Her house is best described as Mecca of sorts as it is filled up in the morning, afternoon and night with people who needed help. People come from far and near to seek for assistance from Mrs. Bosede Fatunla, fondly called “Mama Lawyer.” She is highly respected by residents within her neighbourhood.
In fact, it took a lot of time and patience before our reporter could be given an appointment to interview her. Eventually when she had an appointment with her and got to her house around 6:15pm, she met Mama Fatunla attending to people who came for assistance. There was break in transmission while the interview was being conducted as people flowed into her house in twos and threes with personal and societal issues.
People who flock around her, see her as their God-sent angel. She always take her time to attend to guests who needed assistance one after the other. People who come to her house can be categorized into two; some come for assistance while some come to her to appreciate the deed she has done for them, bringing all sorts of gifts to appreciate her kind gestures.
However, Mama Fatunla always turned down the accolades and gifts because she believed her contribution to humanity does not cost her a dime. She offered advises when there is need for it and if the situation warrants her to go to where the issues would be settled, at her old age, she doesn’t hesitate to leave anything she’s doing to make people around her happy. She told Daily Newswatch: “I don’t need the money they offered me because I am content with what I have. The woman sitting there pointing to a woman sitting on her sofa, brought this envelope, she has been kneeling and begging me before your arrival to accept the token she’s offering. I told her I don’t want it but she refused to accept that fact. And the most amazing thing is that I don’t recognize most of these people.”
With all these selfless services she renders, how does she spend her day? Mama Fatunla said, she wakes up as early as 6:00 a.m. and before 7:00 a.m., visitors have started trooping into her house. “Hence, I don’t lock my doors, it’s widely opened and with God on my side, all the problems they brought here are solved.”
Speaking further, she said, “I have been advised many times to charge consultancy fees from people seeking for assistance while some people advised me not to attend to their problems at all. I ask myself why won’t I attend to them? I’m given the grace and the privilege by almighty God and I feel I should use it to help people in my own little way. I derive joy from what I do because it’s a form of relaxation. I don’t spend any amount for the services I render to them so why should I collect money from them.
“I’m satisfied with the blessings and prayers I received from people I render help to. I believe that the Almighty God answered their prayers on me because, at this age, I don’t know where I get the energy from. I am fit, I have sound health and I don’t put my mind on what I can’t get. I am content with what I have. If you have contentment, you won’t be greedy.”
Speaking about her background, she said, “I was born in Lagos on August 12, 1934 to the family of Mr. A. L. Phillips and Mrs. N. J. Phillips (nee Rickets). I had my primary school education at CMS Girl’s School, Broad Street, Lagos, between 1942 and 1949. “Growing up was fine. I grew up in a very good family. My mother was a teacher, we had enough to eat. We were not poor. Had it been we were poor, we would have problems. Things were fine and I didn’t suffer. We were not allowed to go out and our parents do not allow anybody to visit us. We don’t poke our nose into people’s affairs and we don’t go to people’s house. We abide by our parent’s rules and regulations.
“Then, Lagos was a very good place to live in. Everywhere was not rowdy unlike what exists now that we have thuggery, maiming and corruption everywhere. “After I completed my primary school education, I proceeded to Methodist Girls’ High School, Yaba in 1951. At the end of my first year at Methodist Girls’ High School, Yaba, I was given double promotion into class three in 1952 because of the brilliance and intelligence I exuded and this endeared me to all my teachers, they all loved me and were willing to sacrifice their time to render any assistance when I needed help. While I was in secondary school, my grades were never beyond, A+, A and the least A- in all her subjects and at the end of each academic session, I always received prizes on our prize giving days for many subjects.”
Reminiscing on the fond memories she had while growing up, Mama Fatunla stated that, “I was a member of the school choir which won many trophies at competitions with other secondary schools’ choirs. Also, one of the things I can never forget while I was in school was that I always celebrate my birthday every year in grand style. Whenever my birthday is coming, my mum would have made every necessary preparation and on my birthday, I always go to school, with jollof rice, birthday cake and ice cream for my friends and teachers.”
However, Mama Fatunla, noted that, people no longer celebrate their birthday. Adding that, “Maybe they think birthday is not worth celebrating.”
Speaking further, she said, “As old as I am, I celebrate my birthday every year and when I was nursing my children, I always celebrate their birthdays every year.”
Although she has had her fair share of life as she doesn’t know her father, she only saw how her father looks like in a photograph shown to her. She lost her father when she was two years old. She narrated that her father wanted to rescue a girl from falling into the sea but on the verge of rescuing the girl, both of them fell into the sea and that was how her father met his untimely death.
Years after her father’s death, her mother remarried and had two other children. She was the only child between her father and her mother. She described the relationship between her and her siblings as cordial. Adding that, “They see me not only as their sister but as their mother. I am twelve years older than my immediate sister.”
After she completed her secondary school education, she got a job as a teacher at the New Era’s Girls’ Secondary School, Yaba between 1956 and 1965 before proceeding to London in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece.
“When I came back to Nigeria from London, I went to the Federal Training College where I was taught shorthand and typewriting. I can write 120words/minute in shorthand and that helped me when I gained admission into the university to study law. I wrote all my notes in shorthand and I transcribed it when I get home.”
What prompted her to study law? Mama Fatunla said, “When I completed my studies at the Federal Training College, I got a job as a confidential secretary at the Cabinet Office, Race Course, Lagos. I later worked with the Federal Ministry of Justice and then the Supreme Court of Nigeria, it was then located in Lagos. While I was working with the Supreme Court, I was transferred to the State House Annex, Lagos, as one of their pioneer staff in 1976 as a Chief Inspector of Police. That was when I had the passion to study law. The passion was brought about by the attitude lawyers always portrayed in court and also their dressing was also an attraction. Therefore, I made up my mind to study law.
“I was on study leave with pay at the SSS when I was studying law. I was admitted into the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Akoka. I graduated in 1983 and went to the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos. I was called to the bar in 1984 and resumed to my office as a lawyer. “Upon my resumption, I was transferred to the legal department of the Department of State Services and I travelled on official duties to all states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and overseas.
“I retired in 1994 as an Assistant Commissioner and in 1996; I was offered an appointment at the Lagos State Judiciary as a Senior Magistrate. I worked as a Senior Magistrate in many courts before my appointment was terminated.”
Though she is retired but not tired, Mama Fatunla still practices her profession. She added that, “I am fit and I can still move around. I have a law firm I run with my son who is a lawyer too.”
She stated that the first time she appeared before the judge, she didn’t exhibit any fear since judges are human beings like everybody and the first case I handled as a lawyer was that of Gani Fawehinmi, his international passport was seized and I was in possession of his international passport.
She noted that she doesn’t have any mentor in the law profession because she believed those who you call mentors could force you to do things you don’t ordinarily want to do, so I follow my mind in anything I want to do.”
Fatunla, met her husband, Dr. Victor Olubi Fatunla, in her church in 1956 and got married in 1957. The marriage is blessed with children.
Looking back at the years she had spent, she noted that her most memorable day was when she had her first child. Like every expectant mother, she was anxious to see her baby on the day she was appointed to deliver the baby. But lo and behold, she was in labour for three days at the hospital, when the child was not forthcoming, she thought she would give up the ghost. “I was in labour for three days, and the nurse who stayed with me was praying that I should deliver safely. The doctor was about to refer me to Island maternity hospital for a caesarian operation when the nurse shouted all of a sudden that the baby is coming out. I was very happy at that time because I was very weak and I thought I would die.”
Although she is accommodating and amiable, she is a disciplinarian and does not tolerate nonsense from anybody. As a law-abiding citizen, she wants people to be law-abiding. She is also very kind and always ready to help. No wonder she is greatly loved by residents of her area and her colleagues at the Lagos State Judiciary.
Mama Fatunla revealed that at her age she dances contemporary music and this is possible because she evolves with time. She added that, “during our time, we dance juju music, but now, we have contemporary music. I made sure I learn the dance steps of the music because dancing rejuvenates me.”
She noted that her philosophy about life is, “do your best and leave the rest, always render help to people who are in need.”