D EATH is the price all mortals must pay in their journey through life. Death is what makes all men and women to know and affirm the Supremacy of God, the Maker of mankind. I woke up one morning in the last two weeks to read of the death of Niki Tobi, a former Supreme Court judge, who was one of my university mates at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba during the civil war years.
Niki was an intellectual, even while he was an undergraduate. He dissected issues and events like an intellectual who seeks the relevance of facts and matters through research and investigation. Ever neat, Niki was a lawyer’s lawyer. We all respected his intellectual capabilities. Niki Tobi was then at Unilag, a law student who had studied law at the feet of the great jurist, Justice Taslim Elias, a former Attorney-General of Nigeria during the First Republic who contributed immensely to the reputation of Unilag as centre for law studies; the late Professor M.I. Jegede (SAN), the late Professor Abiola Ojo, and several others.
Some of the classmates of Niki Tobi at the Faculty of Law include Bros Ladipo Fashade, who came to study Law from his desk as the famous Conrad Rover of the Express Group of Newspapers, Barrister Isagwade, the late Barrister Olowu, Barrister Dipo Odujinrin, the late Chief J. Olatunji, an Ibadan born lawyer who remained a bright legal mind to the very end of his life; the late Muri Okunola aka “OMO PRESI,” and equally a successful judge of the Appellate Court in Nigeria, and others.
Niki Tobi later moved to the University of Maiduguri where he eventually became the Dean of the Faculty of Law. He equally rose to become the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the university. It was from the University of Maiduguri that Niki moved to the Bench as a judge. He made his greatest achievements to the progress of Nigeria through the Bench.
Niki Tobi was a very fine judge of the Supreme Court who never allowed injustice, and fair-play to characterise his dispensation of justice to the poor and the needy in Nigeria.
To Niki Tobi, justice in all its ramifications must be made available to Nigerians. Niki never allowed Nigerians (during his entire stay on the Bench) to doubt whether they could get justice in the courts of law.
There is a story told me by my friend, Chief Arthur Nwankwo, of the Fourth Dimension Press, Enugu some years ago about Niki Tobi.
Justice Niki Tobi had given a verdict in a court of law that gave a litigant who had lost all hope of ever getting justice victory. The litigant, after the verdict decided to visit Niki Tobi with gifts to express his gratitude.
Unfortunately, the man did not meet Justice Niki Tobi at home. He, however, decided to leave the gifts with a note of gratitude to Tobi for giving him justice in his case.
He was surprised the next day when he found Justice Niki Tobi at his residence in Calabar with his gifts to him neatly packed and returned to him. Justice Niki Tobi warned the Nigerian never again to bring gifts to him in appreciation of whatever favourable decision he (the litigant) must have secured in his legal application to the court of law. That was truly him Justice Niki Tobi who in his entire career at the Bench, gave hope to the hopeless and dispensed justice with total commitment to justice and fair-play.
In 2005, Justice Niki Tobi was appointed by the former President Olusegun Aremu Okikiola Obasanjo government as the judge to preside over the affairs of that year’s constitutional conference. I was a member of that constitutional conference, and Justice Niki Tobi gave the country a fine display of a pure legal mind that was not prepared to compromise his intellectual principles of being a defender of poor Nigerians on pots of porridge.
His regime as the head of the conference was flawless. He never permitted any invasion of the conference by government with any ideas or suggestions that could prove difficult to the smooth operations of the conference.
When I read in the newspapers of the death of Niki Tobi, my mind immediately went to our days at the University of Lagos some 50 years ago. We, as undergraduates, were dreamers of a great Nigeria. We were all set to join the patriots in offering the best of service to our dear country. Many of us left the university in 1969, never to meet again. Now, we are dying. Niki Tobi has gone to join the “Saints” in heaven. May his soul rest in peace! Niki, good-night and good-bye!!
AND DR. EMEKA ENEJERE TOO
By the time you read this, Dr. Emeka Enejere, the former President of the National Union of Biafran Students during the civil war years would have been buried in his village in Nsukka area of Enugu State.
He came into the limelight during the Nigerian civil war when he emerged the leader of the Biafran Students from the campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. We served as student leaders in Nigeria nearly the same period between 1967 and 1968. Emeka was assisted by men like Nwosu and Charles Iyizoba, who were great names in student unionism in Nigeria at the time.
Emeka Enejere later became a known public figure in Nigeria. He was a politician of note and was equally like Niki Tobi, a fighter for the socio-political rights of Nigerians. He was later appointed by the government of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the Pro-Chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He gave the institution the best of service.
The rest, however, is a story told! His son was kind enough to inform me of the death of this illustrious son of Nigeria. I was unable to attend any of the activities put forward to honour the memory of Emeka Enejere as a result of age related reasons.
‘Emekus’ (as I was fond of calling him) was a great mind. He did justice to every assignment he performed in the services of Nigeria. Nigeria will learn how to remember Emeka Enejere!
Emeka Enejere is dead and his struggles for a great Nigeria counties!!
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