LAWYERS4CHANGE

Saturday, October 25, 2008

COUNTDOWN TO 2008 SAN AWARD: MATTERS ARISING


On 14th October 2008 the Supreme Court of Nigeria, invited 57 lawyers to attend an interview on 30th October, 2008 to determine their final eligibility for the award of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The fifty seven invitees are:
1. Kola Babalola
2. Emonema B. Ukiri
3. Nella E. Andem-Ewe
4. Henry O. Ogbodu
5. Fredinand Orbih
6. Dan Ose Okoh
7. Arthur Obi Okafor
8. Charles Ajuyah
9. Nelson Ajuzie uzuegbu
10. Karina Tunyan
11. Oguneso Rotimi Oluseyi
12. Olabisi Oluyemi Soyebo
13. Abubakar Malami
14. Lawal Rabbana Rafiu Adeyanju
15. Eyitayo Jegede
16. Kehinde Kolawole Eleja
17. Joy Okungbowa Adesina
18. Suleiman Abdulkadir
19. Prince Orji Nwafor Orizu
20. Anthony Aondoakaa Ijohor
21. Ikechukwu Ezechukwu
22. Adetokunbo Omorogie Okeaya –Inneh
23. Mike Agedor Abu Ozekhome
24. Cyrill Oluwafeyisetan Toyin Pinheiro
25. Falana Obafemi Patrick
26. Olusina Rafiu Sofola
27. Ogunde Oluwemimo Adepoju Revell
28. Clement O. I. Okwusogu
29. Oyesoji Gbolahan Oyeleke
30. Dr. Abiodun Ishola Ismail Layonu
31. Oluseye Samuel Opasanya
32. Sagay Omatsoguwa Mogbeyi
33. Babajide Olatokunbo Koku
34. Fagbohunlu John Babatunde
35. Dr. Joseph Agburuwhua Nwobike
36. Ogunba Adekunle Babatunde
37. Obatosin Ogunkeye
38. Etigwe Uwa
39. Andrew Osaro Eghobamien
40. Norrison Ibinabo Quakers
41. Daramola Lucas Olu
42. Rotimi Jacobs
43. Oladipo Aigbedo Okpeseyi
44. Theophilus Kolawole Esan
45. Adebayo Adeleke Lawal
46. Alhaji Olasunkanmi Alimi Sanusi
47. Akinbiyi Oluseun Tayo
48. Ayoola Olufemi Ajayi
49. Chiesonu Igbojamuike Okpoko
50. Lawal Mohammed Pedro
51. Olumide Sofowora
52. Donald Chika Denwigwe
53. Francis Chukwumaeze Dike
54. Ulasi Raleke Obiefuma
55. Njemanze Ken Chukwuma Ohir
56. Eze Duru-Iheoma
57. Ephraim Thomson Onyewuchi Njoku
The invitation interestingly enough was made public via newspaper advertisement (The Guardian) on Tuesday October 14 2008. Even more interesting is the invitation to the members of the General Public to feel free to comment on the “INTEGRITY AND COMPETENCE” of the invitees and send same to one Usman Alhaji Musala, simply described as “Secretary” (one presumes Musala is the Secretary of the Privileges Committee). Below is the reaction of the Squib to the advertisement.


1st Gossip: Praise God, Nigeria is getting better. Honestly things are changing for the better.
2nd Gossip: I am not too sure about that. Well, why did you say that?
1st Gossip: (Pushing page 88 of the Guardian Newspaper of October 14 2008 into 2nd Gossip’s hand) Read this advertisement.
2nd Gossip: (with a snort). But I have seen it already. Invitation for Senior Advocate Interview. What’s the big deal there?
1st Gossip: There is plenty o! In the past you don’t even know anything about the selection process. Those days, it was the more you look, the less you see. The process was near abracadabra. One day you just woke up and saw that Lagbaja, Tamedo and Lakasegbe had become silk!
2nd Gossip: (Sneeringly). But now you are well informed eh?
1st Gossip: At least better that was the case in the past. Now these short-listed candidates we know them, and they are even asking for our comments on them. Lest I forget, some of them are even activists, radicals, progressives. In the old days they would not touch any radical with a long pole.
2nd Gossip: (Even more sneeringly). And who are these your radicals and progressives?
1st Gossip: Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome
2nd Gossip: Is Patrick a radical. Is Abu a progressive?
1st Gossip: Who is Patrick, and who is Abu?
2nd Gossip: Look you! So you don’t know that Femi Falana is actually Patrick and Mike Ozekhome has a Muslim name of Abu, Abu Olododo? As far as I am concerned they are no radicals.
1st Gossip: (genuinely alarmed). What? Falana is not a radical, Ozekhome is not a progressive? Such prominent human right activists are not radicals? Then what are they?
2nd Gossip: Smart Nigerians who have become wealthy through the cultivated and calculated practice of eye-catching, safe, social and socialising agitations.
1st Gossip: (dumbfounded) Ah! Ah!
2nd Gossip: Stop pretending my friend. Was it not last week that you appeared on LTV and joined two others to berate “so called human rights activists?
1st Gossip: But did I mention Falana? Did I talk about Ozekhome?
2nd Gossip: Leave matter! Mind you, I have not said they are not good or competent lawyers. What I don’t want to hear is this radical stuff.
1st Gossip: It is only God who can save you! But do you agree it is a good thing that the invitation is made public and the public invited to send comments to the committee. To me, the committee is telling the Nigerian public to be part of the selection process of would be-silks.
2nd Gossip: I guess the term “Public” include members of the legal profession, advocates particularly.
1st Gossip: Yes you are right.
2nd Gossip: Do you think members of the Nigerian Bar are that alive to their social responsibility? Many lawyers are no different from the average Nigerian who has little or no time for public affairs and good. We see evil all around us, but we keep mum. We hear reports of evil, we keep mum. We only talk when evil is visited directly on us.
1st Gossip: But are lawyers like that too?
2nd Gossip: Very much so. In the profession, there is a lot of jankara and jibiti going on, but we keep quiet especially if the pepetrator are senior, elderly lawyers. We know of criminally stupid and stupidly criminal judges, but we look the other way. Nobody wants to rock the boat even though the boat is sinking rapidly.
Even now, how many petitions do you think the Privileges – Committee will receive from the bar against these applicants. Pretty little. Could it be that all of these short-listed candidates are free of valid and tangible indictments?
Yet we own the profession and the general public that responsibility, to speak out against evil and evil doers, so that misfits will not be promoted and glorified, undeservingly.
1st Gossip: But when they said people should send their comments on the candidates’ integrity and competence, it doesn’t mean the comments should only be negative. It can be positive
2nd Gossip: I agree absolutely. The only problem is that I won’t put it pass a smart applicant to hire a band of emergency supporters to flood the committee with flattering praises and recommendation.
1st Gossip: Oh what a cynic you are?
2nd Gossip: I have no apology for that. This is Nigeria. Things hardly are what they silk to be. Don’t you know that this SAN award thing is a project and only those who tackle it as such gets it.
1st Gossip: Project? Project ke?
2nd Gossip: Oh yes, it is a project. Let me tell you some of the steps to take if you are serious about getting the silk.
1st Gossip: (taut with interest) I am all ears.
2nd Gossip: First, beg, borrow or safely steal seven to ten million naira. Then remove your chambers from the “manage-manage” quarters you’ve always been, to a big five bedroom bungalow, or a duplex in a neat, high-brow area. Take at least a three-year, before the third year runs out, you should have become a SAN. That will set you back with about three or four million naira. Thirdly, establish an impressive looking library. With about two or three million naira you should quite a collection of law texts, reports and journals.
Of course another million or two naira will take care of office equipment and furniture. Then ensure you employ at least five well behaved (docile more like it) juniors, who you know have no hert, or nerve or commonsense to undermine your application by the disclosure of certain smelly chambers’ matters and affairs.
Please set down about a million naira to upgrade your wardrobe. A would be silk should not share appearances with wretches. Of course you will need at least one impressive looking car, preferably an armed robbery inducing - Jeep, not the types that resemble towing vans. Of course you should have enough change left to cover at least three year applications (just N200,00:00 per application).
Of course, I assume that by all means necessary, you have the requisite number of briefs in the Superior Courts, and the last but not the least, you possess at least one truly influential MENTOR to ease your way through and knock off obstacles from your path.
And, one more thing. Yes, one more thing. While you are applying for silk, don’t ever get cross with judges, no matter how odious they are. You just be a sweet banana and a cool cucumber. You know your humility is only for a time. The time will come, that you, with your silk firmly under your belt will become a cock of the bar.
1st Gossip: Are you saying all the 57 invitees have taken these steps you mentioned.
2nd Gossip: I cannot say. And, none of them consulted me.
1st Gossip: You that have accused the bar of failing to speak out on issues when necessary, let’s hear your views about these invitees.
2nd Gossip: I object. First I don’t know all of them, in fact I only know a few of them. Then secondly my views, if any are to be sent to the Privileges Committee and not to you.
1st Gossip: Comment on the ones you know and those your comments I can send or forward to the Supreme Court.
2nd Gossip: Very well then. I only know Falana, Ozekhome, Lawal Pedro and Jacobs Rotimi, though he likes to call himself Rotimi Jacobs.
1st Gossip: What about them.
2nd Gossip: Brother Patrick (Femi Falana) is somebody I know very well in the bar; not in the court-room. Very intelligent and an arresting orator. As an activist he is controversial. Some respect, even rever him others deride and dismiss him. But nobody denies his influence. Ogunde Oluwawemimo, I know him more in the court than in the bar. Won’t call him a bar man. He has to change that. But as a lawyer, the man is sure good-meticulous, keenly intelligent, very good delivery. If he were a boxer, I’ll liken him to a Mohammed Ali or a Sugar Ray Leonard. One day in court, he so dazzled one of our more obdurate but less perspicacious Judges of the Lagos State Court that the judge exclaimed in utter bewilderment.
“Mr. Ogunde law! Law! Law, law” Law! Law!” (in the manner of saying must you be full of so much law?) Lawal Pedro, is another good advocate. Very good and has been for at least almost a decade now, the life-wire of the Directorate of Civil Prosecutions in the Ministry of Justice Lagos State where is now the Solicitor General. But one wonders why he was never made a judge in Lagos State all these years despite his interest in the bench then? I’ll like to classify Mike Ozekhome and Jacobs Rotimi in the same league. Whatever they may lack in cerebral elegance and sophistication, they more than make up for by sheer rigour of application and bravura. Theirs is the “whirlwind” approach, and both are graduates of the Chief Gani Fawehinmi Chamber. If they were boxers, they would be a Tyson. I know also Norrison Quakers, but more socially than professionally. He dresses and smells already like a Senior Advocate. I also know Adetokubo Okeaya –Inneh, rather from a distance. But I know Chief G.O.K Ajayi SAN has a good view of his abilities as a lawyer. And, that is something. As for Emonena Blessing Ukiri (Port-Harcourt) and Kehinde Eleja, (Ilorin) I know them only in the bar, not in the court. Nice guys enough although Ukiri has weathered more storms of bar politics than Eleja.
1st Gossip: Well you’ve tried. Your opinions may not be shared by everybody though.
2nd Gossip: Of course. I only speak from my own perspective. Now let us have your own views. You too must know some of the candidates
1st Gossip: (Suddenly in a haste to go away) Ah, let that wait for another day. You see I had to go and pick my son from the school. My wife is out of town.
2nd Gossip: (Sneering) I hear you!

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