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On Thursday, thought leaders were gathered at the National Institute of International Affairs, Lagos for the public presentation of the book, Challenges of Good and Democratic Governance in Nigeria: Essays in Honour of Prof. Ben Nwabueze

Prof. Nwabueze is Nigeria’s first academic Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He is a former Teacher, Administrator, Businessman and former Minister of Education and Youth Development. He was born on December 22nd, 1932 in Atani, Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State.

He has written over 200 articles in academic journals and more than 100 keynotes at local and international Conferences.

Although, the celebrant, Prof. Nwabuze was not able to make it to the event because of his health issues, it was still a glorious event.

Some of the distinguished personalities took to the stage to make their remarks about the book and the Professor.

The chairman of the occasion was Chief Emeka Anyaoku. He was the third Commonwealth Secretary-General.

Anyaoku said, “Today is an historic day. I entirely agree with that description because we are here to honour a man who is widely acknowledged. In my opening remarks I talked about my conversations with President Daniel Moi of Kenya. But I can tell you that it wasn’t only president moi of Kenya that talked to me at some point about Ben Nwabueze. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in 1980 when they were about to negotiate the constitution of independent Zimbabwe at Lancaster house also spoke to me about him.

“In the conversation with me, he mentioned Nwabueze but I had to explain to him that the negotiation was going to be primarily between the British government, the minority government in Rhodesia and the liberation struggle leaders and there would be no room for a constitutional adviser. That was the reason why Ben Nwabueze did not receive an approach. In my conversations with President Quett Masire of Botswana, the name Ben Nwabueze came up in the context of the attempt to renew the constitution of Botswana at the time.

“Ben Nwabuze is mentioned not only in Africa but in the United Kingdom. We were told by Mr. Chijioke Okolie (SAN) that Prof. Teslim Elias and Prof. Ben Nwabueze were the only Africans who received LSD on the basis of their written works. It reminded me of another Nigerian late Dr. Pius Okigbo who was the only one who received a DSC in economics from London University on the basis of his written work.

Anyaoku also spoke of how the word legend and other distinguished words have been used for people who are not worthy of those words.

He continued, “And so in our country were we have tended to bastardize words, such words carelessly as Icon, legend, quintessential, you read newspapers, you see all sort of people being described in those words. In UK, when you talk about a living legend, it is someone who has distinguished himself in an indisputable manner. They talk about Winston Churchill as a legend. I remember how humble I was when the University of London decided to name a Professorial chair after me. The orator said the last time the University of London did that was for a legend, Sir Winston Churchill. I never quite understood why they chose to do it in my name. In our country we tend to use words not as carefully as we should. But in the case of Prof. Ben Nwabueze, I am sure that the word icon would be indisputable. The word quintessential would also be indisputable. And the word a legend is clearly indisputable.”

Another speaker at the event was Prof. Anya O. Anya. According to him young lawyers should strive to emulate the achievements of the great Prof, Nwabueze.

Speaking to the audience, he remarked, “For most of us who are here. We should remember that we are part of history because today is a historical day. When you listen to all that has been said about the man we are honouring, you recognize that those of us who consider him as a senior friend also are blessed by jus knowing him. And I will leave you with a riddle. As far as I know, the late Teslim Elias and Ben Nwabueze are the only two lawyers who are holders of the Nigerian National Order of Merits (NNOM). I don’t know whether you can say it is accidental but I leave it as a challenge because I am not likely to see so many SANs as I have seen today and I think that if they really want to put that extra stamp of intellectualism on their work, they should aim for that.”


Prof. Itse Sagay who is one of the writers of the book also gave his thoughts on the legend. According to him Nwabueze is “probably the greatest constitutional law scholar alive.”

To him, “Those who are not present here would not know what they have missed. Prof Nwabueze is described as the greatest constitutional law scholar in Africa. I think that is a bit modest. Personally I have not seen in contemporary times, I am not aware in terms of the whole international community of a man of the prodigy in that area of law as Prof. Nwabueze. We are being modest. He is probably the greatest constitutional law scholar alive.

“My personal relationship with him, contrary to what journalists always describe me as, I am not a constitutional lawyer or expert. I studied international law. But I found with time that everybody must be involved in constitutional law. It is the most important area of law and I was not happy about my relative illiteracy in that area so I started reading books. Mainly his books. Reading cases and beginning to develop a body of knowledge in it and he noticed it himself and did me the honour of asking me to review a book he wrote which was a fantastic experience for me. I read it, did a review.

“He was very happy with the review and since then we have been quite close in that area. So it is a great honour and a privilege to have been picked as one of those to take part in this essay in his honour. I feel highly privileged and I thank God for the honour and pray that this prodigious man who has written over 30 books maybe about 40 should be spared to continue to live long amongst us so we continue to enjoy and benefit from his incredible output.”

Others at the event were Dr. Samuel Etatuvie who represented the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, Mr. Owelle George, Chijioke Okoli, SAN, Prpf. Dakas C.J Dakas, SAN, Supe Shashore, Prof. Awa Kalu, SAN and a host of others.

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