Quintessential Jiti Ogunye At 50 By Lekan Alabi
Posted On May 26, 2017
This is the time to roll out the drums to celebrate one of very few honourable men in a country where character is a scarce commodity. Ibukun Olajinbiti Ogunye, an Ikare Akoko born legal titan is known to different people for different reasons but he is certainly known to the oppressed as their liberator using the instrumentality of the law as narrow as it is to get succor for freedom fighters, labour leaders, victimized students’ union leaders and workers in a society where the resources of all are in the hands of few.
In his life journey, whether as a young person or as an adult, he has been playing leadership roles for his immediate family, students movement, human rights community and pro-democracy groups. If one considers his intellectual input to the struggle to liberate our society, one will be tempted to conclude that Jiti has been around for well over 8 decades. His life best captures the aphorism that says that not how long but how well. For Jiti it is so far so best if I am permitted to use the phrase.
In the past three decades of his life of struggles against oppression and evils embedded in market theology, Jiti had not taken a neutral position on national issues. To him, neutrality in a moment of decision is a moral bankruptcy. No wonder, as a union leader in the late 80s and the early 90s in the University of Benin, a period in history that coincided with the military dictatorship and rulership, he played a patriotic role in rallying patriotic youth and student activists in collaboration with other progressive movements in different part of the country to fight against the military regimes and attendant reactionary policies.
Being an organizational person, he alongside with his comrades organized a methodical resistance against the military rule. They campaigned and protested against the commercialization and privatization of education in the country. They, in alliance with Academic Staff Union of Universities demanded for university autonomy and academic freedom for the benefit of all.
Upon being called to Nigerian Bar in November, 1992, being a Marxist Leninist ideologue who fully understood/understands the Marxist Theory of Jurisprudence, consequently, his natural habitat was to work in the Law Firm of fiery Femi Falana Esq. SAN.
It should be noted that Falana is the arrowhead of the Aka Tradition of radical legal practice, pro people approach to law as a weapon to fight economic and political injustice. His experience in Falana Chambers as a Marxist Lawyer was a watershed in his professional career as he was highly fulfilled in working in peoples” Chambers. Under the military regimes, leading Jiti and other progressive and radical lawyers, Falana was a torn in the flesh of the military oligarchy particularly in the area of expounding and widening the scope of human rights practice having suspended the Fundamental Rights provision of the Constitution via Decree 107 of 1993 enacted by the ruthless Abacha Junta.
It must not escape my mind to state that Jiti is highly resourceful.
No wonder, this quality of his was maximally exhausted by his political group and allies in the human rights community. He was part of the movement against the military tyranny and oppression. He assiduously worked mentally and physically within the circle of pro democracy groups and human rights bodies which include but not limited to the following: The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, National Association of Democratic Lawyers, Campaign for Democracy, NADECO, JACON, Lawyers’ League of Human Rights.
He was/is a consultant to Civil Rights Congress, Female Leadership Forum and other nongovernmental organizations. He is a household name as a public affairs analyst in main stream print and electronic media in Nigeria.
This writer will never forget the 1st day of May, 2002 when Jiti told him that his perspective in legal profession was to be a constituency builder of radical and progressive minded lawyers who were and still in short supply in the country.
Being a union leader from Ife, he offered me instant employment in Jiti Ogunye Chambers where I cut my teeth in legal profession. While working with him, he was/is a man of industry and high intellect. Most of the cases were done pro bono. They were centered on workers’ rights, students’ rights and the downtrodden who were the victims of the anti-people policy of the management.
He is a public interest litigator per excellence. He deployed his legal talent to defend the victims of executive lawlessness of the military and their satellite in the university community. NEPA VS. OSOSANYA &ORS…, W.A.E.C V. ADEYANJU (2008) 9 NWLR (PT. 1092) 270 W.A.E.C V. AKINKUNMI (2008) 9 NWLR (PT. 1091) 151, PROF POJU AKINYANJU V. UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN, AZUBUIKE V. MILLAD LAGOS STATE & ORS (1 NPILR), RUFUS OYATORO V. OSOGBO STEEL ROLLING COMPANY, ADENEKAN ADENIYI AKANNI & ORS V. OAU & ORS: SUIT NO: FHC/OS/CS/15/05, ALABI ADEBAYO MOJEED V. OAU & ORS SUIT NO: FHC/OS/CS/16/05 among other numerous cases to be mentioned were conducted with vigor and conviction to the apex court.
It is a sad irony that the human angle to the society was lacking in a temple that ought to have it in highest doze. But what is important is the principle behind the picking up the defence of the victim of the system to a logical conclusion regardless of where the pendulum swung. On the issue of principle, Jiti is uncompromising, he is as hard as Ikare-Akoko rock.
He is an innovator and original thinker, in Nigeria legal space. He engineered a debate on Plea Bargain which eventually led to his publication on The Imperative of Plea Bargaining 2005 after a thorough research and rigorous finding. However, the ruling class and their lawyers have thoroughly bastardized a concept that supposed to reform our criminal justice system. Jiti is a public interest litigator per excellence.
People are the cornerstone of his existence. Principle is his way of life. Fairness is in his blood. Love, large heart and humanism breathe in his heart. This is celebrating with my benefactor, radical lawyer, public intellectual and socialist as he clocks 50 in a society where it is a grace and privilege to attain the age of 50. Kindly join me in rejoicing with him as he dances his loved music Baba Ara.