In an address to the 55th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted as follows:
“President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday in Abuja urged Nigerian lawyers not to sacrifice the integrity of the country’s legal system in a bid to cover the misdeeds of their clients, no matter how lucrative the brief may be….
[Image: President Muhammadu Buhari]
“…called on Nigerian lawyers to support his administration’s war against corruption and help the country return to the path of rectitude by making Nigerian courts functional and effective again.” [Don’t cover misdeeds of crooks, Buhari urges Nigerian lawyers]
President Buhari’s Dictatorial Tendencies are natural. It rears its ugly head whenever PMB speaks or acts. Its origin springs from his belief that he knows everything, more than anybody, and has inalienable rights to advice, force and act on these “unassailable beliefs” no matter whose ox is gored.
Lawyers in private practice along with accountants in private practice have severe codes of conduct to which they swear and adhere. They are the employees of their clients and are expected to act in the best interest of their clients or face malpractice law suits and misconduct discipline.
PMB obviously does not know this even though he is expected to know it from experience. Suppose that when GMB went to court to challenge GEJ’s election victory his lawyers started to cooperate with GEJ administration, how would he had felt? How would justice have been served?
A good judicial system works because of the concept of advocacy. Under this concept, there is a prosecution side and a defense side. Each side presents it version of facts, interpretation of the facts and the laws applicable.
Most of or aspects of the facts, the laws, the interpretation and in conflict. The concept believes as each side presents its position clearly and the judge/jury listens; the truth would emerge and justice would be done. Is this a difficult thing to comprehend? Especially for one who has been around the block a couple of times?
The quickest way to ruin the Nigerian Judicial System is for the Bar to accept to be the governments watch dog; to undermine the confidence of clients; and to subvert the advocacy system. It was the way GMB operated in his first attempt to govern Nigeria.
If one did not stand in line one was thrown to jail; if one was a vice president he goes to Kirikiri while the President goes home. PMB ought to read a very objective and clear novel by George Orwell titled 1984. It shows what would happen when Big Brother is everywhere. Nigeria does not need BB.
Fighting corruption is good for Nigeria but the liberties granted to organizations such as the Bar and Chattered Accountants, must not fall victim to the fight. An adroit use of these organizations would as a matter of fact help accomplish such a goal.
For attorneys in particular our laws make it a crime for an attorney to divulge his discussions with a client even when he is called or subpoenaed by a court. Priests are also barred from revealing what they heard in a confession. These are what PMB should be protecting if we will avoid cleansing one thing and replacing it with another worse pungent smell.
The best way to fight corruption is to hire strong morally motivated investigators who could collect facts, argue the facts before the courts and overwhelm the defense’s arguments in an open court; appoint equally highly principled judges who would listen to arguments objectively (not from governments perspectives) and give the ruling. That is why we have different but equal arms of government. It is hopeless to throw the child out with the bathwater.
Would President Muhammadu Buhari listen? Can he learn? Is it possible to convert a dictator to a democrat?
Nigerians are watching and recording and would pass judgment soon.
Saul may become one of the apostles.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba, Boston, Massachusetts
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