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Godwin Tsa, Abuja
It was a reversal of tradition on March 3 where monarchs from Kwara State led by the Alofa of Ilofa, Samuel Niyi Dada knocked down Abuja to pay homage to a retired female Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice, Clara Bata Ogunbiyi.
The event, which took place at the Nigerian Airforce Conference Centre, located at the Jahi District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was a practical manifestation of the adage that ‘when a child washes his or her hands clean he or she dines with kings.’ Justice Ogunbiyi washed her hands clean and did not only dined with kings, she was worshipped by kings who paid glowing tribute to her.
The monarchs who besieged the venue in their traditional regalia and paraphernalia of office added colour and glamour to the event which was attended by high profile personalities.
The Alofa of Ilofa who led a delegation of over 18 traditional rulers to Abuja, also spoke in his capacity as chairman of Oke Ero Local Government Traditional Council.
He described the retired Justice Ogunbiyi, who is married to their son, Dr. Bamigboye Ogunbiyi, a senior consultant gynachologist, as a distinguished trailblazer and quintessential and rare jurist whose judgments have helped in resolving issues and conflicts in the society.
She was particularly praised for her landmark judgment in Onyibor Anekwe & Anor V Maria Nweke, where she held thus: “Any culture that disinherits a daughter and deprives her of her father’s estate or a wife of her husband’s property by reason of ‘God-instituted gender differential’ should be punitive and decisively dealt with… For the widow of a man to be thrown out of her matrimonial home… on the ground that she had no male child is indeed very barbaric, worrying and flesh-shining…such a custom is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.”
From an obscure village in Lassa, Borno State, she rosed to the pinnacle of her career as the first female justice from the North-Eastern region to be appointed to the Supreme Court and the fourth female justice to be appointed to the apex court.
Other dignitaries including the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, former Chief of Army Staff/ Minister of Defence, first female Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Mukhtar, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa and other clergy men, were all gathered to have a taste of ‘Honey From the Rock’, title of the book presented in honour of Justice Ogunbiyi, who bowed out from the bench of the apex court, after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
Chairman of the occasion, Gowon praised the female jurist for given her best to the nation’s judiciary and jurisprudence through her judgments, during her 31 years of judicial career.
Written by an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Olugbenga Owa, the book captures vividly the various challenges and victories of Justice Ogunbiyi from her humble roots, upbringing and faith.
Others who poured econnium on the retired jurist at the event were legal luminaries and Justices of the Supreme Court, Prof. Yusufu Turaki, Prof. Babatunde Omotara, Justice James Ogebe (rtd); husband of the celebrant, Dr. Bamigboye Ogunbiyi and a former Minister for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Abba Gana.