Dr Olu Onagoruwa at 80

I  N less than 48 hours from now, Dr.Olu Onagoruwa, a former Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a well known human rights activist will turn 80. His children have, however, been committed to series of activities to mark the event. Dr Olu Onagoruwa certainly deserves more than all the activities being put down to celebrate his 80th birthday.

It is a great pity that Nigeria has not been fair to “Egbon” Olu Onagoruwa in his struggles to make the country a great country to live. Olu Onagoruwa holds a doctorate degree in Law. He was for some years the legal adviser of the Daily Times of Nigeria when Daily Times was, indeed, Daily Times under the able control of the late Papa Babatunde Jose. Dr. Olu Onagoruwa distinguished himself in that position. Those were the days of brilliant journalism displayed in the Times Group of Newspapers by Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, the late Femi Sonaike, Dipo Ajayi, Felix Adenaike, Dapo Fasina Thomas, Bisi Adebunmi, Tola Adeniyi, Remi Akano, Areoye Oyebola, and several others too numerous to mention. Dr. Olu Onagoruwa was one of the big pen pushers of the Daily Times of that time.

Dr. Olu Onagoruwa struck the headlines at that time with the Minere Amakiri case in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Minere was a journalist with the Observer Group of Newspapers based in the then Bendel State. The Nigerian Observer was a newspaper then publishing in Benin City. Minere Amakiri had published a story in the Observer adjudged by the then Rivers State Governor, Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff, to have been rude to him. The story was about a teacher’s strike in Rivers State. The military governor immediately ordered the arrest of Minere Amakiri. The governor ordered that the head of the journalist be shaved clean and detained.

The Newspaper Proprietors’ Association, then under the leadership of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, did not take the incident funny. The association immediately sent Dr. Olu Onagoruwa to follow the case and advise appropriately what should be done. Dr. Olu Onagoruwa did follow the case and called for a large scale condemnation of the retaliatory actions of Governor Diette Spiff on the Amakiri matter.

Dr.Olu Onagoruwa eventually ended up writing a book titled “PRESS FREEDOM IN CHAINS”. The book contained details of the events of the Minere Amakiri affair. The incident sent Dr. Olu Onagoruwa into limelight.

Dr. Olu Onagoruwa was a fearless Nigerian who believes that nothing must ever be done to shut the gates of justice against any Nigerian (no matter his status) in any attempt to disturb the path of justice and freedom.

Not long after this incident, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa emerged the Attorney-General of Nigeria after the coup led by the late General Sani Abacha and General Oladipo Diya against the government, then headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Throughout Olu Onagoruwa’s stay as Attorney-General, he never permitted the gates of justice to be shut against any Nigerian. There are instances to mention in this regard.

There is the Turner Ogboru case. Turner Ogboru had been arrested, tried and imprisoned by the General Ibrahim Babangida regime after the abortive coup attempt of April 22, 1990, Turner’s brother, Great Ogboru, had been fingered by the IBB regime as having financed the 1990 coup. Turner Ogboru was subsequently arrested by security forces and put on trial.

Immediately, a High Court Judge granted the application for freedom of Turner Ogboru, which was filed by his lawyer, Femi Falana, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, the Attorney-General sent letters out to the late Alex Ibru, the then Minister for Internal Affairs, and Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, the Inspector General of Police directing the immediate release of Turner Ogboru as directed by the Court.

Alex Ibru complied immediately with the Attorney-General’s instructions by ordering the release of Turner Ogboru from prison custody.

A Provisional Ruling Council meeting was held the next day of Ogboru’s freedom. Towards the end of the meeting, the Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Coomasie had drawn the attention of the PRC meeting to the letter of Dr. Olu Onagoruwa ordering the release of Turner Ogboru. The late Head of State, General Sani Abacha was said to have been so enraged to learn of the subsequent release of Turner Ogboru that he was said to have told Olu Onagoruwa and the late Alex Ibru that what they had done by releasing Ogboru was worse than treasonable felony.

Turner Ogboru was immediately rearrested after the PRC meeting and returned to prison.

It is generally believed that the releases of Turner Ogboru was one of the sins Olu Onagoruwa had committed leading to the execution of his son Toyin Onagoruwa in December1996.

As the Federal Attorney-General, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa by the tradition of the office is considered fit to be awarded the SANship award. In the case of Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, no such award has ever been granted to him. He bears no one any grudge for the failure to grant him such an award. Dr. Olu Onagoruwa will never beg anyone to have such an award. No amount of appeal will convince him to press for such an automatic award. Dr. Olu Onagoruwa is such a highly principled man. I simply love him.

The murder of his son by unknown policemen till this day did have an effect on his health. Eventually, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa suffered a devastating stroke attack some few months after the murder. He has not fully recovered from the stroke attack.

To make matters worse for him, his loyal wife of many years suddenly died. The woman was buried at Dr. Onagoruwa’s family compound at Odogbolu in Ogun State. Despite all the problems, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa is today 80. Glory be to God!

We rejoice with the Onagoruwas at the 80th birthday celebrations of this great son of Nigeria whose ‘Yes’ has ever been emphatic ‘Yes’ and whose ‘No’ is ever ‘No’. The journey has been rough, tedious and arduous. The image has, however, remained impeccably high. We all love him and we know that God will still take care of his life for greater things to come!

“Egbon” thank you and God bless you as you enter the age of the wise ones!!