Happy new year everyone! I know it has been ages but I am proud to say that I am back for good. It was an awfully long 2017- one bumpy ride that I would not be forgetting in a hurry. Thank God for life.
Today’s post is about the current Chief Justice of Nigeria- Honourable Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen GCON. For the benefit of non legal minds, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN ) is the head of the Judicial arm of the Nigerian government as well as the National Judicial Council ( NJC ). The current CJN was sworn in on the 7th day of March , 2017.
I have only been called to the Nigerian bar for exactly a month (today) Yes I have been a lawyer for four weeks, after seven years of chasing the title. To God be the glory and yet I have met ‘Mi Lord’ twice Once as an aspirant to the bar in the Nigerian Law school ( two days after he was sworn in as CJN) as seen in the photo above and the second on my day of call to the Nigerian bar. ‘Mi Lord ‘ because that is how lawyers address the court / the judge in court and I added ‘Primero’ because he is currently the number one ‘ Mi Lord’ in the country .Now to recount my two encounters of the CJN.
One of the requirements of call to the Nigerian Bar is the fulfilment of three dining terms. Due to the large number of students admitted into the Nigerian Law School the dining term is fulfilled in batches spread over three days. I fulfilled my second dining term on the 8th day of March, 2017 with the first batch. On the second day while the second batch fulfilled their dining term, I actually had no business leaving my room and cutting short my after class nap but I did anyway. I dressed up , ran out of my hostel with my phone and selfie stick. I had made up my mind that I would get selfies with the members of the *Body of Benchers ( BOB ) whom we (the then aspirants to the bar ) traditionally dine with. On getting outside the dining hall I observed the dinner was yet to end , I also observed that the convoy of the Chief Justice of Nigeria was parked outside the dining hall. I was giddy with excitement! Of course the excitement did not make me forget the need to follow due process even if there is actually no laid down procedure for taking a selfie with the primero of your profession. So, I walked up to the policemen attached to the convoy and explained what I wanted to do. Shockingly they did not discourage me but pointed me to the CJN’s assistants. On getting to them I explained everything and they agreed, gave me a mini talk / plan on the right timing for my selfie and all. One assistant in particular was amused at my boldness and we struck up a conversation . I discovered therefrom that he was called to the Nigerian bar over ten years ago and had taken up the job in security service but was enjoying it. Later on the assistant had some bad news , apparently the most senior of the assistants said it was “unethical ” to want to take photos with the chief Justice. Seeing as that term is very often used by actual lawyers I had to ask if he was a lawyer, perhaps he knew some law or ethical code I was about to break or violate to which he responded in the negative. I must have rolled my eyes in my head. Anyway, I hung around. The most senior assistant saw me again and warned that I should not try anything sharp with the CJN except I would like to resit my exams to which I promptly responded ” God forbid “. Is it ever that serious though ? A lecturer of mine passed by after this and even encouraged me to pay attention to when the BOB procession would leave the dining hall so I can get my photo. Shortly after this ,the procession left the hall and proceeded to a meet up point where they spoke briefly with the senior staff of the law school before they came out to enter their waiting cars and leave. When the CJN came out , some students had already excitedly gathered around the other BOB members who were near the CJN this caused me to actually roll my eyes because I wondered what the point of seeking permission was. Anyway at some point ‘Mr Unethical’ called me to get my photo. I stood right beside the CJN and kept trying to get a photo but somehow hands of other aspirants kept getting in the way and ruining the picture. Then ‘Mr Unethical’ stepped forward and said to the CJN ” okay Sir, time to go ” and he put out his hand to stop me from getting another photo. At this point the CJN waved his hand at ‘Mr Unethical’ and said ” No , she has been waiting to get a photo . Let her ” – okay the world must have stopped in its orbit and started to revolve around me – in that moment, I was happy, humbled , touched , amazed , confused that he even noticed me! What can I use to describe the humility and thoughtfulness ? I got my photo then turned to him ” Thank you very much Sir” . After which he entered his car and the convoy left .
The second encounter was at my call to the Nigerian Bar. It was not as long or as personal as my first encounter but it was something. At the call to bar after all the aspirants are admitted to the bar , they are individually called by their names and then they step forward to receive a golden handshake from the CJN. Obviously at some point , the CJN would need to take a seat seeing as well over a thousand students are called to bar at the same time. So , being number 32 on the day of my call (thanks to my surname starting with A ) , I got to shake CJN ! He said “Congratulations ” as I curtseyed and thanked him I hoped my wig would not fall off my head! sadly the photographer I contracted did not get a photo of me receiving my golden handshake. Upset does not nearly define how I felt after the ceremony. After receiving my handshake , I went back to my seat and watched as others climbed upstage to get their golden handshake. There were a few special needs aspirant / *new wig who were wheeled forward to get heir own handshake . As the first special needs ‘new wig’ approached the stage the CJN did not even wait till they were that near the stage , he descended the stage to help them avoid the drama and stress of being carried on and off stage. The entire hall broke out in applause each time he did that . You may think ‘hey , what is the big deal ? ‘ But it definitely made a huge impression and gave a sort of sneak peak into the type of person he is beneath the toga of the CJN. He did not need to, as provision would have been made for them to be lifted up but he did not feel too big or important to come down to their level. Even if he remained upstage nothing negative would gave crossed our minds at that point really, it’s just the thoughtfulness involved in saving them the drama and hassle when he was the one to be saved hassle at that point. Another shocking thing was that he shook nothing less than 800 new wigs before he sat down! He stood upright, no slouching , no frown on his face – nothing .
I really hope it is not ‘unethical’ of me to write such an article because I am not trying to lobby any favour or anything like that as such . I just feel the world can learn a thing or two about being down to earth seeing as it is from dust we came and from dust we shall return. If you know me well ,you would know that the littlest things make the hugest of impressions upon me. I am one to vote in an aspirant for a position because of how politely they spoke to domestic staff when they thought no one was looking but I happened to hear / see. Is it not amazing how sometimes those in elevated positions are humble but those around them tend to be the excessively dramatic ones ?
The foregoing is my humble submission on Mi Lord Primero – Honourable Justice WSN Onnoghen – from my point of view. 🙂
Challenge for the year – do things that people who can be considered your subordinates would be privileged to see your humane side. Not for ‘eye service’ or recognition but because at the end of the day we are all ‘pencils in the hand of the creator ‘ ( if you know , you know).
Meaning of Words Used-
Body Of Benchers – A body concerned with the admission of prospective students into the Nigerian Law School. The body also regulates the call to the Nigerian bar as well as the legal profession in Nigeria.
New Wigs – A term used to refer to new lawyers