Before emerging as the running mate of President Muhammadu Buhari last December after the primary election of the All Progressives Congress, Oluyemi Osinbajo, professor of law and Vice President of Nigeria was known as an erudite law teacher. Even though he had served in various capacities and even rose to the position of Attorney General of Lagos State, he remained relatively unknown to many of his country men and women. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Senior Partner in leading law firm – Simmons Cooper Partners – Osinbajo knows his onions when it comes to the business. He became a professor at only 33 – a rare feat especially in the legal path.
Born on March 8, 1957 in Lagos, Nigeria’s new Vice President had excellence built in him even as a young school boy. Starting out from Corona Primary School, Lagos, before moving to the prestigious all-boys institution – Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos, between 1969-1975, his academic prowess led the way for him through these stages. Adeoba Prize for English Oratory, Elias Prize for Best Performance in History in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination in 1973, School Prize for Literature, and African Statesman Intercollegiate Best Speaker’s Prize were some of the academic awards he racked up while still in secondary school.
Higher education would come for him at the University of Lagos shortly where he continued the tradition of academic excellence and earned a degree in law. Though finishing in Second Class Upper division, Osinbajo won the Graham-Douglas Prize for Commercial Law at graduation from his department. He would later bag a Master of Laws from the London School of Economics in 1981.
Osinbajo’s journey into fulltime academic and law practice began shortly afterwards when he was hired as a legal lecturer at his alma mater several years back. By 1983, he had risen to the position of senior legal lecturer at the institution. There was more on the way for the soft-spoken scholar. Five years later he was appointed an Adviser to the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bola Ajibola under whom he served for many years.
For his hardwork and commitment to promoting the law practice, Osinbajo was made the Head of Department of Public Law, University of Lagos, after serving under Ajibola. In 1999, he became a member of cabinet, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, remaining in the system before finally climbing to the topmost position in the ministry.
While still in public service, Osinbajo enacted a number of reforms in the Lagos State justice system which has today brought about ease for many ordinary citizens who could not easily afford legal services or seek redress against injustices meted to them. The establishment of the Directorate for Citizens’ Rights which provides free legal services and legal representation to persons in this category, is a huge testament to how effective those reforms were.
Osinbajo did not stop there. He went on to bring more critical issues like the hiring of judges, their wages, training and discipline to light. These changed the face of the justice system in Lagos completely. Today, there is the Office of the Public Defender and the Citizens Mediation Centre – a refuge where ordinary citizens in Lagos regardless of tongue and religion can seek legal help.
Upon completing his assignment at the Lagos Ministry of Justice in 2007, the love for the classroom took Osinbajo back to the Department of Public Law of his alma mater where he continued to impart knowledge into practising and aspiring lawyers in the institution.
In total, Nigeria’s new Vice President has over 31 years of litigation experience, taking on and turning around some of the toughest cases in favour of his clients. He has conducted very important constitutional and precedential cases before many courts in the country including the Supreme Court.
Osinbajo has received several awards for his selfless contribution to the development of the law practice and entrenchment of justice in the country. He belongs to a host of notable professional bodies including the Nigerian Bar Association, International Bar Association, Nigerian Body of Benchers, and Council of Legal Education in Nigeria.
A devoted Christian and promoter of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Vice President was until his latest elevation the resident pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Olive Tree Parish, Banana Island, Lagos. He is married to Dolapo, a leader of women and granddaughter of Obafemi Awolowo, former Premier of the Western region. Their union is blessed with three children.