I am honoured to pay this tribute to a man with whom I am proud to identify as his first child (apologies to my brother Segun Ajibola SAN!), a friend and a priceless mentor, H.E. Judge Bola Ajibola SAN, KBE, Nigeria’s pioneer and one of its foremost arbitrators, one time President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Hon. Attorney General and Minister of Justice for five years, Judge of the World Court, and Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.
I have mentioned Judge Bola Ajibola’s major and high public service appointments, from legal practice to diplomacy, to demonstrate the breadth and variety of his talents and competence. I served as his Special Adviser for five years, when he was Federal Attorney General, and I was on hand once in a while with him at the World Court. Every day was a lesson in hard work, integrity and contentment. He was in the office before 8.00 am and he never left till 8.00 pm. Even then, he carried with him loads of books and files to study overnight.
I saw first-hand how he resisted every attempt to compromise him and how he fought corruption. He always said contentment was the key to staying honest. He lived those high ideals to the letter. As Judge of the World Court, he very quickly won the respect and admiration of his colleagues for his wisdom, wit and erudition.
Judge Ajibola in later years would continue in his role as my mentor. In my years as Attorney- General of Lagos State, he was on hand to exhort, advice, and encourage and also rebuke! I vividly remember the day in year 2000 when he arrived at my office at 8.00 am. His first comment was that he was not surprised that I was at my desk so early. He had come to advice on how he thought I should handle some sensitive issues that had arisen early in our administration in Lagos State.
My entry into politics was a surprise to him, but he not only gave his full support, but became one of my biggest sources of encouragement. I had agreed to see him sometime during the 2019 campaigns, but rather than wait for me to see him, he caught up with me at an event I was attending at the MUSON Centre in Lagos. We held the meeting in his car. Again it was mostly to offer his advice and thoughts on crucial national issues.
Sir, I am extremely proud of your exemplary life and contributions to our profession, nation and our world.
On this occasion of your birthday, it is my prayer that as your days, so shall your strength, wisdom and favour with God, in Jesus name!
Bola Ajibola, SAN, KBE, LLD, DLITT, FCArb, FNIALS, CFR: A Brief Citation
Bolasodun Adesumbo “Bola” Ajibola, KBE ( Knight Commander of the British Empire) was an Attorney general and the Minister of Justice of Nigeria from 1985 to 1991 and a Judge of the International Court of Justice from 1991 to 1994. He was president of the Nigerian Bar Association from 1984-85. He was also one of five commissioners on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, organised through the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
His Excellency Prince Ajibola is the former head of the Nigerian High Commission in London and the president and founder of the Islamic Mission for Africa. In 1994, Prince Bola Ajibola was appointed a member to the Permanent Court of Arbitration with respect to the court’s deliberations on the land dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon. He is the founder, proprietor, and president of the Board of Trustee of Crescent University in Abeokuta. Currently he serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN).
Born on March 22, 1934 in Owu, near Abeokuta, Nigeria, to the Owu royal family of Oba Abdul-Salam Ajibola Gbadela II, who was the traditional ruler of Owu between 1949 and 1972, Ajibola attended Owu Baptist Day School and Baptist Boys’ High School both in Abeokuta between 1942 and 1955. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B) at the Holborn College of Law, University of London between 1959 and 1962 and was called to the English Bar at the Lincoln’s Inn in 1962. He returned to Nigeria to practise the Law, specialising in Commercial Law and International Arbitration.
He was the chairman of the panel set up by the Plateau State government to probe the 2008 Jos riots. He established crescent university in 2005 in Nigeria which is an Islamic and co-educational institution.
The Nigeria Institute of Chartered Arbitrators (NICArb), the premier arbitration institute in Nigeria, was founded under Ajibola’s leadership in 1979.