Not The End Of The Road

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First female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Folake Solanke, delivered the address as the oldest SAN present in court at the recent swearing-in of new Silk at the Supreme Court Abuja...

 My departure point is to express my gratitude to the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Hon. Justice A.M Mukhtar GCON for the splendid opportunity to address this special session of the Supreme Court on behalf of the Inner Bar. May I take this opportunity to extend copious congratulations to the Hon. CJN for the colossal and commendable efforts to sanitize the administration of Justice.
 I regard it as a spectacular honour and privilege to attend the auspicious ceremony of the new legal year and to be part of the conferment of the new Senior Advocates of Nigeria to the prestigious rank of the silk. I congratulate the CJN for the rigorous process of selection and the newly minted SANs for having scaled through the process successfully. With all due respect, I hereby vehemently advocate that merit should never be sacrificed on the alter of “Federal Character” or “Zoning” in order to maintain the highest standard of the rank.
 Having been elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria thirty-two years, six months and fifteen days ago, I believe it is opportune for me to share with my new learned friends of the silk how the experience impacted me as recorded in my Autobiography: “Reaching for the Stars” on pp. 249-250:
 “The Inner Bar carries with it, not only immense professional dignity, but it imposes the awesome professional burden of leadership at the Bar so that the younger members can look up to the Senior Advocates to learn from them and be inspired by them. That also translates into the Senior Advocate demonstrating much learning and courtesy to the Bench and to learned colleagues. In short, a silk must represent the best in professional ethics, tradition and history”.
 I felt a heavy weight of that professional responsibility, and still do. I respectfully extend that quotation as a homily to the new members of the Inner Bar. I can say, whether on oath or not, that the euphoria which I experienced on that 5th day of March 1981 still persists. I hope that you are also experiencing the same feeling of sheer joy and euphoria. May it remains with you forever. “Deo Volente”.
 In his letter of congratulation dated the 2nd day of February 1981 to me, Papa Awolowo said “inter alia” “You have made history, you are the first woman to wear Silk and sit in the Inner Bar of the Supreme Court”. I am delighted that many have now followed me on merit and many will in the future. Please permit me, and without prejudice to my other learned friends of the silk, to extend a special welcome to my learned daughters and friends of the Silk to wit: Funke Aboyade SAN and Funmilayo Awomolo SAN. Indeed, a special mention is due to my learned friend of the Silk Adegboyega Awomolo SAN for supporting and encouraging his beloved spouse to reach for professional Utopia and join him at the Inner Bar.
 With the greatest respect to the male gender, this is a superb example for them to go and do likewise, and not to be threatened or overwhelmed or intimidated by their wives’ professional success.
 I respectfully declare without equivocation, that the institution of the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria is one of the best professional policies in the history of the Nigerian legal profession. Considering the avalanche of applications to acquire the title, there is no iota of doubt that the ambition to become a SAN is a tremendous motivation and huge challenge to lawyers to get to the top of their profession. So, may it remain forever. Amen. The magnitude of the assembly here present is a public affirmation by the people of the prestigious rank.
 As Senior Advocates of Nigeria, you have the professional status to speak on not only legal matter, but also on national issues. As an example, there has been a lot of agitation on the phenomenal expenditure of the presidential system of government. The constitutional amendment proposals pending before the National Assembly are silent on this germane and fundamental public concern. When the pugilistic combat on the floor of the House of Representatives is over, I hope the legislators will attend to their legislative duties instead of engaging in fisticuffs or boxing.
 Your concern for the constitution should also be extended to the state of the law upon which you should be vocal for the improvement of the legal system and the judicial process. For instance, the issue of “locus standing” is still controversial.
 In conclusion, we are all worried about the state of the nation with the attendant abnormalities ravaging the polity, such as consumption and loss of confidence in the legal system. These are matters which should seriously engage your attention. May God help our ailing nation. Amen.
 As Senior Advocates of Nigeria, your court appearances should always be impeccable and in our professional colours of black and white. The white should glimmer. I always say “black” because if I say “dark colour”, someone may come in green or brown! Remember your appearance is your first introduction in any situation.
 In its leadership role, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria has just published the “Code of Dressing and Decorum” a copy of which is hereby presented to the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria. This is a manifestation of the Body’s commitment to uphold the dignity and integrity of the learned profession. Page ten (10) of the booklet carries a picture of the correct S.A.N. robe. I say the picture is correct because, by God’s grace, I chose the colour, material and style of the robe out of samples sent by Ede & Raven Court of London.
 And to you all, I say that this is not the end of the road to professional excellence, in fact, today’s special celebration should motivate you to aspire to a higher level of professional expertise and competence. Having just returned from being decorated with the Doctor of Letters (D.Litt)) degree by the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, I salute you all and respectfully present a copy of the military programme to the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria.
 Thank you.
 Chief ‘Folake Solanke SAN, CON, Alabukun Law-Chambers,
 ANCE Building (2nd Floor),
 Magazine Road, Jericho,

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