‘I studied law to assist the poor’

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ahmed Adetayo Adetola-Kazeem is the son of Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem (SAN).  The 2009 Law graduate of the Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State,was the only Nigerian among 1,000 young Africans selected for the 2017  Mandela Washington  Fellowship Award launched by former US President Barack Obama in 2014. He speaks with ADEBISI ONANUGA on his foray into law, among other issues.

Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem observes political developments. He is fascinated by the calls for restructuring of the country by different nationalities. But he believes that the country’s major problem  is insincerity and deep hatred for one another.

“If all these ills are not addressed, restructuring won’t yield any result even if the country is restructured on family basis,” he said.

According to him, the anti-corruption campaign of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is yielding some results “but I am of the view that it is selective. If the government is serious about the war, there should be no sacred cows. The federal and state civil service should be cleansed as this is the engine room of corruption. Lastly, with the crops of senators, we can’t win the war against corruption. I suggest the Senate should be scrapped”.

Adetola-Kazeem, director and Founder of the Lagos-based Prisoners Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI), developed  interest in the affairs of prison inmates during one of his humanitarian visit to Ijebu Ode Prison as a law student of Olabisi Onabanjo University, (OOU) Ago Iwoye, Ogun State.

“I remember promising some inmates that I will come to their aid when I get called to the bar.  My activities took off  largely because of that promise”, he said.

He said his journey into advocacy has been tough and rewarding. According to him, “delayed justice has been a problem; also assessing funds to execute and expand our services has been a huge challenge. However, my little effort has given me some recognition like the Mandela Washington Fellowship, finalist at the International Bar Association Pro- Bono Awards 2013, Best Youth Corps Member in Abia State, 2010, among others. I was equally selected as one of the 12 finalists out of over 4000 applicants at the British Council Future Leaders Connect programme.  I couldn’t attend the final selection event because I was in the US for the Mandela Washington Fellowship”.

However, much as he laboured to make a success of his pet project, the major challenge remains funding and sustainability because no amount he placed into the activities relating to the project has ever been enough.  He said there is much to be done but that funds have been limited.

On his feelings on th Mandela Washington Fellowship , he said: “The feeling is mixed. I was very elated to have been picked out of 64,000 applicants across Africa and 22,000 Nigerians for the life-changing programme. However, I was not happy that the Federal Government is not doing enough to honour its young heroes. Even when the US government selected us through a very thorough and transparent system, the government did nothing o encourage or honour its own”.

On his thoughts for reforms in the judiciary, he said he would like to see “courts that are fully automated to bring to an end the need for judges to write in long hand. The provisions of the ACJA should be domesticated by all states. Its provisions which requires that criminal cases  should be concluded in 180 days and that application for stay of proceedings will not be entertained will go a long way in ensuring speedy dispensation of justice if fully implemented.

Ahmed is the only one in a family of four that took to  law after their father, Chief Gani Adetota-Kaseem.  “Initially, I chose law because my dad is a lawyer, but when I realised that law can be a veritable tool for social change and a means of giving voice to the voiceless and putting smiles on the faces of those who never thought they could smile, particularly, the indigents, the zeal to becoming a lawyer increased”.

He said he would have studied psychology. “The human mind and behaviour fascinates me. I would have loved to dig deep into how the human mind works,” he said.

Though influenced by his father, the British Council Future Leaders Connect programme finalist said he had no regret being a lawyer. “Though the legal system is frustrating, particularly when you consider delays in trial and other things. I believe there are still a lot of things to cheer about”, he noted.

Adetola-Kazeem is impressed with arbitration as a means of dispute resolution.            On his vision for the future the legal profession, he said, “I hope to see a profession where lawyers will practise with dignity, skills and  diligence and judges will administer justice speedily, efficiently and fairly. I hope to see a legal profession where lawyers are well paid and the dignity of the profession restored.

Unlike some lawyers would want to do, he is not nursing any ambition to cross to the bench.  “I am too restless to be on the bench. I will love to remain at the Bar so that I can continue the very many things I am doing at the moment.

He said he had no problem getting married to a lawyer, if that is what love brings his way. He said he would encourage any of his children who decides to follow his footpath. “I can’t be part of anything I won’t encourage others to be part of. I would encourage one or two of my children to read law to continue the legacy,” he said.

“In the next decade, by Allah’s grace, I hope to be at the top of the profession in learning, character, honour, influence, service, humility, wealth and achievements. I hope to be an inspiration for my generation and coming generations,” he added.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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