Legal icon and retired Supreme Court Justice, Chukwudifu Oputa, is dead. He was aged 96. He died yesterday at the Abuja home of his music superstar son, Charles Oputa,otherwise known as ‘Area Father.’
Justice Oputa left behind his 92-year-old wife, Margret. Amidst tears, she described her late husband as a man of peace. She was inconsolable, as she wailed and recounted her good old days with the respected Justice.
Justice Oputa , until breathing his last in the afternoon, was said to have read newspapers with his grandsons. Reliving his father’s last moments with members of the house, Charley Boy said there was no premonition that he would die yesterday.
His words: “My Dad read newspapers and joked with his grandchildren this morning (that was yesterday). He told me in the morning, ‘please sorry for the inconveniences.’ I told him which ‘inconveniences? He was served his food and he ate very well and cracked some jokes.
“His facial look didn’t suggest someone who was about to die. He looked strong and boisterous.”
The entertainment guru described his father as a man of peace, who preached peace, justice and fair play even at the point of death .
“My father was a man of peace. He hated cheating. He told us always to be fair to everybody,” the younger Oputa said.
On his relationship with his late father, he said: “ Initially, he was not happy with me but we reconciled 25 years ago. His name was precious to him, he always warned me against doing anything that would tarnish his name. We have been living together because there was nothing I consider priceless than them. “
Asked if his mum can cope without the late Justice, he said : “I don’t know oo. You can see the way she has been crying . We don’t know what to do to stop her from crying. They were too close. Only God will console her.
“ It is painful for me, he is a man of peace. We discuss everything especially politics and governance.”
On what the late Justice thought about Nigeria before his demise, Charley Boy said :” He was pained about the killing of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram sect. Most of the discussion I had with him in the last few months centered on what must be done to return the country to glorious era.”
He did not mention when the burial of the icon would take place. He simply said “when the time comes we will let everybody know”
Other members of the family also wept profusely for the late jurist, but the cry of the aged wife eclipsed that of other mourners. She called him several pet names, shook her head timelessly and often clutched the air to drive home her pain.
Justice Oputa,who had battled debilitating ailments, suffered stroke last year.
Three lawyers, former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), Chief Funke Adekoya (SAN) and a human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) have eulogised the late legal icon, saying that he would be remembered for his landmark judgements.
Ojo said, “He was an iconoclast of humanity, the Socrates of our time and one of the finest breed of jurisprudence and a commitment to justice. His death is indeed the drawing of the curtain on an era in the justice sector that generations after would forever long for. He belonged to the ages, his memories are naturally bound to be immortal. We shall all surely miss him”.
For Falana, “Owing to his prodigious grounding in philosophy, he was referred to by his learned brethren as the Socrates of the Supreme Court. His commitment to social justice was unparalleled. At a time in the 1980s the jurist allied with Justice Kayode Eso and Justice Andrew Obaseki to form a trinity of judicial activists who mobilised the Supreme Court to grant justice to all classes of people even if the heaven would fall.
“The greatest tribute that can be paid to Justice Oputa is for the Federal Government to release the report of the Oputa Panel and proceed to implement the recommendations of the panel. For the legal profession, Justice Oputa should be celebrated for his incorruptibility and consistent defence of human rights, rule of law and democracy.”
Adekoya said, “the Bar has lost another of its icons, our own Lord Denning. He was one of the greatest philosopher judges Nigeria has produced, and his judgments always displayed an interplay between law and morality. He has gone to rest, but remains with us through his judgments and legal writings.”