Sunday, August 16, 2020 8:00 am
By Obafemi Awolowo
By the end of 1942 I was completely free from the shackles with which my business debts had enthralled and cramped me. Thus financially liberated, I resolved to make a last and powerful bid for the attainment of my ambition. I set a time limit for myself. If by the time I was forty years old, I had not acquired the requisite funds to proceed to the United Kingdom to study law, I would settle permanently to a business career. That was my grand strategy, and the tactics I adopted was to launch a five-year plan for myself beginning with 6 March 1943, my thirty-fourth birthday.
Only two persons knew of my plan: my wife and my greatest friend Mr. Ernest Ikoli. Mr. Ikoli really knew of the plan when it had run for some eight months. In a letter to him dated 21 November 1943, I told him that I had decided to hibernate (that is from politics) for the next four years to carry out my private plan. In that time I was going to ‘make myself formidable intellectually’, ‘morally invulnerable’,’to make all the money that is possible for a man with my brains and brawn to make in Nigeria’, and ‘to acquire a profession’. ‘After getting this profession’, I added, and as it turned out, prophetically, ‘I should like to make more money. That may take another five years. Then I shall start a new offensive.’I accomplished my first five-year plan one year ahead of schedule, for I was called to the Bar in November 1946. My next five year plan was fulfilled exactly within schedule. In 1951, I launched ‘a new offensive’ by the public inauguration of the Action Group…
At the Bar, I had a lucrative practice. My average annual net income for the period of 1947 to 1951 both years inclusive was £4,300. In my five years of legal practice, it was my good fortune to be numbered among the leading advocates in Nigeria. I handled, with honour to my name and and praise for my professional accomplishment, a good number of complicated and, in a local sense, celebrated cases. My clients trusted me absolutely and I gave them the best possible services for their fees. I worked very hard, and among other things developed a special technique in cross-examination. Sir James Pyke-Knott, a brilliant and quick-witted Administrative Officer in Oyo Province, Western Nigeria, and Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, once paid me the tribute of describing me as ‘a terrible cross-examiner’. I kept him in the box under cross-examination for two days in the famous case of Memudu Lagunju v. Olubadan-in-Council and Another. He was a very acute witness with a special skill for verbal fencing; and his evidence was of paramount importance to my case. I won the case in the Supreme Court but finally lost it in the Privy Council. No costs were awarded against my clients by their lordships.
It was a great pleasure and a matter of satisfaction for me to cross swords at the Bar, from time to time, with undoubted legal luminaries like Chief the Hon. F.R.A. Williams, Q.C., Mr. Justice J.I.C. Taylor and Chief H.O. Davies, Q.C. and others.
It was also my unbounded pleasure to have Chief the Hon. F.R.A. Williams in my cabinet from 1 October 1954 until 12 December 1959. When the revised Macpherson Constitution was to be introduced in October 1954, I decided to strengthen my Cabinet . I accordingly invited Chief Williams to accept the portfolios of Justice and Local Government, which offices he occupied with great distinction and to my unalloyed satisfaction.
-Source: Awo, The Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1960)
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