The clock ticked at about 5:30 a.m. on Monday, 8th January, 2018, heralding the sunset of Gani Adekunle Adetola-Kazeem, a chattering moment for his loved ones. His recall to his Maker arrived five months to his being ushered into the septuagenarian academy and the world lost a diadem, a gem of inestimable value.
Gani was born on the 4th of June, 1948 by Nimotalahi Obileye Kasumu and Aminu Adetola Kasumu of the Aleshinloye Bada ancestry in Egbe, a village of about two kilometres away from Ijebu Ode. He was married to Alhaja Tawakalitu Amoke Adetola- Kazeem with four blessed children: Mrs Sekina Buhari, Mr Ibrahim Adetola-Kaseem, Mrs Adebola Karamah Shogbuyi and Barr. Ahmad Adetola-Kazeem.
A remarkable personality, with an outstanding sense of humility, he stood as one of the tallest and most brilliant legal icons in Nigeria. He was a great family man, a lovable legend, a prayer warrior, a devout Muslim, a trustworthy friend and a complete gentleman.
His journey started with his enrollment as one of the pioneer beneficiaries of the Universal Free Primary Education of the Obafemi Awolowo-led Government of Western Nigeria. He started primary school on 17th January 1955 at St. James United Primary School, Egbe/Atiba/Mobalufon, near Ijebu-Ode.
Although one of the youngest and smallest in stature in his class, Gani consistently led in academic performance and that secured him an award by the Awujale as one of the best primary school pupils in Ijebuland in 1958 and it came as no surprise that he was made the School’s Boys Prefect in his final year in the primary school in 1960.
Despite the fact that he never had the opportunity of attending a secondary school, he remained an encyclopedia of knowledge, he spoke the English language so well that one would think that he had been trained by the Queen of England. He also spoke the Yoruba language and the Ijebu like he lived in the village all his life.
He would recount stories he was told since he was four years old with so much precision that one would wonder if he was an ordinary human being. He would also recall dates of events as if he had an alarm set in his brain. Till he died, he could say the names of his primary school teachers and all his colleagues with whom he worked since the beginning of his career.
In Primary 1, his teacher was Mr J.A.Siwoniku, alias Baba Yard, his Primary 2 teacher was Mr Z.A. Dabiri, in Primary 3, he had a teacher he described as a pretty young lady at that time, Miss Adeyemi. In Primary 4, it was Mrs S.O. Oshodemuren; in Primary 5, it was Mr Okuribido, an Ijesha man; and in Primary 6, it was Mr Bankole who taught him.
After completing his primary education in 1960, he moved to Shomolu, Lagos, where he lived with his step mother, Alhaja Adijat Adetola Kaseem. He trained in a private commercial institute, named Tinuwe Commercial syndicate, located at Number 10 Market Street, Shomolu, to become a secretary. He took the Royal Society of Artists (RSA) exam, an internationally recognised exam for secretaries and passed with a Distinction. It was at that time he lost his father, so he lost the opportunity to attend a secondary school.
He had to join the labour market with his RSA result certificate in1964, at the age of 16, to augment what his precious step mum had to cater for them. He got employed by a lawyer in Lagos, named Justice Isiaka Ishola Oluwa, who needed the service of a shorthand typist and since he had the skill to sell, he was hired. Because he worked with a lawyer, his interest in law became ignited. He later worked with HACCO Limited for four years as a secretary to the general manage before joining the Federal Civil Service in June, 1970. He worked in several Agencies, Ministries and Departments initially as a secretary and rose to the position of Senior Personal Secretary before converting to the administrative cadre and rising to the post of Under Secretary. He retired voluntarily from the Federal Public Service in June 1985, on the dot of fifteen (15) years in the service.
While he worked as a civil servant, he read privately for his ordinary and advanced levels GCE and gained admission to the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, as a part-time student in 1974. He graduated with LLB Second Class Honours from the Faculty in 1979 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1980. He passed the Bar examinations held that year with a Second Class Upper Division.
At the Law School, he was awarded Sir Lionel Brett’s Best Prize for emerging the best student in Criminal Procedure in that examination. He also clinched a prize in Commercial Law. At the end of his National Youth Service Corps, he clinched the State’s Merit Award in 1981. He also obtained the LLM degree at the University of Lagos in 1990.
His cumulative working experience and the experience gained during his chambers attachment facilitated his establishment of Gani Adetola-Kaseem & Co. law firm immediately after retiring from the public service. Since then he engaged in intensive and extensive litigation work at all levels of the court system throughout the country.
He was an expert in handling cases relating to medical and health professionals and management of healthcare institutions as well as Employment, Labour and Industrial Relations. He also conducted cases relating to bank debt recovery, breach of commercial contracts, intellectual property dispute, landed property, chieftaincy matters, inheritance and administration of estates, constitutional matters, in addition to resolving cases by Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
His elevation to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2002 testifies to his robust legal practice as well as his modest contributions to the development of the law especially in the areas of Medical and Health Law as well as Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations Law. Many of the cases he handled at the superior courts have become locus classicus which are often cited by lawyers, judges and writers.
Apart from being a legal luminary, he was a great family man. His house was an abode for uniting all members of his extended and nuclear family, his wife’s family, his wife’s and even friends. His house was a reception centre and the prayer house for members of the nuclear and extended families after their wedding ceremonies before they departed to pursue their marital endeavours.
He was a prayer warrior who devoted approximately two hours of his time to supplicating for everyone he could and reading the Glorious Qur’an every morning.
He was a devout Muslim who was completely at peace with people of different religious affiliations. It was to this extent that Mr Thomas Olajide Soretire and Mr John Olugbemi Ayinde (of blessed memory) stood as his best friends till death did them apart.
Chief Adetola-Kaseem, SAN was a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the International Bar Association (IBA) and the Commonwealth Law Association (CLA). He was the pioneer Chairman of the Medical Law Committee of the Section on Legal Practice of the NBA and an active member of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN). He was Membership Officer of the Healthcare and Life Sciences Committee of the Section on Legal Practice of the IBA. He was also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Nigeria) as well as a Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management.
He delivered numerous papers on varied subjects nationally and internationally. He was a collosus of all eyes in the community and the ‘Olori ebi’ of the Kaseem descendants who the late Alhaji Hassan Olufunso Yusuf passionately modelled. He built bridges of love and affection among family members and tried his best to resolve disputes whenever they arose. Everyone saw him as a balm that soothed their pains.
Baba, as his workers would call him, was not as rich as it appeared to people, he was truly bestowed with the gift of contentment and considered it a priority to help the less privileged as much as he could.
He was upright and forthright as he always stood for justice. The reason he was the lead counsel in the famous AbdulKareem V. Lagos State Government (2016) 15 NWLR (Pt 1535) 177, popularly known as the Lagos Hijab Case, is not far-fetched. He represented the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria at the High Court, Court of Appeal and had already filed a brief of argument at the Supreme Court before his death. He stood firmly for justice until his death and through him the right of every Muslim child to use the hijab was restored throughout Nigeria.
He was conferred with several titles by various Muslim communities he belonged up to his country home in Egbe, Ijebu. He was an education enthusiast, a highly industrious and humble professional.
Some of his favourite sayings were, ‘ a o mo ile to ma mola’, ‘no one knows what tomorrow holds’, ‘a ki i mo otosi omode’, ‘you can never tell an impoverished person at childhood’ and ‘you lose nothing by being humble’. He loved the poem, ‘Ise loogun ise’ so much that he printed the Yoruba and English versions for his children, workers and anyone who cared to read shortly before he died..
His love for children was second to none. At no point was his house devoid of children frolicking around. Up to his death, all his grandchildren were with him on holiday. He would eat and ensure he left something for everyone of them to have a taste, all 11 of them at that time. They all loved grandpa and would quickly mention him as a role model at every opportunity given.
I am grateful that my vehicle to life was through Ishola, as he was fondly called by his loving step mum, glad that he gave us a great mum who supported him till his last breath and delighted that my last words with him before he departed the world were prayers.
He surely lived a praiseworthy life; he loved God and was kind to everyone.
Because he was a human being and perfection belongs to no one, I pray Allah overlooks his short comings and grant him Aljanatul firdaus along with the pious predecessors.
© Adebola Karamah Shogbuyi.
(Curled from his unpublished biography)
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