I saw the late Professor Jide Aluko who was Head of the International Relations Department, University of Ife, until Mr Femi Falana got him sentenced to death of eternal shame in 1987 over the misappropriation of some grant to the department.
Interestingly, it was the Professor who approached the court pesided over by Justice Adeniran for libel. He had sued Dr M.A. Ojo, a colleague for shredding his character. Unfortunately for him, Dr Ojo engaged Mr Falana, who was then with the Aka Bashorun chambers.
When the case started, lawyers to Aluko came with the biggest law books in town but Falana had a small bag.
I have learnt not to judge him by the volumes of his books but the briefs in his head since he handled my case and Kola Odetola’s against the then University of Ife before the same judge a few months earlier.
We were suspended from the University over the allegation of being responsible for the stoning of the reprepeentstive of Visitor Ibrahim Babangida (AVM Patrick Koshoni) out of the convocation ceremony in December 1986.
The university lawyer, Professor A. B. Kasumu (SAN) was followed by a retinue of lawyers who carried assorted books and Falana came with a small bag making me wondering whall would happen. When he got up to address the court, he said he would only rely on the University Handbook which allowed the Vice Chancellor to impose any discipline on a student who had been found guilty of an offence. But in our case we were not tried before we were suspended except the VC was convinced by Ifa oracle that we committed the offence. Our VC was a Professor of Ifa Divination. I saw the bulky SAN shifting in his chair. He got up and asked the court to allow the University to go and follow its due process. But Falana insisted equity does not allow one man to be punished twice for an offence. The court ruled that the university violated its rule in dealing with us and said we should go back to school on a perpetual injunction.
In the case at hand, he waited for the attorneys to the Professor to exhaust all their legal arsenal and came on board to say the first witness against him shall be the Vice Chancellor. When the VC mounted the witness box, he was asked to describe Professor Aluko and he said he was a “honest, hardworking and educated colleague”. Falana said those were rare virtues and asked the VC if he remembered ever issuing a query to the Professor for using a master key to open another lecturer’s office? The VC answered no and he gave him a copy of it. He asked him if he ever gave him a query over the embezzlement of Ford Foundàtion grant and he said no again and a copy was served on him. Falana again asked the VC if ever queried the Professor for physically preventing a colleague from representing him at a Faculty Lecture. He denied again and he was served proof.
As the VC walked out of the court, Professor Omotoye Olorode was perching at the door and heckeld at him “Wandus, Wandus, enu opuro o ki nseje, a liar never bleeds in the lips”. It was a hitback for the day the DSS came to arrest the radical Botany Professor and he was taken to the VC and Professor Abimbola told him, “Toye, irun funfun ma ni tori e yi, ki won ma ti o kiri lai jale, (Toye, can’t you see grey hairs on your head and for security personnel to be pushing you about when you are not a thief?)”.
It was an interesting case that saw the man who filed a libel become the accused as Falana pleaded justification for libel.
The court was packed full on judgment day. The judge said it was Professor Aluko who came to court to complain that he was called a thief and other names and wondered what any averagely reasonable man would call a person who was proved to have done A-Y.
The judge said the Professor had no integrity to protect and the accountability system of a university where his type teaches needs overhaul. He added he was lucky not to have been charged before him as he would have thrown him to jail straight.
Case was dismissed and Professor Aluko died a few months after the very harsh delivery.
When I saw Professor Aluko three nights ago, he was weeping after he saw the notorious pension – accused thief, Maina, who collapsed in court like his NDDC pal and others who who have done so in recent times.
Professor was wondering if it is now the same country where he could not live with the shame of being accused of stealing millions of naira that people who are now accused of stealing billions of naira can only feign illness and faint before the court. Cry not Professor I could only say.
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