Frank Ak­in­rele: An il­lus­tri­ous son of a no­ble fam­ily

The Punch - - VIEW POINT - Sun­day A Ak­in­tan

Ire­ceived the very sad news of the death of Chief Frank Ak­in­rele which hap­pened on Christ­mas Day, De­cem­ber 25, 2018. Although he died at a ripe age of 88 years, I still did not ex­pect his death be­cause I was never aware that he had any trace of ill-health. He lived a very dis­ci­pline and hum­ble life.

My first con­tact with the Ak­in­rele fam­ily was when I was ad­mit­ted into Vic­tory Col­lege Ikare in Jan­uary 1952 where his father, Rev. Canon J.F. Ak­in­rele, was the Prin­ci­pal. The great ed­u­ca­tion­ist was an ex­cel­lent dis­ci­plinar­ian and those of us who had the priv­i­lege of pass­ing through his tute­lage ben­e­fited im­mensely.

Chief Frank was a car­bon copy of his late father. I first met him while I was in Vic­tory Col­lege Ikare. The oc­ca­sion was when he and his late se­nior brother came to visit their par­ents in Ikare shortly af­ter they re­turned to Nige­ria af­ter com­plet­ing their stud­ies abroad. The two of them were in­tro­duced to us by their father. Frank was in­tro­duced to us as a lawyer while his brother was said to be an econ­o­mist. Both of them were said to be hold­ers of Masters’ de­grees in their re­spec­tive field of stud­ies.

The aim of our Prin­ci­pal was to im­press on us not to limit our ed­u­ca­tional pur­suit to what we would re­ceive in the col­lege. None of us had the priv­i­lege of speak­ing with them on that oc­ca­sion. But I still have the pic­ture of the two men taken by a pop­u­lar Ikare pho­tog­ra­pher who was around and who later came to sell the print out to some of us in­ter­ested. I was then in ei­ther Form Two or Three in my six-year course in the col­lege.

I was aware that the late Chief was in le­gal prac­tice in La­gos while his brother was em­ployed in the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria also in La­gos. I passed out from Vic­tory Col­lege Ikare in De­cem­ber 1957 and not long there­after, our Prin­ci­pal re­tired from teach­ing ser­vice to be­come a full time Angli­can priest where he re­tired as an Archdea­con.

My de­ci­sion to go into the le­gal pro­fes­sion was no doubt greatly in­flu­enced by both Hon. Jus­tice Akinkugbe and Chief Frank Ak­in­rele, the two great lead­ers in the pro­fes­sion from Ondo, my part of the coun­try. They were cousins. The two men are from Ondo town while I come from Idanre, a nearby town. Dur­ing my le­gal stud­ies in Lon­don, it got to a stage when I had to reg­is­ter as a stu­dent at Lin­colns Inn. One of the re­quire­ments was that I needed to be spon­sored by two se­nior le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers.

I was wor­ried as I did not know how to get the spon­sors. But some other stu­dents who had scaled through the same prob­lem gave me the names of rep­utable le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers in Nige­ria who used to oblige peo­ple like me and how I could con­tact them. Chief Frank Ak­in­rele and Chief T.O.S. Benson were on the list. I quickly made my re­quest to the two men which they obliged.

I be­came closer to the fam­ily af­ter I re­turned to Nige­ria af­ter com­plet­ing my le­gal stud­ies in Eng­land and was em­ployed as a Fed­eral State Coun­sel in La­gos. I knew that the late Chief was the sec­ond of the four sons of his par­ents. His im­me­di­ate ju­nior brother is a scientist who pi­o­neered mech­a­nised pro­duc­tion of garri while he was head of the Re­search In­sti­tute at Oshodi, La­gos. He was then named ‘Ak­in­rele oni­gari’. The fourth was an en­gi­neer. I was closer to the en­gi­neer and his wife un­til I left La­gos in March 1978 upon my ap­point­ment as a High Court Judge. We were about the same age group so we re­lated very well. But not long af­ter I left La­gos, his wife died and he too died some years af­ter his wife. The el­dest of the four broth­ers, the econ­o­mist, had died much ear­lier thereby leav­ing the Chief and the scientist, his im­me­di­ate ju­nior brother.

The late Chief was a very hum­ble man who also loved me so much. As a le­gal prac­ti­tioner, he was one of the top class in his gen­er­a­tion. He was a spe­cial­ist in crim­i­nal mat­ters, par­tic­u­larly crim­i­nal ap­peals and the old law re­ports would con­firm this as­ser­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the in­ser­tion in the 2019 Di­ary of the Supreme Court, he is num­ber 21 on the list of those con­ferred with the pres­ti­gious rank of Se­nior Ad­vo­cate of Nige­ria which was con­ferred on him on March 6, 1980. He was the fourth among the liv­ing hold­ers of that rank as of the time he died.

As an Ondo man and Ondo State indi­gene, he was al­ways in­volved in all the ac­tiv­i­ties in the area when­ever his pres­ence was needed. One of such roles he played ex­cel­lently well was in the case in­volv­ing Oba Ade­sanoye, the then Ose­mawe of Ondo and Prince Ade­wole. He led a team of about 20 very se­nior lawyers from Ondo to pros­e­cute the ap­peal in the Supreme Court. Among his ju­niors in the case were the late Chief Gani Fawe­hinmi, SAN, and Prof. Ola­woye. I was ex­pected to be on the panel which was to hear the ap­peal as I was then in the Supreme Court. But I de­clined on the grounds that I was too close to the par­ties in the ap­peal.

His love for me can­not be quan­ti­fied. One ex­am­ple was some years ago when I was made the over­all chair­man at the an­nual har­vest in my home church, St. Paul’s Angli­can Church, Idanre. He got to know of it and drove to my house in Idanre. I was sur­prised to see him. He said that he had come to give me the needed sup­port. There was no year his cham­bers would not de­liver an ex­pen­sive Christ­mas ham­per to me through Mr. Ade­walure. He used to com­mu­ni­cate with me too and treated me like a ju­nior brother. Through such com­mu­ni­ca­tions, I was able to at­tend the fu­ner­als of both his par­ents.

The Chief lived a very de­cent and suc­cess­ful life, he was also blessed with four bril­liant sons like his father and all of them are in the le­gal pro­fes­sion, two of whom are al­ready Se­nior Ad­vo­cates of Nige­ria. I will miss him very dearly. So also will his home town, Ondo, his home state, the le­gal pro­fes­sion and Nige­ria in gen­eral. My prayer is that his great soul may rest in peace and that God grants the fam­ily he left be­hind the courage to bear the ir­repara­ble loss oc­ca­sioned by his death.

His re­mains were buried af­ter a fu­neral ser­vice at the Cathe­dral Church of Christ, Ma­rina La­gos on Fri­day, Jan­uary 11, 2019.

•This trib­ute is writ­ten by Hon. Jus­tice Sun­day A. Ak­in­tan, LL.M, PH.D, C.O.N., re­tired Jus­tice of the Supreme Court, and mem­ber of the Na­tional Ju­di­cial Coun­cil

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