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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Birthdays are reflection events for me. The man in the mirror stares back, with a face gradually getting lined with slow but sure marks of mid-adulthood. Today, I want to let you guys in a bit on the little tales of this not-so young Lawyer.
My start was not different from those of many other lawyers in the sense that: I was forced to study Law. No; not by my parents. I was forced into it by recording unprintable grades in physics and chemistry and a woeful outing at that torture rack: Further maths. High School was a messy blur, really.
Having been consigned to the disgrace of the Arts; one had to reckon with JAMB of course. JAMB: that bitter pill that ensures that aptitude does not always guarantee altitude. For me, it was a slow journey to hell. Held back by JAMB while other dudes in the sciences crept in with staggeringly lower scores! Even if they missed Med/Surg. and the Engineering’s, they still had other glamorous options: Industrial Chemistry; Optometry, Polymer & Textile, etc. Those of us in the Arts faced the bleak clouds of Archaeology and Library Science. I really held “Library Science” in the greatest disdain. What complex scientific processes lay in dusting books off shelves and arranging them? Well, that was me, an ignorant teen, never yet heard of catalogues, indexing and the mix.
Law was therefore the only Arts left, every other thing was Science. Even Fine Arts; was “Applied”; and thus scientific. Faced with the derision of my more intelligent peers, I should have argued that giving evidence in court is a logical procedure leading to a possibly empirical conclusion. Plus, there is a whole lot of experimenting; with junior lawyers. (But I did not know all these then)
Well, JAMB held me back, not once; twice! All this while, I endured mum’s scathing tongue at every careless move. By the end of the 2nd idle year, I jumped into English and Literary Studies. Oh, no. I told my friends it was English and Literary Sciences. And I wasn’t lying. Linguistics has series of theories and hypotheses to cloak it with a science hue. I was finally living the dream: Budding Scientist. Armed with the skills to analyse things and go all abstract; I was ready to conquer the world. But that nagging feeling that ‘mere analyses' of other people’s works may not sustain a credible livelihood, pushed me to yet another dalliance with JAMB. And bingo! This time, I passed!
No celebratory parties though! My (much younger) sister was also getting into school...at her first try! Plus, she was a pure science student. So my celebration was rightly muted. I was going to be “papa” with a bunch of underage folks. Or so I thought. Until I got into my new Law Class and also found that there was a concept called evening law; reserved solely for my grandmother’s contemporaries.
That first year; I was easily top of my class. Buoyed by past experience in a higher institution, and there was only one Law course that year. Subsequently, my grades pegged me to my rightful place- eons behind the myriad sharp-brains in my Class. There is always a smarter lawyer: Lesson Number One.
They were everywhere, sharp young dudes, and girls! Large books, painstakingly crafted lecture Notes and unimpeachable Study Groups. This was it. It was either you studied or you faced the music. And I chose the latter, literally. It is a sore reflection in my credentials as a lawyer that after Five years in the Law Faculty, I am mostly remembered for having faced the music. Fortunately my employers have consistently skipped this disturbing fact; so far.
Lesson Two: Girls will not sway and drool when you emerge with your well starched black and white “”with tie”. Lawyers experience as much heartbreak as other mortals. And your persuasive skills would not avail an iota of advantage in court-ship.
Now I am here...
After an uneventful Law school experience, made more gruelling by the fact that talking with girls in the night was outlawed. Faced with evil janitors, every heterosexual conversation had to be carried out under shadowy premises. Innocent conversations, largely; typically from a girl who needed clarifications on that question you had asked at Company Law Class. But you would emerge with a knowing smirk. It was for the benefit of the lads. Once you sighted them, you would throw a casual hand over the shoulders of your companion. Enugu climate cooperated too. Chances being that, in the blistering cold, she would snuggle close. And your reputation was built: Silent Sniper.
Lesson Three: A lawyer can lie to everyone else successfully, but he must still face the truth alone. The midnight cravings never waned. And many young Law students despite exhortations to the contrary were known to...er... take matters into their own hands.
After Law School, employment (or its lack) loomed. Oh, not forgetting that brazen patch of NYSC. There we lay in a desolate Camp; at the mercy of half-literate soldiers who never failed to rub home the fact that might is always right. The prettiest girls were drawn to their rugged machismo leaving us with a sickening realization that all one left school with was ‘big grammar’ and little else: Lesson Number 4.
Employed as a corper, you discovered that you were the lowest of the low. Even the casual and informal workers made you subservient. Added to this, you tried to impress your first boss with Latin maxims (which she had totally forgotten) and she cruelly pegged you down so many notches that you started believing your Certificate was a fluke. Gradually, you were being prepared for the real world: The world of a Lawyer. You slowly learn that a Lawyer is not randomly talkative but measured, deliberate and discerning.
I learnt even more. Stranded in an organisation with dwindling business; I was forced to join the Sales Team to hawk unwanted telephone sets to unwilling buyers. Initially the shocking impact threw me off the mighty high horse of legal knowledge. But slowly, I started feeling the breath of the street in me. I merged soullessly with the hum of Lagos traffic, learning the nooks, the lingo and the dark tastes. Slowly, I was building even more formidable capacity.
I left Lagos eventually and got into Abuja where I learnt firsthand, the width of the gap between the very rich and the rest. Settled to specialist Law practice (or at least, as apprentice to a Specialist). Everyday: the files, the briefs the clients. The transactions; the travels; the network. The overwhelming urge to throw off the restricting baggage of jacket and ties, and get all grimy and dirty in the mindless pursuit of the nation’s wealth.
My Lawyer life has not been that horrible though. Definitely not boring! A few rascals, namely- Oduenyi, KK, Rep and E-Brown guarantee that. Also, Beer remains the favoured past-time and in these days of insecurity, one remains compulsorily sober; so the girlfriends (and eventual wives) do not mind, much.
It is a beautiful life: and today; the celebration of another year.
I have learnt to cling closely to each new day like a perishable treasure. It is a time to recount God’s blessings to me and to my family. A time to appreciate the sublime gift of friends. A time to enjoy the incisive camaraderie of the Unstarched Collar bloggers. A time to revel in the dreams of possible projects and future milestones to be conquered. A time to say a necessary prayer for strength to overcome the challenges of the future...
Somehow, I have fallen into a comfortable routine with my bosses, and life may just get a bit too normal. Maybe one day, the Muse will inspire me to stir the hornet’s nests; and face the music one final time.
Happy Birthday Barrister Massai!