By Samuel Ejime Okoh
Still an infant university by age but ambitious in make-up, Veritas University, Abuja, aka The Catholic University of Nigeria will still steal some media presence again this week. It will do so by the virtual fundraising it is holding Saturday, December 5th, 2020. Under the Chairmanship of Gen (Dr) Yakubu Gowon (GCFR), with the Keynote address to be delivered by Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State and Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, it is as much a media event as any other.
Work at the site of the planned and NUC approved faculty commenced before the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. Work has, somehow, never stopped on the site, although under stiffer conditions with the outbreak of the pandemic.
Having a Law Faculty named after Late Justice Chike Idigbe, a Judge of the Nigerian Supreme Court is an honour the man will cherish even in death, considering his iconic contributions to the legal profession in Nigeria, especially from the bench and at the highest court in the land which is the Supreme Court.
I have followed the achievements of the late legal luminary since my early days in life. I first heard of him from another renowned lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) as well as former Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, late Michael Agbamuche. There was this day I accompanied my late dad many years back to Agbamuche’s law chambers in Lagos Island, behind the Lion Building Police Divisional Office in Lagos and, in the course of discussion between my dad and Agbamuche, the late Justice’s name came up.
While also at the university, some of my law student friends regularly mentioned Justice Idigbe’s name as they discussed legal cases, especially landmark judgements, His name was often mentioned alongside other popular justices at the time such as Justices Kayode Esho, Gabriel Onyiuke, Chukwudifu Oputa.
Justice Chukwunwike Chike Idigbe was born on August 12th, 1923. He planned to study Engineering but later changed his mind and studied Law. He graduated with a Second Class Upper in 1946, making him one of the first four Nigerians to pass the Cambridge University Law Examination with Honours. Justice Idigbe who was the first lawyer from Asaba was admitted to practice law in Nigeria in 1947. According to Wikipedia and Peter Ifeoma in his column ‘’ Fallen Heroes’’, Justice Idigbe who was married to Winifred Ogbolu-Idigbe became Supreme Court Justice first in 1967, then reappointed after the Nigerian Civil War to the Supreme court in 1975 by Gen Murtala Muhammed.
Justice Idigbe’s good academic trait manifested at a very young age and it continued throughout his academic pursuit by winning the much converted ‘Forster-Campbell Prize in Criminal Law at Cambridge University. He has been a source of inspiration to many especially those that followed his footstep in the law profession. The Kaduna born Justice Chike Idigbe was awarded two national honours of OFR and CON. In his home town, Asaba, he got the chieftaincy title of Izoma of Asaba. Justice Chukwunweike Chike Idigbe died on July 31st, 1983.
My part and that of Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), a son of Late Justice Chike Idigbe crossed between 2004 and 2006 when I was doing my MBA (with specialisation in Advertising & Public Relations) at Enugu State University, (ESUT) Business School, Enugu and guess what? Tony taught me advertising, not law. On enquiry, I was made to understand that he is also a registered member of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON). The junior Idigbe was so dedicated to impacting knowledge on his students that, in order to complete the syllabus in our final semester, he agreed with us his students to have our last lecture at John Holt building in Marina, Lagos.
My memory of the family makes the December 5th, 2020 Virtual fundraising event for the late Justice Chike Idigbe Law Faculty building at Veritas University Abuja as much a personal as well as a collective event. Immortalisation of Chief Anthony Idigbe’s dad is something worth the while of all lovers of rule of law and the academic engagement with that process. I wish late Justice Chike Idigbe’s family well as they honour the late legal luminary by encouraging legal scholarship in Nigeria.
The author teaches in the Department of Mass Communications, Veritas University, Abuja