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Prof Ben Nwabueze (1931-2023)

One of Nigeria’s foremost constitutional lawyers, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former Minister of Education, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, died a fortnight ago. Eni Nwabueze,…

One of Nigeria’s foremost constitutional lawyers, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former Minister of Education, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, died a fortnight ago.

Eni Nwabueze, in a statement on behalf of the family, confirmed that Prof. Nwabueze (SAN), the Oduah Afo-na-Isagba of Atani, Anambra State, “Died in his Lagos apartment about 4pm on Sunday, October 29, 2023.”

Prof. Nwabueze, fondly referred to as the “Professor of Professors,” was born on December 22, 1931, in Atani, Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State.

A recipient of several chieftaincy titles and the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award, Professor Nwabueze was made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1978, strictly on the basis of his published works. He was the pioneer Secretary-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.

His academic pursuit started at the CMS Central School Atani (1938-1945), and CMS Central School, Onitsha (formerly, African College), 1947-1950. He later went to the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London (1956-1961) and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1961-1962).

From 1962-1965, he was Senior Lecturer at Holborn College of Law, London and Senior Lecturer, University of Nigeria Nsukka, 1967-1970. In 1971, he was Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Zambia and Director, Law Practice Institute, Zambia (1973-1975).

Prof. Nwabueze earned his Doctor of Laws (LL.D) at the University of London in 1978, based on his three outstanding books – Constitutionalism, Presidentialism, and Judicialism. 

A seasoned academic, Nwabueze was a member of the Senate of the universities of Lagos, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland, 1971-1978.

He was appointed the University Assessor for Academic Appointments, Universities of Ghana, Lagos, Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and UniJos,1978-1979.

Prof. Nwabueze was the proud author of over 30 books and treatises with an average extent of 400 pages. They include; The Machinery of Justice in Nigeria; Constitutional Law of the Nigerian Republic; and Nigerian Land Law and Constitutionalism in the Emergent States. Others are Presidentialism in Commonwealth Africa, Judicialism in Commonwealth Africa; The Presidential Constitution of Nigeria; A Constitutional History of Nigeria; Federalism in Nigeria under the Presidential Constitution; and Nigeria’s Second Experiment in Constitutional Democracy in Africa in Five Volumes.

He wrote over 200 articles in academic journals and more than 100 keynotes at local and international conferences. He was also appointed to professorial chairs in the following universities – Zambia (1970-75), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1974) and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1975-76).

He was also appointed as Visiting Professor of the Anambra State University of Technology and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (1989-1993)

A strong advocate for the Igbo cause, Nwabueze, alongside other prominent Igbo sons, including Dr Akanu Ibiam, Chief M. I. Okpara, Chief K. O. Mbadiwe, Pius Okigbo and Chief Jerome Udoji, co-founded Ohanaeze Ndigbo in 1976. He served as pioneer Secretary-General (1978-2004). In this capacity, he transformed the body into a formidable, highly regarded non-partisan pan-Igbo pressure group.

He founded the Igbo Leaders of Thought, a group made up of eminent Igbo scholars, thinkers, and statesmen and took over from Chief FRA Williams in The Patriots, an organization of eminent leaders of Nigeria.

He is being mourned by eminent Nigerians with President Bola Tinubu condoling with the Nwabueze family, the government and people of Anambra State on his passing, stating that “His involvement in the drafting of the 1979 Constitution is a legacy that stands him out as well as his outstanding contributions to the legal profession at large.”

A former vice president and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections, Atiku Abubakar, said in a statement that he shared a refreshing bond with the legal icon. Atiku stated: “He was a fine scholar, who carried himself with excellence and had an avuncular mien. I fondly recall my encounter with him in 2018 at his country home in Enugu State, where he reminded me of the unfinished Nigerian project. I feel proud to describe the late Professor Nwabueze as my kindred spirit.”

Indeed, the Nigerian constitutional evolution and that of the entire legal system of the country would not be complete without the invaluable contributions of Prof. Nwabueze, especially in the areas of academics and publications. He sustained a reputation as a prodigious intellectual, teacher, mentor to many and his service of God, the country and humanity.

We, at Daily Trust newspaper, join other Nigerians in mourning the death of this distinguished citizen and pray to God to give the family the fortitude to bear the loss. Nigeria and indeed Africa will miss his indelible footprints on the nation and continent’s legal system and jurisprudence.  He will be sorely missed.

May his soul rest in peace.


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