James Ajibola Idowu Ige was born on the 13th of September 1930 in Zaria in Northern Nigeria. His parents were natives of Esa-Oke town, in old Oyo state(now in Osun state). He studied at the Ibadan Grammar School (1943-1948), then went to the University of Ibadan and ending up at the University College London, graduating with a Law degree in 1959. He was called to the bar in London’s Inner Temple in 1961.
Ige established Bola Ige & Co. in 1961 and later became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). During Nigerias first republic (1963-1966), at the age of 31 he became the National Public Secretary of the Action Group (AG). Under the military government of General Yakubu Gowon (1967-1970), Ige was a commissioner for Agriculture in the now-defunct Western region of Nigeria.
In the early 1970s, he devoted his time to the anti-racism campaign of the World Council of Churches. He joined the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), towards the end of the 1970s. On that platform, he was elected governor of Oyo state from October 1979 to October 1983. He ran for reelection in 1983 but was defeated by Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo. This victory was challenged in court by Ige unsuccesfully, but Olunloyo lost his seat 3 months later to a coup staged by General Muhammadu Buhari.
Ige was unlawfully detained after the coup and was accused of enriching party funds. He was released in 1985 by Ibrahim Babangida who overthrew Buharis government in a coup in 1985. He returned to his legal practice and to writing, publishing several books. He was a founding member of the influential Yoruba pressure group, Afenifere.
In 1999 after the restoration of democracy, Bola Ige attempted to contest to become the president of Nigeria, on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) but was rejected. The winner of the election, General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, appointed Bola Ige as minister of Mines and Power, before moving him to become Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this capacity, Ige campaigned against the imposition of the Sharia law in northern state of Nigeria.
Chief Bola Ige was about to take up a new position as Africa’s Representative on the United Nations International Law Commission when he was gunned down in Ibadan, Oyo state. Ige was shot dead at his home in Ibadan. He had been entangled in squabbles within his party, Alliance for Democracy, this lead to fingers being pointed at then Deputy Governor of Osun state, Iyiola Omisore as being responsible for the murder. The killers till date have not been found.
Some of his published works include Golden qoutes: a selection of my favourite inspirational qoutations, Detainee’s diary and People, Politics and Politicians of Nigeria.
The United States Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria named the American Corner in Abuja “The Chief Bola Ige Information Technology Center” after him.
Bola Ige spoke the three major Nigerian languages; Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa fluently, and had a first degree in Classics: Latin and Greek.
He was an accomplished lawyer and family man. May He continue to rest in perfect peace.