By Abdulrazaq Magaji
Few lawyers have affected the Nigerian legal space as Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN, OFR, MFR, FCIArb, FNIALS. Perhaps, the multiple award-winning guiding light of the legal profession, seasoned litigation and commercial lawyer, altruist and founder/principal partner of J-K Gadzama LLP, wins our hearts with his unparalleled contribution to the improvement of the legal profession and empowerment of its practitioners. Or, maybe he has won our hearts by being a self-made individual whose contribution to the empowerment of disadvantaged individuals and communities knows no bound.
Still, maybe Chief Gadzama, a hard-nosed arbitrator surprises us by his extraordinary humility as well as his unpretentious and down-to-earth lifestyle. Better still, maybe the seasoned scholar and field worker par excellence dazzles us with his down-to-earth approach to issues and extraordinary warmth which endear him to the heart of the high and low. Whatever it is, J-K Gadzama has justified and earned national and international accolades that come with his huge investments in human development. Let us consider some of them.
The Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Mentorship Scheme, a brilliant human development idea of a most novel sort, is a quarterly training session aimed at honing the skills of young lawyers. The J-K Gadzama Annual Lectures, which ranks among the biggest in Africa, serves as an informal training ground for lawyers considering the wealth of ideas that are exchanged at the sessions. There is also the prestigious J-K Gadzama Award for best graduating law student which he instituted at his alma mater, the University of Maiduguri.
A similar scholarship scheme that honours high-performing students runs at the Nigerian Law School. With more than fifty lawyers on its roster, J-K Gadzama LLP has one of the largest pool of lawyers in Africa. As part of its empowerment scheme for young lawyers, the law firm regularly takes in dozens of youth corps members and, on an annual basis, accepts a sizeable number of students from the Nigerian Law School on law office attachment. This is aside the J-K Gadzama Scholarship Scheme to cater for the needs of indigent students in post-primary and tertiary institutions.
For the best part of the three and half decades he has spent on the bar, Chief Gadzama has carved a niche for himself as a lawyer with a commitment and dedication to the development of the legal profession. With state-of-the-art facilities and a purpose-built moot court for lawyers to practice before they attend live court sessions, his ultramodern head office in Garki II District of Abuja ranks among the best in Africa. Among others, J-K Gadzama is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the National Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. Over the past decade, he has consistently been rated as one of the top 500 lawyers in the world.
Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama has turned full circle since 1986 when he was called to the Bar. Today, he is a General of sort, being the deserving recipient of the prestigious Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, on the eve of his 37th birthday in 1998. Like any battle-tested General, he is in full control of an equally battle-tested battalion of lawyers at his command post, the octopoid J-K Gadzama LLP in Abuja. He holds two national honours of Member of the order of the Federal Republic, MFR and Order of the Federal Republic and practices law in the United States of America and the United Kingdom where he maintains law chambers.
An indigene of Lassa in the southern part of Borno state, J-K Gadzama was born in Mubi, in neighbouring Adamawa state on Tuesday, November 28, 1961. He was educated in Kaduna, Song, in Adamawa state, and Maiduguri where he took a Second Class Upper division degree in law at the University of Maiduguri in 1985 emerging, in the process, as the best graduating student in Common Law. Chief Gadzama was the Chairman of the 1986 Class of Nigerian Law School and first of the nearly 1700 lawyers in the class to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. In 2006, Chief Gadzama took a Post Graduate Diploma in International Commercial Arbitration from the Keble College of the Oxford University in the United Kingdom after which he was admitted into Lincoln’s Inn.
Chief Gadzama maintains a big voice on the national scene. He belongs to the fast-receding list of patriotic Nigerians, exceedingly passionate about the Nigerian project and continues to do his bit in its actualisation. And some of his suggestions to drive the Nigerian project, just as his antidote to the high cost of governance, are as revolutionary as they are realistic. First, Chief Gadzama believes Nigeria must get it right politically by enthroning the ideals of free and fair elections, and; secondly, that Nigeria can move away from the tinderbox it is sitting on if Nigerians resolve to end needless religious and ethnic strife in the land.
Equally revolutionary is his belief that Nigeria can achieve less costly and qualitative legislation if more qualified professional are lured into politics by making legislative duties and remunerations to be conducted on part-time basis and, as in the case in Pakistan, for legislative seats to be reserved for professionals and women. Chief Gadzama believes corruption shades competence and therefore should not enjoy any foothold in the country. In 2013 and, in recognition of his arbitration and dispute resolution skills, he was named as a member of a high-powered committee set up by the Federal Government to investigate and proffer solutions to the insurgency in North Eastern Nigeria.
A highly detribalized Nigerian, Chief J-K Gadzama was honoured by Ndigbo as Okwulora of Ukpo for being ‘’an authentic and reliable mouthpiece of the people’’ in 2003. He is one prophet who is honoured at home; J-K Gadzama holds the highly-visible traditional title of Sardauna of Uba. In the North East and other parts of the country, he continues to execute people-friendly projects for which appreciating members of the communities reciprocate. In 2007, he was named the sole and pioneer recipient of the Southern Borno Community Merit Award for meritorious service.
For Chief Gadzama, it has been a well-crafted book of life. Ahead November 28, a series of activities, among them, a health walk, a thanksgiving service, a birthday lecture, a special moot court session and a tee-off at the IBB Golf course have been lined up in strict compliance with Covid-19 protocols. Then, on Saturday, November 28, Chief Gadzama and members of family will take time off their normally-busy schedules to play host to a large gathering of friends, colleagues and well-wishers from within and outside the country who will be on hand to rejoice with this legal luminary as he steps into the sexagenarian bracket.
Magaji firstname.lastname@example.org writes from Abuja