The final time I noticed Chief Ogunbanjo was on Tuesday, 14th December 2021, after I visited to rejoice with him on his 98th birthday. The Chief was doing very properly for ninety-eight and I joined him in ingesting pink wine and toasting to his well being. Inspired by a saxophonist, Chief Ogunbanjo rose from his chair, and danced in celebration. A extremely memorable event. I used to be certainly unhappy when the information broke a number of weeks in the past that Chief Ogunbanjo had handed away. This was on the seventh October 2023 – only a few weeks wanting his a hundredth birthday! He lived an extended and impactful life and I take part celebrating the reminiscence of a very nice character.
I first met Chief Chris Ogunbanjo in 1978. I had simply come again to Nigeria after graduating from college and was attending the Nigerian Regulation College in Lagos. I used to be at all times broke, as my father believed that his obligation was merely to pay my faculty charges on the Regulation faculty, and nothing extra. He merely couldn’t perceive why I wanted an allowance since I used to be residing at residence the place meals was offered. And so, having simply come from the UK the place I labored part-time jobs each time I wanted cash, I began searching for a part-time job.
But it surely was not straightforward in Nigeria to get a job as a scholar. With my put up graduate legislation diploma from Oxford College, I felt I may safe an element time job as a analysis assistant, so I approached one or two senior attorneys providing to assist them in conducting authorized analysis. They had been amused on the suggestion that I might be of any use to them, not having been known as to the bar. One in all them even suggested me that, moderately than spending time searching for part-time work, I ought to consider my research to make sure that I didn’t fail in my legislation faculty exams! I had nearly given up on the potential of being retained by any senior lawyer when a good friend urged that I strategy Chief Chris Ogunbanjo.
I believed the suggestion was moderately an extended shot as, at the moment, Chief Ogunbanjo was usually acknowledged because the main company lawyer in Nigeria. Within the early Fifties he, along with Chief Samuel Oladoke Akintola and Mr. Michael Odesanya had fashioned one of many first legislation partnerships within the nation, known as ‘Samuel, Chris & Michael’. While Chief Akintola moved on to politics, and Michael Odesanya finally to the judiciary, Chief Ogunbanjo stayed on in authorized apply and have become a dominant drive in business authorized apply, persevering with apply below the identify of Chris Ogunbanjo & Co. And it was this nice man that my good friend was suggesting I contact! Nevertheless, as a younger man I used to be by no means afraid of taking over challenges and I made a decision to strive it on the idea that ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. I subsequently made an appointment to see the Chief.
Arriving in his ready room about quarter-hour to the appointed time I grew to become very nervous. His ready room was very imposing and, as I entered, his substantial portrait which adorned the doorway appeared to be looking at me. I nearly turned again, fearing I had made an enormous mistake. However I steeled myself, launched myself to the secretary who, clearly seeing how nervous I used to be, requested me to sit down down and make myself comfy as Chief Ogunbanjo was anticipating me. At precisely the appointed time, I used to be ushered into Chief’s workplace. He listened to me with out interruption and on the finish of my long-winded clarification of what I wished he merely smiled and stated to me “Younger man, I see you’re searching for one thing to do? When do you need to begin?”.
Thus began my relationship with Chief Christopher Ogunbanjo. I labored with him till I accomplished legislation faculty and was known as to the bar. After I went off for my NYSC, which I served in Kano, he gave me a notice to Chief J. B. Majiyagbe, who additionally gave me a part-time job. After my NYSC, I had temporary stints as a lecturer on the College of Lagos, and as an funding analyst at Chase Service provider Financial institution. However I missed the environment at Chris Ogunbanjo & Co and returned to Chief Ogunbanjo who employed me as a junior counsel in his agency. My time with Chief Ogunbanjo was memorable and impactful. He taken care of his employees very properly and we had been properly compensated. He uncovered his junior attorneys to main transactions, and it was with him that I developed confidence in coping with the heads of main corporations. On occasion, he would even invite one among us to affix him for lunch as his visitor on the Metropolitan Membership the place the captains of business and the movers and shakers of the Lagos industrial and business world dined.
I loved working with Chief Ogunbanjo. These of us who labored with him had been made to really feel particular. It was there that I bonded with my colleague and fellow junior counsel, Mr. George Etomi. Chief Ogunbanjo gave us recommendation as to conduct ourselves as attorneys. He wrote elegant, properly researched, authorized opinions that had been clear, exact and succinct, with none obfuscation or equivocation. I learnt rather a lot from what he taught me. However I learnt much more from associating with him and watching how he performed himself. Despite the fact that I labored with Chief Ogunbanjo for lower than two years, it was an expertise that helped set me on the highway to constructing a profitable business authorized apply.
Along with his busy legislation apply, Chief Ogunbanjo was wanted by many corporations and companies to serve on their boards. He was an energetic member of many chambers of commerce, such because the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and so forth. He was extremely regarded in Lagos enterprise and business circles and was typically described because the Patriarch of the Organised Non-public Sector. Despite the fact that Chief Ogunbanjo was a really busy man, he at all times discovered time for public and neighborhood service. He has contributed enormously to the event of his hometown – Erunwon, to the church, to the Boy Scout Motion and to varied charities, in addition to establishing the Chris Ogunbanjo Basis for the promotion of peace and battle decision.
Amongst his very many achievements, I would really like on this tribute to make particular point out of his contribution to 2 public sector establishments. The primary is the Centre for Administration Growth and the second is the Company Affairs Fee.
Within the interval after independence within the Sixties, it was more and more acknowledged that one of many main bottlenecks to elevating productiveness in Nigeria was the comparatively low high quality of administration expertise in any respect ranges. The Federal Authorities subsequently determined, on the recommendation of distinguished Nigerian professionals and businessmen, to arrange a Council for Administration Growth Schooling and Coaching to be headed by an skilled personal sector individual of distinction. Thus, Chief Ogunbanjo was approached, and he accepted to function the primary chairman of the Council, the governing board of the Centre for Administration Growth (CMD). Chief Ogunbanjo delivered to bear his experience and expertise to arrange a high-quality establishment. He used his in depth connections to draw a few of the greatest employees to the CMD. The organising of the CMD has offered coaching alternatives for lots of of Nigerian managers. After I served as Minister of Finances and Nationwide Planning, I used to be answerable for the CMD. On my inspection go to to the CMD, I used to be impressed with the foresight in finding the Centre in a large expanse of land, surrounded by timber and greenery. Even at the moment, it nonetheless stands out as a well- appointed facility for administration coaching and schooling.
A second initiative for which Chief Ogunbanjo should even be remembered is his function within the organising of the Company Affairs Fee to behave because the regulatory company for corporations. It will likely be recalled that, up until the Eighties, the registration of corporations was dealt with by the businesses’ registry, a unit of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. It was a most unsatisfactory state of affairs and the registration of latest corporations grew to become a nightmare over time, with recordsdata littered all around the ground of the Corporations Registry. Because of widespread dissatisfaction with the corporate’s registration course of, the Federal Authorities determined to represent a 120-member Consultative Committee on Firm Regulation to advise on a complete overhaul of Corporations Regulation. And who extra becoming than the doyen of economic legislation, Chief Chris Ogunbanjo, to go the Consultative Council. Amongst different far-reaching suggestions, the Consultative Council advisable the organising of a Company Affairs Fee, as an autonomous physique, to control the formation and administration of corporations in Nigeria. This was contained within the Corporations Decree (now Act) which was promulgated into legislation in January 1990.
By this time, I had already arrange my very own authorized apply, and the then Federal Army Authorities, headed by Basic Ibrahim Babangida, determined to nominate me as the primary part-time chairman of the Company Affairs Fee. It was subsequently my duty to arrange the Fee from scratch, together with discovering an acceptable individual to suggest for appointment because the Registrar Basic and Chief Government of the Fee. I relied closely on the entry I needed to Chief Ogunbanjo, having beforehand labored with him, and consulted him extensively in organising the Fee. He made obtainable to me all of the reviews of the Consultative Committee and defined to me the rationale for every of the key improvements contained within the 1990 Corporations Decree. I’m grateful to him for that help. And I have to say that the Company Affairs Fee has turn out to be probably the most profitable and efficient businesses of Authorities.
Chief Ogunbanjo was a person who believed in Nigeria. Despite the fact that he was not himself visibly energetic in partisan politics, he inspired these of us who determined to go in, as a result of he was at all times involved about the way forward for the nation. When his son, Tokunbo, joined me within the Senate, he inspired us to work collectively to enhance issues within the nation. He was a real Nigerian who had pals and associates from each a part of the nation. He was at all times optimistic concerning the future. Like a lot of his technology he was fearful concerning the deterioration of values within the nation however, each time I had a chance to talk with him, he didn’t spend an excessive amount of time lamenting about missed alternatives. As an alternative, I at all times discovered him and updated about present developments. I discovered him participating to converse with and he at all times had a suggestion to make about how issues might be improved. He continued to consider that one of the best was but to come back for Nigeria. I consider that the best tribute we are able to all pay to Chief Christopher Ogunbanjo, and all these different public-spirited individuals of his technology, who labored onerous to enhance issues in Nigeria, is to commit individually, and collectively, to proceed to work onerous to attain the Nigeria of their desires. They might have left us for his or her well- deserved relaxation, however their dream of a greater Nigeria must not ever be allowed to die!
Adieu! Chief Christopher Ogunbanjo! You may have performed your half and I want you peaceable repose. Fare thee properly!
Senator Udoma Udo Udoma
Former Minister of Finances & Nationwide Planning