Jurists hail Olanipekun as he exits body of benchers
In appreciation of an impactful tenure, the Body of Benchers (BOB) rolled out the drums to celebrate its 50th chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), whose tenure just ended.
The event, held on March 30, was heralded with a glamorous dinner attended by eminent personalities drawn from within and outside the nation’s legal community.
Olanipekun’s journey through the BOB began in 1992, when he became a member, and later a Life Bencher in 2007 He was appointed the pioneer Chairman of the Monitoring Committee of the BOB and later, the Vice Chairman/Chairman (Screening Committee) of the body before assuming the chairmanship position on March 31, 2022.
Speakers at event included, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; Olanipekun’s successor, Justice Mary Peter Odili (retired Justice of the Supreme Court); Ekiti State Governor, Abiodun Oyebanji; Ben Anichebe (SAN); Dele Adesina (SAN) and the Secretary of the BOB, Daniel Tela.
Anthony Malik (SAN), who cut his legal teeth in Olanipekun’s law firm, read his long profile, spanning 11 pages of the event’s brochure.
The CJN spoke about Olanipekun’s contributions to the BOB, his capacity to positively impact any community where he finds himself, among other qualities.
Justice Ariwoola said it was impossible for anyone to doubt the sterling contributions that Olanipekun has made to the development of the legal profession in the country and beyond.
He noted that it was during Olanipekun’s tenure that the magnificent edifice, now housing the BOB in Abuja was inaugurated on September 29, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The CJN stated that “great men, like Olanipekun, naturally have their tentacles spread across the path of unimaginable generations of beneficiaries of his magnanimous disposition.”
He urged all to be mindful of the fact that there is a tide in the affairs of men, noting that “the works of our hands shall always rise stoutly in testimony on our behalf when we are gone.”
Justice Ariwoola noted that Olanipekun has been bestriding the nation’s legal landscape, with iconic academic discernment for over four decades now.
“He is one lawyer that has latched on our memory an enviable degree of intellectual eminence and legal finesse that encompass all spheres of philosophy and methodical reasoning.
“He is a very unique and nationalistic Nigerian, with a radical posture of justice and rule of law. I have always said that, even though he has a fragile posture, as he looks much younger than his age, he is simple and unassuming.
“He is very strict and consciously principled in disposition. Even though he is highly elitist and dignified in carriage, he still relates exceptionally well with the down-trodden, as his entire life is totally devoid of duplicity, undue arrogance and elitism.
“He has always exhibited scholarship and legal candour. His oratory prowess is like an ocean wave that moves with vigour and vibrancy,” the CJN said, adding that his legal presentations have covered a gamut of issues that have offered sufficient food for thought, not just as judicial officers and lawyers, but as citizens of the global community.
Justice Odili testified to the fact that Olanipekun discharged his duties without blemish, while he headed the BOB, and promised to build on his achievements.
Governor Oyebanji described Olanipekun as a great philanthropist, an inspiration and a pride to Ekiti State.
“As a proud son of Ekiti State, he has brought honour and recognition to our state through his work in the legal profession.
“His dedication to the pursuit of justice and fairness has made a significant impact on the development of our legal system. May God Almighty continue to bless and keep him,” Oyebanji prayed.
The celebrant in his remarks, said: “By His infinite mercy, grace and benevolence, as the 50th chairman of the Body of Benchers, we have ended well.”
Olanipekun, however, came down hard on the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for what he described as an attempt by the tail to wag the dog, stressing that it is impossible for the NBA to dictate to the Body of Benchers.
“NBA does not have the power to ask a sitting chairman of the Body of Benchers to recuse himself under any circumstance.
“We know what we are here (at the BOB). We are orderly. We respect the NBA, but the NBA should also respect us. I have been the President of the NBA, and to the glory of God, I did well.
“I want to plead that henceforth, let strife stop in the legal profession. Let us see ourselves as brothers and sisters. And let us shake hands across the divides,” he pleaded.
On a retrospective assessment of his tenure, Olanipekun said he felt fulfilled for what God did through him for the law profession during his time as the Chairman of the BOB.