Tribute to Dr. Gabriel Olusoga Onagoruwa
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born and a time to die… (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 and 2)
We find comfort in these instructive words of the Holy Book as we join family, friends, associates, the Odogbolu community, the Yoruba nation and, indeed, the Nigerian state to mourn the passing of a national icon, our brother and friend, Dr. Gabriel Olusoga Onagoruwa, SAN, OFR.
Referred to in the homestead as Brother Soga, our brother and friend lived a remarkable life of service to his nation and humanity. An embodiment of brilliance, wisdom, erudition, nobility and dignity, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa was a revolutionary, giant and leading light of the legal profession, who not only served as Attorney-General of the Federation, but more importantly used the instrument of law and constitutionality as the pedestal for his selfless advocacy for justice, press freedom, human rights and greatest good for the greatest number.
Radical, bold and courageous, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa was never afraid to speak truth to power; acting, many times, as the conscience of the nation. He fought many battles for the common man in courtrooms and also with the proverbial pen, said to be mightier than the sword. The nation will never forget how, six months into his tenure as Attorney General of the Federation, he strongly dissociated himself from some “draconian” decrees and decisions of the government he was serving in. Of course, this eventually led to his exit from the administration but Dr. Olu Onagoruwa will rather err on the side of constitutionality. Such was the strength of his conviction, level of principle and utmost belief in the tenets of the law.
One may be right to say the nation has not witnessed the level of legal activism, social crusade and courage in the face of tyranny exhibited during the era of Dr. Olu Onagoruwa and his friend and fellow human rights lawyer, late Gani Fawehinmi, SAN. Those were interesting and defining times in the chequered history of Nigeria. Dr. Onagoruwa was an inspiration to lawyers of his generation and did well by bequeathing a worthy legacy to future generations of lawyers through his numerous published works, which remain rich sources of learned pivots of law.
Dr. Olu Onagoruwa was also a community leader of repute. A proud son of Odogbolu, Dr. Onagoruwa identified with his people and was an active voice for the Yoruba nation, even amidst his patriotic and nationalist predispositions.
More importantly, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa was a loving husband and dutiful father. He was a loving family man to the core. He nurtured a noble, honest and hardworking family, and the union between him and his late wife, Mrs Titi Onagoruwa, was exemplary. But he also had his fair share of life’s tribulations: With the tragic loss of his first son, Toyin, his health challenges and the subsequent death of his wife, in that succession, Dr. Onagoruwa lived the later part of his life in relative quiet and solitude – perhaps, a faithful reminder of the Divinity of God Almighty.
What is however certain is that tragedy would never diminish Dr. Olu Onagoruwa’s phenomenal life of outstanding achievements. A Fulbright scholar, brilliant mind and a methodical thinker, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa capped his academic exploits with a Ph.D in Law, served as the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice for Nigeria, was an erudite teacher of law with over 250 articles in journals and the media, and was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), amongst other numerous accomplishments.
His death has once again depleted the fading elites of Nigeria’s golden generation; a generation of genuine patriots, nation builders, exemplary men and women of integrity, principle and outstanding courage in leadership. But we take solace in the knowledge that he left a commendable legacy for his children and the entire Onagoruwa family of Odogbolu.
We pray that the precious and noble soul of Dr. Gabriel Olusoga Onagoruwa rest in perfect peace even as we commiserate with his loving children on their irreparable loss.
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