Nigerian Law School: Poor Men need not apply

Arguably the most respected profession in the world, it comes with a great amount of veneration and men who are privileged to be called by it are generally seen as sacred and untouchable beings especially if they are very good at what they do. The mere sight of a harmless looking sticker on his car professing that he belongs to the profession scares away every inquisitive eye in black uniform patrolling the roads not to protect lives but to procure the green card. He steps into every arena and brings with him an undeniable aura, though he does not know all, he is believed to be Mr. Know it all. No discussion is complete without his weighty input, opinion and idea. No shrewd businessman enters into a venture without consulting him. You dare not lie to him if you indeed need and want his help. But for all these to happen, he has to pay a very huge price! To qualify to stand before the court and defend a man is not easy and can best be regarded as a herculean task. Herculean; not because it is such a difficult phenomenon but herculean because of the complex pecuniary steps involved. Attaining the status of a legal practitioner in Nigeria is a long, boring and dry procedure. Five years of University education studying Law during which you will most likely end up teaching yourself half of what you ought to be taught. Here in Nigeria, it is a matter of reading even if you don’t understand; cramming even if you will forget the next second you drop your pen. Such is the life of the Law student that he is recognised by all and sundry by the colours of his school ‘uniform’. He doesn’t have to open his mouth before he is recognised as a lawyer to be. To put it mildly, the life of a Law student can at times be a life of deception; he is called ‘Barrister’ (which by the way is wrong even though many lawyers like to use it) by his friends and non-law colleagues and believed to know the Law even when the laws is as ‘simple’ as the language of the Kalahari Desert Bush men of Botswana. Anyways, he manages and survives the five years in the University all the while been held in great esteem, and then it is now time to go further than the LL.B and earn his chance to stand and address their LORDSHIPS. But a simple obstacle awaits him! Law school fees! He will have to cough out about N300,000 (three hundred thousand naira) so he could attend Law school and of course that does not include the cost of his exorbitant textbooks nor does it include his living expenses for the duration of his stay at the one-year program. This may not be a problem for some parents as they have even spent more than a million per session on their wards schooling in a private University but for the majority, this is a major obstacle. What is more annoying, if he manages to gather the money from every nook and corner of his community (son of the community) and attends the law school, he is expected to wait for some years before he can earn something worth his effort and the huge expenditure. He is sometimes offered as low as 25,000 naira after expending close to a million naira at the Law school. He may get frustrated and decide to join the bandwagon of C and B (charge and bail) lawyers. This will eventually lead to frustration and he may spend the rest of his career aboard the C and B ship; trapped and unable to escape. It is painfully funny that his classmates who also spent the same number of years schooling and reading similarly annoying textbooks (Medicine and Pharmacy) earns nothing less than a 100,000 even while on house duty. He cannot figure out why he didn’t choose Medicine: suddenly, he realises that he hated arithmetic. Whenever he asks his fathers in the legal profession whom he respects so much and sees riding in big cars, they tell him that they went through the same process and that he should keep working hard and his time will come. There is no problem with working hard but shouldn’t one’s effort be proportionate to his reward? How is he expected to survive with 25,000 naira? He is meant to show confidence in everything; including his finances or else his client won’t trust him. 25,000 would have been perfect if he were still in the University but out here in the world with 25,000? The community is looking up to him, after all to whom much is given, much is equally expected. His sibling now boasts thus to his friend: ‘Don’t you know my brother is a lawyer?’ The friend replies ‘that makes sense o, why don’t you ask him to send you some money?’ Of course to prove to his friend that his brother is indeed a lawyer, he calls and requests for money, he however refuses to tell his friend his brother had sent the money. A month later, the friend remembers and asked. ‘He could only send 2,000’ was the reply he got. ‘Like seriously? And you say he is a lawyer?’ the friend retorted. Such is the huge burden the society places on the shoulders of the young lawyer and who can blame them! And then, I realise that Law is not for the poor. I imagine many parents/guardian, whose children/wards are already been called ‘Barrister’ by friends and family even before their LL.B is successfully completed. I imagine these same students who are either forced to stay at home for a year or two looking for money; thank God for Youth service! Many Law graduates have used the one year mandatory service to hide the unbearable shame of not been able to attend the Law school immediately after graduation. Some of these graduates have their dreams eventually frustrated and truncated for paucity of funds and others lose ground to their class mates who will be proud to say ‘don’t you know I am your senior at the bar?’ I imagine a young lawyer who passes through this stress and still asking his/her parent for some monthly tips because he is being paid some meagre salary. I imagine! And sadness creeps into my heart for the young lawyer. He will (if diligent and with God’s grace) eventually make it to the top of the legal profession but the question on my lips and in my heart is: should the ambition of a man be cut off simply because he cannot afford to pay for it? The answer may be NO but the reality of the present situation teaches that it is wiser and safer for the intending law student and lawyer-to-be to count his cost before venturing into the world of legal jamborees and jargons after all the Bible explains that no man builds a house or start a war without counting the cost to know if he can successfully complete it! But of course there is the option of faith, if your faith can, then jump right in! Indeed, Law is not the meat of the poor. I am a son of the community and now Law School beckons, please pray for me and others like me! Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo tweets from @tosinfat

A PEOPLE’S PRESIDENT!

Nigeria is said to be the happiest nation on earth, Nigerians are perhaps one of the most hardworking people on the planet. The dark men and chocolate women of Africa’s most populous nation are creative and innovative. I considered these and reasoned thus: shouldn’t Nigerians have a President who would put smiles on their faces and erase their poverty-induced wrinkles? Don’t we deserve a Messiah: a David who would confront our national Goliath or a Moses who would look Pharaoh straight in the eye and without timidity say, “LET MY PEOPLE GO? A Leader who would not give up with little or no resistance! Nigeria is a paradigm of entrenched corruption, wasted opportunities and easily the most mocked nation on earth. We have leaders who vandalize our common patrimony sedating us with their unique political lexicon that mocks virtues and integrity and celebrates theft and felonies. The plaque that has befallen our nation is not just a dearth of good leadership or a paucity of good leaders but the eroding of our value system as a people. The foundation of godliness, morality and selflessness has over the years been destroyed not only by those who do not care whether our nation lives or dies but by those who have failed to do something about it. It is absurd that in a nation where the husband is accepted to be the head of the family, a woman will have the audacity to insult and to command another woman’s husband and the Governor of an autonomous State, call him her ‘boy’ and become a ‘Jesus’ to one honourable member of the state house of Assembly, all because she is the ‘First Woman’. Her husband, the President rather than keep her on leash would keep quiet as she helped continue the erosion of our national values system. That Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and the 6th largest in the World is stale news. That the nation is blessed with an abundance of solid mineral resources is not in doubt yet we doubt our very existence as Nigerians. We cannot continue to wobble along like a wounded and starved lion walking to its death. The lion of Africa must roar again loud and clear so that the Leopard and Tiger claiming superiority over the forest will learn to shut up and pay due obeisance. That Ghanaians can today open their lips and release all forms of venom upon us is no fault of theirs. After all, they have stable electricity while we still grope in the dark. That Britain will even think of imposing a visa bond on the ‘Giant of Africa’ is no fault of theirs, when even the man who was simply ‘maced’ in Rivers was flown to Britain because no Nigerian Hospital had the cure for ‘macelaria. We thus need a man to bring out the ferocious Lion in us again. United Nations projections show that we are on course to be the fourth largest economy in the World by the turn of the next century and I ask when my motherland will harness her greatest resources: you and I, the energetic people of Nigeria. To this end, we need a man who will by his actions and not just his words inspire us to dream more, learn more, do more and become more for in the words of John Buchan ‘the task of leadership is not to put greatness into people but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already’. This President would not be one who went to School without shoes yet watch as many school kids are out of school. The man we need is one with an anti-corruption spirit, a hardworking soul, a malice-free heart, a fair-deal brain and most importantly an accurate sense of judgement. He would not send the EFCC after his political enemies but after the economic enemies of the nation. We need a man who will place higher value on the robustness of his people than the fatness of his Swiss Bank account, if he has any at all. We deserve a man who has seen the sufferings in the Makoko slums as well as the lushness of Victoria Island; understanding perfectly what they both need. Such a man will not sleep while the Nation weeps. He would be bothered that while there is so much wealth in Asokoro and Maitama, there is abundance of poverty in Daki Biu, Gwagwa-karimo and Mabushi all within Abuja the seat of power. He will give himself no rest until John Hopkins University Hospital refers their African patients to our very own University College Hospital, Ibadan. It’s not impossible, is it? The Yoruba man will say ‘when a young child falls, he gets up and walks away carefree; an elder would however look back and check what went wrong before moving forward’. He therefore moves forward with a better focus and the ability to avoid a recurrence of the mistake which caused him to stumble. We need such an elder; elder not by his age but by the maturity of his mind. This President will only surround himself with visionary and pragmatic Ministers and Aides even though he has to do so bearing in mind our so called ‘federal character’, he will still look for men of character. He will promptly call to order any erring minister and not sit down while the Ministers sleep as their ministries rotes. A minister who goes on a meaningless visit while ASUU is on strike and the educational sector is in shambles will not be given a second chance. In 1981, Malaysia was a poor, hungry and directionless Nation, an exact similitude of Nigeria. But one man, just one man Dr. Muhammad Bin Muhammad knew where the country should head for, what impeded advancement and how to remove the shackles. He charted the course and merely asked Malaysians to cut a pathway through the bushes and forests. Today, Malaysia proudly boasts as being the 29th largest economy in the World. Nigeria desperately cries for a visionary leader of Dr. Mohammad Bin Mohammad’s calibre. Can we find a man who will command the respect of his people not by the length of his entourage or the loud blaring of siren but by the meekness of his heart? He will resist dumb followership and insist that his people hold him accountable for his act. I must state that this man need not be perfect because in actual fact, there is no perfect man, we all must bear with some level of imperfection. He may do wrong but it must indeed be a wrong done unintentionally. And when he realises his mistake, rather than let his media aides defend him sheepishly promptly apologises and attempt to remedy it if attainable. I doubt if any of the present ruling generation is that man and having our dream man in 2015 may not yet be attainable but we can help whoever it is in 2015 to at least be 40% percent of the People’s President by voting right and defending it, by asking questions and holding him responsible and by giving him all our support where he is on track. Is the present occupier of that seat the man? I wouldn’t say so but you can decide that in Follow Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo on twitter @tosinfat