They no longer make legal luminaries like the great Prof Ben Nwabueze, the legendary constitutional lawyer who passed away on Sunday, October 29.
A native of Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, he was born on December 22, 1931. He started from the very beginning to put his mind on the path of the acquisition of educational knowledge. He attended CMS Central School in his native Atani, from 1938 to 1945 and then proceeded to African College in Onitsha where he schooled from 1947 to 1950.
His search for greener educational pastures took him overseas London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, between 1956 and 1961, and thenceforth to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, from 1961 to 1962.
He was appointed a Senior Lecturer at Holborn College of Law, London, and he set a great pace from 1962 to 1965. Upon his return to Nigeria, he lectured at the University of Lagos before becoming a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) from the start of the Nigeria-Biafra war in 1967.
After the war, he served as the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Zambia in 1971. He later became Director, Law Practice Institute, Zambia, from 1973 to 1975.
Prof. Nwabueze was in 1978 awarded the distinctive Doctor of Laws (LL.D) at the University of London based on his three ground-breaking books, namely, Constitutionalism in the Emergent States, Presidentialism in Commonwealth Africa, and Judicialism in Commonwealth Africa. He shared the erudite distinction with the late Dr. T.O. Elias as the only two Nigerians and Africans who held a higher doctorate in Law by published works.
Prof Nwabueze holds the record of being the first academic lawyer to be made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1978, and this onerous achievement is also strictly based on his published works.
A prodigious workaholic, he served assiduously as a member of the Senates of the Universities of Lagos, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland between 1971 and 1978. He broke bold grounds when he was appointed the University Assessor for Academic Appointments at the Universities of Ghana, Lagos, Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), and Jos between 1978 and 1979.
Prof Ben Nwabueze is the acclaimed author of over thirty books and treatises with an average extent of 400 pages. He has over the years written well over 200 articles in academic journals and he has delivered more than 100 keynote addresses at local and international conferences.
He was the go-to titan on the Professorial Chairs in stellar Universities such as University of Zambia from 1970 to 75; Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in 1974; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, from 1975 to 76; and Anambra State University of Technology; Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka 1989 to 1983 (Visiting).
Prof. Ben Nwabueze was in the forefront of founding Ohanaeze Ndigbo in 1976 with other Igbo leaders such as Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Dr. M.I. Okpara, Chief K.O. Mbadiwe, Chief M.N. Ugochukwu, Dr. P.N. Okigbo and Chief Jerome Udoji. He served as the Secretary-General from 1978 to 2004.
A recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM), he has been bestowed with the National Honour of Commander of the Niger (CON).
A deeply rooted sage in cultural matters, he towered in his native Atani with the high traditional title of Oduah Afo-na-Isagba of his native Atani.
Prof Ben Nwabueze was indeed an uncommon world-class intellectual, a quintessential global citizen who held high the flag of Nigeria.