Tuesday, April 21, 2020 11:06 pm
By Gbemiga Ogunleye
Two events made the distinguished lawyer, Chief Richard Akinjide, who has just passed on, stuck in my memory.
As the legal adviser to the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in the Second Republic, Akinjide it was, who argued his party’s case up to the Supreme Court that 2/3 of 19 states was 12 2/3 of the states.
Before the case came up, the Federal Electoral Commission, better known by its acronym, FEDECO had led us to believe that 2/3 of 19 states was 13 states.
Akinjide’s party had won in 12 states in the 1979 Presidential Election, while Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, had won in only six states.
Akinjide argued that his party had met the constitutional requirements of plurality of votes and geographical spread. His argument was that what the constitution required of a party to be declared winner, was to win in 12 states and win 2/3 of the votes in the 13th state.
Therefore, the Learned Senior Advocate ofNigeria argued, his party’s candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari should be declared President.
The Tribunal and the Supreme Court agreed with him.
Shagari was sworn in and Akinjide was appointed the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation.
A section of the media nicknamed him Mr. 12 2/3!
Now, the second incident had occurred a year earlier.
Akinjide was the governorship candidate of his party in Oyo State, while the late Bola Ige was also the governorship candidate of his party in Oyo State.
The NPN and the UPN were the major political parties of the five registered parties.
The NTA Ibadan organised a live political debate for the two candidates at its studio.
The UPN’s major campaign promise was the provision of free education at all levels for all Nigerians.
Bola Ige reminded viewers that, his party leader, the legendary Obafemi Awolowo had provided free education to the people of the Western Region when he held fort as the Premier of the Region.
His party, he said would re-enact the feat.
When it was Akinjide’s turn to respond, he said the free education which Awolowo’s old party, the Action Group provided in 50s, only produced vagabonds, armed robbers and the like.
Bola Ige jumped up and told Akinjide that he was sure members of his family must have benefited from the free education programme.
Would he be kind enough to tell viewers how many members of his family were vagabonds and armed robbers?
Akinjide vehemently protested what he described as an insult and threatened to walk out of the life programme, if Ige didn’t withdraw the statement.
Ige insisted that he only asked an innocent question which he wanted answers to.
A ruffled Akinjide carried out his threat.
Viewers watched as the legal icon was walking out of the studio.
May his great soul rest in peace and may God comfort his family.
-Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, lawyer, veteran journalist and one time Editor of The Punch, is the Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos