The man who loved law, lived it, dreamt it and practiced it
| By C. Don Adinuba |
LIKE many other people, very few deaths have moved me like that of my dear cousin, Camilus Ifeanyi Chukwudolue. He was young, energetic, dynamic, vibrant and full of optimism. No one ever thought he would kick the bucket in his prime, at age 50. Born on July 6, 1963, he died of complications arising out of high blood pressure in the early hours of Monday, February 7, 2014. He died rather early. Still, we give glory to God because, as the Holy Book admonishes, let us give thanks to God in every circumstance, however unpleasant it may be.
There is another reason why we thank God for Camy’s life: He was able to practise law for many years. It was a profession he loved passionately. He was not interested in money making or doing anything other than practising law not so much as a solicitor as an advocate. Given that solicitors, especially commercial lawyers, make plenty money, it is understandable that many lawyers today prefer to function as solicitors, even though it is socially more prestigious in Nigeria, as in England, to be called a barrister. So, in Nigeria, every legal practitioner is referred to as a barrister even when he may have forgotten how a courtroom looks.
My cousin loved the courtroom. And his colleagues always speak of how he would, even when he was a very young lawyer, almost make mincemeat of those standing at the Bar for donkey years. Not surprising. He learnt very fast at the feet of Nnoruka Udechukwu, the brilliant, bold and eloquent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who made national newspaper headlines as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Anambra State in the heady days of Governor Chris Ngige from 2003 to 2006. He incessantly took on the Federal Might and cut it down to size in courts, always to public applause because the Anambra State government was cast in the mould of a David while the Federal Government cut the image of a Goliath, if not a monster through and through. A memorable example is when he appeared before the Federal High Court in Abuja in 2003 with Justice Samuel Wilson Egbo-Egbo presiding. He looked the judge right in the face and told him in his court before a battery of journalists: “You are not my lord!” Justice Egbo-Egbo was handling a politically charged case involving the Federal Government and the Anambra State Government, and Udechukwu had got an intelligence report that the judge had compromised himself before agents of the Obasanjo federal administration which was determined to remove Governor Ngige by all means possible. Udechukwu spoke truth to power. Well, Justice Egbo-Egbo was to be retired compulsorily following a strong recommendation by the National Judicial Council, NJC. The judge thus made history by becoming the first person to be disciplined on the NJC recommendation since the judicial watchdog came into being with the 1999 Constitution.
Long before Udechukwu became a SAN, Camy had been telling me that this relatively unknown Aba-based attorney would go places. I thought my younger cousin was plain naïve. But when Udechukwu won for our Umuezeawala village a major land case against another village in Ihiala, Anambra State, at the Supreme Court after we had lost at the Court of Appeal by 5-0, it became self-evident that my cousin had his head screwed in the right place, to use a peculiar American expression. Udechukwu had by this time not become a SAN and was, in the land matter, facing a most formidable and respected SAN, Chief Tony Muogbo.
Camy became the secretary of the Aba branch of the Nigerian Bar Association at almost a callow age. We were not taken unawares. So much in love was he with the law that when, as young men, we were keen on acquiring prestige cars, houses and other material things, he was spending most of his resources on law books and journals and equipping his office with expensive information technology facilities; computers were then few in Nigeria and very expensive. Indeed, he set out from childhood to study law. He once told me when we were teenagers and swimming in the village stream during Christmas, that he would either study law in the university or nothing, even if it meant writing the entrance exam more than once. When it was time for him to get married, we were not surprised he settled for a lawyer, and two of them had been running a busy firm in Aba until death came calling last month.
Camy was determined to get to the pinnacle of his professional career. I am supremely confident he was going to receive his silk as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria at a relatively young age if death had not struck so early. Well, as the aphorism goes, what matters in life is not how long but how well. Camy made his mark at the Nigerian Bar. He lived well. He was a good family man, a good community man, a team player and a Catholic of the finest hue. Tragic as his death is, something good may have come out of it. It is a wake-up call to many employees, professionals and entrepreneurs too immersed in work to spare enough time for their health. High blood pressure, for one, is a silent killer. It often strikes in forms of strokes and cardiac arrest without observable warning.
As his body is lowered into the grave on Friday, March 21, we pray to God to grant Camy pardon and receive his soul in heaven. May our Lord be praised.
Adinuba is head of Discovery Public Affairs Consulting.
— Mar. 24, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT