdi Azikiwe university, Awka 1989 – 1983 (visiting)

Nwabueze is also a strong advocate for the Igbo cause. He, alongside other prominent Igbo sons like Akanu Ibiam, M.I. Okpara, K.O. Mbadiwe, Chief Ugochukwu, P.N. Okigbo and Udoji, co-founded Ohaneze Ndigbo in 1976. He served as Secretary – General, between 1978 to 2004, in which capacity he transformed the body into a formidable, highly regarded non-partisan Pan Igbo pressure group. The recipient of several Chieftaincy titles: The Nigerian Order of Merit (NNOM) Prof. Ben Nwabueze is truly an academic giant in every sense of the term. Probably, more than any other Nigerian has, through his numerous books and articles contributed towards the application of constitutional law and the broader process of governance in Nigeria.

Indeed, the Nigerian Constitutional Evolution and the evolution of the entire legal system of Nigeria would not be complete without the invaluable contribution of this noble Patriot.  Elder statesman, Ben Nwabueze is recorded as attributing ‘’Nigeria’s stunted political and economic status to conflict of cultures. “What Nigeria is suffering today is what one can call conflict of cultures. The colonial culture had over the years wanted to wipe-off our traditional culture, which it has described as unworthy. Our pre-occupation today is to see how we can solve this problem; how we can coalesce the 389 ethnic groups that we have in Nigeria.” On 100 years of the amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates to form Nigeria, he picked holes in what he described as much noise being made by the Federal Government about the event’’

 LEGAL PRACTICE At the age of 87 years, Nwabueze still makes informed contributions to legal matters. In July 2019, he came into the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) that heard former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s petition against President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration as president of the Federal Republic in a wheelchair and announced himself as the leader ofi Atiku Abubakar’s legal team. Prof Nwabueze, read a prepared speech before the commencement of proceedings before departing the venue of the Tribunal. The SAN was allowed to address the tribunal while sitting. He told the Tribunal that appearance was to underscore the importance of the case for the nation’s democratic development.

 Nwabueze does not shy away from speaking the truth as in the case of the 1979 Constitution: ‘’I was one of those responsible for the federal system that we have. Of the so-called 49 wise men that drafted the 1979 Constitution, the late Chief Rotimi Williams and I, were really the architect of that constitution. We were thinking of having a strong one Nigeria, with power concentrated at the centre,  that is what landed us in the situation we now found ourselves – a strong centre, that is now muffling all of us. Too much power at the centre, then compounded by 28 years of absolute military government. They ruled us for 28 years and then compounded our problems’’ We believed wrongly, as it turned out that strong centre was what is needed for one Nigeria; that if you have a strong centre you would be able to achieve the dream of a strong united, progressive one Nigeria. We were so enamored of the whole idea of strong one Nigeria’’ (Sun Newspaper)

He added: ‘’Regrettably, the amount of power we put at the centre has been so enlarged by the military that the thing has been turned, virtually into a unitary system. We have unitary system tagged, euphemistically, Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is not a federal system; it is unitary system. We must go back to the original thing, the true federalism of 1960 and 1963 Constitutions. We must let each constituent unit; each federating unit manage its own internal affairs; internal self government, either alone or in combination with related groups. Let them manage their own affairs and leave matters of common concern at the centre.

In order to ensure that his works live after him, he has established The Ben Nwabueze Centre; for studies in Constitutional Law and related subject is aimed at creating awareness in constitutional law and the rule of law. It also seeks to encourage the public, legislators and politicians to have a better understanding of the constitution for good governance and to ensure that the system, his vision and works live after him’’

Prof. Nwabueze leads the Patriots-a socio-political association of elderly Nigerians. He rejected his nomination to serve on the 2014 National Constitutional Conference but said he would contribute to the assignment.  He disclosed that  he was already working with 13 prominent lawyers in Nigeria to draft a new people’s constitution. This people’s constitution, he said would be presented to the Presidency and the National Assembly as a working paper for the National Conference proper after it is deliberated at a soon to be re-convened patriot’s summit in Uyo in 2014.

 

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