Chthonian vigour becomes the fetish of the legal profession. Or whatever is left of it.
The logic and rigour of the Rule of Law incinerate in the searing crust of venal rites. No thanks to the corrupt lawyer and jurist.
The synthesis of their articulated and unarticulated sinful lusts is of enormous consequence. Justice now subsists as monetised and politicised privilege.
The gross and barbaric proliferates within the judiciary and the legal profession because men and women with the character of the dung-beetle and the carabid are deified as gems and cultural touchstones.
While the corruptible jurist presides as minister of judicial decay, the venal lawyer, flaunting the finesse of the carabid, splashes and wades in the judicial bath of dissolution.
Integrity is exorcised. Duplicity is internalised. The system dissembles because it has been compromised and bonded to a leash of cash, by unrepentant occult.
If the laws could speak for themselves, they would complain of the lawyers in the first place, argues Edward Wood aka Lord Halifax.
And speaking to the nub of the legal profession’s deathly rally, French dramatist and writer, Jean Giraudoux, states, that, “There’s no better way of exercising the imagination than the study of law. No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth.”
The corrupt lawyer would misappropriate the first sentence of his paragraph and pay no heed to the second part. Perhaps because he is a creature of forgettable parts. Call it selective adoption or adaptation. I would call it the insolence of intelligence; the blooming of brawn and perverse intellect.
The malady persists where a supposedly brilliant, connected, legal luminary wields his passion and intellect, as the political goon or assassin would, a machete and gun, at a price.
Many a poor, ordinary client, who hires an ‘unconnected’ lawyer in pursuit of justice often suffers the treatment of the adulterous widow, who hires her lover cum husband’s murderer to protect her from the ire of vengeful in-laws.
This is perhaps an extreme take on the value of the lawyer to the justice system as there are a few good lawyers, who have committed their professional lives to equity and justice. These people are not the target of this article, but the maleficent band, masquerading as truth-seekers and legal activists.
Just recently, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) reportedly issued a query to Aliyu Umar (SAN), the prosecutor of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, in the ongoing trial of the latter, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), for taking up the brief.
The NBA, in the February 12, 2019 query accuses Umar of professional misconduct for accepting the brief and the query has triggered discord along the north-south divide following an alleged secret move to de-robe and delist Umar as a lawyer because the NBA demanded a copy of his Call to Bar certificate.
Some lawyers are of the opinion that the NBA issued the query in response to a petition filed against Umar. How convenient? To the litany of arguments and counter-arguments trailing the NBA’s combative disposition to the Federal Government’s prosecution of the former CJN, I find a worthy retort in prominent lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN)’s take on the nation’s legal system.
In an interview with The Punch’s Gbenro Adeoye, published on October 22, 2016, Falana says: “For ideological reasons, I have always had enemies in the legal profession. I am not bothered because some of the NBA leaders are not defending judges but themselves.
When I was working with the late Comrade Alao Aka-Bashorun, who is rated as the best NBA president so far, the NBA did not address press conferences to declare a state of emergency, whatever that means. If judges were harassed or lawyers were detained, the NBA leaders would meet the Attorney-General or President of a country to find out the basis of any arrest.
“Aka-Bashorun did that in Nigeria, Togo and Ghana. In 1987, Aka-Bashorun mobilised 270 lawyers to defend the late Gani Fawehinmi. He was fighting a very corrupt military junta. When the same military dictators later charged some of us with treasonable felony, the NBA also defended us.
“At that time, the NBA never mobilised 90 lawyers to defend any lawyer charged with corrupt practices…The human rights committees of the NBA were mobilised to challenge the violation of the human rights of the Nigerian people.
“I am only asking the NBA to return to the glorious era of defending popular causes. But I cannot be part of the NBA if it goes around assembling scores of lawyers to appear for other lawyers when they are charged with bribing judges. If you organise a press conference to issue threats over the arrest of judges accused of corruption, you simply parade the NBA as a pro-corruption society.”
Although Falana’s take on NBA’s complicity was issued in response to a separate incident, it no doubt suffices against the volley of expletives and righteous vituperation issued by the NBA and certain self-appointed judicial activists, in condemnation of Onnoghen’s trial.
For the records, Onnoghen was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to declare his assets, estimated at $3 million in domiciliary accounts, in full, before assuming office as CJN. Buhari issued the penalty, guided by the order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal of January 23.
Responding to the charges, Onnoghen said he forgot to declare the assets, describing the non-declaration of his domiciliary accounts as a mistake. Uglier details unfurl in the wake of his prosecution.
Given the facts of the case, it is mind-boggling that so-called senior lawyers, mostly Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), would feverishly defend Onnoghen. In tune with their character, they belted a ludicrous aria, projecting shrilly and disconcertingly, a vulgar melody, chock-full of hatred and ethnic bigotries. They spun tiresome yarns to dull the ugliness of Onnoghen’s misdemeanour.
In truth, their frantic struggle is to keep the skeletons in their closets safely tucked from the prying eyes of the government and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), especially lawyers who may be found complicit making unjustifiable deposits in the CJN’s problematic accounts.
At a round-table with the government, concerned lawyers made outrageous demands, including the reversal of Onnoghen’s suspension and letting him go scot-free with the money in his frozen bank accounts.
This is what happens when duty and ethics get drenched in the fount of errant lusts, and repute drowns in torrents of money that extinguishes brilliance like a muck-sodden ember.
By their concerted effort to scuttle Onnoghen’s prosecution to the curious query issued to Onnoghen’s prosecutor, Nigeria’s so-called legal giants commit to unprecedented ridicule.
They would never query a colleague for exploiting legal loopholes to free an established looter or mass murderer. They would rather wield their query, like a sword, on Onnoghen’s prosecutor.
Nigeria is in dire need of true ethical natives, heroes of the judiciary and legal profession, on whose watch, justice may experience a spirited rebirth.
At the moment, justice subsists as wild privilege; it suffers savage extraction from the womb without the possibility of rebirth. Think of it as a forgotten corpse in the judicial tomb.
Its varnished vault, like Paglia’s cave art, is a hymn to daemonic darkness.
- By Olatunji Ololade