Lt. Col. Olayiwola Adegunju (rtd), was one of the new graduates who just graduated in Law from Lead City University, Ibadan, at the age of 80 years. He will turn 81 years on December 27.
The octogenarian was first acknowledged by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kabiru Adeyemo, while giving his convocation speech to the crowds of graduands, parents and well wishers who filled Adeline Hall to the brim. From the convocation hall, Adegunju acknowledged cheers from well wishers and his classmates, who hailed: ‘Grandpa! Grandpa!’ as the happy old man grinned from ear to ear while walking with gale to the Law Faculty where his family, friends and neighbours were waiting to wine, dine and take photographs with him.
Pa Adegunju never missed a moment. He walked like a true soldier and was full of smiles in spite of his age. It was a fulfilling moment and he savoured every bit of it. When this reporter eventually tracked him down for an interview, he made it fun as he recalled his fond memories with nostalgia.
His journey into Law as a career
Lt. Colonel Olayiwola Aderemi Adegunju retired from the Nigerian Army in December, 1990. But he started nursing the ambition to study Law since 1964, the year he graduated from the North Western Polytechnic, London, where he studied British Constitution, Economics and General Principles of English Law. He joined the Nigerian Army as a full lieutenant in 1972.
“When I finished my three ‘A’ Level subjects at the bNorth Western Polytechnic in London, that was 1964, I passed British Constitution, Economics and General Principles of English Law. Then I started to study for the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of London. I qualified in 1968. I worked in England up till 1971 with the Temperance Permanent Building Society, Sussex. I came back in 1971 and joined the Army in 1972 as a full lieutenant,” he fondly recalled.
Though he has interest in studying Law, Adegunju explained that he chose to join the Army due to his interest in the British Territorial Army where people served on part-time basis in Britain at the time. “That was where I developed interest in the military,” he quipped.
As the octogenarian rose through the ranks to become Lieutenant Colonel, he said he kept applying to study Law at various places of posting but never had the opportunity to complete the degree programme.
He said: “In 1978, I was serving at Akure; I applied to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), I was admitted for Law. It was a three-year programme then but I couldn’t continue because of the nature of our job. I had to go back to my unit at 6 Brigade, Akure. I didn’t lose hope; I knew God’s time is always the best. I would still do this thing later. Later on, I was also admitted to the University of Lagos; I couldn’t go because of my job. In 1985, I was also admitted for the part-time Law degree at the University of Lagos part-time programme. I did well for the first year but because of the nature of my job, I couldn’t continue in the second year but God so good, in 1991, I reapplied, I was readmitted but you know one thing, the tuition fee had gone to N25,000. I couldn’t pay it, I couldn’t pay N25,000 but I knew that God’s time is the best, that there will still be a time I would have the opportunity to do this thing.”
He said he kept the hope of becoming a lawyer alive by the inspiration he got from some leading lights in the profession who he regards as mentors. They include the late Chief Adaramaja (SAN), who was the first to encourage him; Barrister Babawale whose father was also a retired military officer and Chief M.L. Lagunju , who wrote a recommendation for him to enroll as a student of Law Society of England and Wales. “Those are my mentors and there are still other lawyers who encouraged me,” he declared gleefully.
After graduating at the age of 81 years, Adegunju insisted that he would practise. He hinted that he would proceed to the Law School in order to be able to be called into the Bar and subsequently start practising.
The new Law graduate disclosed that he had already secured a chamber where he will practise. “Yes. I got a chamber where I will go,” he disclosed.
Who will engage an 81-year old as his counsel or what difference can an 81-year old make in legal practice? Many may ask. But the elated graduate disclosed that he would offer free legal services to the poor because he no longer needs to amass any wealth at his age.
His words: “Well, there is what we call pro bono. We defend defenseless people, poor people who cannot afford the services of legal practitioners. What else do I want in life? I am not looking for money again. God has provided what I will eat till I die. I am very grateful to the Army, the Nigerian government for keeping me alive for the past 29 years when I retired. So, I am very very happy.
“I am very very happy that God spared my life to go through the rigours of four years studying in this university. The lecturers are very kind and supportive. The students assisted me, my fellow students who can pass for my grandchildren.
My nickname is ‘Grandpa’ and that’s what they call me at home. Everybody in this university knows me.”
The octogenarian explained that he did not have difficulty studying at his age because he has never left reading since he became an adult.
Source: The Nation newspaper