Dr. Olukayode Ajulo, OON
Today, I feel a profound sadness as I receive the news of the passing of a mentor and an extraordinary man, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN.
His departure leaves another void in my world, and I cannot help but gather my thoughts to pay tribute to his remarkable life, his immense contributions, and the profound impact he had on the legal profession, Nigerian society, and the entire world as a whole.
Professor Ben Nwabueze was not merely an attorney or an academic; he was a force of nature—a versatile attorney, a cerebral academic, an authority, and a Professor of Professors in constitutional law.
His brilliance and expertise in his field were unparalleled, making him a colossus among his peers. His deep understanding of the intricacies of the law and his unwavering commitment to justice were the hallmarks of his illustrious career.
I had the privilege of crossing paths with Professor Nwabueze as an undergraduate at the University of Jos, where I came across some of his works. I instantly became his shadow mentee without any introduction or prompting.
His works greatly influenced me, to the point where I breathed and spoke of his indelible thoughts and teachings. However, I had a near falling out with him during the reign of President Goodluck Jonathan. I vividly recall the moment when he made a suggestion, calling for a Kamal Ataturk-like revolution in Nigeria. In my youthful enthusiasm, I demanded that he be sanctioned for his audacity as I can’t juxtapox his various thesis in constitutionalism to his new found application of Ataturk Revolution to resolve Nigeria issues.
However, it was Chief E.K. Clark who reprimanded and brought me back from my wilderness, revealing that Professor Nwabueze had been his lecturer in London. It was a powerful reminder of the profound respect and admiration that his peers and student held for him—a testament to his intellectual prowess and his enduring impact on the legal community.
One of the indelible moments etched in my memory is Professor Nwabueze’s appearance at the 2019 Presidential election tribunal in a petition between Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Gen Muhammadu Buhari. Despite his frailty, he made a surprise entrance, seated in a wheelchair. It was a poignant and powerful sight—a symbol of his unwavering dedication to upholding justice, even in the face of personal challenges. His presence in that courtroom spoke volumes about his commitment to the principles he held dear and his resolute belief in the power of the law to create a just society.
Professor Ben Nwabueze’s influence extended far beyond his legal career. Born on December 22nd, 1932, in Atani, Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, his academic journey began at a young age. He pursued his education with diligence and determination, attending renowned institutions such as the London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He excelled in his academic pursuits, earning his Doctor of Laws (LL.D) at the University of London in 1978, becoming the second Nigerian and African to hold a higher doctorate degree in Law based on published works.
Throughout his illustrious career, Professor Nwabueze authored over thirty books and treatises, covering a wide range of legal subjects. His publications, including “Constitutionalism, Presidentialism, and Judicialism,” became essential references in the legal community, and his scholarly contributions shaped the discourse on constitutional law in Nigeria. His dedication to publishing and his commitment to sharing his knowledge and insights were unparalleled.
Beyond his academic achievements, Professor Nwabueze was actively involved in university administration, serving in various leadership roles in universities across Nigeria and beyond. He held professorial chairs in esteemed institutions and played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of the country. His impact as a teacher and mentor cannot be overstated, as he inspired countless individuals to pursue careers in law and to embrace the pursuit of knowledge as a lifelong endeavor.
Professor Ben Nwabueze’s commitment to the Igbo cause was unwavering. He co-founded Ohaneze Ndigbo, a non-partisan Pan Igbo pressure group, and served as its Secretary-General for over two decades. His advocacy for the rights and welfare of the Igbo people earned him the respect and admiration of many. He was a true patriot, dedicated to the advancement of his people and the unity of Nigeria as a whole.
Today, as I reflect on the remarkable life of Professor Ben Nwabueze, I salute him as an academic giant, a legal luminary, and a true role model. His contributions to the Nigerian legal system and his tireless efforts to promote justice and constitutionalism will forever be remembered. His legacy will continue to inspire generations of lawyers, academics, and advocates for years to come.
I humbly extend my deepestcondolences to Professor Nwabueze’s family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.
May his soul rest in eternal peace, knowing that he has left an indelible mark on our hearts, our legal system, and our nation. Farewell, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, a true titan of the law and a beacon of wisdom.