Within the legal profession, her name is big. She is one of the most accomplished lawyers in the profession. She has been practicing Law since 1963. But Chief (Dr) Mrs Folake Solanke is quite modest about her accomplishments in life and career. She is humble to a fault. Though she is hugely successful, she is a very modest woman.
She turned 90 on Tuesday, 29th March 2022 but she does not look it at all. She still looks refreshingly young. She is fit and agile. She is also smart too. She does not need reading glasses to read. Her skin is fresh and tender. And she has remained her prim and proper self. She is English in her way of life.
That is understandable. She studied abroad for years, especially in her formative years. She is the epitome of what you can describe as a lady. Call her a lady of substance and you won’t be wrong.
The story of Chief Folake Solanke is the story of an amazing woman who had over the decades become an icon for the younger generation to emulate and copy.
“Lawyers see her as an icon of cerebral dexterity and uncompromising honesty in the legal profession. And her chamber is noted for decency”, remarked the Hon. Justice E.O Fakayode, a former Chief Judge of the High Court of Oyo State.
She is also known as the lady of many firsts, among which are: 1st Lady State Commissioner in the old Western State (1972); 1st Lady Chairman of the Board of WNTV and WNBS (1971), 1st Lady Senior Advocate of Nigeria (1981), 1st Governor, Zonta International District, Africa (1982) and 1st Governor, and 1st non-caucasian to be elected Inter. Presdient of ZONTA International (1992).
And her very many firsts have earned many appellations and aliases. Some call her Queen Of The Bar. Others call her Lady SAN, Lady Silk and many more.
She schooled in London. She studied Law and she was one of the earliest female lawyers. She was also the 1st female SAN in Nigeria. She was given that honour in 1981. She has been practising law for decades. She is famously called Lady SAN. Though from Ikorodu, she has lived all her life in Ibadan. Though she never went into Politics, she has served in public service. She was once a Commissioner in Western Nigeria.
She speaks Queens English. Her delivery is superb. Don’t forget she is old school. She is good at what she does. In her legal career, she has handled so many landmark cases. And she is actively in service.
She is the daughter of late Chief J.S. Odulate, the founder of Alabukun Powder. Her elder sister is Chief (Mrs.) Stella Odesanya (MFR) who turned 96 a few months back. She is a very disciplined woman, blessed with impeccable manners. She is prim and proper. She lives a regimented life. She has a specific time she sleeps. She has a specific time she wakes up. She eats healthily. She does not take nonsense. She does not suffer fools gladly. She is always fair in her dealings with people. She is a widow. Her husband Prof. Solanke died a few years ago. She is content with life. She is content with her modest successes. She is decent. She has continued to live in the same house she and her husband lived in for decades. It’s an old house in an exclusive part of Ibadan. It’s in a GRA.
She will always tell you that what shaped her is the kind of principled upbringing, she had as a kid, growing up. Her impressive story is contained in her autobiography which she has updated over the years. The story of her late dad and his remarkable life of inventions occupy a large chunk of the book.
In its 15th March 1981 edition, Daily Times gave her the title Lady SAN.
This appellation was 1st used to refer to her in the caption under a photograph taken by Cornelius Oyemade, the ace society photographer. Since then, 1st Lady SAN has become her 2nd name.
She was also the 1st female ever to occupy a cabinet position as a state Commissioner in the old Western State of Nigeria in 1972 in the cabinet of Brig Gen. Oluwole Rotimi (Rtd). She left in 1974. She was also the 1st woman to lead ZONTA International.
In the course of her Law practice, she has handled hundreds of cases, both Civil & Criminal at all levels of court.
She schooled in Abeokuta and Methodist Girls High School, Lagos. Her university education was in England.
Many do not know that her 1st career was teaching. She taught at Yejide Girls Grammar School, Ibadan. She taught Latin & Mathematics.
She was a junior in Late Chief FRA Williams, QC Law office in Ibadan from 1963 to 64. She was the 1st Junior to work in the Chief, office. She left Rotimi Williams, Chambers at the end of 1965 to set up her own Law Chamber, she established her Alabukun Law Chambers in May 1966 in Ibadan. At that time, there was no law office being solely run by a female Lawyer in Ibadan.
She started practicing law in 1963. On 15th March 1981, she was elevated to the rank of SAN. She was the only woman. The rank of SAN is the apex for a practicing Lawyer. She was the first woman to wear the silk and sit in the Inner Bar of the Supreme Court. She remained the only female SAN for more than 8 years. In 1989, another female lawyer, Chief (Mrs) P.C. Ajayi-Obe was conferred with the prestigious rank.
All her seniors have had good things to say about her. Hon. Justice Kayode Eso commended her diction, style and command of English in his book, The Mystery Gunman.
Hon. Justice Thompson, in his book, Reminiscences at the Bar, also commended her when he wrote, “she possesses the genius and pulchritude of Cleopatra.”
Mrs Solanke admitted, in her autobiography, that one of the things that have helped her legal career is her application of the discipline of Mathematics to the discipline of Law.
Over the years, she says she has continued to enjoy advocacy. “I love advocacy and the cuts and thrust of the courtroom adversarial contest,” she wrote in her autobiography.
Late radical Lagos Lawyer. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) described her as a Brain and a Beauty at the Bar. We almost forgot to tell you that she became the 1st Yeyemofin of Ife in 1981.