I must commend Chief Fawehinmi for something; he was not a hungry man. When you see a rich man fighting for the rights of the common man, then you would know that he is truly committed to that cause Tayo Oyetibo, Deputy Head of Gani Fawehinmi Chamber
In this interesting and refreshing Interview, we flashback to this 8th April 2018 interview with Ondo City’s former Deputy Head of Gani Fawehinmi’s law firm, Tayo Oyetobo ( SAN ).
What are some of the memorable experiences you can recall of your childhood?
One particular incident I remember clearly was when I was in primary school, either in the first or second year. Usually then, at the end of the term, the names of students who did well were usually called out during a special event to mark the end of the term. On that particular occasion, my name was called but I was too young to appreciate why they were calling me. I was supposed to go out on the podium but I just didn’t know what to do at the time. Years later, whenever I remembered that incident, I marvel at how childish I was.
Which schools did you attend?
I attended St. Joseph Primary School in Ondo for my elementary education. For my post-elementary education, I went to Ondo Grammar School. I later studied Law at the University of Lagos. Before that, I had done A levels at Methodist Boys High School, Lagos. After my national youth service, I went back for post-graduate studies at the University of Lagos.
However, something significant happened during that period that I would like to mention. After my first degree, I had applied to a number of universities, including Cambridge in the United Kingdom. At that time, we had started a project called the Digest of Supreme Court Cases (1956-1984). It was under the supervision of (the late) Chief Gani Fawehinmi; I started my practice in his chambers.
We were to digest all the judgments of the Supreme Court, both reported and unreported. We were in the course of that project when I was offered admission to Cambridge University. I had to consider whether to abandon the project and go to Cambridge or to do my postgraduate studies at UNILAG. I chose UNILAG and I thank God I made that choice. After the completion of the digest, it was like we had packed over 25 years experience into one year. We read all the judgments of the Supreme Court within that period and I don’t think I would have gotten that type of opportunity anywhere else. I worked with three other colleagues on the project and we were all deeply enriched by it. It laid a solid foundation for our practice. The book was eventually published in 10 volumes in September 1985. Meanwhile, we started work on it in August 1984.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I initially wanted to study Mass Communication but one incident happened that I would never forget and it was what gave me the inspiration to change to Law. In those days, the Foreign Exchange Anti-Sabotage Decree had just been passed during the administration of then military Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo. A popular businessman in Lagos then was arrested and taken to Igbosere High Court in Lagos in a Black Maria. A lot of people gathered and started chanting ‘thief, thief, thief!’ The man kept protesting his innocence, saying that he was a businessman and not a thief. I then saw a well-dressed barrister who approached the man and spoke with him. I was enthralled that someone could move close to somebody that was already condemned by the crowd without trial. On that day, I decided that I was going to study Law because lawyers always ensure that everybody gets to state their opinions.
Were you outspoken as a child?
I have never liked people being cheated and I have always spoken against it. I have also always wanted to be a man of myself. I don’t like being influenced by what other people do. I don’t follow the crowd. That also contributed to my decision to study Law.
Can you recall some of the childhood pranks you were involved in?
When I was in secondary school, we had a big poultry. It was the vogue then for male students to go to the poultry in the dead of night and try to capture and slaughter some chickens. Also back then in the boarding house, whenever we were to eat beans, the food would have been cooked overnight. Students often crept to the kitchen and tried to get beans in the middle of the night. However, the trick was that the students that attempted to get the food had to be big so that they would be able to lift the big iron lid of the pots and drop it without making any noise. However, most times, students were not able to drop the lid without making noise.
What can you recall of your time at the University of Lagos?
UNILAG was very bubbling then. We had a place called ‘Black Market’ close to the Faculty of Education. It was a very popular place that students often went to drink and socialise. In the daytime, you wouldn’t find anybody there but everything changes at night. We also had the buttery where people used to eat. Lagos was still very safe then and we often embarked on night outings. We would trek from school to a clubhouse in the Maye area of Yaba. We also used to go to Fela’s Shrine; it was around Ojuelegba then.
Were you involved in student union activities?
I was not a member of the student union executive but whenever there were protests, I always participated.