BY CHIEF MIKE OZEKHOME, SAN,OFR, Ph.D.
The death of Chief Ladi Williams, SAN, has hit me like a thunderbolt from the blues.It was least expected. It is more painful, going by the news that he died from Covid-19 complications even after the vaccine. Chief Ladi is said to have actually been inoculated with the two dozes of the vaccine.
This clearly puts to question the compulsion that the Federal Government is already flying a kite about, to the effect that all Nigerians must be vaccinated, otherwise they will be denied certain privileges such as international travels and access to certain facilities. It merely shows that at the end of the day, COVID-19 has come to stay with us like malaria, tuberculosis, polio, HIV, asthma and other diseases, but all of which have been greatly controlled and tamed.
Ladi Williams’ death is most painful to me, because here was a man who stepped into the incredibly large shoes of his late father, Chief FRA Williams, SAN ( Timi the Law). It is also painful because here was a man who wore humility like a second skin; ever gregarious and always smiling and laughing.
I can recall a particular experience in early 2009 which I will never forget. Chief Ladi was leading me and other very senior lawyers, who were not only very senior to me in the legal profession, but were also SANs. By that early 2009, I was not even a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. It came to arguing the bail application for Chief Femi Fani Kayode ( FFK), who had prayerfully urged his legal team that he would want me to personally argue his bail application. He based his humble request on my past performance between 2007 and 2008, when I had defended him in various cases in Abuja.
Of course, I had no mouth to speak, because I was perhaps the most junior in the legal team. I could not dare bring it up when he told me. I told him clearly that in the legal profession, it was not possible for a junior to be heard arguing a matter when his seniors were present .I told him it is was a legal anathema and unbespoken sacrilege.
I did not know that FFK had also made the same proposal quietly and confidentially to Chief Ladi Williams. To my utter astonishment and amazement, when the case was called in court the following day, Chief Ladi Williams stood up and announced himself as leading all the lawyers who appeared with him in the bail application. Then he dropped the clincher. He said, “My Lord, I would pray that you permit our learned friend, Chief Mike Ozekhome, to argue this bail application on our behalf”.
Of course, expectedly, some other very Senior Advocates who had appeared in the matter were visibly livid with rage and disappointment. He merely shrugged his shoulders and countered that he was merely exercising his privilege. I was greatly humbled. I thanked him and the judge profusely, for so permitting me to handle the ball application
on behalf of the team. By the grace of Almighty God, I argued the bail application very competently and brilliantly to the utter joy of FFK, Chief Ladi Williams SAN and the Judge, who commended me. FFK was admitted to bail on very liberal terms.
I recall that I left the court that day very happy and energised. Then, Chief Ladi was to throw a bigger bombshelI later in the day. As I was driving to my then home in Igando, at about the old toll gate that leads to Ibadan, my phone rang. It was Chief Ladi Williams on the line. He told me words I will never forget in my life.
I said, “sir, I want to thank you for the privilege and honour you gave me today in allowing me handle the matter where legal giants like you and others were seated.” He said he was calling me to tell me something different. I wondered what it was, half scared he was probably going to say something negative. I prayed against such. I wanted to be allowed to savour the day. Chief Ladi said, “Look Mike, I love you and we love you in the legal profession. Your brilliant outing today could only have been done by two lawyers I know of. And do you know the lawyers ?”, he asked. I said “no, sir.” He said, “my late father, Chief FRA Willams,SAN and one young lawyer called Chief Mike Ozekhome”. I was shocked at his kind words. And he insisted he meant every word of it. I was not only humbled once more, but was fired to do better in the legal profession.
Ever since then, Chief Ladi Williams and myself had become close. He showed me undeserved love. I regarded him as an ‘egbon’, a very elderly brother, tapping from his inexhaustible pool of knowledge and wisdom.
So, Chief Ladi Williams was one lawyer in Nigeria that I adored. There are some other few late and some still living lawyers ( whose names I will not mention here,but I know they know themselves), that fall into this my pantheon of heroes.
Ofcourse, everybody knows my relationship with late Chief Kanmi Ishola-Osobu ( people’s lawyer), with whom I interned throughout my university of Ife days. And legendary Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, SAM, with whom I worked ,and later rose to become the Deputy Head of chambers in 1985. These are lawyers that have made everlasting positive impact on my career. God bless them.
Death is inevitable; but the sting is always very weakened and rendered useless by the simple fact that when we die, we shed our corporal body for the spiritual body.
At that stage, we become indestructible. We transmit from life of mortality to life of immortality. In that transition process, death itself is vanquished. So,Chief Ladi Williams has defeated death, because death is ephemeral. He has shamed death by leaving death behind with its ugly visage and transmuting to eternity. So, death, where is thy avowed sting?
I believe, in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, that God will forgive Chief Ladi his earthly sins and grant him eternal repose of his soul in His warm bossom. There, we shall all meet on resurrection day, and we shall part no more. May God rest Chief Ladi Williams SAN’s beautiful soul. Adieu, Chief. Farewell, the Law. Goodbye, great egbon.