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Tochukwu Maduka: the man who will be silk

Tochukwu Maduka: the man who will be silk
December 07
16:07 2020

“Seest thou a man diligent in his works, he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men” — Proverbs 22:29

When the long list of legal practitioners being considered for the distinguished rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) for the year 2020 was published by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) on the 23rd of September, I had quickly rushed to WhatsApp to share the story with him, as he was the 69th candidate on that long list. “Congratulations in advance Sir. Hopefully, we seal it this time“, I wrote. To my knowledge, it was the second time; his name would be making it to the long list. And somehow, I had a sense of foreboding that this was his time. “Many thanks, Raymond. God bless. Let’s keep praying”. That was his simple and humble response.

Yes, prayer! And on the 13th of November, when word went to town that the final list had been released, that prayer was answered. One of the finest advocates I have ever met had just joined the enviable rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria. “Alas history is born. Christmas couldn’t have come earlier. Congratulations Learned Silk”, I felicitated with him.

The circumstances of our meeting some five years ago was rather fortuitous with the benefit of hindsight. And that chance meeting, needless to say, has made the difference for my career thus far. I had just been posted to Enugu State, southeast Nigeria for my National Youth Service Program in November of 2016. As the orientation program coincided with my call, on the 29th of September, that year, I had taken leave from the Awgu NYSC camp to attend my Call to Bar ceremony in Abuja, like other colleagues.

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After the event, I took the decision not to return to the camp without visiting some law firms in the Enugu metropolis to talk out the possibility of serving in their firm as NYSC-counsel. It was clear to me that a stint in a full-service law firm would shape my post-NYSC experience and possibly stand me in good stead for better career opportunities. Hence I made it a career priority. I had spoken to a number of colleagues I had met at the Law School, who schooled in Enugu, and understood the landscape of the practice there. A number of leading law firms were recommended to me: J.O. Ibik & Associates; Mogbo and Associates; Chuma Oguejiofor & Co; Ajogwu & Ajogwu & Associates, and of course Anthony Ani SAN & Associates.

On my return to the Coal City state, I took the decision to visit some of these law practices before returning to the orientation camp. In the end, I was only able to visit three. The first one was Chuma Oguejiofor & Co. Today, I can’t quite remember how my visit there panned out. The next stop was J.O. Ibik & Associates, belonging to one of the most senior lawyers in Enugu, if not the entire southeast. There, I met one of the Senior Lawyers introduced to me by a secretary whom I had told the purpose of my visit. After explaining myself to this lawyer, whose name I’m unable to remember now, he advised that Ibik & Associates was not the best place for me for a number of reasons, chiefly, that the Senior Advocate was almost retiring from practice, and that the environment wouldn’t guarantee my career aspirations from what I had explained to him. How kind he was!

He would however recommend Anthony Ani SAN & Associates. It was the third time that name would come up in recommendation. I quickly confirmed the address with him and dashed to the office at No. 11A Hillview Avenue, Independence Layout clutching a file that accommodated a cover letter, curriculum vitae and a number of documents. It was a very sunny afternoon. Decked in a blue suit, patterned necktie, a white shirt and a brown shoe, I thought I looked smart enough to make an impression to any prospective employer.

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I soon arrived at the address. Went into the duplex housing the firm, and introduced myself to the secretary. “I am Barr. Raymond Nkannebe”, brandishing my new professional status; “I want to see the practice manager”, I said, with some assurance. It wasn’t a portfolio she was conversant with, but she imagined, from her looks, that I wanted to see the most senior lawyer in chambers. “Does he know that you’re coming?”, she asked. “No ma. Someone recommended that I should see him”, I replied.

After sitting at the reception for what was almost an hour, I was soon beckoned to see him. There he was, sitting in his full glory, and as usual, with tonnes of documents lying in his front on a large desk. I sensed he was having a busy day. And I needed to be brief as much as possible. I summarized the purpose of my visit and handed over my CV to him, which he quickly went through. He informed me that it was no longer the firm policy to recruit NYSC counsel but was willing to give me a shot. He gave me his business card and asked that I should call back when I was done with the camp.

I thanked him and headed back home where I was squatting with a friend, with some joy, knowing that I had had a good day. The next day, I returned back to camp for what was left of the orientation exercise. I would be posted to the State High Court to serve as an assistant to a Judge, but it was clear to me that wasn’t what I needed at the time. I had had a good conversation with Maduka, and I was going to seize the opportunity. In the matter of a week, I was re-posted to Anthony Ani SAN & Associates as an NYSC-Counsel. It would become the proverbial road, less traveled by, but which made all the difference.

It was during the course of my service year that I would discover the full measure of the man I had sat with in dialogue over my career. Though his busy schedules made it difficult to always have him around in chambers, his presence in the firm was felt, nonetheless. An advocate per excellence by all standards, the grace, candor and humility with which he carries himself is writ large of his Alpha status. And it was always certain to me that it wouldn’t be long before he took Silk.

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Working closely with him within that short time loop exposed me to so many intricacies of the arduous yet interesting profession of law practice. For example, hitherto, my notion of the great advocate was that of the loquacious and garrulous lawyer, who heckles and babbles in Court and even constituting a nuisance to the solemn ritual of adjudication. But all of that would change, thanks to this advocate of distinction. On one occasion of appearing with him before their Lordships at the Court of Appeal, Enugu, I was stunned by the measured and convincing tone with which he addressed the Court on somewhat recondite points of law, to the great admiration of the justices, and I should think, those of other lawyers in the Bar too.

It happened that I looked forward to always appearing with him. An opportunity that came in trickles owing to his far and in-between availability for the greater part of my service year. However, I endeavored to make the best of the few ones I had.

Within the short space of my career, I have seen a few lawyers with better-written advocacy skills more than those possessed by Tochukwu Maduka. Little wonder he has excelled tremendously in appellate practice, where the art of brief writing is tasked. The simplicity, yet persuasive force of his writing as vindicated in the numerous briefs and written addresses settled by him, which I spent a great part of my service year, pouring over, puts this beyond the realm of peradventure. His uncanny ability to deploy language to make even the most implausible of legal propositions, intelligible, is something that should be studied. I still have hard copies of Briefs of Arguments, and Final Written Addresses settled by him which I’ve had to go over on occasions, as I continue to perfect my own art of brief writing — a tool that shouldn’t be lacking in any lawyer’s box.

Testament of his advocacy skills is vindicated in the pages of our numerous law reports. From cases bordering on declaration of title to land; wills intestacy and succession; pre-and post-election petitions to chieftaincy matters; criminal litigation to matrimonial causes; to name a few, Maduka has no doubt contributed his quota to the development of our legal jurisprudence, and in record time too, having regard to his circumstances.

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His way to the top was never a rosy one. Indeed as Chinua Achebe wrote of his tragic character, Okonkwo, in his magnum opus, Things Fall Apart, if there was a man who deserved his success, that man was Tochukwu Maduka. His career trajectory is a worthy reaffirmation of the old rule that hard work, diligence and patience, pays. Whereas his career had started outside of Enugu, it was in the old Eastern capital, that he would cut his teeth under the guidance of Anthony Ani SAN, who saw what an excellent advocate the young Tochukwu would become, and gave him a platform to unravel and evolve. Looking back today, it is the story of vision, promise and purpose, finding fulfillment, thanks to the character and attitude of Tochukwu Maduka, all of which has eventually paid off today, as he rises to the pinnacle of law practice, distinguished and celebrated by his peers and superiors alike.

Born on 10th November 1976, into the family of Mr. Philip and Mrs. Victoria Maduka of Ezere, Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, nothing could have given him an inkling for this great feat he has attained. In a sense, his career progression is the vintage story of grass to grace and an expression of the Igbo wisdom: “nwata kwocha aka, osolu ndi okenye rie nni”. Called to the bar, 17 years ago in 2003, after graduating from the University of Nigeria, his career was launched at the Osun State Ministry of Justice where he served as NYSC-Counsel. From there, he traveled some 215 kilometers to take up the position of Associate-Counsel at the Lagos office of Ikeyi & Arifayan & Associates. It was while at the law practice that he began to learn the rudiments of litigation and advocacy. He would however subsequently, berth at Anthony Ani SAN & Associates where he quickly rose to become the Head of Chambers and presiding over the firm when its founder, Anthony Ani SAN, served as the Attorney General of Enugu State between 2011-2015. Having served his master, boss, mentor, dutifully well, he received his blessings and went on to found Tochukwu Maduka & Co in 2013, but however retained a chair at Anthony Ani SAN & Associates, which was why I was able to meet him 5 years ago.

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A dutiful family man, married to Chioma Maduka, a union which is blessed with 3 children, his balance of the tasking demands of family and raising children, with the equally jealous career of law practice, is a tribute to his organizational, leadership and managerial skills which he does almost effortlessly. I think his source of strength and pillar of support, beyond his loving wife, must be his abiding faith and trust in God, to whom he never fails to return all the glory for his numerous career successes. His Catholic faith is not in doubt, and as a matter of fact, he wears them like a diadem with his rarely updated WhatsApp profile picture, bearing images of Mary, the Mother of God, and sometimes the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or other Catholic-based religious images, all as a mark of his strong Catholic roots and beliefs. All of these must have been the product of his formative years at the Marist Brother Juniorate, Uturu, Abia State, a missionary institution where he had his post-primary education.

In the last days of my service year in Enugu, he was already spending more time at his own law firm: Tochukwu Maduka & Co and once shared with me his visions for the young law practice in my “thank you” visit to him. At the time, it already had the full trappings of the modern law firm: located in a serene environment in an upscale part of the Enugu capital; adequately staffed with all the paraphernalia of the modern-day office from furniture, television sets, internal communications network; an imposing conference room, well-demarcated offices, and a rich library. In précis, it wore the outlook of the thinking of a man who understands the demands of 21st century Law practice, in all material particulars.

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One could therefore imagine the joy of the inspection team of the LPPC who visited to have a sense of the environmental outlook of his law firm as part of the qualification process, hence why they found him worthy of the enviable rank.

Make no mistake about it; his elevation is no doubt merited, as it is an overdue commendation for his hard work and contributions to the practice of law, and a tribute to the content of his near impeccable character. The course of his career is a worthy guide for every young lawyer out there who intends to build an illustrious career in law practice, particularly as an advocate.

We can all expect that this deserved award would spur him to even greater excellence, as I am convinced that his best years are still ahead of him.

Raymond Nkannebe, a legal practitioner writes from Lagos.

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