Two eminent Nigerians, Gen. Theophlius Danjuma (retd) and Chief Olu Akinkugbe, have promised to strengthen law education in Africa, CHARLES ABAH reports
A former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd), and Chief Olu Akinkugbe, do not belong to the same profession. Danjuma is a retired general and Chief of Army Staff, while Akinkugbe is a renowned pharmacist and entrepreneur.
But the two have some things in common. They are both elder statesmen. They are also interested in lifting humanity to loftier heights. This perhaps explains why the two have found the law profession a veritable platform to share their common cause.
While Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff, endowed a $5million grant in perpetuity for the TY Danjuma Fund for Law and Policy Development in Africa, Akinkugbe instituted the Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship.
By coincidence also, they share their common relationship for the betterment of humanity in Africa’s second oldest university, the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The university came into being in 1829.
Many dignataries joined them in Lagos last Tuesday when the University of Cape Town-Nigeria Academic Partnership was inaugurated.
Among eminent persons who graced the event were the Head of the defunct Interim Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Pro-Chancellor of the Pan-African University, Dr. Christopher Kolade and Chief Chris Ogunbanjo.
Others are MTN Chairman, Chief Paschal Dozie; an industrialist, Oba Otudeku; a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe and his Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife counterpart, Prof. Wale Omole .
Explaining the motive behind his endowment, Akinkugbe notes that its target is to “build capacity to address the all-important subject of co-development via research, which provides the material for evidence-based law and policy making for intra-African trade development.”
The entrepreneur adds that he wants to help in building a significant expertise in comparative law in order to contribute meaningfully to the collective growth of the continent.
He notes, “Though Africa has significantly pursued the economic association and structures, the world we live in today demands a totally different approach, if we must be participants and not victims of the ongoing scramble for Africa yet again.
“The concept of ‘co-development’ is what we must pursue for sustained mutual growth in Africa. I share the sentiment of William Shakespeare that ‘there is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune…. On such a sea are we now afloat; and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.”
Giving further insight into the initiative, a director at the UCT’s Centre for Comparative Law in Africa, Dr. Ada Ordor, notes that the fellowship will promote focused research on topical issues of business law and policy.
She says, “The mission of the CCLA is to address the increasing need for cohesion and compatibility between legal frameworks across African countries, with carefully researched initiatives that are compatible with Africa’s diverse socio-economic, political and cultural backgrounds.
The CCLA director, who hails Akinkugbe for leading what she calls an “unexplored terrain”, urges other Africans to support other such initiatives targeted at lifting the continent’s tertiary education sector.
According to her, it is important for other institutions and entities, including business leaders to develop a legal climate that is in tune with African realities.
Like the Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship, the TY Danjuma Fund for Law and Policy Development is to promote channels and platforms for carrying out development-friendly research, dissemination of research findings and capacity building interventions in a way that pools together expertise from various African countries.
According to the retired general, the initiative will generate a critical body of homegrown workable African solutions to address complex challenges confronting the continent.
He adds, “By devoting sustained attention from various dimension to the law and policy environment for the governance of various development processes in Africa, issues are more clearly identified and it becomes more feasible to advance appropriate options for addressing these difficulties.”
Acknowledging Danjuma’s gesture, the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN), says the former minister of defence has by the grant demonstrated his love for education, belief in enduring enterprise and his passion to immortalise himself through the offer.
Meanwhile, the NIALS is to collaborate with the UCT to ensure the execution of relevant research projects for the TYD Fund.
Our also gathered that the fund would strengthen the work of the CCLA by sponsoring research that must be shown to have the potential of positively impacting on and achieving measurable progress in the chosen specific area of research.
It will also sponsor a conference to be held biennially in either Nigeria or South Africa initially, preferably in rotation.
The conference will be open to all volunteers after the first four years. During this conference, the results of completed and, where necessary, ongoing funded research will be presented to an audience, comprising policy makers, stakeholders and the general public, drawn from as many African countries as possible.
It will similarly sponsor capacity building programmes in areas where critical skills shortages in law and policy work in Africa are identified.