Tribute to Deji Sasegbon, SAN
By George Etomi
Deji Sasegbon, SAN, ‘D-Shash’ as he was known to his friends, died in the early hours of Saturday 10th December 2016, from complications arising from a stroke he suffered about two years ago. Deji was one of the most amiable persons that I had the privilege of interacting with from childhood, through university and as colleagues practising at the bar. Deji was full of life and I recall in the glorious days of student life at the university of Ife, one Sunday when we conducted a motor bike race from the university gate to the T junction facing the majestic university library built at the time of Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi, the towering Vice-Chancellor, who took that university to international heights. However, on this particular occasion, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade had come to resume as the new Vice- Chancellor, only for him to meet a full fledged bike race. He was horrified, to say the least. Incidentally Deji won that race, but in the process, crashed into the wall demarcating the library from the main road. Thankfully, he didn’t suffer from any serious injuries. This was innocence of student life at its height and I am happy that we all enjoyed that life.
Deji eventually graduated with honours from the university in 1979 and was called to the bar in 1980. After his National Service, he worked at the Ministry of Justice in Lagos for ten years, during which period he earned the reputation of being a diligent prosecutor and brilliant advocate. Deji’s height at 6ft6 told a lie about his temperament, for someone that tall and well built, he was as gentle as they came. His soft spoken manner hid a determined resolve to excel. It was therefore not too much of a surprise to me that when he went into private practice, he quickly identified a niche for himself. He went into law reporting, because he identified that finding the law was a particularly laborious task for the average lawyer in Nigeria. So alongside his law practice, he established the publishing company known as dsc Publishers Ltd, and proceeded to publish the Supreme Court law reports. This was a remarkable feat, and will perhaps go down as one of the achievements for which he will forever be remembered. The publication which has over thirty eight volumes, has been a gift to the Nigerian lawyer and is a massive contribution to our legal jurisprudence. He did not stop at this report, he also proceeded to do a compilation of the Companies and Allied Matters Law and Practice (CAMA).
With the advent of ICT, Deji remained at the top of his game, and he deployed IT to create a platform where legal texts were exposed to over ten millions users on the internet worldwide. Through this effort, he has ensured that the legal landscape in Nigeria has been altered for good.
Deji was called to the inner bar in 2004 and participated in landmark trials all over the country. Obviously his dedication to publishing gave him an edge in court, because he had on his fingertips, the latest decisions of our various courts to debunk any claims made by the opposing counsel. He has practised alongside other remarkable and brilliant lawyers like Professor Yemi Osinbajo (now Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN (Governor-elect of Ondo state) and Mr Charles Edosonwan, SAN and I’m sure all of them can attest to Deji’s dedication to the profession.
I cannot end this piece without saying a word about Deji’s loyal and dedicated wife, Oge. To put it mildly, Oge is a wife, mother and companion of immeasurable dimensions. She stood by and nursed Deji from the time he became incapacitated by the stroke, until he took his last breath. It is easy to assume that this is the least a wife can do for a spouse, but I can assure you that, until we are all put to the test we may never tell how we can respond to such a challenge. Oge kept her vows and for better and for worse and in sickness and in health, she stayed with Deji to her eternal credit and respect. God the comforter of all, will ensure that all honest doors will open to her and their lovely children.
Only last summer my twin brother, Mike and I, in the company of Deji’s longtime friend and colleague Arobo Kalango, spent quality time with him in the suburbs of London, where he was, for medical treatment. As much as we could, we relived the good times. He responded to such warm company with his characteristic grace and humour, which he never lost throughout his ailment – and I will always hold this dear to my heart.
Only two days before he passed, I was at First Cardiology Hospital, Ikoyi where I met his entire family by his bedside. I am sure Deji passed peacefully in the knowledge that he was surrounded by all those who cared for him in this life. Perhaps I should echo the words of Oge to Charles Edosonwan and I at the hospital. Her advice was short and crisp. “Please gentlemen, take time to look after your health in spite of your busy schedules.” Deji delayed a vital check up because he needed to tidy up a very crucial matter for a client and ended up with a stroke.
I recall my days as Chair of the Section of Business Law (SBL) where on the advice of my twin brother, Mike and our bosom friend Dr Yemi Johnson, we included health talk as part of the agenda of the SBL. Perhaps it is time to advice that the NBA should prioritise this in their program, even though this does not appear to be a core law subject. In a profession as highly charged and intense as the legal profession, it is important to understand that knowing the vital signs of our bodies is key to successful practice. Incidentally, some of Deji’s doctors, Yemi Johnson, Seyi Roberts and Kofo Ogunyakin were constant resource persons at the health segment of the SBL conferences, and I am sure they agree that there is a lot that we can benefit from staying in good health. I thank them too for the care they took of Deji and for being such true friends.
I reserve my last words for some clients Deji worked slavishly for, and who have adamantly refused to pay him, in spite of the fact that he needed every kobo to take care of his health. Now that he is gone, I hope they can still redeem themselves and honour his memory by paying off their debts, so that at least his grieving family can meet up some of the medical expenses incurred over the period.
To Deji’s mum and siblings, I can only say take heart. Deji was a perfect ambassador of your family. He came, he saw and he conquered. He added value to a name that he inherited from his forebears and we thank God for it. The legal profession in Nigeria is truly grateful to this amazing legal colossus.
Rest in Perfect Peace.
By George Etomi