#OneNGWeekly (episode 27): Life History of Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams

Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams
Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams

Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams (SAN) was born on December 16, 1920, he was a prominent Nigerian lawyer and first Nigerian to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. In the 1950s, he was a member of the Action Group and subsequently became the minister for local government and Justice. He was the president of the Nigerian Bar Association in 1959, the association is the leading body for lawyers in the country. He left politics in the 1960s, as a result of the political crisis in the Western Region of Nigeria.

Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams is a senior legal practitioner in Nigeria. An acclaimed constitutional lawyer, he was the first Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the defunct 
Western Nigeria and the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1975.
Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams
Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams
Chief F.R.A. Williams had his primary education, first at the Baptist academy, Lagos from 1927 – 1928, and later at the Methodist school, olowogbowo, Lagos from 1928 to 1933, from 1934 to 1938, he attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos Chief Rotimi Williams could very well have been an engineer because he was awarded full scholarship to study Mechanical Engineering at the Yaba Higher College. However, he preferred to follow the footsteps of his father and grand uncle in the legal profession.  And so in 1928, he was sent by his father to the United Kingdom where he was admitted into Selwyn College University of Cambridge when in 1942 he graduated with the Bachelor of Arts Honour Degree.
Between 1942 and 1943, Chief Williams studied at the Grays Inn, London, where he qualified as Barrister-at-Law.  He was awarded the Master of Arts Degree of Cambridge University in 1946.  Meanwhile, in 1943, Chief Williams had enrolled as a Legal practitioner of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the only Nigeria among the six persons enrolled in that year, the remaining five being British expatriates.
In 1943, he became the first Nigerian solicitor to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and soon thereafter entered the political arena as a member of the Nigerian Youth Movement. He rose to become the movement's general secretary. However, the movement was soon embroiled in a crisis which dented its political support among the Nigerian masses. When the movement began to fade politically, he was one of the educated members of the Nigerian political class who joined the Action Group. He was the group's legal adviser in the early 1950s and was also a member of the Western region's privy council. He was elected into the Lagos Town Council in 1953 and was subsequently made chairman of the council. In 1957, he became the Western Region's Attorney General, the first Nigerian to be an attorney general. He was made Queen's Counsel in 1958, another first for him, as he was one of the first two Nigerians to be made one.
He set up the first indigenous Nigerian law firm in 1948 with Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode and Chief Bode Thomas. The law firm was called "Thomas, Williams and Kayode Between 1954 and 1957, Williams practised law, becoming Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1958. Before then, he had gone into politics, in deference to local pressure to continue the political vocation of his lawyer friend and partner, Bode Thomas who died on November 20, 1953.
Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams
Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams

 In the same year, Williams assumed membership of the Area Council. He became the first chairman of the Lagos Town Council. He was also secretary of the Nigerian Youth Movement. Following changes made in the Littleton Constitution, he was made the Minister of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in 1954. The appointments placed him in good stead within the Action Group and, at 33, he was already a member of Chief Obafemi Awolowo's inner cabinet. At 37 years, he became the first indigenous attorney general and minister of justice in the Western Region. In 1960, he became the deputy premier of the region, acting as the premier.

In October 18, 1975, Rotimi Williams became the chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee. The body was formed to present a draft constitution to be approved by the military administration of Obasanjo. He led the convention to present an agenda for broad coalition building across ethnic and regional lines. The body pushed for presidential winners to have at least 25% of the total votes cast in two thirds of the nineteen states in Nigeria and that each of the 19 states of the federation should have a minister representing them. The political parties should also have support in at least two thirds of the states. He died on march 26, 2005 (aged 84)


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