‘Political class needs to strengthen our institutions’
THOSE who have close relationship with him will describe him as a shy gentleman. But those who have witnessed or seen him perform the role of his calling no doubt appreciate the advocacy skills underlying the gentlemanness.
It is no surprising that he had through his advocacy and professionalism made the apex court nullify its earlier judgment delivered in a case he handled.
Babatunde Moshood Fashanu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a renowned Public Affairs Analyst in his explanation on how he ended up studying law said: “It wasn’t really the role model that prompted me to read law. My reading law was actually not planned.
“My father wanted me to be an Economist. I don’t know why, maybe he was into tax. But I didn’t want all that, though I did well in economics. I was actually admitted to University of Ibadan not for Economics but for Political Science but my father’s idea was that since both were in the same faculty, I can change to economic in the next year.
“He called me and said he met somebody that worked under him in tax office and he was one of the Registrars in UNILAG then. The man asked him where your son is and my Daddy said he is reading Political Science and will soon cross to Economics.
“The man said why is he reading political science and change to economics? Those are not professional course. It is either reading accountancy or law and all that. The man told my father to talk to me about law. So my father contacted me that somebody said you should apply for law. And there was still time, they could still take me if my result is very good. The man already convinced me, he talked that these are the things to do with political science but if you read law you can still do everything someone in political science can do and even some of what economics people can do.
“I said I would apply because I had a good result in my HSE in The Polytechnic Ibadan. In fact, I think I had best result in Art. So UNILAG just took me and I remembered one Miss Chukwuma. She later married to Dr Koko. I think we had best results together. So I haven’t regretted it today.
“Later on, that Registrar decided to read law. His name is Chief I. Daramola. Ten years after I was called, he was called to the bar too. So whenever he sees me, he calls me my senior, and we all joke about it. I always commend him for my reading law.
“While reading law, I got interested in following up cases in the newspaper and reading decided cases. I was like, how can people take up cases that even look bad and go to court and win those cases?”
On those who inspired him, he mentioned Chief F.R.A Williams, G.O.K. Ajayi and H.A Lardner as his role models.
He worked briefly as State Counsel as a new wig and later worked with major solicitors firm, Lateef Adegbite & Co. and a leading advocates firm, Chambers of H.A. Lardner (SAN) for years, where he rose to become the deputy head of Chambers before setting-up his own law firm in 1989. Numerous lawyers have passed through this Chambers and are now associates of the firms or partners.
“So I practiced on my own for some months and with now late Dr. Lateef Adegbite for about six months but I wanted senior advocate chambers. I was then taking in by Harry Lanre Afolabi, SAN, to his chamber where I practiced for about six years. I became the deputy head of chambers. From there, I set up my own chambers in 1989. So, basically for nine years when I was called to the bar, I was on pupilage with other people. In 2002, I was admitted to the inner Bar, I mean SAN on my own private practice”, he explained.
Fashanu said he had his primary school in Agege Secondary School in Lagos where he had his school certificate in 1974. “I proceeded to The Polytechnic Ibadan for my HSE for two years. From there, I went to University of Lagos for LLB in Law. I graduated in 1979 and Law school in 1980. I was called to the bar in 1980.
“Then, I went to London for my Masters at University of London for one year. When I came back, I started practice. Before then, after I was called to the bar, I did my NYSC in the then Sokoto State Ministry of Justice. When I came back from LLM, I went to private practice. My father wanted me to go into lecturing or ministry of Justice. He actually set me up to go to Federal Ministry but I wasn’t interested in that”, he said.
Asked about his experience on his first appearance in court, Fashanu has this to say: “I was jittery. My first day in court was when I was doing my Youth Corp in Sokoto State. It was before Justice Kalgo who later became Chief Judge of Sokoto State, then became Justice of Supreme Court. I was sent by the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Omokiri, who later became Justice of Appeal Court. The man was somebody who could drive you, somebody who also inspires.
As at that time, I was interested in advocacy but I didn’t really have confidence. I thought I will just go and lecture like my father wanted but when you meet people like Omokiri, the way he spoke and comported himself in court, I began to admire him and to wished to emulate him.
“So definitely that first day wasn’t easy. Similar thing happened the first day I appeared at the Appeal Court, when I started practice with late Mr. Lardner (SAN).”
He shared his experience in some of the cases he had handled this way: “Let me first of all tell you that a good advocate does not necessarily need to win all his cases. When you are considered for conferment of silk, you might even be scored high in a case you lost. What is important is the difficulty of the case and effort you put into it.
“I wasn’t a senior advocate when I did the most tasking case. I also had left my senior. It was my principal that handled the case. We already lost at the High Court and Court of Appeal. So when I was leaving, he told me to pick some of the cases just to assist me.
“That was one of the thing that helped me. When I was doing the brief was the time the computer things was coming up. I had to type the brief myself because I had no secretary. I have to think how to win the case because I cannot prepare the draft and take it back to my former boss to look through it for me, it’s not possible. Besides, we had already lost in two high court. If you loose at both courts, it is very difficult for you to win at the Supreme Court.
“You have to prepare your brief well. So I prepare it and went to argue it and the Supreme Court granted the leave. The next thing is to do the appeal proper. The appeal came up, the other side (respondent) had a Senior advocate. My client called me outside. The supreme court was in Lagos then and they were shouting and dancing. The judge gave me a temporary order that they should stop the execution. We were sent back to High Court. Eventually, their SAN came and argued. I told court not to remove injunction but allow us to go to trial.
On the electoral process, he noted that there is need for more improvement.
His words: “We are growing with developments in the last election. I think we have taken a giant lead basically because of the introduction of the card readers. There are still lots to be done.
“We saw on television, children less than 10 years, those that are of low age queuing up to vote. A lot have been said but I think INEC with the help of the government need to improve on it. Even though we have the card readers to curb rigging and in as much as it reduces rigging to large extent, we still need that human content for it to work perfectly.
“For example in my area in GRA, INEC officials didn’t come early. In my own unit, until past 11 am, we didn’t see them on time. After accreditation, we were told there is no ballot papers. We, the voters decided to wait. It was around 8pm that the ballot paper was brought. So, I think a lot need to be done on this area. Later it was around evening that the voting stated and the last person voted at about 2 am. The incoming administration, INEC and the leadership of the country should make sure that things work perfectly.
“Jega’s time will soon be over but the person to be appointed should be a good person and not necessarily a professor but a person of integrity. He should be allowed to work independently like they do in America. The political class has to build the structure and strengthen the institutions.”
Fashanu is a member of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the International Bar Association (IBA) . He is happily married and blessed with children.