Op-ed: Amb George Oguntade: Fearless Judge, Finest Diplomat
Tribute by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Ambassador George Adesola Oguntade is a fine gentleman. He parades very rich intellectual, legal and moral pedigree. Anyone who encounters him would love to associate with him for his candour, courage and forthrightness. As a human being, his humility and modesty is second to none. As an intellectual, he is sound and engaging. In his years as a judge, Oguntade was brilliant, fearless and incorruptible.
From a lowly place, he rose to the apex of the legal profession through a dint of hard work. Chief Oguntade started his legal career as a clerk at the High Court of Justice, Ibadan. And it is on record that his distinguished career saw him through being a judge of the Lagos High Court, presiding justice of several states’ Courts of Appeal until he berthed as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on May 19, 2004.
I must point out that Justice Oguntade shone brilliantly at every turn in his illustrious legal career. He served for six years at the Supreme Court, retiring in May 2010 on attaining the retirement age of 70 years. He is widely regarded as one of the sharpest minds to have ever sat on the Supreme Court Bench. He made important contributions to law and jurisprudence. Specifically, Justice Oguntade’s tenure at the Supreme Court witnessed the delivery of many landmark judgments, which impacted significantly on our legal system, particularly in the area of constitutional and administrative law.
Fearless and courageous, thorough and resolute, his judgments were always reference points for other judges and lawyers. One remarkable thing about Justice Oguntade is the fact of his courage to differ and disagree with his colleagues in the dispensation of justice if occasions called for it. And one occasion that readily comes to mind was the appeal filed by the then Presidential Candidate of the defunct ANPP in the 2007 election, General Muhammadu Buhari, against the election of President Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP.
Justice Oguntade gave a gripping dissenting judgment, wherein he upheld Buhari’s appeal, called for the cancellation of the election and ordered a fresh election. Late President Yar’Adua was to admit later that his election was heavily flawed following which he established the Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais panel to prescribe necessary reforms for future elections.
Justice Oguntade’s contributions in other spheres of life are as remarkable as his inputs into the development of the legal profession. For instance, he played and continues to play critical roles in the development of Lagos. As an indigene of Lagos from Epe, he remains a pride to the state. It was in recognition of this that he was appointed Chancellor of the Lagos State University Governing Council in 2015.
For his laudable contributions to the nation, Nigeria has also honoured Justice Oguntade. He is a proud recipient of two of Nigeria’s highest national honours – Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR)-. Today, Oguntade is also Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Since his appointment, he has taken the relationship between Nigeria and Britain to greater heights. He brightened Nigeria’s image in the UK and showcased our rich cultural heritage. I understand that he has made it his responsibility to regularly engage with the Nigerian Diaspora Community to listen to their problems and to offer a helping hand where required.
Justice Oguntade and I enjoy a close relationship, which I deeply treasure. For the excellent man he has being and continues to be, for his selfless services to the country and commitment to truth and justice, I wish Justice Oguntade a most memorable 80th birthday. As he joins the Octogenarian Club today, my prayer for Ambassador Oguntade is that God Almighty grant him the grace of more years, robust health and renewed energy to continue in the service of our country and our people.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
March 8, 2020.