Olumide Aju
Home African CEOs Interviews How Olumide Aju SAN Became a Firebrand Litigator
Interviews - October 20, 2022

How Olumide Aju SAN Became a Firebrand Litigator

Olumide Aju (SAN) is a Nigerian thoroughbred litigator and a Partner at F.O. Akinrele & Co. He has an impressive track record as a trial and appellate lawyer. 

Aju says his career success is a direct result of the kind of training he had at the University of Lagos by sound legal tutors who espoused the highest standards, something he admits is missing in today’s educational system. 

In this interview with Business Elites Africa, he talks about his courtroom stories and how he started handling cases alongside heavyweight lawyers until he became a master litigator. 

BEA: Most lawyers I’ve spoken to were influenced to study Law by their parents. Was that your experience too?

Olumide Aju: Interestingly, my parents had different views. My mom wanted me to be a doctor, and my dad preferred that I should be a lawyer, but he didn’t express it. I was given the option to decide what I wanted to do. First and foremost, my grades in the art were actually much better than in the sciences. I had distinctions in Literature, Government, and other subjects. So, it just made sense that I would end up doing three advanced-level subjects in the arts in my A-levels. So, when I finished A-levels, it was either I studied Law or nothing else. Then after the program, I gained admission into the University of Lagos.

BEA: In the course of your studying Law, did you have any reason to think you shouldn’t have chosen Law?

Olumide Aju: Not at all. Now things have changed. The University of Lagos was the best place to be then. All our professor teachers wrote Law books. Professors taught me in each of my subjects. The faculty was probably the best place you could be. Everything about it was like you’ve made the right choice to read Law. 

BEA: How did your Law career start?

Olumide Aju: When I finished Law school, the best place to work, in terms of good income, was in the oil & gas sector or banking sector. They paid almost ten times better than you could earn as a young lawyer. But the training I had at the University already prepared me for a litigation and advocacy career. So those options were not just attractive. I remember I got a job to serve in the bank, but I turned it down. I could easily have applied to the legal department of an oil company; I would get it. But I’ve been trained by exceptional lawyers. We read many judgments and could anticipate being in court and appearing before judges like Kayode Esho (late Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria). Even before then, the names that we heard were those that you just want to be close to based on their work. So, there was no other option than to start to practice.

BEA: Turning down a lucrative job offer for something that’s not financially rewarding, at least in the short run, must be difficult. What gave you that conviction that it was the right move? 

Olumide Aju: There was also a subtle radical aspect of me wanting to help the less privileged. I was involved in student unionism on campus to a large extent. This part of me was inspired by some of the books I read in A-levels and my exposure to firebrand lawyers like Gani Fawehinmi. They defined what Law practice should be, and as a young man with many ideas, you just feel compelled to add your own positive contribution to society, and Law provided that platform for me to do it.

BEA: What was your most challenging case?

Olumide Aju: Interestingly, every case presents an opportunity for me to be my best. No matter how simple the issues are, no matter how small the claim could be, no matter how uninteresting some other people may think the case is, when I take a file, I believe that it is the chance for me to market myself in terms of what I know or what I can do.

Therefore, I would read, write my brief differently and do my pleadings differently. So, by the time I am done with the case, I’m satisfied that I have put in my best. I’m not quite sure that I’ve found any case particularly challenging as such. I could tell you that, without boasting, I’ve got an outstanding record, as per the success rate in the court cases I’ve handled. So I won’t use the word ‘challenge’. It’s always been an exciting thing to do.

BEA: What was your breakout case? The case that first put you out there?

Olumide Aju: It depends on the audience that you are looking at. Moreso, at the trial court, a long time ago, long before I became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I had the rare privilege of appearing before Senior Advocates who were already practising at the inner bar. I knew I was meeting the heavyweights, so I’d always prepare well. So when you talk about breakout cases, I had been noticed by these older lawyers long before now, by just doing my everyday, ordinary work and all that. But if you say breakout to the larger public, you have to look at the Law reports, and then you go to the appellate courts to see some of the appeals that I’ve had to argue and that I won. There are quite a number of them.

There was one interesting case that went all the way from the High Court in England to the House of Lords. It was a major dispute case that was said, at that time, to be the biggest case in English history. There was an aspect of the case that had to be litigated in Nigeria for enforcement process. I was involved in the case with one of the top lawyers around, Professor Konyin Ajayi and Dr. Wale Olawoyin (SAN). I was very happy to be part of that case. Many other interesting cases like that have provided a platform for me to grow and present myself to the larger public.

Read the full interview in our magazineBuy Now!

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