I like the Jewish traditional year of jubilee. My Aluta continua and Awoist-socialist leanings like the idea of freed slaves and forgiven debts at the end of seven cycles of Sabbatical years. It is a celebratory year of wealth and prosperity. For the Nigerian Bar, our celebration comes in four year cycles during the elections. During these periods, lawyers finally get a chance at helpings of the national cake through politicians who consider ‘graceful defeat’ an oxymoron. Since 1999, the legal community has provided this social service to ensure that funds circulate in the economy. We also keep thieving politicians alive since it provides an opportunity to share what they could choke on while trying to ‘swallow it alone’.
It has worked well. Nigerians have come to accept rigged elections without breaking into a sweat. We proudly tell of our rich history of voters’ apathy and refer to years of electoral malpractices as evidence of the resilient Naija spirit.
From what I see, Professor Attahiru Jega and his barely bearable INEC registration videos want to upturn precedent. The distinguished professor seems intent on wiping away our history, which from my paranoid lawyer lens, would also irreparably harm the world’s noblest profession.
Any true wig knows that the beauty of advocacy (synonym for ‘lawyer’s prattle’) lies in long drawn irrelevant disputes. Fair elections could reduce electoral petitions and therefore ruin the opportunities to grow oratory prowess. Even electoral tribunals serve their purpose – hardened insomniacs have found relief during these sessions.
Chaotic elections keep lawyers relevant. Keeping with the presumption of innocence, lawyers play knights in black robe to ensure peace and security in the middle of snatched ballot boxes and party chieftains with stolen votes under their agbadas. We like rigged elections and unscrupulous electoral processes. These justify overpriced legal fees. We like it.
Fair elections are not newsworthy. INEC must be a little oblivious or selfish as its aims would destroy the newspaper industry and lead to the loss of jobs. Worse, if Nigeria begins the fifth republic with well-intentioned leaders, newspapers would lose additional income. Editorial pages are unskilled in recognising leaders who actually did their jobs. Papers won’t be able to complain against injustice or corruption or whatever bad news fills the front pages these days. Few people would buy papers that fail to provide self-validation from feeding off the misery of others.
Another dangerous development is the potential for an ‘overzealous’ legislative arm. Fairly elected lawmakers could take their work too seriously and actually make laws that have nothing to do with budgets. Who knows – they may even stop throwing chairs! The Nigerian bar has thrived on the existence of laws made when Lord Lugard was thinking through a name for Nigeria. Law has stayed the same – and we like it that way. No tattered wig would want to now worry about having to keep up with the law. Consequently lawyers must come together to fight against any semblance of sanity.
This business about fair elections was not reasoned through. We must yet realise that it is unfair to hold the distinguished professor to our noble standards - how much can a mere mortal understand? The most appropriate prayer for Professor Attahiru Jega may be that of another Jew – ‘MiLords, forgive him for he knows not what he does’.
Voters’ registration runs between 15th and 29th January 2011. Please register in order to vote in May. We must protect our right to choose.
R is for Register #RSVP
*Rookie lawyer offers fictitious mindless and indulgent rants about the legal profession. She does not reflect the true position of law practice.