I Wish I Were A SAN
THERE was an opportunity to strike it big but I missed it. I am talking of proceeding straight to study law after a first degree in Theatre Arts. If I had gone way back in 1988 after my national service for law and wrapped everything up, including the Law School programme within five years and gone into sundry activities, such as human rights crusading and judicial activism to strike the right chord in the right quarters, I would have probably become an SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) by today. And that is a very big deal as we all know in this season of politics. Just one well handled election tribunal case could make the difference and actually bring what my 27 years in journalism since 1988 has not been able to achieve.
It is said that to argue a governorship election matter at the tribunal, especially in the oil rich Niger Delta states, a SAN could ask for as much as one billion naira as legal fee. It is very possible for a smart SAN, which I would have been if I had wisely followed that path, to handle two of such big matters in a political season, in addition to mid-scale matters arising from national and state assembly elections. Put together and less all overheads, including what would be needed to warm the bench so that proceedings in the courtrooms became much more predictable, the net take home of a SAN could get to N1.5 billion per annum.
I do not know of too many blue chip companies that can hit that height minus tax. The beauty is that every kobo made by a SAN is legitimate. If he talks a politician into paying him one billion naira to get around a knotty electoral case, the huge sum is called legal fees. It is legally earned and no SAN is ever hurt or gets swept off by the whirlwind called EFCC on account of doing his legitimate business and getting paid for services duly rendered. If anything, a SAN is destined for a double portion as he returns to the courtroom to defend the same governor after eight years, as the case may be, when the EFCC steps in with corruption charges.
But for one SAN called Michael Aondoakaa, who recklessly exposed his flanks for attack while serving as attorney general and minister of justice, all SANs are very wise people. They don’t descend into the arena of play. They simply make their big money and go ahead to do big things like building universities and such other projects that government alone and allied institutions can achieve. It was different with Aondoakaa. He was dragged by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) before the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee for bad conduct. He was pronounced guilty as charged and hammered with suspension from the privileged club of Senior Advocates for two years, between 2010 and 2012.
When a SAN is also a professor of law, he sits at the peak of two worlds as teacher and practitioner of law. This is the point of endless pontification when the law bends towards him instead of otherwise. None in the judicial firmament appears formidable enough to call him to order. His biases are soon modified into new positions of the law.
In my own case, if SANship takes time in coming, I will attach with the EFCC as its lawyer while I wait patiently. That one is also very good. I will instigate from the background petitions against politicians to create more prosecutorial chances for myself and each time invitation is extended to a corrupt politician, I will leak the information to the press just to up the stakes. Along the line, I shall drive vigorously some NGO on human and even animal rights and on the strict monitoring of government to ensure dividends of democracy.
The press will describe me as a fiery Lagos lawyer; maybe not. There are too many fiery lawyers in Lagos and I may not make the desired impact. I shall shift to Kano where the population of fiery lawyers is low and the media shall for instance say, “fiery Kano lawyer and human rights activist…has warned politicians” and so and so forth. I shall intensify my participation in the public space so that if I am denied SAN almost forever, I shall advance to become SAM (Senior Advocate of the Masses), which is far more prestigious. Unlike SAN that is fast becoming two for one naira, only one Nigerian in the person of the immutable late Chief Gani Fawehinmi has been awarded SAM, so far, so good.
This is even talking about advocacy, which is less lucrative than soliciting in the practice of law. My strong advocacy in the streets and market squares instead of courtrooms shall aid immensely my soliciting in Nigeria where pedantry, vocal visibility and absolute noise making are seen as manifestations of cranium prowess. If I continue well and with God on my side, one democratically elected president shall one day ask me to register a company for the Federal Government at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for N250 million and nothing will happen because I will only be earning legitimate income. The Bible in Luke 10:7 says the worker is deserving of his wages and he does not have to go from house to house begging before he eats.
Actually, it seems it is only in journalism that the rule applies differently. For instance, when people pay journalist for services rendered, including consultancy, it is called ‘Brown Envelope’ instead of ‘Professional Fee.’ I don’t understand why it is so! And when they say brown envelope, they mean postage size. What an insult! How much money can brown envelope of whatever size carry even if the content were to be compressed into the world strongest currency, the British Pound Sterling? Why should journalists receive theirs in brown envelopes and not bullion vans or even Ghana-Must-Go bags as SANs and politicians?
The Almighty is a God of justice and whoever that does not wish the journalist to feed like an elephant from his labour shall himself be denied food by God in Jesus mighty name I pray, Amen!
On the big issue of catching corrupt politicians and making them regurgitate what they had greedily swallowed, I have a plan for PMB. We are not re-inventing the criminal justice system. And so, instead of recruiting SANs and law professors, I suggest we get mathematicians, quantity surveyors and people vast in quantitative reasoning for at least a change in approach and perhaps something more effective.
Take Rivers State for instance. The position is that the immediate past governor, Rotimi Amaechi performed wonders in eight years. The job of the mathematician is to compute with utmost precision the amount of money that Amaechi received as governor (since the probe is not going far into time) and submit same to the Quantity Surveyor whose job is to take inventory of what is on ground in terms of infrastructure and cost same using objective market parameters to ascertain actual value. Thereafter, he shall subtract this from the total money received by Rivers State Government in the period under review and the balance automatically becomes what Amaechi used to pay himself and other workers in the state.
If it is discovered that what Amaechi received is less than what he spent on projects, salaries and the running of government generally, it will be obvious that the man had patriotically subsidized the state government from his pocket and the federal Government in line with best practices, should pay him all his subsidies as it is done with importers of petroleum products. Of course, if the reverse is the case, Amaechi should be made to pay back the difference. If both ends tie, all well and good; the purpose of accounting is to balance the sheets, not to create upsets.
This model should apply across board in the ongoing probe of past political office holders. That way, others, outside SANs, law professors and EFCC lawyers can earn something good too. That is the meaning of equity and by extension democracy. If you are in doubt, ask the Americans!