By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Elder Chibuike Nwokeukwu (SAN), an Aba-based lawyer, was among the thirty lawyers who were recently conferred with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). His journey to achieving this feat could be aptly likened to Tennyson Ellilot’s Odyssey ” The Journey of Magi”:
“A cold coming we had of it,Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp,The very dead of winter.’And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,Lying down in the melting snow.There were times we regretted The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
“Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away, and wanting their liquor and women, And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
“A hard time we had of it. At the end we preferred to travel all night,Sleeping in snatches,With the voices singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly. Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
“Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation; With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness, And three trees on the low sky, And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
“Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver And feet kicking the empty wine-skins But there was no information, and so we continued And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory. All this was a long time ago, I remember,
“And I would do it again, but set down This set down This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
“We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death”.
The Magi ( the wise men from the east), in their long and adventurous journey to discover where the saviour was born encountered difficulties. They were exposed to weather conditions that were not in any way clement. They slept in open places and were mocked by the locals. They had no water to drink, and no food to eat. Their horses suffer sore foot.Sometimes their horses opted to ran away and abandon them on the trip. But despite these challenges, they persevered and were able reach their destination, and behold the Saviour they were looking for. The Magi were eager to engage in another adventure of such nature if given another opportunity and this informs the line” I should be glad of another death”.
The above story illustrates that those who quit in any pursuit because of the difficulties associated with the pursuit never win because “winners never quit”. Nwokeukwu’s experience in his journey to SANship aptly captures this illustration. In several occasions, his application to be elevated into the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was stalled due to constant change in the rules.
His experience was aptly captured in the address he presented on behalf of the 2017 class of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on their confirmation on 18th September,2017 thus:”My Lord, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, let me at this juncture make a personal confession. When your Lordship’s name was in compliance with SECTION 231 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), submitted to the Senate for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria, I joined millions of other Nigerians in praying for you.
“In fact , I personally prayed and fasted for three consecutive days. On the third and final day of this spiritual exercise, it occurred to me to amend my prayer points to then accommodate my own personal problem, being most auspicious time to do so, knowing what I had gone through with my repeated applications to be elevated to the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. I then called upon God and said thus:” Oh God, see your son Walter, an Erudite Scholar, a good man, an honest man, a courageous Jurist, eminently qualified to be the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Father, also see me, another good man, who is also eminently qualified to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I have been severally HIT in the past by the constant change in the Rules.
“You are the God that searcheth the Heart, please God search the Heart and confirm that I will be made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria this year under his watch. If so, then hear our prayers and confirm him, but if not……
“My Lord, today, you are confirmed Chief Justice of Nigeria, and myself confirmed Senior Advocate of Nigeria”.
Elder Chibuike Nwokeukwu (SAN) is the first son of Elder Josiah Nwokeukwu and Deaconess Ezinne Rachael Nwokeukwu. He hails from Umuakwu Nsulu in Isialangwa North Local Government of Abia State. He had a distinction in his primary education. He attended Wilcox Memorial Secondary School, Aba, and the prestigious University of Ife.
He graduated in 1979 and proceeded to Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos, where he made a second class honours.He was called to the Nigerian Bar in July 1980, and was posted to Borno State for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
He returned to Aba in 1981 and had stint in the Law Chambers of reputable legal minds of that time such as A.S Nwala & Co, Chief Nnanna Nwa Nwachukwu, Chief Max N.C Ubani, G.I Isiguzo. He established his own chambers on March 4, 1984.
Nwokeukwu completed his Master’s degree in Law at a record time of 12 months in 1983 at Abia State University, Uturu. He is a member of the Governing Council of the University. He has served the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Aba at various capacities: Social Secretary, General Secretary, Vice Chairman.
Nwokeukwu, an elder of the United Evangelical Church (UEC) is married and the marriage produced four children.
For him , his elevation to the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria is a dream come true.”It’s a fulfillment and an accomplishment, attaining the climax of one’s chosen career.
In his words:”It’s note worthy that at the age of eight at the Bar, instead of constitutional minimum age of ten, I was severally recommended for elevation to the higher bench. I politely turned down these offers but insisted that I must be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. It did not matter how long the pursuit lasted. Perseverance for me was the watchword”.
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