Speech Delivered By Nosa Francis Edo-Osagie, Chairman NBA Benin in Honour of Late Sir Barrister Stephen Ogbebor Odigie

Nosa Francis Edo-Osagie

SPEECH DELIVERED BY NOSA FRANCIS EDO-OSAGIE, ESQ. CHAIRMAN NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION BENIN BRANCH, THE LION BAR. IN HONOUR OF LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE AT THE VALEDICTORY COURT SESSION HELD AT THE CEREMONIAL COURT HALL EDO STATE JUDICIARY DATED THE 24TH DAY OF MARCH, 2023.

 

PROTOCOL

We are gathered here today at this special court session to bid farewell to LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE having exchanged the garb of mortality for the cloak of immortality. One is more often than not reminded of the capricious nature of death which consumes both the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the educated and the uninformed without any prior notice. No wonder the Holy Scriptures said in Psalm 144 that “man is like to vanity: his days are as shadow that passeth away”.


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The LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE was a Legal Practitioner of unimpeachable and uncompromising integrity. He was known to be of even temper, good manners and courteous to everyone.

For the great legal icon in whose honour we are here gathered, he imbibed and exhibited the principles of truth and truthfulness, justness and justice, firmness and fairness.

He was amongst the first well-wishers to congratulate my good self immediately after my swearing in ceremony as the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch See Annexure ‘A’ herewith attached

Indeed, his contributions to the development of law and the sustenance of a viable Bar in the State in particular is so immense that even the finality of death cannot draw a curtain on his contributions to the legal profession and humanity. Winston Churchhill, former prime minister of Great Britain had this to say:

“We make a living by what we get, We make a life by what we give”.

The LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE, an Astute Lawyer was appointed the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in 1995. He was also a member of the Judicial Service Commission of Edo State for so many years. His knowledge of the law was robust and encyclopedic. The delivery of his argument and final addresses in Court were marked by simplicity of language but delightful to his listeners and the readers of such addresses. The LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE was a quintessential lawyer of immense courage and high moral aptitude and was an activist at the bar.

We urge the family of the LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE and all those who he has left behind to take solace in the fact that he has transited from the fellowship of the church militant to the church triumphant. The LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE conquered ignorance as he was a legal luminary and an intellectual giant, he was also a comfortable and contented man. He conquered loneliness as he had a wonderful and beautiful family and friends, he conquered spiritual disillusionment by his devotion to Christ as evidenced in his dedication to the gospel and the word of God.

He could however not conquer death, the final equalizer. We believe however that death too has been conquered by the assurance of hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Jesus Said in John 14:2 “In my father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would not have told you I go to prepare a place for you”.

Sadly his beloved wife who could not bear the separation passed on days after he was gone precisely on the day the Nigerian Bar Association Executives led by my good self-paid her and the family a condolence visit. HOW TRAGIC.

The preacher in Ecclesiastics chapter 3 verses 1-2 had this to say:
“To everything, there is a season…..
A time to be born and a time to die”.

EARLY LIFE
LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE was born in Benin City on Good Friday 14 April 1938 as the 10th child in a polygamous family of 11 children (9 males/2 females) to Chief Odigie Aghedo and Madam Evbakeru Odigie both of blessed memory. LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE family abode was No. 22 Lagos Street, (popularly known as Oweko) Benin City and by the grace of God he was the only surviving child among his siblings.

At age 7 in 1945 LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE commenced his Primary School Education in Government School Benin City and later moved over to St. Peter’s CMS School, Benin City where he obtained the standard six certificate in 1952. His parents thereafter persuaded him to take to teaching career as it was peaceful and respectable to be called a teacher at that time. In obedience he took the examination conducted by the Benin Native Authority Education Department and after successfully going through the oral interview he was appointed a pupil teacher and posted to Utoka in Ovia North East Local Government.

LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE was baptised as an Anglican in 1949 and a chorister in St Peters church in Lagos street Benin city until 1954. He enjoyed the teaching especially as he was about the same age as those he was teaching, he continually wished to attend not just a secondary school but in particular Edo College Benin City. Thus, unknown to his parents he attempted the entrance Examination into the Prestigious Edo College in 1953. He passed the exam but failed the interview. He was undaunted and so repeated the exam in 1954 which he passed along with the interview. In those days, the maximum number in a class was 25 and so in the whole school it was 125 students.

By September 1954 he had paid off one month’s salary in lieu of notice and resumed School in Edo College from where he passed out in 1959 after obtaining the West African School Certificate. During his sojourn in the College, while being in Ozolua House as the house prefect, he was an all-rounder in the debate, drama club and sportsman as he was member of the School Athletics, Cricket and Football teams. It was no surprise therefore that not only was he the goalkeeper but also the School Football Captain in 1959. Life at Edo College was exquisite and unforgettable to him.

In 1961 LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE joined the Nigerian Prisons Service as a Clerical Officer but was later converted into the uniform cadre as an Asst. Chief Warder in-training now known as Sub-Inspector. With his ‘A’ Level papers obtained in 1963 he soon got promoted to the rank of Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Prisons while serving in Calabar Prison.

In 1964 Calabar Prison played host to “Visionary Leader” the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo as its inmate. In the course of daily interaction between officer and inmate the late Chief Awolowo (May His great Soul rest in perfect peace, Amen) pointedly told him that he was a good material for the Law profession. He did not quite take this statement seriously until some years later when by providential arrangement he was posted to Lagos as Wing Officer in the Training School Kirikiri and he had his official quarters at Apapa GRA where the residence of Chief Awolowo who had now been released on the orders of General Gowon was also located. On one casual visit to the Chief, he was reminded of the earlier observation that he was a good material for the Law profession and further advised to seize advantage of being in Lagos for the time being to enroll at UNILAG to read Law.

LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE who was now a Deputy Superintendent of Prisons drove the next day to Akoka and collected the Admission Forms. On informing the Chief later that he had been formally admitted to read Law, the Chief magnanimously released to him one of the Keys to the Chief Obafemi Awolowo & Co. Law Chambers Library to hold on to same for entry into the Library for his studies at any time throughout the duration of his studies as a Law student. The said key was only returned after his call to the Nigerian Bar in July 1978. It is therefore clear that whatever he has achieved through being a Lawyer had the seed sown by the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and who in his Book “My March through Prison” described him and some other named Prison Officers he came across during his travails as “gems of humanity and kind”. May his indomitable spirit continue to have a sweet repose in Abraham’s bosom, Amen. Our eternal gratitude goes to him, Indeed a positive catalyst in his life’s journey.

Albert Pike, the widely acclaimed American Attorney had this to say:
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal”.

With the appointment of Dr. Abel Guobadia of blessed memory as chairman of INEC by the federal government in 1988, his majesty the Oba of Benin Omon’ Oba Nedo Uku Akpolokpolo immediately appointed him as Secretary-General of Benin forum in replacement. He held this position for 10 years during which period this body which was the umbrella body for all social, cultural and non-partisan political groupings in Benin kingdom attained height of awe, respect, and a sine quanon in matters that affect Benin people both at home and in the diaspora.

On the first of October 1998, he was admitted and awarded certificate of life membership of the bible society of Nigeria. He was invested as a knight of St Augustine on 15th December 2002.

LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE ACKNOWLEDGES WITH SATISFACTION THE FOLLOWING:
a) Born on a Good Friday.

b) Attended the Citizenship and Leadership Training Course (Man O’ War) 1962.

c) Best All round student at the Prisons Training School (now Prisons Staff College) Enugu 1962.

d) Called to the Nigerian Bar 8th July 1978.

e) Pioneer Officer in charge Legal Unit at the Prisons Headquarters Alagbon Close Ikoyi Lagos.

f) Late 1979 called out of retirement and appointed State Electoral Commissioner by Late Prof. Ambrose Alli UPN Government of Bendel State, specifically to oversee the then Bendel Central Senatorial District.

g) ECOBA National Legal Adviser.

h) Chairman Board of Governors of Edo College Benin City courtesy Bendel State Government.

i) Legal Adviser Diocese of Benin (Anglican Communion) 2004-2005. J. Awarded Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Salesmanship Certificate (FNISM) 1995.

j) Appointed Secretary-General Benin Forum with the formal approval of Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku-Akpolokpolo Oba Erediauwa to succeed Dr. Abel Guobadia (Late) who had just been appointed Chairman of INEC.

k) Invested as Knight of St. Augustine (KSA) (Anglican Communion) December 2002. m. President Council of Knights (Benin Anglican Communion) 2009.

l) Certificate of Honour as a Benin Achiever awarded by His Majesty Oba Erediauwa in 2007.

m) Appointed Notary Public of Nigeria in 1989.

n) Appointed Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Edo State in 1995.

o) Letter of appreciation dated 20 November 2005 by the Church of Nigeria Diocese of Benin for commitment, faithfulness, and loyalty in the service of God as demonstrated by my service and financial contributions to his Parish and the Diocese.

p) Appointed Honourable Commissioner in the Edo State Judicial Service Commission in 2010 courtesy of Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Mni and second term renewal in May 2015 by Comrade Oshiomhole was duly recognized/acknowledged by his successor His Excellency Godwin Obaseki when he came on board late in 2015. With this appointment by the State Government, he proudly became the first and only Edo indigene in history to be made a member of the State Executive Body as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria THRICE, taking Oath of Office at the Festival Hall on each occasion. (Viz: As State Electoral Commissioner, Hon. Attorney General & Justice Commissioner as well as Judicial Service Commissioner).

q) Nigerian Bar Association Benin Branch Young Lawyers Forum Award 2017 for contributions to their cause.

r) Edo College at 80 Award in 2017 for achievements and contributions to his alma mater Edo College.

The 23rd day of February, 2023 marked the end of his final chapter in his journey through life, when he passed on to glory.

Yes, truly, death is a reality, but after it, what next? Is there anything after? Yes, there is; we believe that there is a ‘next’. We have thought deeper, and believe, like Rabrindranath Tagore that:

“Death is not extinguishing the light. It is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

If it pleases God to ask the LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE home at the time he did, then we implore him to be at peace with God his maker while those he left behind should MURMUR IN TREMOR.

The expiration and demise of LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE should make all of us to be imbibers of the invaluable truths of the ephemeralness of human existence, the vanity of excessive and relentless acquisitions of human possessions, the purposelessness of egoistic acquisitions of human eternal values of Christ-likeness, selflessness, justice, love and other noble and lofty ideals and values which holy men and sages have spoken about down the ages.

May God Almighty bless the memory of LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE and his beloved wife LATE MRS. BEATRICE ONYEJI ODIGIE J.P. (Nee Okocha) and his loved ones and members of his family the strength and fortitude to bear this tragic loss.

May God Almighty bless and keep all of us in good health and meet us at the point of our needs and may the soul of LATE SIR BARRISTER STEPHEN OGBEBOR ODIGIE rest in perfect peace…. AMEN.

Thank you and God bless us all.

 

Nosa Francis Edo-Osagie, Esq.,
Chairman,
Nigerian Bar Association,
Benin Branch – The Lion Bar,
24th March, 2023.

Turn to the next page for Annexure ‘A’

 

ANNEXURE ‘A’






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