Biography of Dr. Mudiaga Odje SAN

Born on September 25, 1923 in Evwreni, Delta State Nigeria, Dr. Mudiaga Odje was a Legal Luminary and one of the few attorneys to have shaped both the constitutional and legal systems of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was the lead Counsel in the case wherein the first impeachment of a sitting Governor in Nigerian legal history was successfully upheld. Odje was one of the only and foremost lawyers to have successfully persuaded the Supreme Court of Nigeria to overrule itself on a previous decision and accept his contention as the correct position of the law.

Dr. Odje was a man who valued education and knew its importance to the development of man, hence he preached the sermon of education to the upcoming generation. He ensured that his seven siblings (all male) read up to university level, and also made history in Delta State by making five successful lawyers out of his seven male children; while the other two are also doing fine as university professor and accountant outside the shores of our country. He did not limit his interest in the education of his children, he also assisted in educating others.

This is the story of the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in Urhoboland, Dr. Mudiaga Odje (OFR), who transited into the great beyond peacefully at about 6:30p.m. on Friday December 9, 2005 at the ripe age of 82 years.

After the death of the legal icon was made known to the public by one of his sons, Barrister Okiemute Odje, relations and friends from all walks of life have been trooping to his G.R.A Warri residence to register their condolence, making the once quiet area busy. Notable and highly distinguished Nigerians have since been registering their condolence. Honourable Justice E.O. Akporido of Effurun High Court described late Chief Odje as a great man who contributed immensely to the development of law in Nigeria. While Hon. Justice (Mrs.) E. Akperi of the same court described him as a source of encouragement to the younger generation. Hon. Justice R.N Pemu simply described him as a rare gem.

Read: Biography of Eyitayo Jegede (SAN)

On his part, Barrister Albert Akpomude (SAN) who worked under Chief Odje said his former boss was “the icon of the NBA, the lone star of the Warri branch of NBA, and a foremost lawyer in Urhobo nation.” The incumbent chairman of NBA, Warri chapter, Ojo Abijogun simply said: “An iroko has collapsed, our foundation has shaken,” while another legal luminary in Urhoboland, Chief Okpoko (SAN) described Chief Odje as a merchant of honour.

An Itsekiri historian, J.O Ayomike in his brief comment described Dr. Odje as a good man. While another prominent Itsekiri figure, Chief O. Temile stated that “Chief (Dr.) Mudiaga Odje was a very jovial and friendly man.” Chief F.O. Esiri, one of Dr. Odje’s contemporaries simply said: “Rest in peace after a job well done.”

Speaking in the same vein, one of the children of the deceased, Barrister Okiemute Odje, said: “Daddy has not died, he has gone home. He has fought a good fight. And he has achieved everything a man could ever wish for. All we need is prayers and strength to give him a befitting farewell.  “His admirers should begin to celebrate, to thank God, and wish to have another great Urhobo man who would be able to take his position.”

Dr. Mudiaga Odje (SAN) OFR was born in Evwreni, Ughelli North local government area of Delta State. Between 1934 and 1940, he attended Catholic Primary School, Evwreni and Anglican School, Warri, for his primary education and teacher’s training course. He also trained at the Government Teachers’ Training College in Warri from 1944-1945, thereafter, he taught at the N.A. Schools in Uzere and Ughelli, the Salvation Army School, Sapele, and Urhobo College, Effurun between 1946 and 1954.

He read law at the University College and the School of Original and African Studies, both of the London University, and successfully completed the legal profession course at the Council of Legal Education, London, and was duly called to the English bar by the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, London.

He returned to Nigeria in July 1961, but went back to London three years later to complete his doctoral programme. Until his death, he was mainly engaged in private legal practice, but also devoted time for national and other professional  obligations outside the country.

Dr. Odje was called to the English Bar on February 9, 1960 and enrolled at the then Federal Supreme Court of Nigeria on July 24, 1961. He became a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers in December 1976, and was conferred with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on January 12, 1978. He was later conferred with the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) in October 1982.

He was the leading counsel, Hon. Justice Begho Tribunal that probed assets of former public officers of Midwestern Region, Benin City, in 1966; member of the Midwestern Nigeria Delegation to the ad hoc constitutional conference in Lagos between 1966 and 1967; president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) from 1974-1976, and was elected to represent Ughelli and Isoko local government in 1979. He was chairman, Odje Commission of Inquiry, Bendel State from 1975-1976; chairman, Federal Government commission for in-depth study of the Nigeria /Benin boundary dispute, including the maritime sector between 1989 and 1990.

Dr. Odje became a life bencher on March 30,1989 and was past chairman of the Honourable Body of Benchers of Nigeria from 1996 – 1997. He was also responsible for the admission and call of new entrants to the Nigeria Bar during this period, and was the chancellor of the Diocese of Ughelli, as well as legal adviser of the Diocese of Warri, both of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), and member, Oputa Human Rights Violation Panel of Inquiry.

Odje was a holder of four chieftaincy titles, including Olorogun and Okakuro in Urhoboland and Delta State. He will be greatly missed by his wife, Chief (Mrs.) Paulinah O. Odje (JP); children, family, colleagues, friends and staff for his love, support, humane and kind disposition to those who came in contact with him, one way or the other.

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