08 May Tribute to Abiola Olufunke Anyakwo
This is one of the most difficult tributes I have ever had to write in my life because of the personal loss that I feel about Biola’s passing away. AOM (Abiola Olufunke Morgan, then later AOA, Abiola Olufunke Anyakwo, as we fondly referred to her in the office because it is the tradition to address each other with our initials) was one of the most adorable persons I have had the privilege to interact with.
Our paths first crossed sometime in 1982 when she was posted to Chris Ogunbanjo & Co where I was working at the time, as part of the traditional Law School office attachment. Biola worked directly with me and notwithstanding the fact that she was still a “student” I identified her huge potential because it came in the form of a remarkable dedication to the assignments I gave to her. She shared with me at the time, her intention to proceed for her Master of Laws degree after her Call to the Nigerian Bar. This venture took her to the prestigious University of Cambridge.
The following year, I left Chris Ogunbanjo & Co. to start the law firm known as George Etomi & Co. which later became George Etomi & Partners. Biola and I remained in touch; however, I was surprised when she mentioned that she would like to join me in the newly formed practice. I felt very honoured that she considered it worthy to work with someone who had essentially started a solo practice. I told her at the time that her enormous potentials might be better served if she worked in a more established law firm. After all, she had an intimidating CV.
- She won the Chris Ogunbanjo prize for the best results in the second year 1970/80 examinations of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos
- she won the Federal Government National merit Award in the year 1980
- she won the Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for the best final year student in the Faculty of Law 1981/1982 session
- she won the National Trustees Endowment Fund Prize for the best final year student in the Faculty of Law, 1981/82 session
- she won the Prize for the second best overall performance in the Nigerian Bar Examination held in May 1982
- she won the prize for the second best result in Civil Procedure Examination in the Nigerian Bar examinations held in May, 1982
- she also won the Prize for the best female student in the Nigerian Bar examination held in May 1982 and finally,
- she was about to be conferred with the Master of Laws degree by arguably, one of the best universities in the world.
Biola was adamant that she would like to work with me and so, right after her Masters degree, she applied for and was offered an appointment to work with George Etomi & Co. in August 1984. This appointment was historic, because it made her the first lawyer apart from me, the founder of the firm, to work in there. The four years she spent in the firm were truly remarkable. She applied her full intellectual ability to all assignments that she was given. I recall that some of the most esoteric work we had to do, we could accomplish because whilst I was doing the running around as they say, Biola very capably, manned the office and like a pre-programmed factory, churned out one excellent work after the other as the firm started to announce itself to the outside world.
I recall very vividly that we handled such high caliber transactions as representing the consortium of seventeen different international companies that won the contract to construct the Lagos Metroline Project. We also worked on several briefs that had to do with the construction of our then new capital city, Abuja. Notable among these are the negotiations of the construction of a five star hotel and the Jabi & Lower Usman dams, the two main dams that supply water to Abuja.
Her time in the office was also when the banking revolution in Nigeria started and our firm was engaged to do the foundational works that saw to the birth of some of the largest banks in Nigeria today. There is nothing that gives confidence than to know someone is taking your back and Biola took my back. Through her, I met her lovely mother, her entire siblings, Jinmi, Remi and Seye and those she has also acquired along the way, Beatrice, Yinka and Sade.. I also came to know some of her wonderful cousins, especially Mrs Ekua Abudu (Nee Sagoe) and Mrs Subu Giwa-Amu (Nee Adebola) who later worked with the firm. I also met some of her most loyal friends who have remained so till this day. There was no way anyone who knew Biola would not know the Morgans and it is not a surprise that the Etomi and the Morgan families share a lot of warmth and closeness.
One enduring quality of Biola was her genuineness. No airs, no overbearing disposition and plain likeable. She maintained this consistency of character and I was not surprised when she met her husband, Immanuel who greatly appreciated her, for these and many more. Biola was one gem of a woman. When sadly she lost him over a decade ago, she dedicated her love and career towards bringing up their children, Evita, Nonso and Chifum. I was her confidant and she spoke to me on just about any subject and even three weeks before she passed on, we spoke for over an hour on various issues, including some personal challenges she was facing. Nothing in all of this conversation prepared me for the news of her demise.
It will take some doing for all these to sink in, but all I can ask is for Our God and Father to accept her beautiful soul. She served Him through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and I am confident that she will be accepted into His Kingdom.
Finally, my heart goes out to her children, her siblings, cousins, friends, and everybody else Biola touched in one way or the other. I can only say thank you to God for the gift of Abiola Olufunke Anyakwo (nee Morgan).
George Etomi (GUE)