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Adetola-Kaseem (SAN): When Daunting Odds Couldn’t Stall Set Goal

Adetola-Kaseem, SAN
Posted: Aug 25, 2016 at 10:09 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Recently, STEPHEN UBIMAGO had an interview with septuagenarian senior lawyer, Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem, who on the occasion regaled him with an engaging narrative of how an unflinching resolve helped him to embrace fate and forge his determination to become a lawyer  despite daunting odds at the beginning….

When his father died in 1963, about the time he was billed to proceed for his secondary school education, not a few concluded that it was finished for young Gani Adetola-Kaseem.

A future so hazy from which, many felt, nothing significant could emerge apparently starred him in the face, considering that his late father practically left him no valuable estate to serve as buffer or economic safety net for his journey to the future.

However, Adetola-Kaseem would snuggle up to his fate with stoic equanimity even as a child.

Indeed the singular event of his father’s sudden demise was central to setting the tenor of his life. And although it marked finality to any further parental involvement in his educational pursuit, it nonetheless didn’t spell an end to his dreams.

Speaking recently with the Independent in an exclusive interview, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) explained that but for the timely intervention of Providence, his father’s sudden passing at a time he, as a young lad, needed him the most for mentorship and guidance, could have been a far more defining tragedy.

Seemingly miraculously, however, he managed to weathered the setback, saying, “To be frank with you, it was God’s own direction and intervention that helped me.

“I was a young boy who had no secondary education. My father died in 1963. This year makes it the 53rd year since his death.”

With the benefit of hindsight, he reflects: “It is a good thing that I didn’t enter secondary school in 1961 or there about when I was to do so, because if I had gotten admitted, I probably would have dropped out following my father’s death in 1963.”

But although he’d keenly observed how Providence bore him on his wings, young Adetola-Kaseem did not, for that fact, leave his fate to chance or fortune.

He refused to yield to idleness, a tendency not uncommon to orphans, as he was able to arouse himself to his late father’s lessons in discipline and hard-work.

He told the Independent that following his death he sought for and found a job, his very first, as a secretary, and went on to acquire certification in secretarial studies.

According to him, “Although I never went through the four walls of a secondary school, I, however, trained as a secretary later.

“I started my working career in 1964 and ever since, there has been no turning back.”

Needless to point out that his training as secretary did imbue him with important skills, which he would leverage to eke out a living following his father’s passing.

“That made life a little easier for me,” he reminisced. “I started my working career as a secretary in the chambers of a lawyer, who was later to become a judge; we are still much in touch till today.”

Chief Adetola-Kaseem didn’t set out from the onset envisioning a career as a legal practitioner, let alone a senior advocate.

According to him, “There is no way I could have ever known that one day I would become a lawyer, not to talk of a SAN, because from the beginning I was only trying to eke out a living and just do my best at work.”

He, however, admits that the first four years of his working life as a secretary in a law firm played a major role in influencing his choice of Law as career to pursue going forward.

“I mean that’s the first profession I came into contact with,” he explained.

“There is no doubt about the fact that I admired being a lawyer. But I wasn’t sure that I would become one at that point in time.

“But God himself paved the way all along that from starting my working life in a law office and afterwards, it has been one thing leading to the other, and here I am today.”

Adetola-Kaseem subsequently moved from his humble beginning as a secretary in a law firm to a secretary in the Federal Civil Service.

He climbed the ranks and became a senior personal secretary, whereupon he was posted to serve the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, who then was General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the second-in-command to former military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, at Dodan Barracks.

“As a secretary, I got to the peak of the profession. I became senior personal assistant; that is, personal secretary to the Federal Public Service, where I had to work with the topmost people in the public service,” he said.

Meanwhile, while his career in the public service, which spanned nearly a decade, lasted, the learned silk noted that he felt an implacable sense of inadequacy.

This manifested in inner nudging on him to pursue higher education.

But since he had a regular job as a civil servant, complete with a new wife in tow, it became inconceivable that he would be able to study for a Law degree full time.

He reached out to the University of Lagos in Akoka, for he’d learned that part time studies for an LLB was available then at the institution.

According to him, the part time studies option was, for someone like him, bespoke.

He forwarded his application without hesitation; and as fortune would have it he got admitted into the Faculty of Law to his greatest delight.

“While my colleagues in the office felt they had reached the peak of their career, I began to feel mine was about to start,” he said.

Nothing would matter thereafter, “for my focus to become a lawyer had solidified,” he said.

He added, “If I wanted to just play along and get the best in the service and make connections with the military boys that could actually have aborted my desire to qualify as a lawyer.

“So, I had to make deliberate efforts to get posted out of that office, so as to move closer to the university.

“I told my supervisors then that I will be working with the lower cadre officers in order to complete my programme.

“So it was sheer determination and the grace of God.”

He noted that his itinerary while at the university was as simple as it was predictable.

His first port of call was often the university mosque; and depending on the time-table for the day, “either I moved straight to the Law Library or for the lecture fixed for the period,” he noted.

Adetola-Kaseem bagged his Law degree from the University of Lagos, following which he got admitted into the Nigerian Law School in Lagos, where he emerged with a Second Class Upper Division, being one of the seven candidates that made the best grades at the call-to-bar in December 1980.

“It was with our set in the Law School that classification of grades began,” he disclosed.

“Before our time, you either passed or failed your bar exams; nothing like first or second or third class.

“It started with my set in 1980. Out of a class of 540 students, seven of us made Second Class Upper Division. I was one of them.

“Incidentally out of those seven, five came from the Faculty of Law of the University of Lagos. I think one came from Ife and the other from Nsukka.”

He added that the top five from UNILAG, with whom he’s still in touch, are currently either accomplished advocates or judges.

“Mr. Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), who practices in Port Harcourt was then the best all round student at the Law School,” he revealed.

“The deceased Chief Judge of Osun State, Fasasi Ogunsola, was also one of them.”

Doing a quick recall of how he started practice, he said, “Having put in 15 years as statutorily required for qualification to receive pension, I voluntarily and meritoriously retired from the public service.”

He added: “I retired in 1985 as an undersecretary, which is a position in the management cadre, in the public service.

“I did so in order to start legal practice.”

He noted that when he was going into private practice, he boasted no other training than the ones he obtained from the Law Faculty, the Law School and the few times he spent (after work hours as a civil servant) in the chambers of a Senior Advocate on Ikorodu Road.

He observed: “When I was in the service I was spending my leisure time, my evenings after work, in the chamber of a Senior Advocate on Ikorodu Road.

“I must say that was the much training I got. He later graciously gave me an office space in his office in Palmgrove; not that he employed me. It was just a place for me to start my practice.”

Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem took silk in 2002 after 17 years of active service in the Bar.