Ok, let’s just say; “Let’s forget all that happened last few weeks. We have all put them behind us. Don’t ask me what SAN told me. They are my personal, I mean inner personal treasure to be cherished. Of course I was appeased. Let’s just move on.
So, I sat beside this man in court somewhere at the Federal High Court Lagos. If you have ever been to that court, ish! Very small courtrooms with plenty cupboards and files littered everywhere. The only part of the court rooms that look like a place you could have fresh breath of air are the elevated Bench where the Judges sit alone.
Anyway, back to the man, he may be in his late 60s, was putting on something that looked like a faded black trouser, I am not sure, but it looked like some faded striped. He wore those jackets that are named coat, that one too looked a bit oversized and equally faded. Then he had this brownish flowered shirt that looks more like it used to be white and to cap it, he had an equally patterned tie, then he had on some kind of gold-plated black shoe and a black hat! From his black nylon, aka ‘noisemaker’, he brought out a file and it was the good old white “office flat file”, torn into two and fastened on both ends with stapler. Don’t ask me why I stayed beside him. I had only two options; sitting beside him or stepping out to stand outside. I chose the former. So I tried unsuccessfully to create a space between us. He looked scruffy.
9:20am and the three big bangs sounded. We were all up standing. It turned out that the Judge was one of those very touchy and impatient female judges who would make a rookie like me forget her name.
The moment she came out, while we were all standing to the loud scream of “Coooooourt!” she started complaining that the ACs were not working. She forgot about us for some seconds and faced the Registrars to threaten that if she sweats a single drop, she is gone for the day (as if that was not what they wanted. Or, how does it affect their salaries?). The one that I did not understand was that the whole room chorused “ As the court pleases!” I was confused. I did not know how this complain warranted the response, but anyway, I am learning everything and anything.
The first matter was called and the only learned silk in court expectedly stood up. With some air of pride and a little drama, he announced; “I am …. With me are …., we are for the Plaintiffs.
Surprisingly, my scruffy looking friend rose to his feet and the drama started.
Scruffy man: “If my lady is pleased” The judge interrupted.
Judge: Please, could take off your hat? and do not address me as my lady!
Scruffy man: very well my Lord. I am ….. I am the Defendant and I appear for myself today.
The Judge, the Silk, the Registrars, the lawyers, yours truly and the court audience, all of us jointly turned our attention to my friend.
Judge: Where is your lawyer?
Scruffy man: My Lord, forget about my lawyer, I am defending myself.
Learned Silk: My Lord, we have our witness and subject to your Lordship’s convenience, we are ready to proceed.
Judge: Learned Silk, please give me a moment. (She said this waving at the SAN to sit and then facing scruffy man again.) You have a lawyer who has been appearing for you in this matter, you cannot come to court today, at this critical stage and say to me you want to defend yourself. What happened to the person that has been representing you?
Scruffy man: My Lord, I do not have a lawyer again. I am defending myself and it is my right. Now put the witness up let me ask questions so that we can proceed! (Then, I noticed for once; the man had an impeccable accent and was also bold. Almost like he is used to appearing in court.)
Judge: I agree with you. the obligation falls on you first to defend yourself, lawyer is an option. So, it’s your right to defend yourself but you have a lawyer on record and I need to know what happened to him before I proceed.
The Learned Silk who apparently found the whole thing amusing, got up and prayed to call his first witness. The court obliged him.
The first witness was led in evidence and the Judge called on Mr. scruffy to cross-examine the witness. He got up and said; “My Lord, I have no question for this witness”
Second witness called, he again said he has no question for him. At this point, the Judge asked him if he would need an adjournment. The man started muttering some inaudible words under his breath. The drama was becoming intense. The courtroom became a bit noisy with people wondering what the man was doing. At this point it was obvious that both the judge and the Learned silk were uncomfortable. Then the Judge spoke.
Judge: I am going to adjourn this matter right away. Learned Silk I need to adjourn the matter. The man was still doing his muttering.
Guess what, my Lord adjourned the matter and rose for 5 minutes.
The moment the judge stepped out of the court, the man sat down, picked his nylon bag, returned the file inside placed his hat on his head, adjusted his belt and worked out of the court.
I did not make anything out of what happened and sadly, nobody in the office took me seriously.
Can you imagine!