By Emma Okocha
”The only Law the lawyers know about is property and the land
Why are the leaves on the trees? [Botany]
Why do the waves disturb the seas? [Oceanography]
Why is the honey the food of bees? [Entomology]
Why do horses have such tender knees? [Animal Science]
Why does winter come when rivers freeze? [Dermatology]
Why is faith more than what one sees? [Theology]
Why does hope survive the worst diseases? [Psychology]
The Lawyers do not understand”
– see The Devil Devices, Harry Douglas Clark Pepler, [1877-1951]
”Man’s capacity for Justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination
to injustice makes democracy necessary” – Reinhold Niebuhr
”Under the PDP the only thriving industry in Nigeria is Elections. Local Government Elections, State Elections and Federal Government elections are run through the years and most of those processes are never concluded. Most of the brilliant legal luminaries rotate from one court to the other, prosecuting or defending election petitions.
The Judiciary have abandoned criminal cases and millions are in prisons awaiting trials.The legion of cases involving elections postpone the freedom of many Nigerians. Meanwhile, students, teachers, traders, farmers and even the police are mobilized away from their jobs to play determined roles in servicing the only striving and very wasteful industry in the country.”
PDP, Where are the Industries?, Emma Okocha America Mi Dream , Washington DC, Fall Edition, 2006.
”The greatest area of Human Rights abuse is the continuous detention of persons for years in prisons without trial. Over 60% of prisoners are awaiting trial . The Police and other law enforcement agencies kill innocent people on the streets and go Scot free. …1000 people crowd the nation’s death rows…some have gone mentally ill while waiting for the hangman”
-John Oziebe to Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor, Vanguard.
The first Nigerian to obtain a doctorate in law was Dr. Udo-Udoma. He was a beneficiary of his Community scholarship, obtained from the Ibibio Union. Founded in 1929, the Union was the first Nigerian Parapo organization. The Ibibio Union preceded the formation of the Ibo Union, the Yoruba Omo-Oduduwa and of course the Arewa, the umbrella group embracing the former disharmonious Bantu and Fulani kingdoms of the Sahara fringes.
Dr Udo-Udoma was such an icon, an early beacon who arrived quite ahead of his time. He was mistaken for for a medical doctor. His sick kinsmen who hanged around his house were excused for their ignorance and Dr. Udoma’s household had to dispense a lot of the anti malaria Quinine and APC medications to these villagers who believed that Dr. Udoma cannot but be a medical doctor.
Before he returned in 1946, he had earned his Law doctorate from Oxford and was called to the Gray’s inn, London. Justice Udoma was the pioneer Ugandan Chief Justice. He was in the Supreme Court from where he retired from in the mid1980s.
There were other great jurists and great Attorney Generals. Justice Teslimi Elias, the man Zik appointed to the founding board of the University of Nigeria, was generally respected for his urbanity and rare scholarship. Prodigious writer and consummate constitutional advocate, Elias was a lucid professor of law.
Whether you are for him, or on the other side, Elias’s interpretation of the law elicited little dissent. Â Justice Dadi Onyeama was the first Nigerian Justice of the World Court.
He went to Kings College, a Tennis player and was also the President of the Lagos Tennis Club. Remember Timi the Law! The impeccable Justice Louis Mbanefo, the noble Justice Obaseki, and ”the incorruptible” Justice Bassey.” Â How many of our new judges and Attorney Generals have read Lord Dennis Gray? How many play Tennis, golf and still find time to go to the Theater?
We have in this few lines tried to look at the faces and the records of the modern day occupants of the Supreme Court. There is one that has a whole name of a town as his name. Oshogbo -Sabongida Ora might as well be the name of the next head of our apex court.
Whatever his name, the pronouncements of the Nigerian courts these days have planted ashes in our mouths and buried to the bowels of despair all the hopes and national pride fired up, last week, by the Achebe Colloquium, in Rhode Island.
At Asaba, somebody argued that if the military governments stole, if the northerners stole, what is wrong if our man wiped out the Delta treasury for himself and his cronies? Â And in Abuja the Supreme Court within only 48 hours overthrew a verdict of the lower court and through its process saved a candidate whose ticket to the gubernatorial tussle obviously did not ride with the approval of the Anambra Â PDP Primaries.
We shall end this sad piece, as we borrow from Justice Chike-Idigbe, the cerebral former Justice of the Supreme Court. Â A legal luminary who made an Upper Class Honors Degree in Law,at Kings College, London, in 1946. The first Nigerian to win the English Campbell Forster Prize for the best Paper in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure.
Idigbe, brandishing his two favorite writers, Cibber and Longfellow; would later address us, students at Unilag. On Leadership, Idigbe demanded, ”In your endeavor to help put our body politic on the right path and rid it of this malignant social disease- which is corruption – you must never forget that the most sincere and reasonable way of achieving this is to search relentlessly , however long and painful the process may be, for ‘TRUTH, and JUSTICE’ and in doing so pray,” ” for Christus Â vincit, Christus Â Regnat Â et Â imperat.”