Tunji Braithwaite (Olatunji Akintunde Braithwaite) was born in 1933, the youngest son of eight children. He was educated at the prestigious C.M.S Grammar School, entering the school’s Preparatory Section in 1946 and completing his education there in 1953.
Olatunji Akintunde Braithwaite proceeded to sit for his A Levels at the London University at Kennington College in 1955 and enrolled in 1957/58 as a Law student at the Council of Legal Education, London. He was admitted into Lincoln’s Inn that same year and graduated as a barrister in 1960.
Tunji Braithwaite Full Biography And Profile
From his early career as a brilliant young lawyer through to his old age, Braithwaite was constantly confronted with numerous social ills and the pervading corruption which have become entrenched hallmarks of Nigeria. He began his legal career in 1961 with the establishment of the law firm Tunji Braithwaite & Co and quickly earned himself a reputation of being one of the brightest and best lawyers of his day.
With an impressive clientele base comprising the likes of multinational giants Swissair, BASF, Hoescht and Julius Berger, he built up an an enviable law practice and carved a niche for himself as a leading litigation lawyer. Consequently, he successfully handled several landmark cases including the celebrated Treasonable Felony trials of 1962/1963 and State vs Eyo which brought further acclaim to the firm and later in 1974, remarking on his conduct of State vs Olabisi Ajala, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said, “I think Tunji is a brave lawyer of whom our profession should be proud”.
For young Braithwaite whose professional profile was rising steadily, the future was very bright. Then came Fela’s case in February 1977. This marked a turning point for Braithwaite. The State’s flagrant disregard for the rule of law in one of the worst atrocities on innocent and unarmed civilians ever heard of in peace-time led to a significant paradigm shift in the life and career of the lawyer.
He went back to the drawing board and resolved to commit the rest of his life to the fight for social justice and the fight against corruption and executive lawlessnesss. In 1978 this new course saw him form and single-handedly fund the Nigeria Advance Party NAP, the first truly socialist political party Nigeria had ever seen. The party’s motto was ‘together we take the destiny of Nigeria in our hands’.
Commenting on his foray into politics in his book Emancipation of Africa, renowned professor of political science Eme Awa decribed Braithwaite “as a lawyer and multi-millionaire who carried out a considerable amount of social mobilisation among the middle and lower classes….and put so much energy and his personal wealth into the quest for a new social order in Nigeria”.
Tunji Braithwaite went on to contest Presidential elections in 1983 alongside Nnamdi Azikiwe, Shehu Shagari, Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano and Waziri Ibrahim within what Awa described as “the framework of the decayed political system.” Expectedly that system ensured that he did not win.
During the Buhari-Idiagbon regime, at a time when several Second Republic politicians were tried for various embezzlement and corruption charges and put behind bars, Braithwaite’s passport was unlawfully confiscated by the authorities in their bid to restrict his international travels.
Not one to be discouraged by setbacks, he threw himself into intellectual work, enrolling as a long-distance PhD student of the Columbia Pacific University, California to produce a doctoral thesis which resulted in his authorship of the classic book The Jurisprudence of The Living Oracles.
The second edition of the the book has received widespread attention as well as several notable reviews at home and abroad since its publication in 2011 and is under considerable demand from leading universities around the world most of them Ivy League institutions.
AN UNCOMPROMISING VOICE
Braithwaite has remained a powerful and uncompromising voice against socio-political ills plaguing the nation from the 70s till the present day.
In 1990 in the immediate aftermath of the April 22 Gideon Orkar-led coup, he publicly denounced the imposition of the death sentence on the coup suspects by the Babangida junta. Days later his home was besieged by battalions of soldiers who in his own words ‘abducted’ him and imprisoned him under inhumane conditions at three different locations namely the Directorate of Military Intelligence DMI Apapa, Abalti Barracks and finally the Creek Military Hospital Ikoyi over a period of two months.
In 1997 during the dark days of Abacha’s transformation agenda from Military Dictator to Civilian President, there was an unspoken declaration that there was no vacancy at Aso Rock which compelled presidential hopefuls to drop their ambition in order to concede to the undemocratic and absurd notion of a consensus presidency in favour of Abacha.
Tunji Braithwaite challenged the dictator’s obnoxious plan on the platform of the Grassroots Democratic Movement, the very platform from which the dictator had chosen to emerge. The party Presidential Primary elections were rigged amid heavy military presence at the Maiduguri convention ground but undeterred, Braithwaite continued the fight to stop the military dictator’s transmutation plot in the law courts.
Days after the Court of Appeal held that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case, Abacha died. The death of the military dictator ushered in a new dawn for Nigeria as the Abubakar Abdulsalami military Government pledged to conduct credible elections which would return the country to democratic civilian rule.
Braithwaite formed a new political party – the Democratic Advance Movement DAM whose motto was: “Righteousness exalts a nation”. The party’s manifesto proposed Devolution of Power to the regions as the bulwark for simultaneous rapid economic and sustainable development for the country’s six Geo-political regions thereby destroying the current monolithic economic system, bane of corruption. Under this program, power would devolve to the regions with each region harnessing all its human and natural resources, creating prosperity and bringing infrastructural development.
In turn The Center would focus on territorial military defence, general policy formulation and implementation of fiscal and monetary policies. Furthermore under this system the regions contribute tax to the Central Government whilst maintaining autonomy over their own resources. Subsequently, Braithwaite’s Devolution of Power as the panacea for the nation’s ills has been variously renamed ‘Resource Control’ by other political groups and has since been bandied as indeed the only way forward for Nigeria.
Even in his old age, Tunji Braithwaite has continued to be dogged in the fight against social injustice, corruption and all forms of national malaise, actively participating in protest marches, rallies and national debates of public interest and calling for revolutionary reforms in all sectors.
- Tunji Braithwaite Biography And Profile (Olatunji Akintunde Braithwaite)