“GIVING ADVICE IS A USELESS EXERCISE”: MY MOMENTS WITH PROF A. TORIOLA OYEWO, ACADEMIC COLOSSUS AND SAN DESIGNATE 2021

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By Sylvester Udemezue

During one of my (then) regular visits to his Law Firm in (I think, Bashorun) Ibadan, this was around (I think) October 2006, Prof Ajagbe Toriola Oyewo had said to me, “Sylvester, I think you deserve to work in Afe Babalola’s Chambers”. Before I could utter a word, he had grabbed his car key, saying to me, “Off we go… “. He drove us straight to the Adamasingba Mokola Ibadan headquarters of Emmanuel Chambers (Afe Babalola’s Chambers).

Upon our arrival, he led me straight to the office of Mr. Adenipekun (now a SAN) who was then the Head of Emmanuel Chambers. Prof. asked to see Chief Afe Babalola, SAN. We were told to wait at the conference room. Chief Afe Babalola, SAN arrived the conference room a few minutes later.

Prof Oyewo did not not waste any time after exchange of pleasantries:
“Chief, this is my boy. His name is Sylvester …. I think he would be an asset to your Law Firm. I have brought him here, to request that you consider employing him…”.

Chief Afe Babalola began responding:
“Sylvester, how are you? I can see you’re enjoying Ibadan ….. You see, from what Prof has said about you, I honestly don’t think you should remain in Ibadan. I think you should be practicing law in Lagos. Meanwhile, there’s one thing people don’t know about the Emmanuel Chambers: we have offices in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Ado-Ekiti, but the headquarters is in Ibadan. Ironically, only about 5 percent of the firm’s income comes from Ibadan. 40 percent comes from Lagos; 30 percent from Abuja; 20 percent from Port Harcourt; and about 5 percent from Ado-Ekiti. In other words, much of our work is done outside the Ibadan office, although all are coordinated from here. At present, we don’t have any opening in our Lagos office. However, I advise you to move over to Lagos immediately. I think you’d do better in Lagos. This is not general advice; it’s specifically for you, judging by what I have just heard from Prof, about you. My son, this is a piece of advice you should not toy with. There is one thing I usually tell people: giving is a useless exercise! Do you know what that means…”?

A difficult question for me. I ransacked my head for an answer. No way. Turning to the chief, I answered, “Learned silk, sir, please I am sorry; I have no idea what it means”. He asked the head of chambers and two other lawyers who happened to be there with us. All answers were, like mine, in the negative, so the chief turned to me and continued: “Sylvester, you see, wise men (wise men in quote) don’t need advice and fools don’t take advice. Therefore, advice is useless. Think about this…..I wish you the best…”.

He said a few other words of fatherly advice. Then, after a few other exchanges between Chief and the Prof, we thanked Chief Afe Babalola, Mr Adenipekun, and the others, left the Firm and drove back to the Professor’s law firm. I spent some more time in his office going through, as usual, books written by him, before going back to my office at New Bodija. I stand to be corrected, but in my opinion, there’s hardly any lawyer in Nigeria with more textbooks to his credit, than Professor A. Toriola Oyewo of the University of Ibadan. You may wish to have a look at a list of 20 of the many textbooks written/authored by Prof. A. Toriola Oyewo: https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL64641A/A._Toriola_Oyewo. This is not to talk about articles or papers in journals.

As luck, fate or both would have it, I was later to depart Ibadan to start working in the Nigerian Law School which first posted me to the Victoria Island, Lagos Campus of the School. I commenced teaching in the Law School in October 2007.

At the law school, and just as I have never stopped giving advice to my students and everyone I have come across, including myself, I have never stopped telling my students that “giving advice is a useless exercise” especially because (those who think they’re) the wise ones (feel they) do not need advice while the fools don’t take advice. Could this be why P.G. Wodehouse declared, “I always advise people never to give advice”? I’ve never ceased to offer my students what I believe to be good advice; I feel such necessary and myself absolutely obliged; hence, I pause every 30 minutes or thereabouts, during each of my lecture sessions to offer counsel as I think relevant. Anne Tyler said, “It is very difficult to live among people you love and hold back from offering them advice”.

Now, my advice to everyone is this: never reject good advice; that’s what makes you wiser, although one should watch that one only takes what is worth having. The reason is not farfetched: bad advice will blind you; good advice will instruct you; excellent advice will enlighten you; and transcendent advice will elevate you. The wise should always “find a voice in a whisper”; what makes a fool is his inability to take good advice.

Don’t be like Nicki Minaj who was later to confess, in regret: “Good advice I always hated, but looking back it made me greater”. Bottomline is, to use the words of Mohith Agadi, “when one sees good advice, one should not only listen to it, but should also take it”. I took Chief Afe Babalola’s advice seriously, although I loved, and still love, Ibadan very seriously.

One more thing, let’s learn to see all Nigerians as our brothers, our sisters and our friends, irrespective of tribe, religion or language. Did Prof A. Toriola Oyewo care about my being of a different language and tribe as he? Please help everyone and advise everyone; you never know what great impact your advice might have. We’re bound together by common humanity. Forget your language, tribe and religion and be a true Nigerian. Only this will see us making progress as a country. My stay in, Osogbo, and later, Ibadan was one huge eye-opening lesson — a story for another day.

Thank you, Chief Afe Babalola SAN.
Congratulations to Pa Prof Toriola Oyewo.Thank you, SAN Designate. Mentor per excellence. Teacher Extraordinary. Father most altruistic. Friend most selfless. Broad-minded, humble and gentle legal luminary. A detribalized Nigerian. And friend to all, ready to help and to mentor all — Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and all. May you live long to enjoy for many more years to come, the benefits of being a SAN. Humanity needs you to remain alive and kicking as an example that, not all philosophers are white men. Best wishes, Prof, sir.
From your son,
Sylvester Udemezue (udems).08109024556.
udemsyl@gmail.com..

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