In The Beginning
…THE MORNING TELLS THE DAY
The story of Chief Mike OzeKhome is one epic and engaging story of heroic struggle for the emancipation of The people, fearless crusade for the enthronement of the Rule of Law, Social justice and Human Rights, and dedicated service to the masses of the Nigerian people,
Chief Mike Agbedor Abu OzeKhome, Constitutional Lawyer. Human Rights Activist. Pro-democracy Campaigner, Author, Social Justice Crusader, Senior Advocate of the Masses (S.A.M.), Notary Public of Nigeria, knight of the Order of St. Mulumba (KSM) and Public Affairs Analyst was born at Iviukwe town on Tuesday October 15, 1957, to the illustrious family of Chief Abu Ozekhome (The Olowo, Zaiki Somali Anawii and Ogbenigwadidi of Weppa-Wanno) and Chief (Mrs.) Alimoh Abu Ozekhome (the Oghikpotso. Osomhakuomoh and lyageghe of Weppo-Wanno), Chief Abu Ozekhome transited in 1990 while Chief (Mrs.) Alimoh Abu Ozekhome patted on in.1977.
Born in to the then Sleepy and rustic village of Iviukwe in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State, Chief Mike Ozekhome imbibed early in his formative years, the timeless -virtues of honesty, handwork, dedication to a just cause prayerfulness, humility and a craving for excellence. These were imported unto young Ozekhome by his late parents who were acknowledged community leaders of note, renowned for handwork, honesty, transparency and! dedicated service to the people.
It was soon observed that Ozekhome was always found in the thick and thin of brawling children, not as the cause of the quarrel, but always to engage in physical combat on the side of the weaker of the two foes. It didn’t matter who was guilty The important thing was that he was weaker Adolescent Scars left on his body after each brawl did no-deter the young Ozekhome from intervening in future ones, as he was determined to defend the weak and persecuted against the strong and persecutor. He simply felt impelled by an irresistible inner force and will to protect the weak and the cheated. Little did he or his immediate community realized that a Human Rights Activist and Social Justice Crusader per excellence had been born, or that what he was doing infact translated to Human Rights Activism and Social Justice Crusade.
…Early EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOL
Between 1964 . and 1969 when he attended St. Mary’s Catholic School Iviukwe young Ozekhome displayed •Exceptional brilliance by coming first in all examinations held In his classes . He was invariably the smallest boy in his class, Class Co-inhabited by his elder siblings of the same nuclear family of over four years disparity in age.
Indeed-successive teachers discovered his high intelligence quotient, brilliance, leadership qualities and dedicated Service to others by appointing him the class monitor whose duty it was to maintain order in class and carry the table and the bell on his head to and from school everyday. Such was a rare privilege In those days reserved only for the best and leading lights of various classes. In 1969, whilst in primary Six, Ozekhome played the leading role in Professor Wole Soyinka’s play “The Trial of Brother -Jero”, a role that clearly brought out his oratorical prowess and ingenuity. He had acted In other even in lower classes. He excelled in
Quiz competition and story teller. He enjoyed reading, memorizing and reciting stories of great adventurers and famous historical personalities such as Mungo Park,
Clapperton, The Lander Brothers, David Livingstone, Vasco Da Gama, William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi and Marcus Garvey. Back home the exploits of nationalists such as Nnamdi Aziklwe, Albert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Okotie Eboh, etc. thrilled him
FROM PRIMARY TO SECONDARY SCHOOL
These great thinkers and achievers sharpened little Ozekhome’s curiosity, instinct and craving for success and excellence, culminating In rVs admission to the prestigious St. Peter’s College, Agenebode in 1970. This was the first Grammar School in Weppa- wanno land and it was a great honour to be admitted into this elitist school.
Between 1972 and 1974, Chief Ozekhome won the prices for the best essayist in the inter-collegiate Essay competition for Etsako local government Students, He spear-headed the formation of the Press Club an exclusive club of literary and radical student who opposed the deteriorating moral standards and unwholesome amorous relationship between teachers and students on the one hand and between students interse on the other. He was the pioneer General Secretary, whilst radical Mr. Pabo Ozimi of blessed memory was the staff Adviser/Patron,
He wrote critical articles directed at the school authorities. An unprecedented step by a student that promptly earned him staff reprimand. As a refectory prefect. Ozekhome insisted on a strict code of behaviour amongst students, majority of whom were actually his senior in age. A member of ethical the Debating and Dramatic Society, Chief Ozekhome participate in staging the ploy, ‘JULIUS CAESAR” by William Shakespeare, a play whose verses he can still recite almost verbatim till date.
The 1974 School Certificate examination was to crown the brilliance of Chief Ozekhome when he made the best result with aggregate 16, scoring A1 in difficult courses like English
…AT HIGHER SCHOOLS
Language, English Literature and Economics. The result was
the best ever at the time he obtained it. and clearly pointed to greater things ahead.
With these glittering credentials, the sky was surely Ozekhome’s limit. He enrolled at the famous Baptist Academy, Lagos for his Higher School Certificate (H.S.C) Shortly after a brief stint at Phoenix Assurance Co. Nig. Ltd., Lagos as an underwriting clerk and Window World Publishing Company, Ikeja, Lagos as a Sales Executive. Within two month of his studentship, results of the concessional contract examination which he had earlier taken tumbled in.
OZEKHOME GOES TO THE UNIVERSITY
Mike was simultaneously admitted into three of Nigeria’s leading universities- UNN, Nsuka to read Mass
Ul Ibadan to read Political Science andUnife, IIe-Ife to read English. Little Ozekhome who was, only 17 years old had always desired to read Law, but because he was not properly counseled he did not put in for same in any of the universities he applied for.
Determined to realized his ambition he chose Ife which offered Law with a view to changing his course the following year. It is to be noted that Ozekhome was the first graduand of his Secondary School set (the 1974 set) to have been admitted Into any University In Nigeria.
He had been advised that the condition precedent for such a change of course was brilliant performance at the final examinations of part one. That was no problem. Be thought; as he plunged into academic rigours to enable him excel in his class. He did excel, and he was promptly rewarded with the then BendelState Merit Scholarship) award for the four years of his course. But this display of brilliance was paradoxical, to boomerang and on him for two years, obstacles on his way to changing his course as Dean of Arts and Head. Department of English refused to release “one of our best students to another Department”. Ozekhome wept like the teenager he was. But he was undaunted. The following year he again applied for a of course, and he was also refused. It was his third year that Professor I. E. Sagay, S.A.N., the then Dean of the faculty of law not only accepted Ozekhome to read Law, but went ahead to parley with the top echelon of Arts and English to have a change of heart. Ozekhome was thus allowed to change his course, but at a great price: he must lose one academic session, as he could only change from part three English to part two law. He willingly and happily accepted his fate. He thus graduated with Bachelor of Laws (honours) degree in 1980 rather than with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979.
His foresight and rugged determination to achieve his set of goal saw him opting for apparently self-immolatory step without batting an artery. Ozekhome later reminiscenced:
“That decision was the most important and
crucial decision in my life as it laid the
foundation for what I am today. I thank God
for giving me the courage, strength
of character and foresight to make the
OZEKHOME AS A STUDENT ACTIVIST
Whilst in the University, Ozekhome soon showed his mc:tle os an implacable and seasoned activist as he plunged “nlc Students Union politics, contesting for the posl ot Assistan1 General Secretaryship and becoming a member of the Students Parliament (S. R. C. ) for five consecutive years, representing the Faculty of Law. He later became I’ie Acting Speaker of the Students Parliament. A student of Ine Ghandhi School of non-violenl resistance, young Ozekhome helped \o chart robust, well-Informed, radical but nan violent students unionism, leading the University ot Ko students’ delegation that debated and approved a new Constitution for the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) ot the University of Benin in 1980.
Not forgetting his oratorical pedigree, Chief Ozekhome soon became the best debater in the University’s inter-faculty debate for three years, between 1977 and 1979, winning many laurels in the process. He championed Legal activism at the Faculty of Law Students Society level by con!ernc; and winning election a, Assistant Secretary (1977) and Social Secretary (1978). r 1980r he was unanimously elected the Chairman far the Moot and Mock trial Committee of the Faculty of Law, and served as the leading Counsel for the defense in a murder “trial” which he won.
National Association of Nigerian Unity (NANU), a pan-Nigerian Students organization (1977 -197?) and served as the Editor-in-Chief of its publication, “NANU VOICE”.
Perhaps Qzekhome is best remembered at the University of Ife for his thought-provoking and incisive articles on African Affairs, Nigerian Issues and Students politics. Young
Ozekhome popularized Notice Board Journalism as he
either displayed article on university Notice Boards or
published them i| the then most authoritative articles and
intellectually grauridedltudents magazine, “The x-Ray
Inter alia, Chief Qzekhome was an active member of ANUNSA. AIESFC, the Palm Wine Drinkerds Club, the Cos mo legists, and won man)1 prizes and certificates of merit
for his positive contribution to students unionism, intellectual discourse and Youth development arid empowerment. Later to rise up he become the Editor-in-Chief, and chairman of the X-ray Club (1978-1980), He co founded Association of Campus Journalists (ACJ), and rose to become Its General Secretary,
… TO PROFESSIONALISM AT THE NIGERIANLAWSCHOOL
Qzekhome was admitted into the Nigerian Law School Lagos for his professional Bar Examinations. At the Law School, he was at once noticeable and visible. He passea1 the Law School Bar examinations in 1981 with flying colours and was called to the Nigerian Bar as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in July, 1?81. He was aged only 24 years.
He was posted to Yola, the capital of the then Gongola State (now Adamawa and Tarcba States) lor hi: National Youth Service Corps NYSC, but changed to the Federal Ministry of Justice, Lagos, as he fell his services and bubbling energy were underutilized. He was subsequently seconded to Ihe then National Provident Fund (now Nigerian Social Insurancft and Trust Fond (NSITF) wheie he served as State Counsel, prosecuting mcny cases in Logos, Jbadan, Kano, Enugu, Perth-court and Benin City in the process; Ozekhomc had read so much about the legendary Chief Gam Fawehlnml whom he hod infacl me’ in 1974 otter his
‘Ol, He was still attracted to him. Thus, whilst • Counsel,.he joined the Chambers on a port-‘iQQSh part of his bubbling energy. This was i his advocacy skills and build a stronger Ilery human rights activism and dogged l3l6S rights. He later came home to roost in ubers. Ozekhome had earlier cut his fiery crusadiri. i teelh In the chambers of late Mr Kanmi Ishola-Qsobu, Ihe “Ptoplt’l Lawyer” frorn.whom he imbibed the rudiments of advocacy and erudition during vacation attachment bftfweenl 977 and 1980.
working asStci time basis to ‘ later to short-. platform f< defence this gre> i
TO MASTERS AND TEACHING
By 1982, Chief Ozekhome was back to his alma mater, Unite
(now O, A. U.) to pursue his masters degree programme. He
also joined the Staff of the Faculty to teoch Law. He was thus
employed as a Graduate Assistant simultaneously as he
pursued his masters programme at the youthful age of 25. He
taught Constitutional Law, Nigerian Legal System and Law of
Equity and Trust. He so distinguished himself thai the
temptation to stay on in the classroom was very strong. Some
of his students are today leading lawyers, academician
diplomats, while others have attained high societaf
He bagged his LL.M in 1983 and immediately wenl back to his first love, the busy Chambers of Chief Gani Fawehinmi to work first as a Junior Counsel; later as a Senior Counsel, and finally os the? Deputy Head of Chambers
…OF A FIERY ADVOCATE
Fondly called “Qzek B&fea” and “Mobile Library” by Chief Gani Fawehinmi lor nl advocacy skllfs, sheer brilliance, scholarsiic disposition and rich vocabulary in fhe English Language, Ozekhome soon stamped his authority on human rights and anti-military cases, handling detention cases in far away places as Jos, Kaduna, Yola Abuja, Makurdi, Maiduguri, Calabar, Porl-Harcourt, Owerri, Benin, Jbadan and Kano. Chief Gani Fawehinmi saon spotted the leadership qualities in the young Ozekhome and promptly made him Deputy Head of Chambers in 1985, after being a Senior Counsel for two years, a position he held till he left to found his own chambers in 1986. Ozekhame has offices of his chambers in Logos, Abuja, Benin City, and Agenebode
As a renowned Constitutional Lawyer, Chief Ozekhome has handled and participated in many epochal cases of National significance, such as the “Oil-Subsidy case, Ihe UmanahUmanah(PoM Harcourt money man) case, the “Qn-Shore-Q(f Shor«” Suit Ihe 36 House of Assembly Vs. Senate Suite, the Decampment of Senators1 case and the “Gwagwalada Five” case, the Zamani Lekwot Case and the Electoral Law Cat*, and so on.
|Youthful Mike 076 he challenged in c attempt to rema|
iome made legal history when in 1987,
‘i i General Ibrahim Babangida over his
subsidy from petroleum products a
euphemism for price hike. In 1993, he obtained an injunction from a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Morenike Onalaja to halt the planned execution of General Zamani Lekwot who had been sentenced to death over tno Zangon-Kataf Crisis, A year earlier, in 1972, he had obTaineo an injunction restraining the Gwagwalada Court from trying Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Mr Femi Falana, Mr. Sabo Qmojola, ond Mr. Segun Maiycgun who had been arraigned in court by the Babangida Military Junta on treasonable felony charges. He ha^ used hr. expansive legaf knowledge to protect and defend the cause of students, minorities, the persecuted, the choafcc
Ihe poor, the powerless, the repressed, the oppressed and indeed the Frantz Fanons “Wretched of the Earth”, He is today the Chief CounceL
Head of ‘of Chambers of the sprawling and fully computerised offices in Lagos, Abuja, Benin-City and Agenebode, Many Nigerians of different ethnic backgrounds, religion and persuation are today under his employment.
…AND ICON IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENTS
In the Human Rights and Pro-democracy Spheres, Chiei Qzekhoms is one of the founding fathers of the Human Rights Movement in Nigeria, in the same way and manner Martin Luther King Junior activated the Human Rights Conscious.nes and Movement in America in Ihe Sixties. He crusaded ogainsl all forms military dictatorship. He laid down his youthful life for the attainment of human rights, democracy and the enthronement of the Rule of Law as against arbitrariness and the Rule of the thumb. He has provided leadership \o Human Rights, pro-democracy and civil society groups in Nigeria. Together with Jive young patriot: of like mind, Messrs. Oltea Agbakaba, Clement Nwankwo. Abdul Oroh, Richard Akinola and Emmanuel Erhakpotobor Ozekhome co founded Ihe Civil Liberties Organisation on October 15, 1987, to fight (or the receding rights of beleaguered Nigerians who had been traumatized and repressed by a military junta headed by Babangida. He thus became the Pioneer Director of Legal Services and member of the Board of Governors, Civil Liberties Organization (CLO). the first ever organized civil rights group in Nigeria.
In addition to his private efforts at releasing hundreds of detainees from the dungeon of unjust and ilk-Mai incarceration. Chief Ozekhome effectively used the if 11.1 machinery of the CLO to release hundreds of Nigerians in illegal detention and unlawful imprisonment.
By 1992, it had become manifestly clear that Babangida who had then reneged on his promise to hand over power to a democratically elected Government for the umpteenth time was really not in the mood lo honour his pledge. I” became evident that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Repression and bare-faced violation of Nigerians’ rights became common-place. Fear, brutal silencing of voices of opposition and Executive Lawlessness look over the Nigerian Socio-political landscape Recession, hunger and abject penury had enveloped Nigeria on the advent of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), there was therefore the need to broaden the scope and depth of the human rights and pro-democracy movements. This led Ozekhome to leave the CLO to found the Universal Defenders of Democracy (UDD), a mass movement and international league committed to the enthronement of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule1 of Law, and the extirpation of military dictatorship in all its facets, Tm, organization affiliated to the African Commission on Human and Peoples1 rights and many international Human rights Bodies across the globe.
Qzekhome joined hands with other patriotic Nigerians to mobilize against the military. He was severally detained and put in chains at deterrent times and in different detention centres including Kam Salem House, Alagbon Close, SSS Headquarters, Awolowo Road, and the Directorate of Military Intelligence Centre, (DMI) at Apapa, Lagos, in this heroic struggle for the emancipation of the down Irodden arid the enthronement ot social justice and Ihe Rule of Law. He was dehumanised in this expensive anti-military venture. For two years. For two years consecutively (1989 and 1970), he was cited by the U.S.-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in New York in its annual report “In detenceot Rights: Attacks on Lawyers and Judges”. This report dealt with violation of human rights of Lawyers and judges across the globe including Ozekhome’s, in 1990, he participated in the two-month International Visitors Programme to the United States of America during which he met with Human rights bodies Including Lawyers Committees, Professional Leagues. Corporate bodies, Minority Groups, Prison Inmates and administrators, U,S, Congress, U.S. Supreme Court, etc.,
locah • : i -.’i :•…….. 11 ……….. C., Austin, Texas, Atlanta, Georgia,
Los Angeles, Yakima and Seattle in Washington State Massachusetts and New York in New YorkState.
Chief Ozekhome was to return to detention camp in 1990 after the Gideon Qrka Coup as he was clamped in to the Directorate of Military Intelligence gulag at Apapa over the coup for his professional relationship with Mr. Great Ogboru a great patriot and the alleged financier of the coup. The arresting team comprised of fully armed arid gun wielding soldiers in three trucks. Said Ozekhome in one interview of this episode that drew a large crowd of Lagosians to his Ajao Road, Surulere, Lagos Chambers;
“I felt they were stupid to come in three truck load of soldiers to arrest me. They could not arrest Jiunger and armed robbers that held Nigerians captive. Why did they need to waste such man power? They only needed to phone me to report at their office as many of them had done in the past and I would have gone there voluntarily. A gold fish has no hiding place’.
Indeed, Ozekhome tongue-lashed the fully armed soldiers for wasting much needed man power and f he tax payers’ money. By 1992 and 1993, when Babangida had bared his fangs against pro-democracy elements. Chief Ozekhome
in company of Dr. Tol Solarin, Dr, Beko Ransom-Kuti, Olisa Agbakoba, Clement Nwankwo, Abdul Oroh, Femi Falana and Richard ‘AklnolQ mobilized Lagosians in mass rallies in Lagos that were violently crushed by armoured tanks, tear gas and guns which were deployed by General Sanni Abacha, the then Chief of Defence Staff. He used the platforms of UDD and Campaign for Democracy (CD) [in which he was a leading tight] to battle the military junta. State Security operatives were later to pick up Dr, Beko Ronsome-Kuti and Chief Qzekhome at CD office at Imaria
Another Human Rights and Pro-democracy galhuiwg: from left Mrs Sheila Solarin, wife of late Dr. Tol Solaria, Chief Frank Ovie Knkon and Qzekhome.
Ozekhome with Late Dr. Akinola Aguda, eminent Jurist.
Street, Ikeja, Lagos. Ozekhome managed this time to beat the security network by escaping from captivity during the journey to Force Head Quarters, Alagbon Close, Lagos. The national media That was not aware of his escape still reported his detention the following day.
Ozekhome continued his valiant onti-military campaign, and when Abacha commenced nis pef project of self-transmutation, Ozekhome was in the fore front of patriots that fought him to a stand-still. Together with Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Clement Nwankwo, Qsagie Obayuwana. Tunji Al^ayomi, pr. Joe Okei, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Kofo Bucknor Chief Ayo opadokun Akerefe, Chief Olaniwu Ajayi, Professor Toye Qlorode, and Dr, Dipo Foshina, Chief Ozekhome formed the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACQN), a coalilion of over fifty human rights and’pro-democracy groups that gave the
Abacha final push to historical oblivion. Ozekhome was unanimously elected JACON’s National Vice-Chairman. Publicity and Publications. He ‘was at the nup that physically confronted military argas canister-throwing and fully armed during rallies, protest marches.
i ‘ii May and August 1998, the final
I” Ihe premature expiration of the
1 1’ilorship. Ozekhome and Falana
• i i’ I Gani Fawehinmi collapsed and
i i • ii ihalation of tear gas at the rally
i-1…….. 1998 during one of the severe!
hi i i in junta. He was quickly rushed to
nn on hand in 1998 during the send-ofj
party tor the erstwhile American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Walter Carrington and his wife, Arese which was violently disrupted by fully armed soldiers and police. The venue was PaSolanke’shauseinsuru-lere, Lagos, 1 he conveners beat the Security network and re-assembled at fhe Aguda Surulere, Lago* residence of Chief Ayo Adebanjo. Armed Soldiers and Police again descended on them there, apparently acting on a tip-off. Not to worry. Ozekhome, Gani Fawehinmi, Sola Ige. Ayo Opadokun, Ayo Adebanjo, Lofe Pa Solanke Onasanya, Koto Buckuor-Akerele and others rebuffed and resisted the invasion. They still held the send-off party for Carrington and his wife amidst tension and under siege.
Bold, courageous, tearless and highly detribalized. Chief Ozekhome believes in the Infallibility of God, the dignity of man and full respect of his God-giver* liberties and freedoms. He believes in one Nation, only to the extent that justice, peace, equity, egalitarianism and mutual respect by various Nationalities for one another reign supreme. He cherishes good governance by o democratically elected Government but believes in electoral supremacy and genuine struggle against dictatorship and bad governance whether by the military or civilians, H* believes in free and qualitative education at all levels, free and readily available health services, gainful employment and prompt payment of salary to workers and pension to pensioners. He crusades for empowerment of women and youth, comprehensive and integrated rural development including durable roods, potable water, constant electricity, provision of social amenities, shelter and maximum security for all. li is his belief that people in Government ore servants of the people who constitute the master. To deny that is to affirm that the agent is greater than the principal; that the servant is superior to the master: or that the tail should wag the dog. The purpose of Government, he believes., is to make lire more secure and more abundant for the people through good governance, A Government must therefore be transparent and accountable to the people; otherwise it ceases to be a legitimate Government. Because power belongs, to the people, those temporarily vested with such power must exercise it to further the people’s interests and well-being, he advocates.
His guiding principles can be summarized as “Worship of God and Service to Mankind”.
…OF THE COMMUNITY
Ozekhonne has in realisation, of these beliefs since 1987 awarded numerous scholarships at both secondary and tertiary levels of our schools to indigent students, A sportsman to the core Chief Ozekhome has since 1989 formed and managed Iviukwe Bombers football Club and Ozekhome Babes Football Club (q female Club) Jn his aucs1 for comprehensive rural-urban development to prevent rural-urban migration, Qzekhome in 1994 founded Ozek Rainbow Flight Ltd,, a transport firm made up of twelve vehicles and twelve motorcycles, to ease the transportation problems of the people Of Weppa-Wanno Land where he hails from. He did in conjunction with Iviukwe Dynamic Forum, a i&ague of Iviukwe elites spear-head the provision of street lights in his Iviukwe community. Single-handedly, he brought a police past to his people and graded some of their roads. He started a rentals business, Hotel and Super
Market to put a smile on the faces of his people.
A spotsman, sports bwt .md sports promoter. Chief (President) is heie bvintj intfoduced by Mr. Duke Qshoke rn the finalists of the Us&glir (‘},il> of Nigeria Annual inter-Collegiate football competition iu; Secondary Schools, 2001