Re: When Lawyers Go To Jail
When I wrote on the topic (When Lawyers Go To Jail) last week, many friends and colleagues called while others sent messages through Whatsapp and Facebook that I erroneously referred to Dr. Joseph NWOBIKE, SAN as Dr. Joseph NWODIKE, SAN. While I must appreciate everyone for this correction, I must say that the error is regretted.
Now back to the issue of the day. In our university days and during one of those Students Union Elections, a particular law student wrote on the Faculty Notice Board that: “LAWYERS ARE THE BEST POLITICIANS”. My own personal reaction then was that most non law students would not be comfortable with this type of caption as they would see it as one of the ways lawyers always claim superiority over the other sets of people. But in reality, when one critically looks at the history of politics or democracy all over the world, the caption may seem very valid.
For instance in the United States of America, people like Abraham Lincoln and recently the like of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who are lawyers made remarkable impact on American politics or democracy. While Lincoln gave democracy a definition that has become acceptable to the world because according to him: “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people”; Clinton on his part depicted what a good government should be. According to Bill Clinton during his presidency in America:
“The glory of a good government is the welfare of its people. Good government rests on the rock of responsibility.”
The United Kingdom’s parliamentary system will not easily forget its former “Iron Lady”, the late Margret Thatcher, one of the most powerful Prime Ministers ever to be produced in U.K. Thatcher was a lawyer and was called to the English Bar along with our late Mr. Kehinde Sofola ,SAN who later became Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice briefly under Alhaji Shehu Shagari regime. Mr. Sofola was one of the heroes of legal profession in Nigeria featured in the LEGAL LUMINARIES. Another great lawyer in India Politics was Mahatma Gandhi whom Chief Awolowo in one of his books referred to as his role model. The South Africa produced Nelson Mandela, a great lawyer who was sent to prison because of his struggle to liberate his country from the Apartheid regime. He was in prison for close to three decades but eventually became the first black President in South Africa.
If you read about political activities in Nigeria of pre and post independent, you will come across many names such as Obafemi Awolowo, Ladoke Akintola, H.O. Davies, AGF Abdulrasaq, T.O.S. Benson, F.R.A. Williams, Kehinde Sofola and Alex Ekwueme who are all lawyers. Although the list is endless but till date many lawyers are still actively involved in politics. Decision of a lawyer whether or not to be involved in politics as a contender for a particular position or to accept to serve in government when invited may be personal. Whatever his decision is, one thing that he must not be compromised is his involvement in elections as a voter to vote the right people into power. A lawyer’s refusal to exercise his right to vote will not be proper as any compliant on his part thereafter will be very improper.
I have continued to maintain the position that politics belong to the real professionals from every field of human endeavours. Since the lawyers were involved in fighting the colonialists to gain independent and also fought the military to achieve democracy, they must not take the back seats in the scheme of things as to do so will tantamount to the refusal to heed the call of the first Nigerian lawyer, Mr. Sapara Williams that the legal profession “lives for the direction of the people and the advancement of the country”. The only way to live up to the spirit of the first lawyer’s admonition is for every lawyer to be involved. According to the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) :
“There is no better profession in this country. There is no profession that is more opportune to solving Nigerian problems than the lawyers. And we must ask ourselves this question: Why is it that in America, lawyers have been presidents several times?”
Although the like of Awolowo and Gani himself made serious efforts to be the President of this country to no avail but now that a lawyer, Professor Yemi Osibanjo is the Vice President of the country, there is hope for the profession to produce the President of the country in the nearest future. The fact that the like of the late Chief Bola Ige, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and now Chief Rotimi Akeredolu have been Governors of the respective states is an indication that lawyers are now seriously being involved. Good professionals must not leave the political affairs of the country in the hands of those who do not know what the needs and yearnings of the people are all about. The believers in the do or die politics should not be allowed to move closer to our political system. Late Hon. Justice Pat- Acholonu, JSC in the case of BUHARI Vs OBASANJO (2005) ALL FWLR (Pt. 273) Pg. 203 put the record straight:
“Politics in Nigeria should not be a do or die affair. Anyone without profession except politics must have nothing to do with politics in whatever form. Above all let the budding politicians leave jobless people who now turn into thugs as supporters alone, so that more harm will not be done to the electoral processes.”
Every lawyer must do away with the bread and butter politics as it is done and more pronounced in the conventional politics of godfatherism where voters usually sell their votes for peanuts. Lawyers and non lawyers must begin to see politics as real service to the people rather than see it as investment wherein dividend into the private pocket of the leadership is expected as the end of the day. If lawyers don’t get it right, the non lawyer will never get it right. If people continue to allow their votes to be bought and the buyers subsequently refused to live up expectation, will they have the courage to complain of bad governance? Several years back, the late Hon. Justice Anthony Ekundayo in his brilliant works HINT ON LEGAL PRACTICE advised lawyers in the following words:
“The Bar Association must purge itself of certain ills. Members seeking elective posts must resist the temptation of ‘purchasing’ the votes of the younger one by ‘sponsoring’ them to Annual conference with strings attached. It is a mark of gross disrespect for, and patent insult to a member of the bar that his ‘free’ vote is purchased rather than won. It is a total destruction of the principles which form the basis of legal practitioner’s training .To think freely, to decide rationally after weighing all available facts, to exercise the power of a free choice after studying all the surrounding circumstances and to act free from the influence of bias are supposed to be inalienable segments of a lawyer’s framework”.
Our determination this time around to be involved in the forthcoming NBA National elections is to encourage every lawyer through powerful dissemination of information and knowledge to be actively involved not only in the NBA affairs but also in the political affairs of this country at large. Any lawyer that put himself forward for any position of leadership must be ready to serve rather than being expected to be served. We want to create a situation where every lawyer at the end of the day will be very proud to say that when the NBA affairs and the nation’s political affairs have been revolutionized, the positive revolution comes to a reality because I AM INVOLVED to borrow the book title of the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi ‘s Civil War memoir.