Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN
All men are bound by invisible strings. These strings, hard as iron and flexible like the wind, tie themselves around us from birth, and stay with us till our departure from this earthly plane. Jointly and severally, by virtue of their genetic fibre, they constitute a sedimentary accumulation of our experiences, beliefs, propulsions, ethos, pathos and quintessence; and within that structure, they nourish us, guide us, urge us on, caution us, but most of all, they form the pith, nucleus and character of our decision-making stratosphere. Either by providence or spiritual fixation, or even by coincidence or otherwise, people are bound to meet, associate, collaborate, relate, and, in the process, either become friends or acquaintances.
Thus, by what I would classify as providential fixation, I was a Law student at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, between 1972 and 1975; and, at the same time, by the same sequence of divine gesticulation, a tall, handsome and athletically built Olabode Rhodes-Vivour was also conspicuously a Law student at the same Faculty of Law, but a year ahead of me, having entered the University in 1971. We were not just only in the same Faculty of Law, being taught by the same set of great and highly committed lecturers, but also in the same Hall of Residence, Mariere Hall – the great Baluba City, where we regularly met to socialise at the Hall’s quadrangle after lectures. He graduated from the Faculty in 1974, while I did in 1975. In other words, we have known ourselves intimately since our formative years.
Over the years, we have sharpened each other’s intellect; initially, in the spirit of camaraderie, and subsequently, in the course of our pursuit and commitment to our mutual profession, Law, and administration of justice. While he took off as a State Counsel in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and rose to become the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), before his appointment as a Judge of the Lagos State High Court, I forayed into private legal practice, and have remained there ever since. I have always been fascinated by his rise and ascendancy on the Bench; from the High Court where he was appointed as a Judge on 18th February, 1994; through to the Court of Appeal where he became an appellate Justice on 25th April, 2005; and finally berthing at the Supreme Court, where he was sworn in as a Justice of the apex court on 16th September, 2010. He is due to retire from the highest court in the land on 25th March, 2021, at which time, he would have spent a cumulative period of 11 years at the pinnacle of Nigeria’s adjudicatory organogram.
On numerous occasions, and in respect of very sensitive cases and causes, I appeared as counsel before Honourable Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour as a Judge of the High Court of Lagos State, Justice of the Court of Appeal (particularly in Lagos and Abuja Judicial Divisions) and Justice of the Supreme Court. Arising from the foregoing, I bear eloquent testimony of his courteous approach to and relationship with counsel. Despite our close relationship and affinity, we never discussed or dialogued on any of the cases I handled before him in advance; but on a few occasions, we critiqued some of them – post judgement, and I usually gave him my candid opinion.
Given the incumbency of our antecedents and relationship, I would describe the Honourable Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour as a bosom friend, a brilliant Lawyer, a sound Judge qua Justice, a gentleman who knows himself; and a devoted father and husband.
As he descends from the Bench, nay, from public service, having spent 16 years as a Law Officer and 27 years in adjudication, we heartily congratulate him for a very robust and successful career; and rejoice with him that despite all the vicissitudes of life, particularly in a climate like ours which is beclouded by inclement weather, he is being pulled out with pomp and pageantry. Now, in retirement, he will have much time for his darling wife, loving children and beautiful grandchildren.
I wish him well in retirement.
Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN, LL.D, FCIArb., FNIALS