Remembering legal luminary: Idowu Abdulfatai Adebayo Sofola (SAN) (1934 – 2018)
Chief Idowu Sofola, an erudite lawyer, solicitor and outstanding member of International, African & Nigerian Bar Associations, died on March 23, 2018.
His demise took his immediate family by surprise and left them in shock, while tears flowed! On March 24, 2018, he was lowered to rest; those who witnessed it knew that a great man and legal guru, who devoted his life to the service of God and humanity, had gone.
To his children, he was a wonderful father from onset, he strived to instill in them the values of integrity, fairness, resilience in all they did and most importantly, the fear of God.
He made them learn that life is not a bed of roses and that they should always put their best foot forward, take chances, explore and live life to the fullest and more importantly worship the one and Almighty devotedly.
Born on September 29, 1934 in Ikenne Remo, Ikenne Local Council, Ogun State to the family of Seriki Mohammed Sanni Sofola Lana and Mrs. Salmotu Sofola, he attended St. Saviour’s School Ikenne and had his Primary School education there, from 1945 – 1951.
He began his Secondary education at Oriwu College Ikorodu from 1953 but continued and concluded at the prestigious Eko Boys’ High School, Idi-Oro, Lagos from 1953 – 1956. He sat for and passed his West African School Certificate Examination in 1956 and came out excellently.
After Secondary School, he worked briefly as a Clerk at the Federal Ministry of Labour, Lagos in 1957 and a Court Clerk in the Lagos Judiciary in 1958 before he proceeded to the United Kingdom in November 1958 to study law.
In the United Kingdom, he attended Westminster College of Commerce London in 1959 and Holborn College of Law, Council of Legal Education London from 1959 to 1962 after which he was called to the English Bar at Middle Temple Inn of Court, London on July 17, 1962.
While in the United Kingdom, he was appointed the first Assistant Secretary for Nigeria Union of Great Britain & Ireland 1959 -1961, and also first Assistant Secretary General West Africa Student Union (WASU), 1960-1961 representing WASU in the student conference in Germany and Paris. He was also a member Committee of Africa Organization (C.A.O) UK.
In July 30 1962, Chief Idowu Sofola commenced private legal practice beginning with his enrollment at the Supreme Court of Nigeria as the 1213th legal practitioner in Nigeria.
He remained in active legal practice and was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in May 1989.
Sofola was a leader in the Nigerian Bar and helped to mould and build the Bar during its nascent years, sparing no efforts. He served the Bar in several capacities including as General Secretary 1979-1981, and a member of its several Committees, including its decision making body – National Executive Committee (NEC). He was later honored as a Life Member of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association.
His achievements in and development of the legal profession led to his appointment as an Honourable Member of the Body of Benchers in 1983 (the highest body in the legal profession) and finally a Life Member of the Body.
Within the Body, he became the Vice Chairman in 2011 and the Chairman of the Body in 2012 (making him the second Remo son after his late brother, Kehinde Sofola CON, SAN to head that August body).
Sofola was a global legal practitioner as he not only practised the law and influenced its development on the local level, but also continuously strove to influence the development of international law reform and shaping the future of the legal profession throughout the world.
He is recognized for his service as the Secretary General of the International Bar Association (IBA) from 1986 to 1988, being the first and only black man till date to have served in that capacity.
He had held various positions at the International Bar Association beginning with serving as theAssistant Secretary General, 1980 – 1982, Deputy Secretary General 1982 -1986. He also served in many committees such as Nomination Committee, Forward Planning Committee, Membership Committee, and Professional Ethics Committee.
He was married to his loving wife, Alhaja Silifat Olusola Sofola and the marriage was blessed with children, his first son ‘Sina Sofola, was himself elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2009 and appointed to the Body of Benchers in 2017;and his only daughter Yetunde Pinheiro, was recently appointed a Judge of the Lagos State High Court by the National Judicial Council; while he has other children who are doing well in their chosen professions.
His first grandson, Folakunmi Pinheiro was also recently called to the Nigerian Bar. He was a disciplined father who had a good heart and love for all his children and grandchildren.
A prayerful and devout Muslim, who dedicated himself to the tenets of Islam and performed holy pilgrimage to Mecca on diverse occasions, he wasa Federal delegate to Mecca in 1994 and Ogun State Amirul Hajj in 1995 and 2010.
Sofola was a community leader who dedicated his time and resources to the development of both his community and his faith including the mosque.
Thus in recognition of these, he was honoured as Alaga Adeen (Chairman) in the mosque in Ikenne, and also honoured with the traditional title of Bobagunwa of Remoland, the Balogun of Idotun Ikenne, the Aare Mayegun of Owu- Abeokuta and the Aare of Remo Kingdom.
Chief Idowu Sofola was a man of many awards such as; Ogun State Merit Award as Distinguished Citizen of Ogun State, EBHS- first Euba Merit Award by Eko Boys High School and Old Boys Association, Remo Excellence Award, and the Presidential Award of Member of Order of Niger MON on July 22, 2010 among others.
Similarly, he held several positions and offices as a leader in the society, among which include: Secretary General, Yoruba Council of Elders, Commissioner of Scouts, Legal Adviser to the August Movement, Chairman Board of Governors of Eko Boys High School, President Rotary Club, Member Ikoyi Club and Island Club, Chairman Board of Trustees of Lagos Country Club and Chairman Board of Trustees Remo Club, as well as the Former President Remo Progressive Association.
Fondly remembered by his wife, Silifat Olusola Sofola, and children – Basirat & Olusina Sofola, SAN, Honourable Justice (Mrs.) Yetunde & Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), Kolawole Sofola, Tolu & Adeleke Sofola, Bunmi & Olufemi Sofola and by all his grandchildren.