Emmanuel O. Ayoola, a quintessential Jurist at 82
SUCCESS and destiny are defined by many parameters and perimeters. The invisible and unmistaken hand of God, the Creator, moulds the universe deliberately to different vessels of honour. However, it seems some are more generously endowed by God than others. But the most endowed are those who make of their talents and position enabling the less privileged.
Such is the Hon. Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, CON, JSC (rtd), the multi-talented Legal Practitioner as internationally acclaimed Jurist, an epitome of decency and a towering model of a quintessential gentleman who has succeeded in all his endeavours; a loving father, an uncommon mentor and successful manager of men and resources who has touched the lives of many as a lawyer, judge, public servant since he was called to the English Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in London in November 1957.
An Alumnus of the revered University of London where he obtained a Bachelor of Laws Degree and also of Oxford University where he obtained another Bachelor’s Degree in Jurisprudence in 1959, the stuff the erudite Hon. Justice Ayoola, a former Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) is made of became manifest early in his very brilliant and luxuriant career.
For 17 years, he, together with his elder brother, Olu Ayoola of blessed memory, had a flourishing private legal practice in Ibadan, Oyo State until February 1976 when he was most deservedly appointed to the High Court of Western Nigeria as a Judge and soon after, a Judge of the High Court of Oyo State. That was the time brilliant lawyers were invited to the bench and not appointed from application.
Our paths crossed each other in 1963 when I approached the popular Chambers of Ayoola Brothers for my tutelage after arriving from England with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law. It was not difficult for me to know that with his uncommon brilliance, calmness, diligence and determination as well as his willingness to apply himself to work, he would make it to the top very rapidly. I saw in him a man sold to industry, commitment with an unbending will for people around him to succeed.
A man internationally sought-after, the incorruptible judge served as a Justice of the Court of Appeal of The Gambia and later, as Chief Justice of The Gambia. He was Vice President of the World Judges Association in 1991.
Justice Ayoola was President of the Court of Appeals of Seychelles and Justice of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria (1992-1998), Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (1998–2003) before he bowed out of service in October 2003 at the mandatory age of 70.
After his national and international exploits and achievements in the Judiciary particularly because of the sterling qualities inherent in him, he was in 2004 made Chairman of the ad-hoc Presidential Action Committee on the Control of Violent Crimes and Illegal Firearms. He served as Chairman, Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission in 2005 until he was appointed chairman ICPC later the same year. Currently, he is a member of the National Judicial Council and Chairman of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee of that Council.
In 2002, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Justice Ayoola a Judge of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a court set up to try those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Sierra Leone Civil War. He was President of the Court from 2004 to 2005. It was in that capacity that he addressed the Security Council of the United Nations in 2005.
A prolific writer and an advocate egalitarian society, he has edited the Seychelles Law Digest, the Law Reports of the Gambia, and the Nigerian Monthly Law Reports. Justice Ayoola is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Nigeria); Doctor of Civil Law [DCL] honoris causa), Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso and Dr. of Laws, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD).
In appreciation of his sterling contributions to Jurisprudence, he was honoured with the award of the Gambian National Honour of Commander of the National Order of the Republic of the Gambia [CRG] in 1990; and the Award of the Nigerian National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger [CON] in 2003.
The incorruptibility and moralist inclination of the Hon. Justice Ayoola is not a later day development as that has been part of his persona as far back as his days in Legal Practice. No wonder then that our common mentor and his own elder brother, the mercurial Hon. Justice Olu Ayoola of blessed memory, had this to say about the two us (Hon. Ayoola and my humble self) on page 23 of his Book titled: Olu Ayoola: Fifty Years in Law: “With the use of appropriate technique, even though I started practice as a single lawyer establishment, the chamber rapidly grew in fame and became a multi-lawyer chambers. We thereby, as it were, took a big leap from “the cold waters uncertainties of fluctuating fees” of a young private practice to the security of a prosperous chamber.
“From the performances of our weekly conference of lawyers, I was able to assess the progress, ability and aptitude of each lawyer. I must mention two who were among the best; namely: my brother, Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, who is presently a Judge of the Court of Appeal, Nigeria. He was a brilliant lawyer with a moralist bent. Sometimes, he would come to me and say after going through a brief allotted to him: “The defence of our client is good in law, but why shouldn’t he pay the debt which he appears, law apart, to owe?” and I would retort “we, as lawyers, are concerned with his defence as a matter of law: we are not concerned with his liability on moral grounds”. Where he felt not too bright about the brief, I will take it and allocate it to some other under-study.
“Another brilliant lawyer was Afe Babalola (he is now a Senior Advocate of Nigeria). He was and still very hard working. A lover of legal analysis, he usually saw through fine points which others did not see. I believe in taking fine legal points.”
The God-given gifts of incorruptibility and moral uprightness as well as forthrightness must have accounted to a very large extent in his being noticed, acknowledged and appointed the arrow-head of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) after his retirement from the Supreme Court Bench. After all, it is only the deep that can call to the deep just like it is only iron that can sharpen iron!
He is an example per excellence, a cerebral, good natured, committed and an excellent team player who is always willing to help the needy.
My Learned Mentor and Leader should see and acknowledge the attainment of the matured age of 82 as a special grace from the Almighty God and a veritable opportunity for him to do more in his service to a nation which he loves so much and indeed to humanity, the fulcrum of his dream.
While congratulating him most heartily on this momentous occasion, I wish him good health and peace of heart as well as divine wisdom to continue the good works and to continually be relevant in the scheme of things in Nigeria, and beyond.
Hearty congratulations, My Lord.
• Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN, is Founder & Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti.