Four Scores for Prince Bola Ajibola

Scientists attribute a number of factors to longevity or life expectancy : genetics, healthy lifestyle, culture, exercise, positive thinking, apt diet and maintaining good health care. To the longest serving Attorney-general and Minister of Justice in Nigeria, Judge Bola Abdul Jabbar Ajibola, it comes with the grace of God. Having now attained 960 months, that is 4,174 weeks or 29, 219 days which are the equivalent of 42, 075,901 minutes on the surface of the earth globe, the former Judge of the World Court in The Hague is worth celebrating. This time- in contrast with the past-with both lectures and chants of praises to the High Heavens, accompanied with drums and all paraphernalia of musicals. The eminent jurist and arbitrator has now chronicled his positive contributions to humanity and history in a book form entitled "Tribulations and Trophies: Memoirs of Judge Bola Ajibola".

We are informed in the Creationist Theory that in the estimation of our Creator's time, a period of humans' one thousand years is only a day of His reckoning. Therefore, a period of 80 years of any human's existence is only comparable to a flash or a blink, talking about period with God. Looking back, to the octogenarian, eighty years is just like yesterday or a day's recording and playback of events!

Words of elders are words of wisdom. What a young boy cannot see climbing a tree, an old man will see sitting down. This comes from experience and knowledge of the aged because they have gone through thick and thin in life. They have witnessed the proverbial downpours and showers of life. Elders are teachers, philosophers and seers because they have witnessed many pasts. They have seen green and dry vegetation. However, there are elders of substance and those of straw. The former are elders who have been grossly favoured in their existence. They have risen to the pinnacle of their trade and profession.They are recognized by destiny. But elders of straw are those who do not make it in life however hard they might have striven. Judge Ajibola is an elder of substance who has been recognized by God and humanity.

Early in life, he was unconsciously learning, in the palace, the art of law, arbitration and justice under the tutelage of his father,HRM Oba Abdul Salam Gbadela, the Olowu of Owu Kingdom who reigned between 1949 and 1972. It was more of a rote learning of the blue-blooded young Adesumbo Ajibola than the formal classroom knowledge of the law. And consciously, at a point, his father encouraged him to tow the line of arbitration and law when he noticed his son's preference for farming and acting.

The road to The Hague is narrow. Only the destined would thread it. By a dint of hardwork and providence combined, Judge Ajibola was destined for the most prestigious legal assignment in the world court. He had steadily threaded the road behind Late Judge Teslim Elias whom he had understudied as a guide. He had applied the golden nights rule of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "the heights that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, when their companions were slept, kept toiling on through the night", to proactively trace his steps to The Hague. He was forced to memorise this quotation in elementary standard 5 and that was the beginning of his "golden nights" rule. It is on record that he used to write not less than 80 pages of judgement per night as a world court judge. Within three months, he was able to read a boxful of books meant to tutor him, by late Justice Elias, for the daunting job of the International Cout of Justice.

As a writer, Judge Ajibola is dexterous with the use of words. He is a maverick of idioms and proverbs. He had used the Yoruba traditional proverbs to solve problems among his colleagues at ICJ. His firm belief according to Yoruba tradition, that when words are lost only proverbs are used to locate them, afforded him the wherewithal to solve problems at the ICJ.

Oftentimes, his dissenting opinions/judgements were backed by proverbs and it so happened at a time all the judges had to vote on a contending issue. His was the only dissenting voice backed by the rich Yoruba proverbs. There was a recess and afterwards, all other judges gave their consensus to Ajibola's dissent, having realized the richness in his forefathers' proverbs. Just as Chinua Achebe succinctly captures in Things Fall Apart that "proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten". Judge Ajibola was a good cook of words with proverb recipe for other judges to relish!

Ajibola as a speaker carries his audience along. You cannot be bored with his delivery as he garnishes issues at stake with humour and rib-cracking jokes. His reading speed, although with good pace and pitch that blend well with the delivery, is amazing. Even with age, he reads a typewritten page of A4 paper within three minutes and he will not exceed the time given by any moderator or play to the gallery.

He traverses history, blended with philosophy, science and logic. He treats issues frankly and fairly. When impressed, he falls in love with the word "effective" or "efficient"; when planning he adores adjectives such as "pro-active" and "proficient"; when irked, he employs a phrase like "patent anomalies" or " incongruous situation". When surprised, he first and foremost whistles like a singing bird and then applies the contextual, gargantuan vocabulary.

Judge Ajibola's most cherished legacy is Crescent University, Abeokuta, a private university he founded in 2005 through a parent body, Islamic Mission for Africa, to impact not just knowledge but good moral conduct on our youths. When he retired from the ICJ, there were about 17 private universities majorly owned by Christians. Then he asked himself "where is our own?". Since, according to him, a bird does not fly with one wing he thought there should also be universities founded and owned by Muslims.

* Katib is Chartered Member of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Ogun Sate Chapter

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Articles by Idris Katib