LAWYERS4CHANGE

Saturday, April 4, 2009

OPEN LETTER TO MR. TUNJI AYANLAJA SAN "PLEASE PUT AN END TO THIS EYESORE"


Dear Mr. Ayanlaja,

E karo sir. I decided to blow the trumpet of my pen in the direction of your ears on a matter, which in my humble, squibish opinion is of great public concern, because you are involved.
The matter is none other than the criminal case of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against a number of individuals including Commodore, now Chief Olabode George. These individuals as you well know are facing sundry charges of corruption and abuse of public office before an Ikeja High Court.
In Nigerian parlance the case is a “big case”. A case is said to big either by the “enormity” of the alleged crime or and the high profile of the alleged offenders.
No doubt in this case, quite a hefty amount of public is alleged by the prosecution to have been ‘swallowed’ by the Chief George and his co-travellers.
I may not know those other accused persons (I guess they are big shots too) but I cannot say that of Chief Olabode George.
If I am right, the Chief first came to national lime-light when he was appointed the military administrator of Ondo State some two decades ago. When his appointment ended news had it that Commodore George declared concerning his legacy in the pounded yam and lokili state that “I wanted people to know that a Lagos boy passed through here”
Chief George’s star shone even brighter with the advent of the post (General Sani) Abacha constitutional democracy and party politics. The Chief found himself in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and soon became a prominent national leader of the party in the form, name and weight of a National Vice-Chairman. When the PDP, derisively referred to by the late Esa-Oke caustic tongue, Bola “cicero” Ige as Pindipi, came to power in 1999 to form the government, a grateful party appreciative of Chief George’s administrative genius allocated to him the governance of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
The case against him now in the court of honourable Justice Olubunmi Oyewole is that the Chief appropriated public funds as the head of the certainly wet NPA.
One is not concerned here with the merits or otherwise of the allegations against Chief Olabode George, your client and the other gentlemen accused. That’s the judicial “headache” of the presiding judge.
At any rate, I have been reliably informed that in the battle before Oyewole J, your side is not doing badly at all. I was made to understand by some of those who have been following the case closely that you in particular, and in favour of Chief George, have been systematically, even sensationally, pulling down the ramparts of the prosecution’s case by the battering-ram power of your skillful and painstaking cross-examination.
What is of great interest and urgent concern to me about the case in which you are the star defence counsel is the regular presence of an army of gaily and colourfully dressed people, a large majority of whom are women, who storm the court on any hearing date.
These women and the men are said to by party members of the PDP an are supporters of Chief George whom they have come to give moral support.
This army of Georgitas when they come, they come in the manner of a swarm of colourful butterflies. Easily noticeable by their geles and aso-ebi uniforms they take over Justice Oyewole’s court and spill outside even reaching up to the Chief Judge garage! Seeing them in their numbers, and dressed glamorously and flamboyantly as they appear, an innocent by stander or passers-by may be forgiven to mistake them for participants in an owanbe party thrown by a “money-miss-road drug baron celebrating the “transmission to glory” of his late beloved mother who had died a quarter of a century earlier!
Sir last week Thursday, I had the opportunity of looking more closely at these Georgitas, since I had a case too before his Lordship Oyewole j on that very day. As early as 8:30a.m these women had arrived to the Ikeja High Court. Some of them took vantage positions in the court, particularly the back seats.
Those who occupied space outside the courtroom were in a large stretch, all over the grounds, merely chatting. The vast majority were dressed in blue headgears and gold coloured aso-ebi. The others sat, backing the nearby open Registry of the High court decked in red gele and green iro and buba aso-ebi.
I may be wrong but it appears that these women and their male colleagues were either merely a rented crowd to give questionable support to a politician on trial or a group of either unemployed or unemployable grown-ups who decide to frolic to the court-house for some stipends.
Now assuming that the Georgitas were no rented crowd and had come sincerely to give moral support to Chief George, why turn out in a colourful owanbe fashion? The question one may ask is what are these women celebrating? Or what event or occasion are they marking? The trial of Chief Olabode George?
Nobody or at least no reasonable or responsible person celebrates the trial of a loved one. If the allegations against the accused are false, and trumped up what is there to celebrate? And if they are true, what too is there to celebrate?
All over the world, especially in the free societies, trials of political figures, especially those seen as being controversial or persecuted attract the presence of their loyalists.
But these loyalists display sobriety and exhibit their displeasure by way of symbols, messages and placards. But what do we make of people who turn trials to carnivals and theatres of merry-making, in the very grounds of the trial courts as the Georgitas and their male colleagues have been doing?
I must tell you sir, that the general impression people have about these Georgitas is not positive. I have heard people calling them prostitutes, jobless lay-abouts, parasites and such uncomplimentary terms, who on each trial day of the case, pollute the sober atmosphere of the court with their gaudy appearances and bawdy manners.
Yet it can be commended on their behalf that the courts are a public place and court-trials ordinarily under our constitution should hold in public and that as such people have a right to come to the courts to watch proceedings. It can also be further commended on the Georgitas’ behalf that citizens of this country have the constitutional right of freedom of association and free assembly where no crime is planned or committed.
Let us quickly however remind ours of the scriptural exhortation of St Paul – “All things may be lawful but not all things are expedient”
In my humble opinion, these women are not adding mileage to the character and reputation of your client, Chief Olabode George. They may be looking at themselves with approbation but the public looks upon them with sorrow. The impression their extravagant but absurd appearance give to the public is that they are lap-dogs sustained on a diet of crumbs that drop from rich but ill-gotten provisions. They are, frankly speaking, nothing but an eye-sore and of no value at all, to the proceedings before the court.
Sir, I’m sure the sea of ‘owanbe headgears of these pindipi women cannot be part of your formidable advocacy arsenal and I doubt whether they can even to the slightest degree,, turn the solid head of the presiding judge in the direction of undue sympathy for your client’s case.
It is of utmost importance, for the preservation of the sacredness and solemnity of the judicial institutions that the misnorner and absurd presence of the Georgitas be stopped immediately.
And nobody is in any better position to do this, than your good and honourable self. While the court may take the prudent position of closing its eye to the eyesore of the Georgitas, the prosecution may be in an awkward position to raise the issue, since they could be liable to strident attacks of harassing the supporters of the accused persons.
You and indeed the entire defence team have no such constraints. Of course, sir, you are the most eminent and senior of the lawyers for the defence in this case and certainly have the status to speak home-truths to your clients.
I know when you tell your clients, including Chief Olabode George that it is wrong and an insidious subversion of the dignity and honour of the court to turn the spectation of a criminal trial for corrupt practices into a jamboree-like setting and occasion, consequently trivialising the criminal adjudication of such a grievous allegation, they will listen.
Let them know, if they don’t know already, that criminal trials of notable people in society is simply just that and not a popularly test, where the vindication of an accused would rest on his popularity. For what does it matter to a good court that a criminal is beloved in the community-such a criminal gains a conviction and is at liberty to continue his popularly show in the prison house if he so desires.
Of course it is possible, that your counsel may be rejected by Chief Olabode George & Co. They may tell you that a prominent politicians like George must, as his due, receive the massive adoration of his followers all the time, even in the precincts of the court or else how does he prove that indeed he is “a man of the people?”
In that unlikely event, I respectfully urge you to drop their brief. It is a big sacrifice alright, especially from the financial angle, but it is not too much a price for you as a silk and an elder of the bar to pay or bear, for the protection of the judicial institution and criminal law administration.
I am sure if seniors like you set such standards, politicians will fall in line and demobilise their various Georgitas and put a stop to other tricks and antics they put up when they have questions to answer before courts of law over their conduct in public office.
I guess this is a rather long letter, reading of which may have taken much of your precious time. I thank you for your patience. My prayer is that, that your famous “Apoti Aje” – the modified lecture lectern you use in the inner not grow less or shaky. E e pe fun wa, Sa.

Yours faithfully,

Adesina Ogunlana Esq.
Gecko-In-chief

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