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).

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