‘Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms should become core courses’
Malam Yusuf Olaolu Ali (SAN) is one of the most respected legal luminaries in Nigeria. He is the son of a soil technician who, by dint of hard work, rose to the height of his legal profession.
But like the popular saying that life is not a straight route, he has had a fair share of it.
He entered secondary school at 19 and graduated at age 23. He would later read law at the then Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife where he was a scholar, graduating with Second Class Upper Division. He has since recorded many successes in his endeavours.
His philanthropic gesture has also won him many laurels across the country.
On April 28, Ali will receive the 2018 Peace Humanitarian Award from the Centre for African Peace and Conflict Resolution at California State University, Sacramento, United States of America.
This is in recognition of his distinguished contributions of his talent, time and treasure in promoting peaceable communities, institutions and organizations, as well as numerous charitable works in various parts of the country.
He spoke with The Guardian on his career path and the award. Excerpts:
Congrats on your awards. It’s another feather to your cap. How do you feel so honoured?
I thank God at all times for His unending mercies and favours in my life. Of course, I feel happy for the honour and award, which came unsolicited, like other awards I have been honoured with.
As a private citizen, what is the motivating factor behind your philanthropic gestures?
I have been lucky for the kind of parents that I have, the spouse I had and for my children. All these people I have mentioned usually encourage me in my acts of philanthropy.
But more than anything, Allah is the source of my inspiration for the little interventions that I undertake in the affairs of others.
With this award, what is your future plan?
The future belongs to Allah and I leave all my affairs in His hands. But let me quickly add that, I will continue in the path that I have been treading, which makes organizations, groups and individuals to think me worthy of honours.
What is the link between legal practice and pursuit of peace and charitable activities, especially in the context of a conflict-ridden country like Nigeria?
Legal practice, in its ordinary form, is a human attempt to use legal professional training to resolve dispute and build peaceful co-existence among citizens.
In the context of our country, with the various security challenges that have thrown up conflicts in different parts of Nigeria, legal practice could be a veritable tool that could be deployed to address some of the conflict situations in which we find ourselves.
Also, legal practice can be used to promote charity by rendering legal services pro-bono to citizens who are victims of abuse of power and authority.
In what specific areas do you think Nigeria’s legal practice needs to be improved on to promote and sustain conflict resolution?
In order to use legal practice for the promotion and sustenance of public institutions in our country, I will suggest that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like arbitration, conciliation and mediation should become core courses taught in the faculties of Law in our Universities.
In the same vein, Conflict and Peace Studies should become part of the curriculum in our Universities. Since peace is the precursor of progress and prosperity, it is incumbent on legal practitioners to invest their training and talents in conflict resolutions.
Kindly give an insight into your family background?
I was born over 60 years ago to a Civil Servant father and a trader mother. Ours was a humble family where I was the first-born and had five other siblings, made up of two guys and three ladies.
We lost my immediate brother in 2003 leaving our number to five.
My late father, who passed away in May 2017, retired as a soil technician at the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training, Moor Plantation, Ibadan.
I had a very great and enjoyable childhood, growing up in the mist of extended family members of uncles, aunties, nephews, nieces, etc.
The history of my family was an interesting one. Our forebears migrated and found themselves in Ife area before eventually settling at Ifetedo. My great paternal grandmother, who initially was from Ilorin, also found herself in the same area.
The forebears of my mother came from Efon-Alaaye in the present day Ekiti State. All-in-all, ours was a rich heritage of the diffusion of many cultures.
It’s been about 25 prosperous years since you became your own boss, having worked at Asiwaju Adegboyega Awomolo’s chambers.
What gave you the conviction that you were going to succeed?
I anchored all my socio-economic and professional undertakings on the mercies and support of Allah.
Therefore, when I set out to open my own chambers, after 11 years of practice with my former boss Asiwaju Awomolo (SAN) I was convinced that God that led me to take the decision would ensure that I succeed.
But as a human being, I knew that apart from the blessings of God, which is paramount in order to succeed, the qualities of hard work, honesty, integrity and professionalism were quite desirable. I tried and cultivated these in all my professional undertakings.
When was your best moment in the law profession? Is it becoming a SAN or what?
Undoubtedly, July 31, 1997, the day the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee sat and appointed me as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was unarguably my best moment in the legal profession. Attaining the highest rank or pedestal is indeed an ultimate achievement in a profession.
Yours was a long walk to academic attainment having finished secondary school at 23 and still became one of the most respected lawyers in the country. At what stage of your life did you decide to become a lawyer?
My becoming a lawyer was the work of God because there was no lawyer in my family and the little I know about lawyers was what I read in the newspapers. But I knew that God gave me an analytical mind and a robust ability to argue.
From my secondary Class Two, I was representing my secondary school (Ibadan Boys High School) and this assisted me in building confidence in speaking in public and developed my logical reasoning ability.
By the time I was leaving Ibadan Boys High School, it was clear to me that law was the profession I should choose. And thankfully, Allah said Amen to it.
Where did you get the inspiration to pursue law?
Ans. The inspiration to pursue law came from all I have stated above. Moreover, I viewed the profession of law as one that gives confidence and leadership qualities.
Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?
My late father Alhaji P. O. Ali and my mother Alhaja F. T. Ali are the greatest influence in my life. They taught me the fear of Allah, hard work, honesty, acquisition of a solid integrity and abiding faith in Allah.
Looking at your life trajectory, what lessons has life taught you?
Life has taught me that, you don’t take things on their face value. It has also taught me that life is a mirror, if you smile at it, it smiles back at you.
Life also taught me that honesty is not only one of the surest bet but the only bet. Life has also taught me that one should be faithful to the faith one professes and that, with Allah, nothing is impossible.
If you could turn back the hands of the clock, were there things you would have done differently?
If it is possible to turn back the hand of clock, I would still choose the way Allah has made my life to turn in all respect. He knows best and He does the best for individuals.
Aside law, what are the other things you are passionate about?
I am passionate about assisting people in my own little way. Am also passionate about intellectual and academic endeavours.
How do you unwind?
I relax usually by reading, talking and engaging in exercise.
What other professions have caught your attention outside law?
I probably would have ended up being a journalist because, journalism appeals to me as a profession where I will able to impact on the society.
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