Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Law – and Lawyers – Exist

Beneath my ‘profound humility’, lies my inner Plato’s Socrates – I like to question the obvious magnificence of the legal profession to remind myself of my good fortune to have ‘been chosen’ to be a lawyer. Questions like – why does law exist? How would the world exist without us? Why do we continue to withstand the lack of appreciation and worship of this noble vocation? What if someone took Shakespeare seriously and did kill all the lawyers (aka what if the apocalypse happened?)
Yes, I often worry my deeply sensitive, altruistic self about these things.
Laws exist as the more reliable and conservative alternative to Facebook-powered public opinion for the determination of right and wrong. So, rather than having to rely on comments on his Facebook page to decide on the fate of the Nigerian Football Federation, Mr. President would simply follow the FIFA statutes Nigeria had acceded to before it became a member. Laws also mean that despite my intense love for ice-cream, I have to pay rather than steal it from Ice-cream Factory.
The legal system ensures that when people steal from the public purse, their ‘detractors’ have an excuse to put them in jail, hound them or at least, induce them into doubting their sexuality a la Alamieyeseigha. It also means that we must assume innocence until proof of guilt or until the Police beats the guilt out of its suspects.
Lawyers are the most important of these all. We are connected to law in the way doctors are to medicine – a set of people hoard the right way to use an essential commodity and then make a living out of that concealed knowledge. We get away with it because humans generally love the idea of a hero and demigods – someone to love and blame for our woes. It is older than Hercules, Zik or Mandela. Lawyers fill that role – we help the helpless and take the blame for the worries of the world.
Lawyers help run the legal system. However unbelievable it may sound, those noble and fearless judges who help uphold the law and right the wrongs etc, were once lawyers.
In life, things do not always work as planned. Hugo Chavez has shown that Facebook and Twitter are sometimes more excitingly democratic and ‘grassroots conscious’ substitutes. Militants storm Abuja to demand for their guns in the same way I fantasise about asking for a salary increase. Laws – or the making of them –provide an excuse for legislators to ask for a pay raise, barely one year after rejecting the proposed increase of the national minimum wage.
Law and the legal system are often ignored – like the time the former President’s leave of absence was staunchly supported by ‘the cabal’, and the fact that a paedophiliac continues to get paid to make laws. The system also sometimes seems like a farce – like when the chief of police got a slap on the wrists for an offence that places people on ‘awaiting trial’ for a decade. The US got away with Iran and snubbing the UN while Nigeria played nice by handing over Bakassi because the ICJ said so. Celebrities get fined for manslaughter and litigation sounds like a scary synonym for years of paper-pushing.
Despite these ‘aberrations’, some of law is better than none of it. Thieving politicians sometimes go to jail, excessive legislators sometimes resign in shame and the navy gets to pay up for its undisciplined ratings.

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