Yemi Oke
8 Assiniboine Road, Apartment 1511, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1L4, Canada
Osgoode Hall Law School, 4700, Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3, Canada

27 March 2005

Timi the Law: Chief Fredrick Rotimi Alade William and His Footprints on the Sands of Time, Justice and the Law

The death of Chief Fredrick Rotimi Alade Williams on 26 March 2005 came to me, like several colleagues world over, as rude shock. The legal profession, the country and those of us who are associated with him by virtue of common origin of legal tutelage at "The Law Offices of Chief FRA Williams, No1, Shagamu Avenue, Ilupeju Lagos", the "Black Table" would feel a sense of loss for years to come.

Looking at the pictures "Baba" took with our set together with all his four sons (Ladi (SAN), Folarin (FRA Jnr.), and Tokunbo (SAN)-all lawyers but one who is a very successful agriculturist), it appears difficult to realize "Baba" is indeed gone on "retirement" away from Courts which he had resisted for decades when same was suggested to him. 'Baba" would make you realize that since the death of 'Mama" law practice was the only companion he had and would keep donning his wig and gown for regular court attendance perhaps until he dropped dead in the court room. "Baba" left no one in doubts that he would practice law until death do him part with the legal profession.

In his personal life, "Baba" kept legal-workholism and worked hard to ensure continuous contributions to and development of law and legal profession even at age 84. The late legal sage sleeps late and wakes up 5.00am, which virtue, he informed us, was imbibed from his mother. "Baba" was a family man and lover of people. He combined his law practice with management of huge extended family and each member had his/her share of "Baba's" undivided attention, magnanimity, love, and others. Free lunch to lawyers in his law office remains unrivalled save for another law firm of one of the "Black Table" alumni, Babalakin & Co where I, by providence, did my NYSC (National Youth Service).

FRA was a sport lover. Until his death, every December 16 or following Saturday was devoted to soccer competition between the teams of professional and administrative staff of Chief Rotimi Williams Law Chambers to round-off activities marking his birthday celebrations. My only regret on this was that, having played full-back position for the "Black Table" (professional team) about four times (1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002) we had only one victory over the administrative staff in 2001 and "Baba", being a member of our team, was helpless each time we were defeated by support-staff.

In the legal profession, "Baba" took the law head-on and has left indelible marks on the legal profession and justice. Until his death, FRA had the most contributions to the development of the law. Several of his cases at the Supreme Court in the late 1950s till 1990s (and early 2000s) formed the locus classicus and legal principles of law on the subjects. Time constraints and the need to avoid making this piece a legal write-up would, however, not permit me to embark on "expository evaluation" of such cases.

Chief Rotimi Williams' family is the only one in the country to have produced five generations of lawyers: his grand-uncle Rotimi Alade, his father, himself, his children, his grandchildren. He personally produced two SANs (Senior Advocate of Nigeria-equivalent of Queen's Counsel) among his four sons and a niece head-of-chambers (Mrs. Williams) as another SAN making four SANs in his office until his death. Aside from being the first QC (Queen's Counsel) and later converted to SAN in Nigeria, "Baba's" brother, Mr. Akintola Wiliams, is the undisputable doyen of the accounting profession in Nigeria.

Though his parentage had prepared him for a challenging carrier in the legal profession, FRA was a teacher and master. His law office has produced the highest number of lawyers in the country and holds unbeatable records of "Black-Table" SANs (Senior Advocates of Nigeria), judges, legal administrators, law-teachers and several other para-legal personnel. The Friday meetings at the "Black Table" with "Baba" provided invaluable opportunity to learn law from its cradle. The meetings not only provide opportunities to interact with "Baba" at personal level and ask him questions, but also to dissect, construct and re-construct the law.

In the coming days/weeks encomiums and tributes will begin to pour on the legal icon, the late Chief FRA Williams for his contributions to the legal profession, lawyers and legal personnel, cause of justice and the entire country.  However, the present leadership of the legal profession including coming generations of lawyers would need to strive hard not only for sustaining the level of "Baba's" contributions to the cause of law, justice and legal profession, but also for ensuring that the legal profession and the legal mechanisms/machineries in the country which the late FRA had toiled day and night for decades to keep dignified continues to play its roles in the unfolding socio-political and economic dispensations of our great country, Nigeria.

I sympathize with the family of the late sage, the legal profession, the entire legal family of FRA (fellow Black Table) and the country for the death of Timi the Law.

Timi the Law; may your gentile sole continually rest in peace. Adieu Baba!

Yemi Oke