AJAYI G.O.K., S.A.N
Law Firm: G.O.K Ajayi & Co.,
Address: 25 Boyie Street, 6th
Floor, Onikan, Lagos
London School of Economics
S.A.N. Conferment: 1978
Writing a compendium of lawyers with a rich texture of inspirational profiles on the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate, without the documentation of the stature of a personality like Chief GOK Ajayi, S.A.N, unarguably one of the leading lights among the first generation of Nigerian lawyers, would either be considered a shallow intellectual exercise or an academic effort bereft of historical anchorage.
Wherever the name G.O.K Ajayi is mentioned, it would be expected that many would affirm its popularity in legal circles and by extension the public space. The octogenarian has bestrode the legal firmament like a colossus with testaments of positive contributions to legal education and the process of law practice in Nigeria. This rare patriot whose carriage on and off the court has etched him on minds of many lawyers as a brand, only goes to reinforce the ideals he believes in and stands for no matter whose ox is gored.
The enigmatic legal icon was born in lijebu-Ode on May 29, 1931. He attended ljebu- Ode nursery school between 1936 and 1937 and was later at St Saviors School, Lagos where he rounded off his primary education in 1940. He thereafter proceeded to the popular CMS Grammar School, Lagos 1941-1948. He enrolled to study Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science after which he was called to the English Bar in 1955. He was also later called to the Nigeria Bar on November 29, 1957.
Chief Ajayi was among the second set of lawyers elevated to the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate. Great personalities like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, Chief Richard Akinjide, Mr. kehinde Sofola and a few others were also in the set of 1978 that bagged the S.A.N title. He wielded so much influence and had a cult like following as a progressive lawyer representing the cause of the progressives anywhere in Nigeria.
Perhaps aware that his influence looms large on the legal terrain, the respected senior advocate would not condescend to any enterprise capable of demeaning his hard earned reputation. His visage and conduct may appear cool and harmless, but Chief Ajayi can be stubborn to the extreme concerning any matter or issue he believes in. Many of his legal representations can be found in judicial pronouncements in various courts across the land. Two of such representations will suffice.
Chief G.O.K Ajayi got judgment in favour of Abdul Rahman Shugaba, the majority leader of the then Borno State House of Assembly, who was deported from Nigeria by the Federal Government on the claims that he was not a Nigerian. He fought the case up to the Supreme Court where in a unanimous decision; Justice GBA Coker declared the deportation illegal. Another landmark representation was the one in which chief Ajayi led a legal defence team of over 270 lawyers organized by the late Alao Aka Bashorun, then President of the Nigeria Bar Association when Chief Gani Fawehinmi was charged before the Transition to Civil Rule Tribunal in 1989
The legal icon and international statesman have over the succeeding years, been able to demonstrate through his legal engagement, that law is an instrument at the disposal of society to fight injustice anywhere and everywhere it rears its ugly head.
Apart from taking time off to be a part time lecturer at the Nigerian law school, he has been actively engaged in private law practice. Chief G.O.k Ajayi holds the traditional title of the Odole of lle-lfe. (We acknowledge that this profile was culled from The Radiance of Silk, a publication of Goodways Publications Limited)