“The structure of our judiciary is fundamentally flawed” – Adesina

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On July 24, 2014, Julius Oladele Adesina SAN, simply known as Dele Adesina, clocked 32 years in the legal profession, having been called to the Bar in July 1982. To him, all his life and the time he has put into legal practice, the Hand of God and His majestic presence is clearly evident, “A period of 32 years is by no means a joke in the life of a human being. Having regard to where I started and to where God has brought me to today in the profession, I make bold to say that God has been faithful to His plan and purpose for my life in this profession. Just as everyone is created to fulfill a purpose on earth, my purpose in life generally and in this profession particularly is well defined. With very profound respect, I say with every sense of responsibility that I matter to this generation”.

Looking back, this is not a fake boast. Adesina believes in the biblical statement that “those who know their God, they shall be strong and they shall do exploits”. As far as he is concerned, his mission and purpose in life is clearly defined. There is not an iota of doubt in his mind just as there is no room for negative thoughts.  At every step forward, there is always a clear signal and preparation for the next task ahead.

In 1998, a few months before his election as Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, Adesina moved into his own personal building at Akowonjo, in the outskirts of Lagos. That house was personally dedicated by his father in the Lord, Bishop David Oyedepo.  By 2002 as he prepared to contest the office General Secretary of the NBA, he moved from a three bedroom flat that he shared with another lawyer friend, into a beautiful edifice in the same Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. Again, early 2006, his firm acquired a property of its own at Opebi, Lagos as the new office; and year after, he was conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (2007).

According to him, “Life is about knowing what to do and doing it. Man keeps struggling when he does not know the plan and purpose of God for him. Life like any product only functions optimally when used for what it was specifically designed for. My story today is that my dream is beginning to find practical fulfillment. Remember that life dreams unfold in phases. As we speak, our conception of a dream law office has become a reality”. His dream law office, an architectural masterpiece that combines the aesthetics of the old Roman capitol with modern day structure gives the building an impressive mien as a fountain of law. The chambers compares favourably with any law firm anywhere in the world. All these effort is geared towards building a society ruled by the law rather than by the whims and caprices of men.

Asked how rule of law and dispensation of justice has fared in Nigeria.  Adesina replied: “Rule of law as we know it presupposes that everything must be done according to law and there should be no arbitrariness. It presupposes that everyone is under the law and there must be no impunity. Due process must be followed by both the government and the governed in carrying out their duties and responsibilities. People as a culture must obey the law and any infraction or disobedience of the law must be accompanied with necessary sanctions. But what do you still find today? Impunity still reigns supreme. Ordinary traffic laws are obeyed in the breach. Corruption still permeates the society. Politicians still fight election petition cases to the highest court of the land. They will prefer to discredit the system than to voluntarily and willingly accept defeat. Even where the final court has decided the matter, some Nigerians will not accept the finality of the decision;

Get me right, I am not asking people to agree with the final decisions of the Supreme Courts, but they have no choice than to accept it.  You can see that we are still far from there. Like I always say, if you are not there, you are not there. Fourteen years into democratic experience, we should begin to grow the culture of being ruled by the law”.

As for the dispensation of justice, Adesina believes that it will take a better part of ten years for a case initiated at the High court to go full circle by getting the decision of the Supreme Court. This to him is not acceptable.

He said: “The structure of our judiciary is fundamentally flawed. While the nation runs a federal system, the judiciary is actually unitary. Judges appointment and discipline is done through the National Judicial Council while they serve in the states. Besides, the minimum judges in states are eight, while states like Lagos have about 56 judges. Assuming 50 per cent of the cases before them reached the Court of Appeal, the cases before the appellate court will be so much than what they can cope with in a year;

The same thing is replicated between the various Courts of Appeal in the country and the Supreme Court. This in itself has defeated the idea of speedy dispensation of justice. As a matter of fact, I understand that if the already overworked and overburdened Supreme Court seats everyday, Saturdays and Sunday inclusive, it can hardly complete the cases now pending before it in the next four years.

He believes that the country will have to determine whether it wants to run federal system or a unitary one. He advocated for regions to have their own appellate courts where all cases ends. The national Supreme Court will then be left with only constitutional matters and disputes between federating components.

For Adesina, life has not always been a bed of roses. His story is that of a man who had it rough at the beginning. His first 12 years at the Bar were full of challenges in every sphere. Many of his friends and church members still remember his love for flowery ties!  By the way, he was a member of the ushering group of the Winners Chapel. The story of how he overcame indebtedness is a lesson for everyone. His rickety 504 peugeot car had no battery. To use the car daily, he had to rent a battery from a Battery Charger on a daily basis at the cost of two naira per day. Before he knew it, the bill had piled up to eighty naira which he could not pay. He therefore negotiated with the man who collected forty naira as full and final settlement of the debt. He returned the battery and parked the car at home until he was able to buy a battery. From that time, he swore never to be indebted to anyone again.

He also recalled a story of a time he travelled with his bosom friend, Femi Falana SAN to their home town. They were both excited at the journey as they gisted, and sang along to the melodious tune of a King Femi Ariyo, a local musician from their home town of Ilawe – Ekiti. All of a sudden, they had a flat tyre. It was then that Falana knew he was travelling in a car without a jack!! After waiting for several hours, a Good Samaritan stopped and borrowed them his jack which they used to fix the spare tyre.

What lessons did he derive from all his desert years? He replied: “I recognized a long time ago that a man’s picture determines his future. So many years ago, I painted a picture of my vision. Even at that time, I knew that impossibility is the language of failure and that every star in every human endeavour is a possibilitarian. With this understanding, coupled with my unflinching faith in God, I knew very early in the profession that everything I want to become is possible; and if everything is possible, then, everything is realizable for me. The hardship of the period was only but for a season which definitely will not last for ever

However, from possibility to realization of goals could be a long and tiring journey that could test the best of souls. After his call to Bar, he searched the streets of Lagos for a law chamber that could employ him but there was none. His name then did not ring any bell. He was a son of an agrarian farmer in the rural and sleepy town of Ilawe- Ekiti. You have got to have pedigree in those days before you can get a job with notable law firms in those days.

Tired of roaming the streets, he went back to Ondo State where he got a job as a pupil lawyer with the state ministry of justice. This was in July 1983. He picked the story from this point. “Just a month after my employment, precisely on August 16, 1983, there was a massive political violence that ravaged Akure, the state capital and some part of the then Ondo State, following the gubernatorial election of that month. A friend of mine, the late Ayeni Anthony Akiika with whom I was squatting unknown to me was a strong member of one of the political parties, the party that allegedly rigged the elections’;

My friend’s properties, all without exception, together with all the personal effects I acquired during my National Youth Service Corps were burnt by the rioters, leaving me to safe only my wig and gown and the clothes I had on me. The permission by the rioters to save my wig and gown was considered to have been abused by me when I pleaded with them to save my friend’s properties. This event was to have a lasting impression on me and there and then, I decided to leave Ondo State back to Lagos”.

By January 1984, he got a job with Hogg Robinson Nigeria as a claim officer. He enrolled for the Association of Chartered Insurance Institute (ACII) examinations. However before he could finish it, he lost interest in insurance and resigned his appointment, even without getting a chamber where he could practice. In the course of looking for a chamber, he came across Chief Doja Adewopo ironically through the General Manager of Hogg Robinson, Mr Akinneye, who took him into his chambers. It was under this man that he served his pupillage for six years before he established Dele Adesina and Co.

In reminiscence, Adesina said: “Scripturally, there is always a Jonathan and a Judas Iscariot to everyone. But I have been favoured by God Almighty. To every Judas Iscariot on my path, God has raised multiple Jonathans for me. Chief Adewopo was my first Jonathan. I had such a wonderfully robust relationship with my principal to the extent that after his death, I became, as it were, a father to the family”.

From this moment, Adesina became practically unstoppable. He said: “When I left my Principal in 1992, I joined another lawyer friend of mine to rent a 3 bedroom flat at No 55 Allen Avenue. I had two rooms while he had the room and parlour. Why Allen Avenue?  A very expensive part of the Central Business District of Ikeja. Why not Agege, or Akowonjo where I could have got a whole 3 bedroom flat for a quarter of what I paid for a two room apartment on Allen? I did this because even at that time, I had conceived a law practice that will run as a business concern. An institutional legal  practice that I will bequeath to the next generation including my children even though I had no single child studying law at that time;

I never believed in running a law practice at a subsistence level, sufficient enough for me to eat. feed and go to bed. Today, we occupy the whole building on the highbrow of Ikeja Business District, Opebi Road. Today our colleagues in chambers are enjoying professional fulfillment working here. Our non-professional staffs are no less happy and fulfilling than we are”.

In the profession today, Adesina  is a part of decision making process at different levels, capacities, and platforms. As a past General Secretary of the NBA, he is a life member of the National Executive Committee of the professional body, NBA. His time as General Secretary between 2002/2004, under Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN as President is regarded as a watershed in the annals of NBA history. The peoples’ impression is that the executive performed very creditably. Before that time, he had served his branch, Ikeja, in different capacities; from the Publicity Secretary to Secretary and ultimately the Chairman of the branch between 1998 and 2000.

He is also a life member of the distinguished body of Benchers, the highest regulatory body in the profession. A very active member of the Section on Legal Practice,  Adesina is Chairman of constitutional and Administrative Law Committee section of legal practice.  He is also the Chairman of the Rule of Law action group of the NBA. Besides two of his children, Ademola, and Adedolapo are already qualified legal practitioners. His first daughter is a Financial Analyst.

Concluding, he said: “The secret of men are in their stories. The journey has been great; I believe it will be greater in the days ahead. The greatness of any journey is a function of the degree and quality of responsibility one engages in, because responsibility is the price for greatness. The above success story does not suggest in any way that there had not been challenges and trying moments during this period. Indeed, like my spiritual father, Bishop David Oyedepo will say, you cannot win the prize if you fail to pay the price;

The gestation period was indeed long. But I refused to allow the problems, the challenges and lack of that period to intimidate me or chase me out of private practice. In the course of my life journey, particularly when embarking on any life project, I always remember the words of Thomas Carlisle that the block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone on the pathway of the strong”. I also recognize in all my life journey that opposition is real, but to overcome opposition is much more real.

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