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An empty seat for Koleade Adeniji Abayomi, SAN; OON – embodiment of intellect, charm and good humour

Abayomi is fondly remembered by his students for his undoubted intellect, erudition and his easy charm as well as his infectious good humour. He was a huge hit with his risqué jokes with daring sexual undertones which provided a repertoire that he unleashed on successive intakes.

Here is a witness statement (Prosecution Witness 1) by one of his students:

“Dr. Abayomi!! Our darling teacher. Debonair, dapper, genial, cerebral are some adjectives I would use for him.

He taught us well and Legal Drafting remains one of my strongest points to date. My sister and I were in his tutorial class and he would be openly flirtatious in class. He would say if any one of the girls pleaded being married as the reason for not wanting his attention, he would respond in his seductive baritone voice “so am I”. The swag with his signature walking stick added to his appeal and I only realised now that he is dead that he was just in his 40s when I was in Law School.

He has played his part, teacher of teachers, lawyers, judges and everything in between all through the gamut of the legal profession and judiciary.”

Dr. Abayomi was always jovial, down to earth and very popular with his students. They looked forward to his lectures with eagerness and unbridled excitement.

He had no qualms about announcing in the classroom / lecture theatre:

“From the waist upwards, I am a Christian but from the waist downwards, I am a Moslem.”

Now that he is gone, discretion would not permit me to divulge his salty story about “PUSH HARDER” except that it had something to do with a Nigerian lawyer (an old boy of St. Gregory’s College!!) who was on a visit to India and enjoyed the company of an Indian escort lady whose command of English was somewhat limited. It was not until the Gregorian was on the golf course the following day that the directional / communication difficulties of the previous evening were clarified!!

Outside the Law School, Kole’s brilliance earned him a seat among the fifty (actually forty-nine) wise men/women who drafted Nigeria’s 1979 Constitution under the Chairmanship of the legal icon, Chief F.R.A., Williams S.A.N. which substituted Parliamentary (Westminster model) Democracy with the American presidential system that was bequeathed to our nation by General Olusegun Obasanjo. Ah well, there goes another empty seat!! I have been searching frantically for any evidence that serious consideration was given to the cost of running a vastly expensive presidential system (with twelve states, now thirty-six states in addition to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja) in a poor country like Nigeria.

Kole was a man of impeccable character and unassailable integrity (which is a sine qua non for thoroughbred Lagosians). He had nothing but contempt for dubious characters, scoundrels and the masters of treachery/mendacity. For him integrity, loyalty and uprightness were the ground norm for friendship. He never wavered.

Our paths crossed at King’s College, Lagos sixty years ago when he joined the highly competitive Sixth Form from C.M.S. Grammar School. He was two years ahead of his brother, Bola who was my classmate. At that time, Kole was as slim as a rake but showed no interest whatever in games or athletic pursuits. By his own testimony he had discovered a more agreeable sport—girls!!

At a time when most of his classmates were still contemplating how to woo their first girlfriends, Kole was well ahead of the pack. He was precocious. He already had a formidable list of conquests under his belt-supported at that tender age with sworn affidavits. It was the first hint that he was destined for the legal profession rather than medicine for which his Dad (who was a doctor and politician) had been grooming him.

He was a gifted raconteur and would regale us with stories of his encounters with the opposite sex who apparently considered him an irresistible magnet for their affections. At King’s College, Kole quickly served notice that as an Aristocrat he was exempt from corporal punishment by any of the tutors (not even the Headmaster/Principal, Mr. P. H. Davies). He was promptly nicknamed: “Aristo”!!

Here is a vignette of Kole’s recollection of his brief (non-legal!!) spell at King’s College in an interview published in “The Punch” newspaper on 1st July 2017 with a bold headline: “At 21, my dad gave me his will, access to his accounts.”

How was it like growing up in Lagos Island, a place known to be rough?

“It was not as rough as it is today but even as of then, you had to know the son of whom you are. I had friends who were on drugs but I have never taken drugs in my life. I had friends who were always going to night clubs but I preferred regular parties.

I had friends who broke bounds in school and I also did a bit of that.

Did you ever get caught?

Yes, I got caught. There was a time I took about nine people to the Ambassador Hotel. We left school at about 8pm and got back to school about 2am but we were caught, two were expelled, six were suspended but the principal thought that since I just got in from another school and I did not know the routine, I should be on probation. My friends thought that it was favouritism but I was not bothered.”

After obtaining his law degree from Durham University in Britain, Kole proceeded to Clare College, Cambridge for his LL.M followed by his Ph.D. from Oxford University. His Ph.D. thesis was on “Control of Administration by Parliament”. He thereby joined the long list of King’s College boys (and girls) who attended either Cambridge University or Oxford University (and sometimes both!!).

The motto of the University of Cambridge is: Hinc lucem et pocula sacra (From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge).

Kole was a man of impeccable character and unassailable integrity … he had nothing but contempt for dubious characters, scoundrels and the masters of treachery/mendacity. For him integrity, loyalty and uprightness were the ground norm for friendship. He never wavered

The motto of the University of Oxford is: Dominus illuminatio mea (The Lord is my light)

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