“A lawyer lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his country” -Christopher Sapara Williams.
We delve down memory lane in salute of one of Nigeria’s most brilliant minds, foremost lawyer and campaigner, Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams.
The course of Nigeria’s legal history in 1879 forever changed when trailblazing Sierra Leonean-born Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams became the first Nigerian to be called to the English bar.
Born 14 December 1855 in Sierra Leone, the elder brother of Oguntola Sapara, a widely popular doctor during his time, although reportedly an Ijesha indigene, Williams studied Law at Inner Temple in London.
In 1888, Williams headed back from the United Kingdom to the Lagos colony, further enrolling in the Nigerian Bar Association – while there, he became chairman from 1900 to 1915 when he passed.
In 1901, he joined the legislative council and served till his death. Two years later in 1903, Williams bagged a knighthood nomination from Sir William MacGregor GCMG, CB, AM, FRSGS, then colonial governor, it was however turned down by the British Royal House.
In 1904, Williams set forward an amalgamation motion advocating that “the entire southern region be brought under one administration so that the entire tribes of the Yoruba-speaking people should be under one and the same administration”.
In 1905, Williams visited England’s Colonial Office and lent his advice on several policies including the establishment of a teachers training college in Lagos.
Sapara Williams was noted for fighting for just causes including press freedom and anti-slavery. In 1914, when Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated the new legislative council was headed by the Governor, seven British officials, two British non-officials, and two Nigerians, one of whom was Williams.
Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams CMG left his mark both in the Nigerian legal and political worlds during the colonial era. He held the chieftaincy title of the Lodifi of Ilesha.
He died 15th December 1915.