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« Biafra Remains a Last, Viable, and Realisable Resort | Main | The Ndigbo Attitude »

May 17, 2006

The Lawyer: A Platform for Regeneration

by Aigbokhan Prest (Ekpoma, Nigeria) --- To begin a journey without a destination is the beginning of frustration and distraction. It makes every bus-stop look attractive. It makes focus impossible because there is no projected end to focus on. It is in fact a sign of mental illness to leave a point without a destination in mind.

As I sat at the New Lecture Theatre, of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma for Matriculation into the prestigious faculty of law, my mind again begin to meditate on what the future held for me in this noble profession. Particularly how I will use the instrumentality of the profession to positively affect my society and be a hope to the hopeless, a voice to the oppressed and an eye to the blind.

I was once faced with the temptation of thinking that there was a nexus between the legal profession and conservatism. One question that punctuated my mind was if the profession was to conform to the status quo, how then does it became possible for a legal practitioner to be instrumental to the liberation of the people from the fangs of oppression, which have become their lots.

I remember reading a judgment where a chief judge of Lagos state refers to a notable legal practitioner as a “Rabble-Rouser” because of his stout anti-status quo stance. The chief Judge accused this practitioner of acts unbecoming of a legal practitioner and sentenced him to one hear imprisonment for contempt of court.
As the historical Matriculation progressed, the winds of the first Nigerian Lawyer, Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams (19/7/1855 – 15/7/1855 who enrolled in Nigeria on Monday, January 30th 1988 suddenly cut through my probing mind: “The legal practitioner lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his country”. My recollection of these instructive words of wisdom gave me the final clue to the purpose of a legal practitioner in a developing nation. It’s a purpose for which the legal practitioner’s conscience and society would hold him accountable.

Immediately, the reality of the purpose thrust on a legal practitioner by the founding father of the profession in Nigeria and the fact that a law student is a legal practitioner in eq uity downed on me. I began to ruminate on the state of the University environment. in the University environment today, the rights, hopes, yearning and aspirations of the generality of the student are against every norm of civilization and respect for human dignity trampled upon with breath taking “impurity”. It follows that anybody who wants to be a hope to the oppressed Nigerian students must inevitably clash with an impregnable establishment that has hold them in an excruciating economic, academic and political captivity. I remember vividly when my studentship was suspended. They call it political suspension, but there is more to it than it meet the eyes. Our sublime demand was that the astronomical bundle card be scrapped. The ostensible contents of the bundle card include technology due, insurance dues, faculty dues amongst others. I ask what is the scope of the insurance policy and how many persons so far have been compensated? I am very aplitic with rage at this ill-digested policy and the fact that the students who are worst of it were weak of wings for a revolutionary fight.

Historically, there are three ideas involved in the profession: organizations, learning-pursuit of learned act, and a spirit of public service. There is more in the profession than the traditionally dignified calling.

In a specific address to African Lawyers, the great African leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah addressing a conference in legal education held in Ghana law school in January 4, 1962 declared “The lawyer in a developing society must be something more than a practicing professional man. He must be in the fullest sense, a part of the society in which he lives and must understand that society, if he is to be able to participate in its development and the advancement of the economy and social well being of its members.”

Thomas Jefferson, a legal practitioner, drafted the Universal Charter of Freedom (The American declaration of Independence) when the United States declared its independence from the British in 1976. This declaration has today become an eloquent reference point in the struggle for the respect of fundamental Human Right the world over. As one of its major feature: the power of a legitimate government must flow from the people. This is obviously contrary to what we are witnessing in our own so called democracy today. Government and its policies flow from the selfish interest of our ruler. Their major past time is to run the people and hard on the hopes, yearnings and aspirations of the people.

It’s never too late to reorganize. We must build political trust amongst ourselves, and there is need to put the people first, share in their experiences and be rooted in them. We must demonstrate the quality of self-denial, sacrifices and selflessness.

History is replete with other great men like V.I. Lenin of the Soviet Union, Fidiel Castro of Cuba, Mahatma Ghandi of India, Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria, Oliver tambo and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, who employed their professional calling as legal practitioner as an effective tool of social engineering.

These men paid dearly with their resources, freedom and in some cases, their precious lives, in their pursuit of “The learned act in the spirit of public service”. Which according to Roscoe pound is the primary purpose of the noble profession of law.

Having shed light on the fact met a lawyer is by calling a platform for regeneration, the need then arises to ask the question: what makes a lawyer a platform for regeneration or a social crusader? In other words what prompt him into serving as social warm monger?

The saying goes thus: “What you don’t know, does not hurt you”. The other side of this saying is: “what you know hurts you”. The legal practitioner knows. He is learned. By virtue of his professional calling his eyes, are wide open to what other members of the society do not see, the eyes that look are many but the eyes that see are few. This training makes him to develop a sight far beyond his nose. This gets him agitated about the ills in his society and his soul does not have rest if he did nothing about it.

Thus when the enlightened mind of the legal practitioner finds a catalyst in his personal conviction, an unrepentant and dogged crusader is born. He becomes a submissive slave of his own conscience and becomes completely uncomfortable when he keeps quiet in the face of injustice. This is what I call the irresistible driving effect of the practitioner’s burden of knowledge.

On a direct confrontation with experience, a properly educated mind will refuse to accept crude tyranny, for to accept tyranny is an act of intellectual self dispossession; long after the gun, have been silenced, the supersonic boom of ideas, the thunderous artillery of thinking will continue to echo.

With all these in my mind, I left the New Lecture Theatre of Ambrose Alli university, Ekpoma s a newly matriculate student of Faculty of Law with a straight and single eye on history and prosperity with an unshaken determination to heed with all my hearth and mind, the instructive words of the founding father of the legal profession in Nigeria, Alexander Sapara Williams; “The Legal practitioner lives for the direction of the people and the advancement of the cause of his country.”

In this I knew I would find fulfillment. And indeed in this, I have in the last four years as a student of Ambrose Alli University found total fulfillment.

AIGBOKHAN PREST is a 400 Law Student of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Presently the National Coordinator Esan Law Student Association of Nigeria (ELSN)

Posted by Administrator at May 17, 2006 12:08 PM

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