Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Let's suspend Christmas: an Open Letter

Credit:Google Images

Next year is the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. But in its twilight, 2013 seems bent on rubbing scornful irony in the face of the very concept, Family.

In a space of thirty days, we have witnessed a leader execute his uncle without any tremor; we have jointly called for the head of a Governor... for what offence? his gentle reprimand of a widow to unite with her husband; and in the last fortnight, we have read the  nightmare-version of a daughter's letter to her aged dad.  Add these to that drama when kids were 'accidentally' treated to an adult-flick while awaiting a Disney movie as well as the steady wave of very public and messy divorces this year; and the number-churners will start drawing near-empirical statements about 2013. Oh, I hear the Chinese called it the Year of the Snake. Go figure then.

As if that is not enough; the music died. Yes, the radio airwaves rounded off this year with threats of suspending play of some of our favourite songs due to a face-off between BON and COSON. My sentiments on copyright as a lawyer now fight with my primal desire for music. An ugly situation to face at Christmas.  I had  predicted earlier this year on this Medium that there would be a rise in awareness of Entertainment Law. But I had hoped for a negotiated approach to gradually carter for our nascent creative Industries. Sadly, it appears negotiations have failed. And this Christmas, one will battle an additional temptation: to illegally download or not, in the face of silent FM stations

No family. No music...then, where is the Christmas? (à la Black-eyed Peas)

So, in line with recent practices, I write this open letter to the Powers proposing a suspension of Christmas down here, this year and for some time...
It reads:

To the Powers...

How do we even start saying compliments of the season with a straight face, when the harmattan season is fast getting extinct across many of our principal cities? Surely, the heat-waves cannot accommodate Santa, considering his North Pole orientations. Come to think of it, don't you think it has been a bit discriminatory to make certain climes more acceptable to Santa than others? It is arguable that the scant-pleasures of our Christmas celebrations down here may have something to do with Santa's grumpiness when forced to land in the adverse weather of the tropics. So, we sing of snowy nights while our skins brutally crack in the dryness of the day. We therefore start with a recommendation that upon its reinstatement, our Christmas be complete with a customized Santa, moulded to happily thrive here for all 12 days of Yuletide.

Now, ours is a crumbling society. There is a myriad cases in our courts, and many more will be commenced. These cases stem from strife, oppression and corruption. We want to see them through to the bitter end, and do not wish to be imposed with compulsory-goodwill and amnesia - in the spirit of the season.  We want the mental space to follow up on the oil subsidy scams and associated counter-accusations, we want to conclude the pension fund fraud accusations, we want fair and decisive judicial appraisal of all high officers who have erred within the year. If we must forgive because it is Christmas; then, Christmas goes.

We do not want to conduct Christmas-time visits to the prisons and meet only the guilty poor and defenseless. who are conveniently within reach. As a Lawyer, the hypocrisy is not lost on me when we pile loads of Indomie and rolls of tissue-paper for their use during Christmas. We put them there, by heating up the society in our failure to reach the guilty rich. We have only done our jobs halfway and the corrective sword of Justice is not deserving of holidays, until its job is complete.

Sirs, how can we possibly celebrate Christmas in the face of the rot of our Universities? Our fresh-blooded youths have spent 7-months hibernating in idle splendour while ASUU grappled with the FG. Now, the school-doors are to be closed again for Christmas holidays? No way!

We shall not sing cheery Carols; we shall not detonate colorful fireworks in camaraderie. WE are not real friend to one another. We sit and watch us self-destruct, and then lift a ceremonial helping hand at the close of every year, to ease our dying consciences.
WE do not want to avail our brethren abroad the smug opportunity of sending down dollars and fancy clothes (on Sale in European stores); a yearly display of their superiority in earning-power backed by a functional and responsible leadership. We  cannot validly celebrate Christmas when 54% of young Nigerian were unemployed in the past year. They have been on a perpetual holiday. Christmas starts when they actually start working.  

We do not want year-end crusades where private jets float down and their glossy owners anoint followers with hope that never dies. We need to soberly lift ourselves out of these self-inflicted doldrums, without disproportionately heaping it all on the unseen.

Our Country is still intact, but barely. Many regions are on an emergency ruler-ship and near-chaos. We cannot wish them away. How can we party during the festivities with one eye continually open in the awareness that we still sit on a keg of long-ignored gunpowder? We are warned that public hangouts should be warily approached during the holidays; well, let's save everyone the efforts and call off the whole thing altogether. We might as well be spending the period with those prison inmates, in the safe harbor of military and police barricades.

We will not need to kill cows and goats and send out cases of champagne to our rich benefactors in government, making them beat their chests at the honored positions they have earned in the hearts of their subjects, and encouraging them on their soiled paths.
The euphoric exchange of gifts and cards should cease. I should not be forced to bestow goodwill on my neighbour who constantly plays that obnoxious song: "I no like this your touching body...". The only sincere thing I wish him is poverty, so that he  can sell that bloody Generator that robs me of sleep.

The holidays should stand suspended until the end of 2014; at which time they Year would have had its chance to redeem its image as the 2nd successful decade of Family, and nationhood.

Humbly yours....

***************                   **********************           ******************
Meanwhile, I am here in a Boutique, irritating the attendants with my naive questions while combing their racks for a perfect Christmas dress for my daughter. I will take my leave.

By the time Christmas is reinstated, I should have matured into a better person, focused on my tasks and priorities and healthily involved in purposeful engagement with same-thinking citizens, each cleansed from the licensed-Epicureanism of the season.

So, in my old age, if my daughter picks up a pen to do me an open letter, I will rest assured that the words will be grateful and endearing.

In the meantime folks. Have yourselves a regular lunch...until the suspension is lifted

Happy Holidays...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Bloodied Mace and Other Stories...

Credits: animatedtv.about.com

1.      Mace (definition): A symbolic Instrument marking the Head at political gatherings

When I was in the University, my roommate Emelie was Sergeant-at-Arms in the Student Legislative Body. He kept the Mace in our room behind the narrow wardrobe we shared with two other roommates. I always admired the finely woven patterns on the heavy polished wood. One evening, as I strolled back to the room, I heard sounds of a violent quarrel. It turns out Emelie’s friend who was visiting had engaged him in an argument which sadly degenerated to physical levels. I walked in to see Emelie in tears, understandably.  He was barely past his teens (a world of difference from the steely paramedic he has become today).

The Mace was in fractured fragments on the floor.  His friend had swung at his head with it but it broke against the wall when he ducked. His tears were not reflective of bodily harm, but an inward bitterness at the sacrilege. A weighty bitterness akin to that felt by Achebe’s Akukalia in “Arrow of God” when an opponent had broken his family Ikenga into bits. Fortunately, in this case, there were no guns, no further tragedies. We simply ejected the defaulter, after emptying his pockets pursuant to procuring a new Mace. Justice was served, the way I knew best as a 3rd Year Law Student.

Back to the present. Surely, the collective shock we felt at seeing that Rivers State legislator smack his colleague again and again with heavy wood or metal has somewhat worn off.  As usual, the whole episode will melt away, leaving us expectant for the next drama. The internet assures that tragedies and near-misses speedily become old gist.  Now, there is even an online Music-mix synchronizing that deathly experience to Terry G’s knack you akpako. Yes, I followed the rest to laugh at the video as the event winds to a comical dénouement. This Age of sensational Internet imposes a limitation period to everything, even criminal acts.
As a distracted 3rd Year Law student, I could have been a bit muddled up on the scope of legislative privilege; in which case the Reporters and Camera crew would be rightly liable for publishing a state-classified event. The nosy fellows! Is there any demarcation between them and that despicable Snowden? The integrity of a nation is preserved if the dirt of governance is kept off public view. (Context: Same way my grandmother’s emotional balance was disrupted when she saw a film showing a white priest smoking cigarettes!)
In any case, the Law must find a victim and I have identified one:

WIKIPEDIA-(definition): A Mace is a highly ornamented staff of metal or wood, carried before a sovereign or other high official in civic ceremonies by a mace-bearer

WIKIPEDIA-(definition): A Mace is a weapon with a heavy head on a solid shaft used to bludgeon

See what Wikipedia caused? It jumbled definitions and led that guy to a literal interpretation.
So, have papers been filed yet?...against Wikipedia?

2.      Licensed to Kill: Abuja’s Park-and-Pay Brigade

You can see them mouthing silent prayers when a car slows to a halt. The prayer is unanswered if the driver seeks them and pays the stipulated amount. But then, there is still a leeway; he may overstay his time by a couple of seconds (amounting logically to an additional fifty Naira); and voila! He has contravened! The heavy chain-clamps circle the front-tyres and some hefty gentlemen take strategic positions nearby.

The poor driver arrives and gets frantic. He insists that he is ready and willing to pay the balance of the ticket time. Every attempt to demonstrate that since he is identifiable in sight and hearing, he hasn’t contravened, falls flat on its face. It is strict liability. If he is schooled and articulates his points well; one of the enforcers will be obliged to growl “oga, ignorance of the Law does not excuse” and he brandishes a folded piece of paper at the driver’s face. The paper is an excerpt from the private license-document issued by the FCTA. That is their Law.

If he is not just schooled, but enlightened; the driver will attempt the next lawful step: abatement of the nuisance. And that is when the hefty ones swing to action. They lift him bodily and dump him to the ground. He jumps up to save his bruised pride, and then you notice a third category of enforcers: armed policemen. They cock their guns and threaten to shoot him for obstructing a lawful process. The man quietens down. The gathering crowd makes sympathetic noises. The options are clear and non-negotiable: either the five thousand or the tow-van. The license is absolute.
Only the Judiciary can make a sweeping ruling on its illegality.
But, have papers been filed yet..?

3.      “My Daddy is a Doctor; I don’t know about yours.”

Bless Mamman Vatsa for those memorable verses.

Context: My neighbour’s six-year old boy whispered to me that his parents said every lawyer is a liar and a trouble-maker. 
I am the only lawyer in the compound. I am the one that writes the complaint letters when the bore-hole stops working, when the sewage is blocked, when the power voltage is low. I charge no fees, I use my gadgets to print and transmit the letters. If they had not sufficed to lead the landlord into action; I would have filed court processes at my expense. I am the compound’s voice, not because the rest are dummies; but because, as a lawyer, I am unable to nurse inconveniences with equal graceful complacency. However, the sometimes exaggerated consequences I depict in my letters do not escape my neighbours. So, at dinner, they joke and tell their six-year olds that Mr. Okafor is a liar and a trouble-maker. 

If we still live here when my daughter grows, this boy will someday tell her that she was sired by a liar and a trouble-maker. And I will affirm that notion by forgetting her birthdays, sometimes.
So, I have made a rule in the house, my daughter should be raised to call me Doctor. I heal society of its timidity. Let my neighbours defame me however they wished; I will be patient and nurse no grudges. Moreso it’s only their ward against mine. 

4.      Law is like Poetry...full of profound sounds; leading nowhere.

“...They make their living dramatizing mere words.  Empty and inane speeches. What I see is a collection of delicate egos desperate to justify their unmerited social status by weaving lengthy colourful phrases of limited practical application. They sing of glories and victories of the law, of fine jurisprudential arguments aimed at refining younger legal minds. But in reality; they are simple business men, and horrible bosses.”

-          Culled from my friend’s disturbing summary of a recent Lawyers’ Business gathering in Lagos. (Context: My friend is a qualified lawyer, formerly practising under a SAN. In his 3 years serving the silky one; he never went for any Law event.  But shortly after his resignation, he was invited by the event-organisers. He is currently a music-writer).

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

5 reasons why that next Lawyer always seems better off...

Credit: Google Images

In its purest form, our profession is no friendlier than a cock-fight or a gladiators’ pit. Every player has at some point tasted the sands of defeat. Therefore, no one lawyer can beat his chest as the quintessential bench-mark when at certain points in his career; he may have been bloodied by some wiry minion. The competition is so stiff that we continually look over our shoulders to gauge the next man’s every move. 

The young lawyer begrudges the old of his stability and massive client-base; the old is scared of the revolutionary upheavals that the young are brewing in those computers and tablets, while fuzzily shaking his head when they chant alien phrases like Digital Rights and Cyber-legislations. The corporate lawyer envies the litigation-lawyer for his seamless grasp of procedure; while the litigation guru goes green at sighting his corporate colleagues safely ensconced within the limited challenges of secretarial duty.

We regularly schedule conferences and seminars, ostensibly to impact the legal network. But those are really avenues to measure progress (or hopefully, stagnation) across the competitors. How much exposure has he attained since the last visit? Any new mega-briefs or transactions? The mandatory requirement for the Practice-synopsis of Key-note Speakers is a subtle web to catch these details. And being the megalomaniacs we all are, nothing is ever left to the imagination. So, we leave the conferences either more vain, or more bitter; depending on how well our achievements fare in comparison to those of the next lawyer.

Burrowing into our typical psyche (i.e. extreme disdain for 2nd-place); I have attempted hereunder to identify certain error-zones that may be counting in favour of the next man: 

Every lawyer prides himself for being an avid reader. But maybe, that virtue sometimes proves hurtful. You try to devour every single detail in a book. You measure numerous precedents in every routine brief, and rigorously research for every client-interview. Expertise, you call it. But this other lawyer who doesn’t work half as hard, soars. He doesn’t dive deep, but beats through every surface. He skims for headlines and key-words, while you burrow painstakingly through every syllable. You are heavy on thoroughness, while he is on sensation. When it matters most, he can give decent overviews; expertly implying that he is constrained by available time. The sufficiently impressed client buys him in, and it is only when his earnings are assured that he digs deeper. Odds are, he may even outsource the digging to you, for a stipend; while he skims through other opportunities.  Your knowledge pays you, but his masterful use of time pays more.

Knowing all the law is a historical impossibility. Thus, the next best thing is- how much you know beyond the Law. A small-time auto-technician knows every car part; but the business man earns bigger from assembling them as commercial wholes. Pretty soon, the world will grow wise to the fact that lawyers bring absolutely no extra value to a transaction between gentlemen. Oh, we try to shackle them with terms and conditions (or more frighteningly: covenants). And we never fail to insert that arbitration clause which is not intended oust the court’s jurisdiction, of course. But maybe the parties have just not figured out that “disputes” are merely disparate views of a tangible subject. Therefore, they do not need a lawyer to resolve them; they simply need experts in that relevant field. Also, they don’t need to be called disputes. Simply refer to them as varying opinions. When this happens, lay-experts (as opposed to legal-experts) will be ushered in to resolve contentions; and Agreements will subsist happily ever after. That next lawyer may be more successful because he has grown capacity beyond the law; and in certain technical business areas, he lends an extra limb. Do not say you haven’t been fore-armed...

Few of us may be familiar with the famous comedy sketch by a British group, Monty Python, depicting well-known philosophers as footballers on a field. Socrates, Marx, Archimedes, the whole squad. Yes, you guessed right; they wandered aimlessly the entire game. Every proposed move was weighed, challenged, reviewed and discarded. At the end, nobody kicked the ball. Some lawyers are always on the verge of something big: an adventurous merger; a new public lecture-series; a capacity building partnership with some global investor; blah blah blah. Once the idea emerges, it is massively debated and measured in-house. Series of SWOT analyses and feasibility assessments are performed; meanwhile some upstart elsewhere spontaneously acts on his own Eureka moment, and voila! He lands on TV, soaking up endorsements and huge fees. You watch his interviews with an upturned nose, spotting little imperfections in his Initiative. Meanwhile, your own ideas are still undergoing brutal mutilation within the barricades of your project-file, and you remain anonymous.

Lawyers must be paid. I support hostility towards free-service requests. But, that next lawyer may be growing big, ironically from delayed payments. Yes, oozing tailored professionalism; you brandish your Scale of Fees to the client on a take or leave basis. That way, you earn no more than you ask. That next lawyer adopts a different approach. “It’s ok, don’t pay” He tells the broke client who has smart ideas. He rather requests for an equity stake, a Board appointment, a collateral Retainer upon success of the current Deal. Of course, it is a risky approach. You may lose all in the face of a rascally adventurer. But if he strikes gold, he can’t say it’s all mine, when your fees are pending.

Who is to say the next man is better? Richer maybe, more famous too.  But are your clients happy? Are your primary bills paid? Do you promote the course of Justice? Real satisfaction is intangible. It is not measured by plaques and awards. It is surely not measured by wealth; because making money takes less imagination than being a lawyer.

I think the next man is only as good as you want him to be when he meets you in the fight-arena.

The End

Culled from- “These numerous Ideas I never put to good use” by Massai Okafor

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Sparing a sober moment for our endangered Cops

Credit: Google Images

These are tough times to be a policeman. Not that it has ever been easy; with the dubious welfare and being sitting-targets for bad jokes and scathing social commentaries. But these days, the shadow of peril is more pronounced, and the deadly attacks on them have attained alarming levels of uniformity.

I remember a few years ago, a friend of ours had a nearly ruptured appendix and we were maniacally tearing through the roads of Enugu egged on by his tortured moans. We made it to the Teaching Hospital, but collectively froze at the entrance doorways. It was a horror scene.  At the sight, our sick pal who was earlier bent and twisted in agony, miraculously straightened out and gaped with the rest of us, his pains forgotten.  There was blood everywhere: blood on the tables; bloodied bandages across a bloodied head here, and a displaced limb there. The wrenching cries, the shrieking relatives, the obvious hopelessness: a nightmare. And they were all dressed in police uniform.

There was no vacant spot so went to sit outside. We sat beside a policeman; one of the luckier casualties. He had a heavily bandaged arm and leg. We murmured our sympathies and asked “what happened?” Their team was driving home from a routine patrol and suddenly encountered robbers attacking a convoy of newly-weds. The bridegroom was already shot in the head. Gun fire erupted. The bad guys had superior fire power and tumbled their patrol-car down the hills in a hail of bullets and he woke up in this hospital. He stared at us with a bleary eye and muttered “I have a son at the university, three more kids in secondary school, and this is how I would have ended their future. No life insurance, just a beggarly pension, and yet people say we are bad people.” I must have shed tears.

Now, contrast this with the night of my Call-to-Bar in Abuja, a couple of years later. After the formal ceremonies, I was naturally called to another kind of bar by my excited friends. We partied till the wee hours before heading homewards. At an intersection, we were waved to a stop by a police patrol team. They asked to share in the celebrations, and we readily handed out 500 Naira. The lead guy pocketed it but haggled that we could do better, we bantered cheerily that the country was hard; safe in the knowledge that it was just a routine delay. Well, it wasn’t. A big Hilux van screeched to a stop and a more menacing group of cops jumped out. “Step out of the car! Hands on your head!” I quickly looked upon the guy we had given the 500 Naira to act on our incipient friendship. But he looked the other way, and waved his colleagues ahead. We were bundled into the van and to the nearest station. In the streets, you learn not to introduce yourself as a lawyer to the police at night, so we had to empty our pockets to avoid the inevitable. I consider myself sufficiently prodigious, but being called to three different bars in one night would have been a bit too much. In any case, the bitter memory remained, and I eagerly swelled the population of cop-bashers.

Of course my own travails pale beside more gory tales of accidental discharges, random bullying and maiming. And the collective hatred for our cops daily overflows to near apocalyptic proportions.
Yet, at the first sign of trouble...nay, inconvenience; we call them.

And they are always available. In fact they typically avail themselves beyond the call of duty and become enforcers in civil claims and domestic disputes. They become debt-recovery agents, club bouncers and veritable tools for teaching errant neighbours. Depending on the side you are on, they become friend or fiend. And these guys can act any of these parts to perfection. Their talent lies in magnifying little faults and exaggerating possible consequences enough to quake the stoutest hearts.

So, we flee from the courts and other administrative machinery. Their procedures and bureaucracy are frustrating. Police guarantees instant results. So, everyday, we cloak them with more powers, then cry foul when we are visited with the same absolute powers we have conferred. It reads somewhat like the thoughts of Kasco (in Soyinka’s “A Play of Giants”): “Power comes only with the death of politics (procedure); that is why I chose to become Emperor. ...At the realm of my coronation, I signal to the world that I transcend the mundane-ness of politics; now I inhabit only the pure realm of power...” 

This was illustrated in a recent bus ride I had from Uyo. Bus discussions were typically noisy, I never partake in them. Having passed series of check-points with corresponding delays, the collective cop-bashing commenced. Some particularly vociferous fellow with an annoying habit of talking with a mouthful of cashew-nuts (which he never seemed to run out of throughout the journey) had numerous police-anecdotes and had the crowd in boisterous stitches. Suddenly, a booming voice interrupted the party in protest. It was some gentleman seated at the back. His English was polished and the thought-sequence, impressive.  He stated that people only became police victims as a result of ignorance as dedicated phone numbers were published everyday for people to report police-victimization. He took us on a tour of trial-within-trial and validity-checks for confessional statements, ending by announcing that the police administration was bent on eliminating their bad eggs. Before his arguments could be drowned in the expected wave of cynicism; he introduced himself. He was Police Area Commander of a certain Northern Territory. He dug into his briefcase and brought out brochures with contact details of the relevant administrative officers in every tiny crevice of the country.

There was a stampede for the brochures. “Please, I need the number for Rivers State, Eleme in particular” “Abeg, does anyone have for Enugu?” “Oga, we want your own number too sir” The whole episode would have been hilarious if I hadn’t overheard the girl beside me (who had copied almost all available numbers in the booklet) heatedly announcing to another woman: “There is this man who has had my 400 thousand Naira for two years now, Once I get back to PH I will call the Area Command to deal with him.”

Our hero alighted at Abuja, evidently elated at his redemption message of the Police Force; while in reality, he had just empowered another set of vengeful Nigerians, looking for even quicker dispensation of evil upon those who trespass against them...

Viewed in another light too, the policeman’s effort was probably a cry for help to any random Nigerian headed up-North: We are on your side too, please stop killing us.

In any case; we cannot sit aside smugly in our civilian clothes while the violence continues. In a land tilting everyday towards anarchy, I shudder at the possible fate of lawyers when our armed counterparts are being taken out this easy.

I rest.  

Also published on Thisday Newspaper, Tuesday 21 May, 2013: http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/sparing-a-sober-moment-for-our-cops/148107/

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Making a Legal Case for Married Women this Valentine (Part II of “Legal Arguments against Friday Beer”)

Credit: Google Images

The days leading up to Valentine are very noisy. The hype never dies. But somehow, I do not help feeling that there is some false note in all the excitement. Beyond young innocents just being despoiled by the giddy jitters of first love; Valentine seems more like a nervous, knee-jerk reaction by guilt-ridden couples scared of admitting that they have either fallen out of love, or completely failed in their reciprocal duties.  It gets even worse for the Married; the women especially.

Thus, whenever I hear married women (or extended mono-dating single ones) talk excitedly about Valentines; I wonder who is being deceived. Even though the Social Media create such enviable scenarios that suggest a picturesque life, one has to face the truth in the dourness of privacy. So, while the woman frantically types away stuff like “Waiting for my True Love’s usual surprise with bated breaths” with one hand; she suppresses bitter sobs with the other, readying herself for another IAT (involuntary alone time) on the 14th. Men are natural predators, and will not waste their imagination on already conquered trophies. They will bear their gifts and wines to unwilling, saucy young lasses, and still feel rejuvenated by thoughts of favourably competing with these young boys. Of course, they do not know how ridiculous they look; so their fun is untainted.

Instead of carrying the cross with stoic cheeriness, maybe it is time for women to move for stricter measures on these errant males. It is even worse than Friday Beer; and deserves more punitive action.  Given the requisite legal platform; their draft-argument will run a bit like this:
Women are a critical unit of every society. They proliferate humanity by their exclusive gift of labour. Often, this Labour is activated by love-driven exchanges; and thus literally becomes a labour of love. In this sense, Valentine period should be dedicated to the happiness and pleasures of committed females (as opposed to flighty, psychedelic hangers-on).

The progress of every household is determined by how well it applies its budget to the necessary ingredients of Love (Please Note that these ingredients extend to treats, trips and such other accessorial expenses as may be in vogue). It shall be criminal for the male leadership of the household to misappropriate same in nurturing trivial habits or conferring same on another female who is not his wife (or its mono-dating equivalent as mentioned above).

Thus, there should be a Valentine Enforcement Team (VET) empowered to ensure strict compliance of husbands and (long-time boyfriends) to the pleasures of the wife. It shall be an offence, a misdemeanor, for a husband to fail to provide an assorted array of practical gifts for his partner on this day. Therefore, such meaningless purchases as Rose Flowers, hand-written love-letters, and cheap wine or chocolate shall not avail as a defence. These are not adequate investments. Our investment in the peace of society must start at the home, at the feet of the woman, precisely, and must be administered in such heavy doses as to secure collateral harmony across households and the society as a whole.  Every married woman shall be entitled to write a Valentines Wish-List and hide same under the pillow of her partner. Children have Christmas for their wish-lists, Men have every midnight for theirs; thus delineating a single day for the woman is not asking too much. These Wish-lists are not to be deemed idle scribbles of mythical origins. The VET shall insist on a minimum of seventy percent compliance with the details enumerated therein. It shall also not avail in defence that the man does not have the requisite funds to meet the items indicated in the list. Banks and Financial institutions shall be encouraged as a matter of policy, to provide loans at significantly reduced interest-rates during the days leading up to Valentine.

Now, while it is a misdemeanor to fail in the above; it becomes a more heinous offence; a felony, for a husband to respond to any alternate Wish-lists outside the marriage. This shall be a strict liability offence, and the sketchiest suspicions of the wife shall sufficiently trigger an investigation and possible arrests. Of course, it goes without saying that the penalties for conviction are largely pecuniary. The desired objective is to make the relationship turn out fine
It shall also not be an excuse that the woman has been a bad wife. The woman’s role as a home-maker depends solely on her right to Free Speech. Thus, in whatever manner she prefers to act, by nagging or fretting, she should be given a platform to exercise this, and be fairly heard too (at least within a few miles of the neighborhood).

The VET shall wield wide powers to, well, vet random couples on a Valentine date. Therefore, at their discretion, they may require instant evidence of marriage or at least committed relationship of the couple. If the man fails to satisfy that he is either a widower or a divorcee (with updated alimony records); he shall go in for it. It shall also be inexcusable for a graying man to be engaged with a much younger female who is not his daughter or niece. In situations as this, the VET can effect arrest without warrant.

Our current permissive Valentine environment impedes the healthy development of family life and consequently corrupts our collective morals as a society. Defaulting men shall be ordered to stay grounded, literally. He must not rise until the woman’s every material whim is fully sated. Further, he would be obliged to pay for an exclusive one-month holiday (inclusive of comprehensive vouchers covering shopping, Spa and candle-lit dinners) for the aggrieved spouse. He shall also be required to take up full-page coloured adverts on the leading Newspapers, declaring his worshipful awe of his one and only wife. A picture of him swathed in smiles will also be appended to the advert, acting as viable Encumbrance-Notice to the whole world.

In severe cases of default, the aggrieved woman may apply for the man’s Facebook and Blackberry profiles to be audited. Every female contact shall be investigated to reveal the true extents of their relationship. Only proven professional colleagues and blood relations (not exceeding the first-cousin stratum) shall remain. The rest will be expunged; after being notified on their Profile pages that the man involved is married/committed. Any lady who is availed this warning but continues nonetheless shall be docked as a disruptive element in the synthesis of societal cohesion: a felony.

Notwithstanding the above remedies; an aggrieved spouse shall still be entitled to demand that the husband be quarantined.  This quarantine period is to ensure that there are no transferable health hazards picked up in the course of his malfeasance. In the interim, the wife shall not suffer neglect and may elect any alternate (uncommitted) male company to temporarily carry out the expected activities of her partner for up to a minimum period of six months. There shall be no obligation for this alternate companion to spend from his pockets for this purpose. The interim arrangement shall be wholly financed from the estate of the defaulting husband/partner.

This is an avoidable nightmare. Chase it off with a few nice gifts; a few warm texts; a good outing and a cozy night…in the legitimate arms of your committed partner.  

Happy Valentine, Ladies!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

5 Briefs a Lawyer would rather not take

Credit: Google Images

The Rule is: Never take the Law into your own hands. This means, leave it all for the Lawyers. This should ordinarily make us excited. Well it does. But trust me, there are a few areas we would rather you do not get us involved in.
Now, here is a quick tour of the Briefs a Lawyer would rather not take:

1.      Police Arrest for Wandering:
Yes, you are a free citizen, entitled to freedom of movement. We know that. The Policemen know this too.  However, the possible charges they can bring against you if you walk the nights are just so numerous that they can’t help gambling on you now and again. It could be for smoking cigarettes in public (PLEASE NOTE that even lawyers are not so sure of the Law on public smoking). It could be for patronizing illicit company under the shadows. (Note that this charge instantly accrues if your female company is not totally swathed in an ankle length bouba. Any slight show of flesh is incriminatory). It could be for behaviour capable of disturbing the peace (This typically happens when after a bottle or two, you are loudly arguing with your stroll-partners on whether Chelsea goes trophy-less this season or not).

Now, immediately they declare you under arrest, you fish out your phone to call your lawyer. We would rather you did not! First, you assume that it is a convenient time for us to appear. And of course, you will call a junior lawyer. They are not paid well enough to drive, so they have to break their heads over the affordable cabs at that hour. Worse still, odds are that you had run out of money, thus, the negotiation shifts to the lawyer. A policeman in the dark with a gun is open only to cash-based negotiations; therefore a lawyer’s rant is a wrong move.

Invariably, you are whisked to the station. This raises a conundrum for the Lawyer. If you sleep there overnight, you will lose all respect for him and the reputation will spread of this kain weak lawyer wey no even fit handle small police case. So, the Lawyer pays from his pockets. The tag “Bail is Free” is a Constitutional hypothesis. Upon regaining your liberty, you pay us a minuscule token: no be just police case? Meanwhile, the lawyer’s head swims with the derisive jibes of the officers. Nobody cuts you to size than a Nigerian policeman, trust me.  So please, if you are an incurable night crawler; try and keep a little cash for police expediencies. Let us sleep. Wake us for more profitable matters.

2.      When you hit a woman’s car
 Oh no! This is the worst case scenario! A Nigerian woman is the worst person to collide with. The scale doesn’t matter: from a microscopic dent to shattered rear-lights, it is capital offence! When you invite us, what do you want us to say? She is stomping and yelling “I only service my car at Honda Place o, and you must take the car there!” Of course, again, you would have called a junior lawyer and exposed them to the lady’s scathing tongue: “Oh, you went and called a lawyer!” She will hiss. “By the time I finish with two of you...” (this part is said with a contemptuous sweep of bejewelled fingers while whipping out a Samsung SIII and punching in some important looking digits).  

In cases like this, your options are limited to apologies. And Lawyers hate apologising. Please do not call us in at this stage. Try a little psychology instead: If she shouts way too much; you should relax, she is probably just bluffing. But if she starts yelling into the phone and you overhear the word “Major” or “Colonel”, well, bear your cross bravely. We cannot help you. On the streets, uniformed men are above the Law. Please call us instead after they had battered you and seized your phones and car keys. It is more dignifying for us to appear in court brandishing your fundamental rights to a sympathetic judge than being present when the fight is at its dirtiest. The Law doesn’t soil its hands, remember?

3.      When your Landlord is evicting you
Pay your rents promptly please. Or otherwise, endeavour to get us involved at the incipient Notice stages. Do not wait until the last minute when all negotiations have broken down and the Landlord has employed thugs to throw you out. What would you have us do? Fight? Plus, there are chances another lawyer is on the other side to counter our effectiveness. You have simply brought us to be made a fool of. To save face, we will probably end up acting as emergency sureties for you, assuring that you will pay at a designated period. Now, we are placed on the line of fire, with possible backlash from the NBA. Please, if you do not get us involved at the preliminary stages, then wait until the eviction is complete. You can even help your case by physically challenging one of the thugs. If your face is sufficiently bruised and disfigured, our chances of securing justice become amplified. Trust us to bring in the requisite drama in the safe haven of the courtroom.

4.      Your rascally son is expelled.
Odds are, he is in a Missionary school and had jumped the fence to go for a party with the girls. He is consequently expelled on both moral and disciplinary grounds. If you wish to contest his expulsion, please do not invite us to take the Brief. How does it sound for a lawyer to challenge constituted (and possibly divine) authority? How do we even start positioning our arguments? We opine that the school authorities acted in unconscionable disregard of petulant whims of a teenager? And in support, we are constrained to throw in those sex-laced Freudian theories to justify that a teen’s excesses should be condoned. It is a Catch 22 situation since we may also be the family’s preferred lawyer handling everything from their land to business speculations.

So, the threat of losing this Retainer looms. Our advice is: do not get a lawyer yet. Start by forming a consortium of other affected parents, and then call us in as their dignified spokesman. We would prefer to have a mediation process where the school Principal leads talks, instead of throwing our full fire-power and subtly teaching the kids that a lawyer can get them off every horrible nest they stir in the future.

5.      Your Visa Application is refused
Ok, so the Embassy staff do not like the face on your passport. You probably didn’t do a good job of concealing your desperate eagerness to escape Nigeria for good, and those eagle-eyed snobs spotted it instantly. And you call a Lawyer in? To do what? Petition the Ambassador or High Commissioner as the case may be? On what grounds? Apart from the absolute defences of Diplomatic Immunity, do you really think we share the conviction that you should force another man to host you in his land? Our take is that you go home and bear the ill news calmly. Legal intervention is easier availed those who travel for high-level businesses. Say you have an invitation to a Conference on Climate Change. If your Visa is denied, we can theatrically sermonize on the monumental collateral loss to the global commonwealth which it could occasion. Big words are always more dignifying.    

Anything else apart from the above? Give us a call.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

There are Lawyers in every Conscience: a Fairy Tale

Credit: Google Images

I wrote this story many years ago. So I have dug it out from my dusty archives to share here with you guys. Here goes:

Richard kept blinking at the figures before him and shaking his head to dislodge the fuzzy feeling. Tears sprang to his eyes and blurred his vision. The digits tilted and wavered, then steadied again. Three Million Naira!

He would have screamed, but his throat had gone dry. He could only swallow hard. Gradually, very gradually, he regained a bit of his composure. Fortunately, the dainty Customer Care lady did not appear to notice his hormonal calisthenics and had already turned to the next person on the queue. Murmuring his thanks, Richard stepped past the door and fled the bank.

Back at his shanty, he tore out the booklet again. Apart from the slight blot created by his perspiring palms, the figures remained constant. Three Million Naira! The world started spinning and he gave his head a more vigorous shake.

Minutes earlier, he had stepped into the bank to evacuate the remaining funds from his Savings Account; about four thousand odd Naira. He had stopped to confirm his balance and presented his booklet. It was handed bank to him stating that his account balance was Three Million Naira! He asked the curt desk Personnel to confirm, and she handed the booklet back nodding absently while muttering “It is correct, Three Million Naira”.  

What could have yielded this jackpot for this unemployed law graduate still living on rapidly dwindling goodwill of his remaining friends? His head scanned possibilities: an anonymous rich relative? No, his pedigree contrasted sharply with such testamentary largesse. Could it be those Internet pop-ups at shady sites announcing one to be the lucky winner of fantastic sums?

There must be a mistake, mistake…the word struggled to the fore of his subconscious but was smothered by a more frantic whisper: I’m rich, I’m rich!
He grew light-headed again and there was a ringing in his ears. The world spun faster and swiveled him on to a lethargic haze.

In this dim state of half-sleep; two apparitions tumbled out into his room in a puff of smoke and stood before him. Too bemused to scream, he stared wildly.
The apparitions were miniature men, about three feet in height, and they both bore an uncanny likeness to him in both countenance and mannerism. They were similarly clad in the robes and wigs of lawyers, but the resemblance ended there.

One was good-looking. A reflection of what Richard always wished he looked like: open-faced and fresh coloured. The other apparition however possessed all the gnarled and wizened features of Richard’s nightmares of neglected old age. It also had wise eyes glittering with cunning.

This apparition addressed him first: “Quick boy, what are you waiting for? The cash is all yours. Well, all yours less the tiny ten-percent you should hand me as legal fee” The other apparition cut in- “Pay him no heed son, that sum is not yours legally. It was occasioned by the perfunctory errors of an overworked Teller. Return it, please”

Ha! Listen to that!” Gnarled Face piped. “Overworked! You walk the streets everyday under a belligerent sun searching for jobs, while she sits pretty under the air-conditioner…and she complains of overwork! Be smart boy, to the bank!”

“Just a minute” Open-Faced apparition pleaded. “Yes, she loused up, no doubts, but you can still cure the defect. Picture what she stands to face at the cold hands of the Capitalists she serves. She may be jailed. Do you wish that to sit on your conscience?”

“Conscience is an over-rated concept” Gnarled Face hissed.

Open-Faced apparition wagged a finger “son, for every minute the truth is put off, the wounds of the conscience fester”

“What wound cuts deeper than the life of deprivation you presently endure? The servitude, the ridicule, the maddening frustration?”  Gnarled Face contorted further with the fury of his words.

The after-life son, of course you believe in it” Open-faced apparition gently warned.

“Wrong!” shrieked Gnarled Face. “There has to be a life first before an after-life. This is your chance to go get a life. Now, not a minute more to waste, to the bank!”

“Not so fast” Open-Face held out a hand. “Do you need to sacrifice another life to get your own life then?”

“But of course!” Gnarled Face cooed. “For life to be fair on one being, it must darken its glow on another. It is a world of eat or be eaten. Her loss, your gain...”

“What gains...?” Open-Face began, but Gnarled Face swept in: “Did you not always wish to set up your own Practice? You can afford that now. For another ten percent fee, I can work on reserving a few good names for your Firm and scouting ideal office spaces. Life is brief; and you’ve earned the right to enjoy it!”

Open-Face shook his head. “You wish to build your Practice on blood? Stand by and watch a poor lady pay with pints of hers? Do the honest thing, give the money back!”

“Honesty is the excuse of the weak heart. And who is the ultimate winner if you return the money? Does the Bank even notice the loss? Its eyes are on the mega billion deals. Oh, do not fret over the poor lady. She had a duty; she broke the duty; so she naturally suffers the consequent damage”. Our Laws on negligence are clear on that.” Gnarled Face finished off with a smug smile.  

“But the Law will turn on you as well” Open Face studiously ignored Gnarled Face. “You are currently innocent, but if you alter your position by spending the cash, guilt accrues”.

“You are calling an innocent finder a thief now?” Gnarled Face turned on Open Face with an expression of utter scorn. “Your aptitude for the Law is suspect! The young man did not set out to steal! He merely stumbled on a lost item which the Teller had misplaced in the maze of electronic transfers!” In a softer voice he continued, “My boy, heed him not. Yes, the Law may investigate, but we can tarry the process a little. Lose your SIM Card, relocate...”

“The arms of the Law are very long, remember?” Open-Face chipped.

“Who is scared of the Law?” Gnarled Face fumed. “What we have here is merely a detached and incidental beneficiary of a mistake. Boy, when the Law comes snooping, we can acknowledge mere indebtedness as opposed to active theft. For just another ten percent of the sum, I can work out a convenient repayment plan and your Practice booms meanwhile.”

“The hasty change of address and phone numbers, are they not suggestive of a guilty mind?” Open-Face reminded.

“A matter for the courts to establish, beyond reasonable doubt.” Gnarled Face sang. “For another ten percent, I will place a myriad doubts before them.”
Now, you must hurry before the error is discovered and your account restricted. You have little time, the banks close by four. And remember; separate withdrawals from separate branches across town.”

There was a loud pop and the apparitions disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

The fuzzy haze cleared and Richard sprang awake. Clutching the Withdrawal Booklet, he stepped out the door, a resolute look on his face.
Whither he was headed; to point out the error, or to claim the cash; we may never know.