Tuesday, 22 March 2011


I am in love with the movie The King’s Speech. It is the best movie in the world. To be honest though, I have not seen it yet. But every other person has, and they are all in love with it. I love the movie for what it achieved. Overnight; reliving the agonizingly gradual mastery of a royal-stutter becomes a massive global tonic. That is pure genius.
However on a closer look, it can easily move one into a state of introspective stock-taking. How many of what we consider our lives’ highlights would inspire more than a passing interest from outsiders? Let alone, our mundane struggles. How many times have you pushed your exciting photos into the hands of friends and regaled them with explanatory details on each shot, only to have them flee at the slightest leeway? How many people genuinely stay awake as you recount your running battle with ulcer, or your eventual victory over math? Maybe you would need to be a king first, or maybe it just requires publicity, of Hollywood proportions. (Or even Nollywood these days).
Well, deal with it, all ordinary persons. Ordinary persons like me…me? 

No, I am not an ordinary person, I am a lawyer. And for one in a profession desperately needy of crowd attention, I suffer even more.
Like every lawyer, I have read books, useful books. My brain swims in the famed Pierian Spring. There is very little under the sun that I have not encountered in my studious voyages. I consider myself a talker too, the one with all the stories and all the jokes. Well, that was before I observed that the reputation is restricted to the legal fold.
I had ruled my Uncle’s wife an unfortunate nit-wit when I noticed she makes funny faces whenever my back is turned. A detail revealed by the shiny mantel-piece in their living room. Her teenage children are loads smarter; they squeal in glee when I deliver yet another wicked legal punch-line at dinner, their brains match mine, wave length-for-wave-length. Or so I thought…Until a few weeks ago: a carelessly placed Blackberry, no password, my lawyer-inquisitiveness, and I saw the real source of their laughter at my jokes: Pings hastily exchanged under the table “Tell me what bores more than a yam beetle: Uncle Massai!” That was from Sammy, the one they say aspires to be a rap-artiste. And the sister concurs with a big LOL. I no longer go to my uncle’s. Poor man, no wonder he exited so early; who would bear having his pure genes so polluted by a spouse of dubious grey-matter.

Again, I digress. Digression, according to my more cerebral audience, is my best trick. “It injects versatility into a conversation” my colleague Sarah had once enthused as I blushingly handed her a Legal Opinion I had stayed up all night to help her prepare. She will go places, that lady.
But back to the topic, it really saddens me to know that if the movie above had been titled “The Lawyer’s Speech”, it would premiere to halls of vacant seats. The tragedy lies in the fact that, truly, if anybody make speeches worth listening to, Lawyers it should be! But nobody wants to listen when we talk, unless they absolutely have to.
Our cinemas- the courtrooms are bare. Even the litigants stay off. I have a feeling tennis would overtake football for popularity if the use of “court” was minimized. If they must be bought, legal publications are probably useful only in pharmaceutical stores…as sedatives.
Nobody invites us to be Masters of Ceremonies (I hope they still call them that) at colourful events and parties. The core of our social oratory is at funerals- the dead can’t be more asleep of course.

Worse, that obnoxious practice, blogging has pulled the rug further beneath us. Ad hoc Law reporters are now born every day. Not smart, but with access to smart-technology. In half the time it takes to flip through our large volumes, they click the download and tweet a link, spiced with cheap rhetoric and draw the entire crowd. We have fought bravely, but gradually, even the Law is seduced to the I.T. pavilion.

Yes, we have dealt the hand of living off the combative aspects of human nature, but modern life is moving for a checkmate. All the jokes are on us, we are colourless, we are dry, we are lonely. Words may have tried, but they are dying. It is the age of abbreviations. No… abbreviations are even growing outmoded, people now write in pictorials!
Pictures and TV have changed reality. Reality shows (Is there a bigger contradiction in terms!) have come to stay. Sadly, we are barred from their juicy reach (no adverts!). But wait a minute…think Boston Legal, and the rest of them, and voila! 
Therein lies our salvation! Reality TV!

They roll out in their numbers, subtle brand promos: the Scout, the Debater, the Search, the Heir…When you consider the spark they kindle in our huge population, and the stiff competition by professionals to become Apprentices, or even Dragons, it can only go a step worse…The Lawyer.

Procedure: Trigger off a nation-wide search process, sell entry forms, establish a consortium of banks, the media and the Bar (no Silks…please). A huge media-covered selection process (this is where the judges come in); and the Lawyer’s Den is ready to be unveiled.
Two dozen young aspirants. The winner becomes, well…a Lawyer. (The dream prospect of a Law School waiver will sell, trust me). Content should be varied, everything that obtains in the real world would be thrown in. (Lawyers are snubbed because we always appear larger than life). The show will have it all then, arguments, fights, mischief, romance, conspiracies, parties (not dinners!), scandals…yes scandals sell too; they are an admission of humanness.
Now, unlike what obtains in the courts where the slightest whisper attracts a contempt-charge, the audience can vote and freely pass comments. Their ratings will also extend to the judges and eviction is the immediate consequence of unpopularity.
Eight long weeks each edition will last. Five yearly editions; each producing a winner who represents the universal notion of an ideal lawyer. This personna gets integrated into the profession and among other prizes, wins an entitlement to vote out any five existing lawyers from the Roll. 

As the show grows, the viewers can demand that some existing lawyers be invited, nay, compelled to play. These will endure the same audience appraisal, and for every edition, twenty three lawyers will be debarred…democratically.

Many years will roll by before any impact is noticed from this process. But gradually and surely like the King’s stutter, the old stock of dry and boring lawyers will pass away. They will be replaced by substitutes who ooze mass-appeal, who will re-instill confidence in the Bar. Increased tolerance means increased clientele. Law becomes a competitive profession after all in today’s world.

Time will tell. At the end, lawyers will need no further convincing that life in front of cameras is actually the reel deal.

I rest my thesis.

First Published in Thisday Newspapers: March 22, 2011

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


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Comrades; worthy representatives of the Legislature and the Executive, please pay me heed in this urgent clarion call.
History, aided by that meddlesome French Baron (let the man who can, pronounce his last name unimpeded) has against good judgment pitched us in a state of needless rivalry. Not surprisingly, the wave has struck a right chord with the ever gullible common man.
Of course, many have ignored the Baron’s self-righteous posturing and stuck to the good old method of merging our powers as one and the same. Sadly, our State abandoned that progressive course after a tantalizingly short-lived experiment and adopted this journey into the grotesque (note how well the word rhymes with the Baron’s last name). A process that stifles the ideal partnership; and the many potentials for economy of scale. Who needs checks and balances when you can get cheques and even more rounded balances within this partnership? And who says account-ability must be conjoined as one word?
Such ugly phrases as probity, petitions, impeachment, should be extinguished, and Veto put to the sword. Unfortunately, we have stayed silent for so long, and are poised to suffer the ills of this tragic preference.

To escalate the anomaly, the State provides a Third Arm to oversee our acts! Now, how further denigrating can the situation get, especially when this intrusive Arm is immunized with ‘independence’? Yes! You can spend long months agonizing over a legislation; which in the ideal partnership, I would cheerily assent (especially if it creates yet another Agency to douse the needs of our faithful). And what happens next? It is struck off as null and void, or at best, dealt the patronizing blue pencil treatment. This, by the Arm of busybodies!
Going further, let us not forget that this Arm, emboldened by its independence from checks, struts about with the grossly immodest title, Supreme, affixed to its apex institution. Now, dare any of us speak of a supreme Legislature or a supreme Executive and see if the common man (that accursed lot!) will not instantly yelp of a coup?

And talking of a coup; if only those uniformed fellows constrained their emasculation to this Third Arm, they would provide a panacea…No! They are not an option!
And yet another liberty this Arm takes: Does anybody get elected to positions therein? No! They simply brow-beat us in a ratification exercise that is at best, mere formality. But we must necessarily endure that grueling process of courting voters, and worse, also suffer the humiliation of tribunals under the same Arm!
The bitter truth stares us in the face: We are powerless before them! They co-opt the common man’s sympathies by sniffling that they are the weakest in the midst of two bullies, and that loathsome horde wields unquestioning mass support for them as a result.

But comrades; are all hopes dead?
Recently our State has been bedeviled by happenings that can only be interpreted as ‘signs of the times’
These happenings have taught me that signs of the times are not usually cataclysmic horrors. Sometimes they wear a cheery look; confirming the projections of a beatific hereafter as a quite feasible possibility after all.
Have you not noticed? They have risen against one other, our common foe! Their pretences at sainthood have worn thin, and revealed the typical human within. They now fight for the prize, and how brazen their battle is! Name callings, blackmail, calumny; the works! Those of you who cherish a good bottle can agree that there is no bench-mark for a typical bar-room scuffle. These folks are no different.
In the past, they accused us of corruption, but this has grown stale to the common man. Thus, the sheer novelty of this in-fighting will overwhelm them. There is truly no spectacle as rapturous as the sight of a fallen angel.

So, what do we do? Stand and watch? No no!
We shall inject a fine spray of oil to the troubled fires, and let the common man see that his last hope has crumbled from hidden rot. In our magnanimity, we shall certainly not leave them hope-less. We will simply make them hope for less, henceforth.
First step: From the upper chambers of the Legislature, we shall instigate an outcry, and make ostensible moves to ‘get to the root of the matter.’  Oh, yes there is an intermediate Council that will scream of independence, but riding on the dazed dismay of the common man, we shall prevail.
Mind you, they will kick and fight, because while our immunity is not absolute, theirs continue till death. Whenever they swivel that gavel, they feel like gods. 
They will claw and bite. They will brandish the grundnorm as a shield, and lead the entire pack of the unruly bar baying for blood.
And this is when we win! We shall yell that there is a loophole which the system has hidden for so long. Who will judge the judges? Do we fold our hands and let the sanctity of the state fall under the weight of life-time immunity? And we shall announce to the common man: “No, brethren, the powers to judge them is neither in the hands of Legislature nor the Executive, they are entirely yours! Yours, Mr. Common man!”
The common man (in his fortunate gullibility) will nod maniacally at this logic which for once will empower him, not through the arguments of a counsel, but directly. We shall spew forth flowery speeches of betrayal. We might even get a courageous commoner to self-immolate to the rhythm of our chants: “They are supreme! They are infallible! They have betrayed your trust!”

And the fires will start burning. For once in our half-century, we shall be blameless of the usual cynical accusations. We will become the poor misunderstood victims, who do all the thankless work, while the Arm grows fat on its bench… merely interpreting.
No time will be more opportune to rekindle our union.
All this while, our chants will rise in crescendo: “The elections are your will! Let the numbers show your supremacy, not some Supreme institution that blocks your right despite possible stirrings of dissatisfaction!”
And you know common man is a sucker for clichés. So we shall coin a few: Have you made for ourselves small gods, in whose Case there is No Appeal?

We shall tell them how flexible administrative tribunals are; or better still the ideal out-of court settlement: membership of the right parties. We shall teach them the right allegiances, and instruct them on how compromise is preferable to years of drawn out bitterness and expenses incurred in seeking dubious justice.
So now, let the war begin! Let the press flow in grimy inks of red alert. Let the chambers of the Legislature reverberate in shocked disbelief. Let the Executive issue statements of grief and sorrow.
The good Lord, in his wisdom gave us humans two arms, to function in symmetry. A third arm is clearly an excess!

Remember, the common man is soccer crazy too, so we shall complete the seduction with a well couched slogan:
“It is time to get a Substitute for the Bench!”

Thank you all!

First Published in Thisday Newspapers: March 1, 2011