Day SANs Feted Ex-NBA Sec-Gen, Lawal-Rabana
Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) General Secretary Mr Rafiu Lawal-Rabana (SAN) has been quietly impacting the legal profession without even knowing it. Last Monday, Founding Partner of Adedeji and Owotomo LLP, Mr Ade Adedeji SAN gathered SANs and other leading lawyers who know of the Ilorin-based Silk’s impact, for a surprise dinner in his honour in Lagos.
You don’t often see them together in one place, unless, perhaps, it is an official legal profession-related function. But last Monday, top lawyers in Lagos and beyond gathered on the cosy rooftop of the deluxe Lekki, Lagos headquarters of Adedeji Owotomo & Associates for one purpose: to honour Mr Rafiu Lawal-Rabana SAN, – their colleague – who they singled out for consistently positively impacting members of the Bar and upholding the ethics and ideals of the legal profession.
Lawal-Rabana was General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) during the presidency of Olisa Agbakoba, SAN.
The gathering, brainchild of Mr Ade Adedeji SAN, was anchored by the chairman of the NBA Lagos branch, Mr Yemi Akangbe.
Amidst buffet and choice wine, Adedeji explained why it was necessary to fete Lawal-Rabana.
He said: “When we were trying to put this together, of course, the natural flow of things was, what is it about? What are we doing? What are we celebrating? And I keep asking the question, why must you even bother?
“The most important thing is that we are going to hang out with Mr Rabana, that is enough and that will be it.
“For each and every person that I passed that message to, they immediately agreed with me that, ‘Yes! Absolutely! Why not? That is sufficient reason, that’s a big reason.
“So, we might as well just title this evening, ‘Hanging out with Mr Rabana.’
“This is a small honour we are doing; we are just hanging out with him, but he is somebody who deserves a bigger honour each time. The reason is simple; here is a selfless gentleman a senior, senior advocate who is selfless and who is always very passionate about the interest of others.”
Adedeji’s testimony of Lawal-Rabana’s altruism included a chance encounter – their first meeting – on an aircraft to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the International Bar Association (IBA) conference.
He said: “It was like God ordained it, because that was what gave me the opportunity to meet Mr Rabana for the first time
“I was sitting next to him and his wife in business class. That was the period I was trying to get my acts together and he noticed across the aisle that I was busy working, reading, trying to do one or two things about the brief that must be finished before we landed.
“He got interested, asked a few questions and, of course, I told him ‘Oga, this is what is happening o’. And without even thinking about it, immediately we started flowing, he started telling me, ‘You have to do this’ and all that, generally showing interest. That was how we kicked things off.
“He has forgotten, but I remember, and that is how he is, very selfless. I told somebody I would call my sister, some other things that he did when I decided to show the other side of me in court and I got into some issues with some people.
“He stepped in immediately without thinking twice about it and resolved the issue and there are so many other testimonies, not only from me, but from many other people.
“That was why when I started calling to say look, Mr Rabana is going to be around on the 12th can we get together? Everybody said ‘Yes,’ they would be there.”
Another Silk present at the event, Mr Olawale Akoni, SAN, expressed “great pleasure” to welcome Lawal-Rabana.
Akoni described him as a foremost lawyer, who is ‘kind, disciplined, intelligent and a consummate legal practitioner. You can’t help but like him, even when he is arguing in court. He is a gentleman.”
Mr Tunde Busari, SAN, – a designated representative of Nigeria to the Arbitration Panel of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes – concurred.
Busari added: “I think you are more than deserving of the honour that Mr Ade Adedeji SAN is giving to you today. I also use this opportunity to thank Mr Ade Adedeji for thinking up this concept of honouring people that have served.
“Whichever way you’ve interacted with Lawal-Rabana, the underlying description that you can’t miss is that he’s a complete gentleman, a consummate lawyer and practitioner and that he oozes of the dignity that is befitting of legal practice and the Bar.”
For Mr Ken Ahia, SAN, despite not knowing Lawal-Rabana personally, he knew of his great works.
“Anybody who is involved in the NBA but hasn’t heard your name and the good things that follow your name, has not been called to Bar and has not been in the NBA,” Ahia said.
First Vice-President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Seyi Akinwunmi credited Lawal-Rabana with inspiring him when he conceived of the idea to organise a law event to support education and training, etc.
“One of the people that inspired that was Lawal-Rabana SAN. I’m sure he doesn’t remember, but we were speaking one day, I think we were in court, and I was talking about this idea I had with someone else. He (Lawal-Rabana) was on my side. He asked me what it was all about and I told him and he gave me ideas,” Akinwunmi said.
Prof Abiola Sanni of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, praised Adedeji for conceiving the idea.
Sanni said: “You (Adedeji) are a good man too and it takes a good man to also do something like this, because a good seed will bring forth good fruit.
“Mr Lawal-Rabana is someone I’ve been reading about in the papers…. Your life has been very inspiring and then when people talk about a person a like this, it means they are speaking from the depths of their heart.”
Mr Ikechukwu Uwanna credited Lawal-Rabana for his mentorship and his political career in the NBA including his emergence as the incoming Chairman of the Lagos Branch of the NBA.
He noted that Mr Lawal-Rabana had been there for him since 2003 when worked in his Ilorin law firm during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme, including appointing him as National Secretary of the Young Lawyers’ Forum
“He has been a great mentor, a great father, friend; a good man. He has provided that mentorship I’ve always needed to get to where I am today.”
Uwanna re-lived how, after his tenure as secretary of the NBA Lagos, Lawal-Rabana urged him to run for the branch’s apex position.
“He (Lawal-Rabana) said: ‘Ike, I’ve been talking to a lot of people in Lagos and they said you’ve done very well, you should get ready to run for chairmanship of the branch. The Bar needs people like you.’ That was the first time that seed was sown and today it is a reality.”
Responding to the praises, the honouree was overwhelmed.
Lawal-Rabana said: “Let me start by saying what you have done tonight, is not only rekindling the spirit at the Bar we met and we enjoyed, but you have demonstrated true love and affection and the generosity that we lawyers are expected to show and exhibit.
“A lawyer should be very open, he should be very generous; you should open your door to people not only to the high and mighty.
“In those days, the poorest of the poorest will come to you and even ask for transport money to come to court for his case. You are the lawyer, he is not paying you but he is even coming to ask you ‘Are you going to send me transport fare so that I can come to court?’
“I’m particularly delighted with this friendship that Adedeji has shown. So, I want to thank you in a very special way that I truly appreciate this your kind gesture and to me it is a lesson, a lesson in the sense that you will gain more by being open, friendly and generous.”
Other eminent guests at the event included former Chairman, NBA Section on Business Law, Mr Seni Adio SAN; Mr Moshood Adesina, SAN; top Lagos lawyer Mr Rotimi Fabamwo; former United Nations genocide and war crimes prosecutor at the International Court of Justice, Dr Charles Adeogun-Phillips; Mr Emma Chukwu, SAN; a Lagos lawyer and insolvency practitioner Mr Supo Ati John; a distinguished corporate law attorney and boardroom guru, Chief Olayinka Olafimihan; Group Managing Director Electronic Payplus, Prince Adebayo Adeokun; and Dame Ochuko Momoh the chairman and CEO of BLAID GROUP.