You move around unaided, what is the secret of your longevity? I can’t say. I don’t know. May be that is how God wants it to be. I think I am between 50/50. Again, it may be as a result of hardwork. At my age I still work till about 2am ransacking all my papers, to see what’s left to be done. I am a trained lawyer but I don’t go to court anymore. I stay up late to attend to personal files. I thank God for taking me this far because most of my colleagues are gone.
How would you describe your experience growing up in Lagos of ‘old’?
It was a loving communal environment where people watched over you. For instance, if I went and did something wrong somewhere, before you got to the house your parents would have heard. That put us in check. Lagos then was restricted to the Island. There was no Surulere. Ikorodu Road was not in existence. And when they were about to develop Yaba, civil servants were offered money either to build houses or buy land in Yaba. There were no bridges and life revolved around Lagos Island only. Zappaz had a bus transport. And when Yaba was established, there was a bus terminal from Lagos to Ojuelegba but the bus wasn’t as rough as we have today.
What was your earliest ambition? My earliest ambition was to study medicine. In fact, I was admitted into the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to study Medicine in 1945. But my mother died in 1936 two years before I left King’s College and this affected me. I later read Law at Lincoln’s Inn, London and was called to the English Bar in 1956. I found solace in Law because it has a degree of academia, so I pursued it. With modesty, I happened to be the first lawyer in Criminal Law in West Africa and I handled celebrated cases. You know in handling criminal cases you would defend the accused who you really know committed the offence. And as a man of conscience, I quit and moved to property law. I had no regret for studying law because I made a mark. I was the only Nigerian who had a second class pass in the most difficult subject, Real Property in the Bar Examinations in 1953. The only person that had a First Class was an English lady.
Are you afraid of death?
No. Not at all. When death comes. It comes. So I have never been afraid of death and when I heard that one of my mates has just passed on, I see it as natural phenomenon. In fact, one of my classmates died in May last year and a programme was organized for him at Kings College and I attended.
If you die today where do you think you will go?
I am a good Christian. If a place call heaven exists I am sure I will be there. I will not only be there, I will sit at the right hand side of the Almighty.
Do you think being Christian qualifies you to be in heaven? No. That is not enough. You have to do the will of God, be philanthropic, be nice to people and don’t envy your fellow human being. And above all, love your neighbour as yourself.
What drives you? I think it is nature that drives me most of the time and the inability to stay idle.
You grew up in the Nigeria of ‘old’, what would you like to see change in your lifetime?
If sense of values can be revamped and re-inculcated into the system in my lifetime I will be a happy man. Again, people believe in money and they think with money you can get anything. I don’t believe in that. So I want the values of integrity and hardwork to be back in the system.
What is your philosophy of life? Work hard, be honest, don’t be envious and try and keep a clean slate in whatever you are doing.
What lesson has life taught you as a person?
To take things as they come and make the most of whatever opportunity you have in a positive way. Everybody likes money and they can do anything because of money. That is not my own way of life. As a Christian, you have to abide by the tenets of Christianity. Also, hardwork never kills so people should learn to work very hard.