‘It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed’ – Harvey S. Firestone.
When shortly after the end of the Nigerian and defunct Biafra hostility of the 1967-1970 era, the young, tall, handsome, water fatigued but determined Awa Uma Kalu boarded the Bus sometime in 1973 en route the university of Ife to study Law; little could anyone have correctly predicted the breath, length and extent of his influence in his chosen vocation in time to come. For the past 43 years, Awa Kalu has quietly but steadily influenced generation of lawyers to aspire to attain distinction in life. Yes, impactful influence though intangible is considered a humongous wealth and preferred legacy of enduring nature. The status of an influencer of an enduring nature is earned by chronicle of creative, positive and dynamic change around/within one’s operational environment. According to John Maxwell; a leader of considerate influence, is not just a trailblazer but a person that others intentionally follow behind, follow his lead and act on his vision. Frankly, Awa Kalu fits squarely into the mold as numerous legal minds and aspiring ones look unto him as beacon of inspiration.
The academic and professional laurels of Awa Kalu who was born on March 9, 1953 are sufficiently documented in the public domain. His parents were devout Christians from Ohafia, in the present Abia State. He had his early education at the then Anglican Grammar School, Umuahia and the famous Methodist College, Uzuakoli where he attended classes for his “A” Levels, majoring in physics, Chemistry, and Biology. He enrolled to study Law at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife and abandoned the “A” Levels and distinguished himself as an academic numero uno and won several elite awards. Some of such awards were Olu Ayoolaprize as Best Over-all LL.B. part 1. Student; Irvine & BonnerScholarship as best over-all LL.B. part II student and Justice Madaraan prize as best over-all final year law student. He graduated in 1977 and earned the LL.B (Hons) Upper Second Class Degree. He is among the 1978 set of Nigeria Law School that is adjudged eminent in the legal community.
Awa Kalu, SAN who is fondly and variously called ‘Prof, Papa, Papus and ‘Wakay by his peers and friends was at different times, Law Lecturer at the Law Faculty of the University of Lagos and the Imo (now Abia) State University. The litany of his students from the two citadels of learning is acquitting themselves admirably in diverse fields of human endeavours; and include Judges, Learned Silks and well-respected members of the Outer Bar.
As a teaching and research university don, Awa Kalu, SAN was consummate. As a practicing lawyer, he is painstaking. He leaves no stone unturned in marshaling out succinctly what he considers the crux of the dispute. As a technocrat, he is meticulous and mindful of the verdict of history. He enjoys the respect and the admiration of his superiors, mates and subordinates alike. In 1989, he was appointed Special Adviser to the then Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and he had the unique opportunity of serving two Attorneys General in a stretch, namely; Hon. Prince Bola Ajibola SAN, KBE (who served meritoriously as a Judge at the International Court of Justices) and Hon. Sir Clement Akpamgbo SAN, both of illustrious memories.
It is said that this era of the Federal Ministry of Justice witnessed advancement of the frontiers of our corpus as the hitherto moribund All Nigeria Law Reports was revitalized. Therevised Laws of the Federation 1990 were unveiled. The maiden Company and Allied Matters Decree 1990 and the Banking and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) were enacted and the Journal of the Justice Ministry known as ‘JUSTICE was initiated.
Awa U. Kalu’s testimonial in public service both at national, sub-regional, continental and international fora is a veritable reference to budding jurists. At different times he was Secretary National Committee on Corruption and Economic Crimes; Secretary National Committee on Malpractices in Banks and other Financial Institutions; Member, National Committee on Town Planning Law in Nigeria; Member, Editorial Committee, All Nigeria Law Reports; He was also a member of the Nigerian Delegation on the Democratization Process in Ethiopia, 1992; Member Steering Committee of the 2nd, All-Africa Law Ministers Conference, Cairo Egypt,1992; Member, Nigerian Delegation to the 46th and 47th Session of the UN General Assembly 1991 and 1992; Delegate, Human Rights Workshop, Banjul, the Gambia, 1989: He also provided a platform for robust academic and intellectual pursuit through the publication of Lawyers’ Bi-Annual, a journal of Nigeria and Comparative Law of which he is the Editor-in-chief.
At the dawn of democratic governance in 1999, Awa Kalu was appointed the Attorney-General and-Commissioner for Justice, Government of Abia State and he served in that capacity from 1999 till 2006. To analysts of Abia State developmental strides, his tenure as AG, witnessed enhanced efficiency in the justice sector and the State government framework in its entirety owing largely to far reaching policy over haul at his behest of Awa Kalu. A historical touchstone of that era is the legal contest the Attorney-General of Abia State together with the Attorneys-General of the other 35 States approached the Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction to seek the interpretation of some sections of the Electoral Act, 2001. The celebrated dispute is reported as Attorney General of Abia State & 35 ORS. vs. Attorney General of the Federation (2002) 6 NWLR (PT. 763) AT PAGE 264.
Awa Kalu has the uncommon dexterity to put to test existing legal principles with the objective of subjecting the law to satisfy contemporary human needs in sync with the sociological school of jurisprudence that sees law as instrument of social engineering. He is in pre-eminent good standing with his constituents. He is accessible, forthright and often laced his penetrating insight on matters of law with good sense of humour. As a Lecturer in the Law of Evidence, Criminal Law, and Law of thoughts etc, he was delightful to his students as his illustrations stick to the memory for all time retention. His sense of humility, candour, comportment and fidelity to the justice sector is unique and indeed exemplary. In recognition of his sterling qualities as an advocate, Awa Uma Kalu was on August 3, 2000 conferred with the distinction and privilege of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee.
Today 9th March, 1953, as he celebrates his 68 years of impactful life, his family, friends, students, associates, colleagues and admirers warmly felicitate with him for the giant footprints in the legal horizon for the past 20 years as a distinguished member of the elite inner Bar. Of significant note is that in addition to the iconic roles, Awa Kalu, SAN played in the teaching and mentoring of generation of lawyers that passed through him at the University of Lagos and Abia State University, he has as a member of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee profiled a galaxy of lawyers that were admitted to the rank of SAN for the two terms that he served in that capacity from 2015 to 2019. Furthermore, Awa Kalu, SAN was again decorated with the additional recognition and professional award of the prestigious Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
As is the case with mortals, Awa Kalu, SAN has had his bumpy rides in life. For instance, having lost his ‘hero-father very early in life, he battled with the post-civil war economic asphyxia that was the lot of persons of South-Eastern Extraction to acquire his education by the combined sheer determination and struggle of his beloved mother who was a teacher. Between years 2016 and 2017, he suffered health turbulence that occasioned multiple surgeries under extreme emergency situations within and outside the country. For the great deliverance by God Almighty and the restoration of his wellness, Awa Kalu, SAN, his dotting wife, EGORO, an astute lawyer herself together with their lovely children and grandchildren are exceedingly grateful to God.
It is befitting therefore, that as Awa Kalu, SAN today reflects on his journey these 68 years on planet earth and with innate resolve to march on to the biblical year of age 70 and beyond; his family, friends, ex-students, colleagues and admirers propose a toast of good health and all round serenity of the mind. Undoubtedly, turning 68 years in our clime together with the commemoration of 20 solid years of elevation to the elite rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria are indeed worthy milestones that deserve the rolling out of the drums for measured celebration.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my venerated teacher and learned brother Silk, Chief Awa Kalu, SAN; the ÓNOCHIE, Enia of Ohafia Udumeze!
Dr. Sonny Ajala, SAN, a legal practitioner writes from Abuja.