By Kayode Adeoti
Legal profession in Nigeria is dogged by myriad of challenges that has over the years put to test the credibility of its practitioners. Going by history, many in this noble profession have fallen off track for inconsequential temptations that is encapsulated in corruption. Some have compromised their stands just to maintain fame the profession accords.
But, in the face of this, some personalities have weathered the storm and risen above board to carve niche for themselves, which today distinguished them in the society.
This, is the case of Aliyu Alarape Salman (SAN). His sojourn as a lawyer who pitched his tent in Ilorin, Kwara State capital has always been referenced by both the young wigs and the elders in the bar
Baba, as fondly called by lawyers in the state, was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1968, conferred with SAN rank in 1987. Going by history, he’s the 2nd SAN Kwara state will produce, though he’s being referred to as the first because R. A. Razak who first attained the highest pinnacle of the profession never practised in the state. In lieu of this, he’s now the Doyen of SANs. He is the fourth oldest SAN in the North, 56th in Nigeria. In a recent chat with him, he confirmed being the first SAN produced by Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
He held the position of the state Attorney General during the regime of then Military Governor of Kwara State, Theophilus Bamigboye, between May 1967 and July 1975.
Amazing thing about him is how he has remained relevant even late 70 in the legal arena. He has continued to inspire, teach and guard the members of the profession both at the bar and at the bench.
This is further confirmed when he demonstrated his wealth of knowledge and experience in the topic ‘Courtroom etiquette’ during a just held seminar of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Ilorin.
Baba, whose voice has become an asset as it reverberates so much liveliness and cheerfulness whenever he speaks charged the green horns in the profession to always seek advice and directions from elders in the bar.
According to him, the profession will only be fun and enjoyable when it is well practised. Maximum respect must be given to those who are seniors. We can only stand on each others shoulders if we want to see far.
The NBA chairman, Manzuma Isaac also describes him in a recent chat with this medium as an epitome of a professional lawyer who exalt discipline above all virtues.
He said, “His experience is enormous, we cannot stop learning from him, he was called to the bar in the 60s, and he’s been appointed as SAN for over three decades now. Baba is totally associated with professionalism.
“Those times as a young practitioner, I was barely two years at the bar then, my boss, J.S Bamigboye, SAN, sent me to arrange with the bailiff to serve certain court processes for us, when I got there, as a young lawyer, I was familiar with virtually everybody there, that made me to sit on their table. Accidentally, Baba was coming out of the court when he saw me at the table. In a serious voice, he beckoned on me and asked, are you not a lawyer? I replied in affirmative, he said, how can you be comfortable sitting on the bailiff’s table? With that I understood what he meant. And he went away.
“He is professional ethic personified, for our NBA meeting, Baba will be at the venue, 30 or 15minutes to the time. I can say confidently, since my administration came on board, he has never missed any of our monthly meetings as well as our programmes, the law week, dinners and the likes.
“We saw in him, what Patrick Ebuta called ‘Grand Father of the Bar’. What is he looking for now attending our meetings? I believe, he wants to ensure training of young lawyers and to bequest on us the profession everybody will be proud of. Baba is an asset to us. He represents excellence both in advocacy and conduct.
Even his colleague, Peter Olorunisola said of him that though he did not know of his landmark judgements but “he’s very lovely, lively, nice and handsome. He was onetime Attorney General of the state
Similarly, a renowned lawyer in the state, Abdul Tunde Gegele noted that Baba has become a figure in the profession that must be adored.
Speaking on his landmarks judgement, he stressed that it has spoken volume of him, there are many cases he handled that almost submerged him. “He was the one who handled the controversial matter involving Alhaji Jimoh Ayinde, who was accused of stealing people’s property and invariably buried them in the ground. Though he lost the matter but he performed wonders with his prowess in law. He is very good and intelligent.
“The case of Baba Agba Gegele Vs. Olayinka Galadima was also part of his landmarks, he won the matter at the trial court even when it was Appealed. His works are there to help the old and the young lawyers.
Also, a senior member of the bar said of the ‘grandfather’ of the bar that when he was in active practice, he demonstrated a strong spirit against corruption related practises. He added that during his time, he had all avenues to extort and make so much wealth for himself but he never did.
“Baba is a person who, defends the voiceless, he is always ready to fight for a simple course in order to give some people liberty. Legal profession is his life. In fact, I read about how he vowed to remain in practice till he dies, he had once said;
“As a Muslim, I want to say I’m very thankful to God that I have achieved an ambition. I was supposed to be appointed a Judge of Kwara State, but I declined. Also, when I was 68, they also wanted to appoint me into Supreme Court, I declined. I told them that ‘I am not qualified’. They asked what I meant by not being qualified. I said I’m not qualified because I’m happy with my work as senior advocate.
“When Chief Rotimi Williams was 82, he was still practicing. In fact, we met at the Supreme Court when he was 82. So, I’m hoping that if I’m lucky I will also be going to court at 82. But if I’m appointed as judge at the Supreme Court at 68, a judge retires at 70 in the Supreme Court. So, I would just be there for two years. People in Kwara judiciary were not happy that I didn’t take the job not knowing that taking it, It would be difficult to practice after retiring as a judge” he quoted the doyen.
Till date, Baba is a leader of Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressives Union (IEDPU) and a former Chairman of the defunct Trade Bank PLC