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Professor Egerton Uvieghara, outstanding intellectual, retired erudite Professor of law at the University of Lagos, former Chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright Council (NCC), former Commissioner at the Nigerian Law Reform Commission, detribalized Nigerian and man of great character and unquestionable integrity, has passed on, on the same day, August 28, that I lost another older friend of mine, another inellectual and staunch supporter, “Guitar Boy”, Professor Victor Efosa Uwaifo.
In January 2020, I had made a promise to Prof Uvieghara who played a frontline role in the development of the copyright system in Nigeria and who cut the tape at the commissioning of what is now referred to as the “magnificent” COSON House in Ikeja. I told him that on the 9th day of May 2020, I would host a significant red-carpet birthday bash in his honour at COSON House to thank him for his indelible gift to the Nigerian creative community and his unflinching support.
I had started conceptualizing the event. Truly, I started making plans for what I had hoped would be a talk-of-the city occasion. OMG! COVID-19 came from wherever to scatter the world and make nonsense of our plans. I eventually took a number of my friends and colleagues and headed for the Prof’s Magodo GRA home in Lagos with two cakes, bottles of wine and quite a bit of small chops and we had a great time.
In May 2021, I was back in Magodo with more friends. We even took a small band with us. Of course, Prof never stopped reminding me of his 80th birthday ceremony when I brought a big band to his home and the likes of the late Majek Fashek and Azeezat Allen practically ‘scattered’ Magodo. On that day, we kept Magodo singing and dancing all evening long. Professor Uvieghara was worth every note of music that was played to celebrate him.
If you knew the great Professor Egerton E. Uvieghara well, you might be offended and ask who gave me the audacity to refer to him as my friend. I will not be surprised if somebody even accuses me of name dropping.
Before you get angry, let me say that I did not on my own decide to call this extra-ordinary Nigerian my friend. His repeated and consistent behavior towards me which lasted decades assures me that Prof would have taken no offence with my reference to him as my friend. Indeed, Professor Uvieghara who was 22 years older than me continuously referred to me as his friend everywhere and treated me as if we were age mates and equals.
Prof Uvieghara was one Nigerian who fully supported the work that I do and understood my dream for the Nigerian creative family and shared the value of giving one’s all to what one believes in. Wherever and whenever I had an event, you were likely to see Prof close to me and nursing a bottle of good wine.
I recall when the Hon. Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, visited the “magnificent” COSON House in 2017. Prof Uvieghara also arrived for the reception for the minister. I then sought to introduce the Prof to the Minister and the Minister rebuked me with the words, “the gentleman you are trying to introduce to me was my teacher at the University of Lagos” At the event, I found out that Prof Uvieghara also taught Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President, at the University of Lagos. The incredibly unassuming Nigerian taught many senior advocates, many professors, many judges of courts across the country including judges of the Supreme Court. Some of his students include retired Supreme Court Justice Niki Tobi and Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun. In fact, if you are an outstanding Nigerian lawyer, chances are that you have been taught by Prof. Egerton Uvieghara or by someone taught by Prof. Uvieghara. He taught me the law of Copyright and graciously wrote the foreword to my book, ‘Copyright & the New Millionaires’.
With Professor Uvieghara as Chairman, I served on the committee that drafted the present Copyright Law which was first enacted as Decree 47 of 1988 and which repealed Decree 61 of 1970 and set up the Nigerian Copyright Council (NCC). I subsequently served with him on the Governing Board of the NCC. Professor Uvieghara and I were given the further assignment to draft the first amendment to the law. We took the assignment very seriously, and with one Bayo Aiyegbusi, a very hard-working public officer as our secretary, we produced the document that was promulgated on December 28, 1992, as the Copyright Amendment Decree No 98 of 1992.
It was absolute joy working with Prof. We had vigorous arguments about language, construction, principles and policies and not once was any of our arguments driven by ego or end in any negative thoughts. Our objective was always to do the best job possible and I learnt so much from him. Professor Uvieghara was never afraid to say the truth as he saw it to anyone no matter the cost.
Presently, I am mourning a number of my friends who just passed on but I have decided not to mourn Professor Uvieghara even as I miss him very dearly and miss all the great time we had in Magodo and elsewhere. I will rather continue to celebrate the life of a very uncommon Nigerian who took me like his brother and gave me love in full measure. At 85, Prof Uvieghara lived a full life and was not afraid to go. He understood the depth of life, yet the shallowness of life. His friends and family should be happy that he came, he saw and he conquered.
Adieu my friend.
See you next week.