EditorialEditorial: Prince Bola Ajibola (1934-2023)

Editorial: Prince Bola Ajibola (1934-2023)



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On Sunday, April 9, 2023, Nigeria lost one of her illustrious sons, Prince Bola Ajibola, who passed on at the age of 89. Described as one of the most selfless individuals to ever occupy a public office in the country, the widely-acclaimed international jurist and administrator, who actually mentored Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in public sector law, really left his mark in the sand of time.

Born into the royal family of the Owu Kingdom in Ogun State on March 22, 1934, Ajibola, who attended Baptist Boys High School (BBHS), Abeokuta, after his primary school education at Owu Baptist Day School, Ago Owu, was a year ahead of the late MKO Abiola and two years ahead of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the secondary school. He later proceeded to Holborn College of Law, University of London, where he graduated with a law degree and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn on November 27, 1962.

After years of practice in the U.K, Ajibola returned home to continue his practice before being appointed as the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). He was later appointed as the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation by retired General Ibrahim Babangida upon assumption of office as military head of state.


The public servant, who later became a judge of the International Court of Justice (ICC) at The Hague and Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, among many other international appointments, was an administrator par excellence and integrity personified as he lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation and gave a good definition of service to God and humanity.

Ajibola never took home any salary for the over six years he served as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. He was always donating his monthly salary to the government and charity. In a chat with a national newspaper, the late jurist and renowned writer said: “In my sharing formula, I gave 25 per cent of my salary to the NBA, 35 per cent to the government and 40 per cent to all other organisations involved in humanitarian activities. Those in want, the motherless homes and others, had the last share. I was doing all that.

“I was using the money to help the deprived, and I took no penny home from my ministerial salary. By that time, I had practised for over 23 years and I was quite sufficiently satisfied with what I had earned for myself. I was still getting money from the dividends accruing from my investments and that was being paid to me in my office by the bank. Once I realised that I had enough to care for myself, I wasn’t prepared to have any extraordinary money.”

A lover of education and passionate reader himself, Ajibola contributed immensely to the establishment of Bowen University, a school owned by the Baptist Church, proprietors of BBHS Abeokuta, his alma mater, despite being a strong Muslim and founder of the Islamic Mission for Africa. He later sold all his property in Lagos in order to raise money for the establishment of his own private university, Crescent University, Abeokuta.

In an emotion-laden tribute to a man he described as a “boss, mentor, father and friend,” Vice President Osinbajo spoke glowingly about the late jurist, who appointed him as a special adviser, when he was the minister of justice, in a condolence message.

“I express my sincere condolences to the entire Ajibola family, even as Dolly and I, who are also his children, mourn our dear father, His Excellency Prince Bola Ajibola SAN, KBE, former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, renowned international arbitrator, former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, former Judge of the World Court, and former Nigeria High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

“As Attorney-General, he undertook perhaps the most far-reaching national justice sector reform in history. Judge Ajibola was an inspirational boss who led by example and a natural teacher who proved that public service can be completely altruistic. He shaped my worldview in justice sector reform. He validated my belief in integrity in public office. His sagacious counsel was indeed crucial at various times. He was always there to support and affirm.

“We will miss him greatly. We pray that his memory and legacies will be blessed forever, in Jesus’ name,” Osinbajo, who also admitted that some of his professional and personal virtues as well as his principles against bribery and inducement as a public office holder, were the results of his years of tutelage under Ajibola.

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