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Thursday, 3 January 2019

BUT WHY WAS HE MISSING FROM THE BENCH? - By Bashorun J.K. Randle


When in the matter of Chief Frank Odunayo Akinrele, SAN and Mrs. Ibidun Akinrele, the learned silk pronounced judgement in open court:
“I have fulfilled all my obligations” at his beloved wife’s 80th birthday on 5th April 2018, those of us who do not belong to the learned profession expected both Ademola Akinrele, SAN (alas an old boy of St. Gregory’s College!!) and Adedolapo Akinrele, SAN to immediately lodge an objection and proceed to file papers to appeal the matter directly to the Supreme Court on the grounds that Chief Frank Akinrele, SAN should have been restrained from pronouncing judgement in a matter in which there was clearly profound conflict of interest. For the benefit of lay men and women, it has been firmly established as a fundamental principle of law that you cannot approbate and reprobate.


For this lapse, we must hold Ademola “The Gregorian” responsible!!
He did not even lodge a preliminary objection nor an ex parte motion demanding a retraction compelling Chief Akinrele, SAN to continue the excellent work he had been doing for several decades – as a loving husband, devoted father, inspirational mentor, rock solid confidant and unblemished role model.

Perhaps the court would be minded to pursue vigorous enquiry regarding what would appear to be an oversight on the part of Chief Akinrele who may have vicariously permitted Ademola to attend St. Gregory’s College, instead of his own Alma Mater, King’s College, Lagos.

It is on record that all the three brothers of Uncle Frank – Christopher Olufemi Akinrele; Dayo Akinrele; and Marshall Olatunde Akinrele attended King’s College where they all excelled. They were simply brilliant. Both Dayo and Marshall graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge University.
The phenomenal academic achievements of Uncle Frank at King’s College, starting with double promotion in his first year, have been preserved for posterity.

Hence, it was no surprise that he earned spectacular laurels at University of Hull where he obtained an LL. B. degree in 1953 (at the age of twenty-three). Eyimofe Atake, SAN has availed the court of his evidence in chief:
“At Hull University he was awarded the Andrew Marvell Prize for the best graduating law student.” 

This was followed by an LL. M. from the same university in 1954.
With consummate ease, Uncle Frank bagged bountiful commendations from his peers:

i.) Late Hon. Justice Adewale Thompson (in his book “REMINISCES”):
“F.O. Akinrele was the most brilliant junior of our time” ii.) Late Hon. Justice Franklin Atake
“F.O. Akinrele is one of the best Criminal Law Lawyers in Nigeria”

It is almost tempting (at the risk of being charged with contempt of court) to challenge the late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Sir Darnley Alexander, SAN; GCON; KBE who persuaded Uncle Frank to apply for silk (the elevated rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria).

His Lordship should have directed his energy and his court to serving a bench warrant on Chief Frank Odunayo Akinrele to join the bench. The judiciary would have been abundantly enriched and our nation would have been better served.

Another missed opportunity was when Uncle Frank retired at the age of 56 and proceeded to spend the next thirty-two years on learning French, playing the piano, boating and annual cruises in the company of his wife and Ambassador and Mrs. Omotayo Ogunsulire. We can only speculate and savour the difference such a brilliant mind would have made to the bench either at the Appeal Court or the Supreme Court.

Rather than insist on a cogent answer to the question:
“But Why Was He Missing From The Bench?”,
time and space compel me to confine my tribute to recalling my first encounter with late Chief Frank Akinrele when in our final year (1963), I was one of several King’s College students who bumped into him as he emerged from his law office on Bamgbose Street, in central Lagos. We exchanged the traditional greeting of “FLOREAT!!”. Waiting for him was his sleek, brandnew, long-wheel based American limousine. It was either a Chevrolet or Pontiac. He was wearing his King’s College tie and he greeted us warmly. We owe him our eternal gratitude for the impromptu message he delivered – you too can own a car like this provided you work hard with integrity, confidence and zeal as your guiding principles.

At the Lagos Motor Boat Club, Uncle Frank would regale us with those landmark cases which appear to have been relegated into the realm of our collective amnesia – the Apalara murder case; Njemanze murder case; Abakaliki ritual murder; Alphonse and Abayomi murder case; and many others. He recalled everything with clinical precision even though almost fifty years had lapsed. He was also very much involved with the investigation of the U.S. $2.8 billion which was alleged to be missing from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

I leave it to history to judge how and why we missed the red flags. About three years ago, Uncle Frank surprised me when he declared that for almost a decade, he had not travelled out of Nigeria – not even to go on his annual cruises or vacation in Chelsea, London where he had owned a swanky pair of flats for several decades. According to him, he found all the hazards of going through the airport, customs, immigration, passport control etc. too tiresome and energy sapping.
Without attempting to tamper with the court records, we must accept both circumstantial and substantive evidence from Uncle Frank:

“My wife was only twenty-one years old when we got married and we have been happily married for fifty-eight years. She has been my soul mate and I remain eternally grateful for her love and devotion. We have been blessed with four children – Ademola, Adedolapo, Olufemi and Adebayo and numerous grandchildren – whose ages range from five to thiry years.”
As you are all aware, Uncle Frank was the victim of a freak accident at the Lagos Motor Boat Club on 29th August 2018 while attempting to retrieve his mobile phone which had dropped from his hand when he was seated on a chair. The result was a fractured hip which required surgery. Sadly, he never fully recovered.

The timing of the demise of Chief Frank Odunayo Akinrele, SAN on Christmas Day when King’s College Old Boys (KCOB’s) were hoping that the spate of deaths of KCOB’s in 2018 had been finally halted is a severe blow. The catalogue of attempted “genocide” is under investigation by the police - Dr. Alex Ekwueme [aged 85]; Prince Adedapo Adeniran [aged 94]; Chief Tunji Gomez [aged 90]; Chief Allison Ayida [aged 88] and now Chief Frank Akinrele [also aged 88] – all of them very distinguished old boys of King’s College. We all know where the finger of suspicion is pointing!!

Regardless, we shall not present before the court damning evidence – when the freak accident occurred, the nearest doctor was an old boy of St. Gregory’s College. Good grief!! I am not at liberty to disclose his name. It is up to him to volunteer the information.

It was inevitable that the freak accident would engage the attention of social media. Perhaps, that was what prompted a Professor of Law at Stanford University to interject that if the accident had occurred in California, the police would have invaded the scene and cordoned it off with yellow tape in addition to seizing both the phone and the chair for forensic investigation. Thereafter, the legal process (criminal or civil) would commence – starting with the chair being subjected to laboratory tests by experts in ergonomics. Having regard to the fact that Chief Akinrele was a Trustee and former Commodore while Ademola, the Gregorian is a former Commodore of the Lagos Motor Boat Club, there is no chance that matters would proceed beyond accepting the will of the Almighty.

At Chelsea Football Club, those players who are relegated to the bench are those who cannot make the first eleven. In the case of Uncle Frank, he was in a class of his own. All the more reason why “The Gregorian” should have employed his abundant persuasive skills to steering his superstar father towards the bench – either local or international.

While we mourn the loss of a rare gem, the bench is still being kept warm for either Ademola and/or Adedolapo as well as Adebayo.
Truly, Chief Akinrele is fully entitled to the swan song:
“I Did It My Way” except that he never got round to writing his autobiography for which he had ample time following his retirement from the practice of law in 1986.
As for politics, he had a pretty dim view of Nigeria’s brand of politics and even dimmer view of our avaricious politicians whose incompetence and unscrupulousness he found most nauseating and baffling. He had come to the conclusion that the damage done to our national character has become irreversible.

What is beyond dispute is that he was an encyclopaedia endowed with vast knowledge and wisdom nurtured and nourished by his insatiable intellectual curiosity. He was always abreast of international affairs.

Not only was he a quintessential gentleman, his sense of humour was legendary. He was a raconteur extraordinaire.
It was consistent with his large heartedness that he readily supported my campaign as the next president of St. Gregory’s College Old Boys Association. The case is now in court!!
When I presented him with the video tape of my posters being pulled down within the college premises and beyond; manipulation of the primaries; stuffed ballot boxes; compromised electoral officers; doctored list of eligible voters; announcement of wrong results; election being conducted after midnight and intimidation/harassment of my teeming supporters – all in an effort to rig me out, the great Chief was in top form:

“Election in Nigeria is not cricket!!”
Now that our nation is in disarray with insurgency, kidnapping, ritual murder and treasury looting as the order of the day is precisely when we desperately need a much longer life for the great Ondo Chief.

The national newspapers have today 3rd January 2019 provided us with proof of evidence on their front page:
i.) “ThisDay”
“We Are Under Armed Bandits’ Siege, Governor Of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Masari Cries Out.”
“Our state is currently under serious siege by armed robbers, kidnappers and armed bandits, who arrest rural people at the grassroots at will and demand ransom, which if not paid, they kill their victims”

ii.) “Nigerian Tribune”
“Katsina Under Siege, Governor Cries Out”

iii.) “Vanguard”
“Nobody’s safe in Katsina now, Gov Masari cries out”
Says state under siege by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers
Discloses electricity poles stolen in front of Government House
Visitors to Governor trailed, robbed after visit
It was his call but he chose to draw the curtain with the blessing of the Almighty at the ripe old age of 88. When Chief Akinrele was rushed to the hospital following his accident, the admission nurse enquired: “How old are you sir?” In spite of his considerable pain, in the tradition of King’s College he replied: “Two fat ladies” (in Bingo lingo it translates as 88!!).

If only the Gregorian had lodged his objection, the great chief would have felt compelled to tarry a while longer – to dust of his abandoned wig and gown and show up in court to defend himself no matter for how long the case would drag on.

Even in his old age he could sing the King’s College song: “Floreat Collegium” flawlessly. He had taken to heart the command: “When the call is sounded, we must all answer HERE!!”.
From all accounts, Chief Frank Akinrele was a very patient man. It was to no avail he awaited a counter motion or summons of the court.
In the end, he delivered his final goodbye to his family and friends with the cryptic message:
“I rest my case. The storm is over.”
The burial of Chief Akinrele is scheduled for next week. In the meantime, it seems inconceivable to venture into the ambience of the Lagos Motor Boat Club in the evening without immediately sighting the late Chief at his usual table reading the latest edition of the French newspaper “Le Monde”.  One salutary lesson has emerged from the demise of the much adored Chief Akinrele, at the Lagos Motor Boat Club, old boys of King’s College now sit only on benches (not chairs!!) and they check that no old boy of St. Gregory’s College is lurking in the vicinity. They also leave their phones at home or in the car.

On a final note, a few months ago Chief Olufemi Majekodunmi (ex- St. Gregory’s College) and I were in the midst of a heated argument over his handling of the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall when Mrs. Ibidun Akinrele walked in. Without prior consultation, we simultaneously declared that if there was a competition for the family with the most courteous and respectful children, the first prize would go to the Akinrele family. Rather than start an even more heated argument, I refrained from telling Olufemi that the prize already belonged to J.K. Randle.
May the soul of Chief Frank Akinrele rest in perfect peace.

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