Jegede: Exit of grand patron of property law in Nigeria
It is not common knowledge in the legal profession that Property Law is made up of two crucial components. They are (1) Land Law and Conveyancing and (2) TRUSTS.
In Land Law and Conveyancing we contend mainly with the vicissitudes of BLACK-ACRE among others while in the subject of TRUSTS we grapple with decoding the dizzying maze of concepts woven around FEOFMENT.
It is in this very difficult field of TRUSTS that Professor Michael Iyiola Jegede SAN held sway, control and dominance in the past five decades to the exclusion of any other Nigerian living or dead. Consequently in all the Faculties of Law in Nigerian Universities where the subject of TRUSTS is properly taught, the name Prof. M. I. Jegede SAN rang a bell, is appreciated and revered. Prof. M. I. Jegede SAN and Late Prof. J. A. Omotola SAN were indisputable icons of Property Law in Nigeria, nay Africa.
FOUNDER OF FACULTY OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN
The late Professor M. I. Jegede SAN set up the faculty of Law, University of Ibadan in 1982. He established the broad policy that entailed that to enroll for the LL.B Degree programme of University of Ibadan, a student must have acquired a strong first degree in Social Science, or Arts or Humanities. This freshivating programme produced great legal minds like Dr. Alex Iziyon SAN, Niyi Akintola SAN, Wale Akoni SAN, Tunji Oyeyipo SAN, Kunle Oyesanya SAN, Justice Uche Onyemenan JCA (Justice of the Court of Appeal), Kunle Omotola (President Real Estate Practitioners of Nigeria) among others.
Professor M. I. Jegede SAN was a University teacher par- excellence. He taught EQUITY AND TRUSTS with uncommon and ingenuous clarity. He was a role model in academic leadership and a great motivator of young lecturers and subordinates in the faculty. Every lecturer felt at home with him. He ran the faculty without geographical or tribal cleavages. In fact nobody came close to Professor M. I. Jegede SAN without loving him. He was clearly lovable. His tenure at the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan was marked by what American Constitutional Lawyers refer to as power of example rather than example of power. The students and academic staff loved him dearly because, among others he led by example.
HIS COOK AND COLLEAGUE
Professor M. I. Jegede SAN facilitated my employment as Lecturer Grade Two at the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan in March 1983. When I resumed duty, the Estate Department could not provide me accommodation. Professor Jegede invited me to share his professorial residence at No. 6 Parry Road, with him. He asked me to make use of all the rooms except the master-bedroom which he used any time he came from Lagos. He stayed at Ibadan every Monday Thursday and Friday. For the days he stayed at Ibadan, we lived together at No. 6 Parry Road, University of Ibadan – his professorial residence. I prepared the meals which both of us shared, polished his shoes and kept his room very tidy.
Sometimes as we reflected over lunch and dinner I would wonder if it was the same Professor M. I. Jegede who as my Dean of Faculty during my undergraduate years at the Faculty of Law University of Lagos, was so distant and awesome. I use the word “distant” because during my undergraduate years the student’s problems were solved at the office of the Faculty Officer. We rarely saw the Dean except at the lecture hall. At Ibadan he was humble and disarmingly human.
When he eventually resigned from the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, because the SENATE and COUNCIL tried to disturb his enviable vision for the faculty, I felt seriously deprived and deflated. I began to count my days at that prestigious and highly revered premier University.
HIS LEGAL PRACTICE
He returned to his lucrative legal practice in Lagos. The late Professor M. I. Jegede SAN practiced law with extraordinary strength, grace, resourcefulness, decorum, dignity, intelligence and elegance. He paid his juniors and interns very well and demanded fidelity and hard work from them. He showed great respects to the courts and judges even where the judges were his former students. Numerous successful lawyers in Nigeria and Cameroun had their post-call training at his posh office at Yaba-Lagos.
He was one of the greatest BRIEF-MAKERS in the legal profession. My friends at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court bear tribute that his appellate briefs were second to none in Nigeria. The briefs bred intimacy between him and the appellate courts and conveyed some hidden appeal. They were marked by orderly progression of premises and organization seldom seen elsewhere. They narrowed issues to their tiniest edge and provided legal authority for every point.
It was said that he once turned down appointment to the Supreme Court of Nigeria because of his priced personal freedom and his feeling that there was no higher professional calling than teaching the law in our classrooms and espousing the law in high and appellate courts.
Death came to Professor M. I. Jegede SAN so unexpectedly at 81 in circumstances in which medical negligence could be surmised. He energetically walked into a hospital for routine check-up and had to be carried out stone cold dead.
As he begins his ultimate journey to mother-earth on the 10th day of July 2015, he does so with an out pouring of our unchanging sentiments of deep love and nostalgia. We shall miss his good nature, strategic piece of advice, his comforting presence, his unremitting ability to render assistance in times of need and his equanimity in moments of crisis. We shall also miss his infectious smiles that might mistakenly portray him as shy.
Adieu, my mentor, my boss and my friend. May the GOOD LORD receive your beautiful soul in that BEAUTIFUL CITY OF GOLD.
• Umezulike OFR, FCIArb is the Chief Judge, Enugu State
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