The Tunji Braithwaite we’ll miss, by Buhari , Atiku, governors
• Elder statesman dies at 82
• His death ends era of political sagacity, activism, says Afenifere
One of the country’s elder statesmen, whose ardent legal, political and social activism seeks to make governance to positively impact the citizens is dead. Dr. Olatunji Akintunde Braithwaite passed on yesterday at the St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos Island, during a brief illness at the age of 82 years. He would have been 83 on September 13.
A statement by one of his sons, Olumide Braithwaite, on behalf of the family, which was made available to The Guardian yesterday, said: “The Braithwaite family wishes to announce the passing to glory of our husband, father and grandfather, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, which took place on the 28th of March, 2016. Burial rites will be announced in due course.”
Described by many as a leading light in Nigeria’s politics and his chosen legal profession, where he was variously referred to as “a walking encyclopaedia”, Braithwaite was the presidential candidate of the Nigerian Advance Party (NAP), a party he founded during the Second Republic and on which platform he contested the 1983 elections.
His opinions on issues, which often times were very critical, have helped in shaping the politics of Nigeria and finding solutions to the country’s myriad of problems.
Not known to shy away from national discourse, the legal luminary was reported, only last month, to have criticised former President Olusegun Obasanjo for saying that governors now act more like emperors in running their various states.
According to him, “Obasanjo is not saying anything original because when he assumed office in 1999, I warned that the military constitution would make the governors emperors.
“Governors determine security votes which they do not account for. Since 1999, the military constitution clothes them (governors and president) with immunity against being arrested for criminal misdeeds. Many of them brazenly looted the treasury and got away with it. Obasanjo became rich through this structure.
Something appears to be driving Obasanjo to be making frivolous statements everywhere. He and Babangida made corruption attractive to governors and they elevated corruption in governance which subsequent presidents and governors are emulating.”
Although he disagreed with former President Goodluck Jonathan publicly on the centenary celebration of Nigeria that cost the country billions of naira, he threw his weight behind the call for and subsequent convocation of a national conference, saying with it, the country would embark on a journey of political development and economic growth.
Born in 1933 to Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Adesoye Braithwaite, the social critic was educated at the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School, Lagos, where he completed his secondary education in 1953.
He sat for his Advanced Levels examinations at Kennington College of the London University in 1955 and enrolled, two years later, as a law student at the Council of Legal Education, London. He was admitted into Lincoln’s Inn in 1958 and graduated as a barrister in 1960.
He enrolled as a Barrister and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in March 1961 and in 1985, earned a Master of Arts (M.A.) Degree from Columbia Pacific University in the United States, and crowned it, shortly after, with a PhD from the same institution.
The seventh of his parent’s eight children, and the last of his mother’s three sons, Dr. Braithwaite, who authored the book, Jurisprudence of the Living Oracles, among others, was married to Dr. Grace Simisola Braithwaite, a consultant paediatrician, with whom he had five children.
Already, tributes have begun to pour in for the person, character and accomplishments of the late legal luminary by prominent public figures who described the death as a loss to the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu in Abuja last night commiserated with Braithwaite’s s immediate family, friends, professional colleagues and political allies.
The president said the passing away of the lawyer, author and politician came at a time his wisdom, intellectual depth, vast knowledge and experience were sorely needed by the country.
Buhari recalled the immeasurable contributions of the late sage to the development of democracy, rule of law and human rights in Nigeria, assuring his family and friends that the political history of the country would be incomplete without capturing his roles.
“The president urges political leaders to emulate the virtues of the founder of the Nigerian Advance Party (NAP) during the Second Republic, who perceived politics as a platform for honest service to the nation rather than an opportunity to make money.”
Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko described the death as a great loss, submitting that the deceased operated in love and genuine concern for the downtrodden.
Mimiko said that “Dr. Braithwaite’s death came to me as a rude shock because it was never envisaged that he was going to transit to the great beyond at this critical time in our nation’s history given his concern for the nation and commitment to the general wellbeing of the masses.’’
The governor noted that it was on record that the political and legal icon devoted his entire adult life to the emancipation of the common man in Nigeria through various platforms including his legendary NAP, which he founded in his days as a student.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun described his passage as a great loss.
Atiku said Braithwaite’s death has robbed the country of one of its greatest giants not only in the field of law, but also in politics.
The former vice president also said he shared in Braithwaite’s passion for creating a fairer federal system that would reduce the fear of too much power and resources at the centre at the expense of the federating units.
Atiku says he was keenly following Braithwaite’s contributions to the issue when he was a delegate at the 2014 National Conference, adding that his consistency in the pursuit of his convictions was remarkable.
Amosun said: “He will be remembered, not just for his contributions to the legal profession, but also to the development of democratic ethos in Nigeria.Braithwaite’s contribution to national discourse and political development will be greatly missed.”
Also, Lagos State governor , Akinwunmi Ambode expressed shock and sadness over the death . Describing the late nationalist as a detribalised individual whose example was worthy of emulation, Ambode said Braithwaite was a man of the people, a typical Nigerian who was consistent in saying things the way they were, not caring whose ox was gored.
The governor recalled that during the military era, especially that of the late General Sani Abacha administration, when politicians were afraid to come out and contest, Braithwaite dared the odds and came out to contest against the late general at the risk of his life.
“He was very consistent in fighting for what he believed was right and fair to every human regardless of their ethnic leaning or creed, he was not one to shy away from taking a position that he strongly believed in.
“He was always consistent in creating independent platforms to fight for the interest of the common man,” the statement read in part.
Ambode added that as a lawyer, Braithwaite stood tall among his equals, which earned him respect not only in Nigeria, but across the globe.
“He was one of the very best of lawyers this country has ever produced; he was consistent in the struggle to see the rebirth of a new Nigeria.
“At over 80 years, he came out to protest on the streets with the likes of Prof. Ben Nwabueze and other activists against the economic policies of the then Federal Government,” he said.
Ambode while commiserating with the family of the late legal luminary urged them to uphold the ideals he fought for, saying that the nation would continue to draw inspiration from his life and times.
His demise, just like that of our heroes past, must never be in vain. There can be no better time to unite together to achieve a better and more prosperous Nigeria,” he said
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