By Lukman Olabiyi Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed October 16, to rule on whether or not to discharge a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA ), Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was charged with N2.6bn fraud. The court fixed the date Friday after hearing…
Wale Babalakin, SAN, we guess is more known as a fat cat tycoon than the fine lawyer he plausibly is. Perhaps, this is because of the public controversies, surrounding his assets and investments, especially in the construction subsector, where it appears he plays big. But having picked up a Cambridge PHD, the man is worth listening to. And the other day he came speaking. That was at the 10th anniversary lecture of a dead lawyer. But his thoughts luckily were living ones. Perhaps, we may profit some lot listening to him.
He said many things, but a few has great interest for us. We quote: ‘‘…the current members of the Supreme Court of England are either graduates of Oxford University or Cambridge, while those of the United States Supreme Court are all graduates of America’s best universities… You cannot place the judicial process in the hands of less qualified people. [And], there is no difference between an incompetent judge and a corrupt judge. The effect of incompetence and corruption on the legal system is the same; that is injustice…” Babalakin Counsels Against Appointment …. This Day; 24-03-2017.
Well, like most Nigerian lawyers, Babalakin is tribal about things. Tribal, not to his Yoruba nation but to his lawyerly profession. Actually, what he said of the justice delivery system is, and has to be true in the general first, before it may be true in any particular. And the experiences of the developed countries affirm this.
That is in those jurisdictions, all the vital sectors and controlling heights of society are in the hands of the alumni of their Ivy Leagues, the Oxfords, Yales, etc. Thus, the matter is not a justice system peculiarity. Whether it is journalism, the military or acting [in Britain especially], just a few schools’ alumni dominate the top echelons. And it is so designed literally. In the imaginative phrase of K. O. Mbadiwe, it was zoned to unzone.
In fact, technically a society cannot endure and progress save it achieves a sportsmanlike cohesion of her elites and thinkers. That is the only way to generate leadership, stability, while delivering progress. To fix this, developed countries calibrate schools. And the best and brightest from all over their regions are processed to attend the same set of elite schools. And these schools engage and share in inter-collegiate systems and relationships.
In colonial Nigeria for example, the British deliberately built a group of schools, schools of excellence, the so-called government colleges. And they were scattered all over the country, at Ibadan, Umuahia, Zaria, etc. These schools’ boys and girls ran the same curriculums, participated in similar and inter-collegiate competitive sports and extracurricular. That is, they were trained to understand and cooperate amongst themselves in a future that was bound to call.
And we can confirm this by a practical example. Just last Sunday, we were guests of the sage, scholar and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Alhaji Abdullazi Ude. Ude, alumnus of elite education had read four of our books and in his words, ‘‘what I found striking in them, were their originalities.’’ However, in the course of our discussions, his references were a web of all the peoples that mattered both in the East and beyond. He was on personal terms with the two Okigbos, the poet and the economist, Professors Obumselum, Achebe, and Dr. Chinweizu, etc. And that was from their youthful, that is immortal days, of life.
The point is this. Inasmuch as we can give it to his superb personal charm – which was so evident over his lordly Ikoyi home and the Chinese restaurant where we dined – the greater point is, that was how the British planned it. They wanted the best and brightest, of even the natives, to meet and mate. And that is the only way to procure a great society. Those elite schools and shared cultural experiences, were above all clearing or even fattening houses towards certain worldviews. They were also a subtle set of self-policing conventions.
This may help us recall George Orwell’s quip… ‘The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton…’ And then the Nigerian military came. And they spoiled things beyond redemption. Now, despite Babalakin’s lawyerly provincialisms, the greatest thing the military destroyed is not the law and its delivery systems. The all-systems ravaging destruction of the military as coup makers, that is as armed political thugs, was their targeted destruction of education and its values of independent inquiries. To be dictators, you needed an educational system that is like a dukedom. That is, a ducal learning system that is completely subservient to your mad ambitions of rule and empire building.
To achieve this, the military tyrants took over all schools and levelled them into one heap of abiding mediocrity. So, there were no schools of excellence again. In fact, excellence was not needed. All what were needed were their jackboots and weaponised ignorance. And the rest is that the judiciary, armed forces, bureaucracy etc. got infected and Nigeria became terminally diseased.
And suddenly those who went to no schools or just plain thugs, happened upon the highest offices of the land. And you can’t run a civilisation [for example, the rump of which the British left us] by thuggery, without any sense of high culture. These coup makers were like nza in the Igbo fable. They thought that topped-up stomachs are all the sublimities there are to life and being.
Now, we may ask why is it that the West has the longest running continuous empire in history? The answer is in open Ivy League education. And it all started with Alexander the Great. His so-called companions were actually the princes of the house, the Iwarefa, the alumni, he trained with at the same gymnasium under Professor Aristotle. That gymnasium, was the first elite school system that was purposed to rule, not to speculate, like those founded by Plato. So, all the West did to be eternally in power and glory was to integrate the gymnasium and the academe, the playing field and the faculty. In a sense thus, Obama, Trump… and Merkel are all successors to the throne of Alexander. It is this throne of open and competitive Ivy League excellences, that the military destroyed, as coup makers. And they did that they may be tyrants. And tyranny it is well to recall, is the totem sign of barbarianisms.
But that is not all. The mystery in all these is how and why Nigerians still retain these characters, these destroyers of civilisations and nation, these coup makers, their civilian collaborators, as heroes? That is why Babalakin’s particularistic ‘lawyerisms’ is some out of tune. He apparently wants to save the law, just the law[?], perhaps, so that the briefs will blossom? But you can’t save one without saving all. And that is an ancient and unforgiving lore. So, let’s forget about the legal and other professions. The point is when Nigeria is saved, all her professions also will.
To summarise, of Nigeria’s fantastical national failure, it may be said thus. Nigeria fails because we have no great school system. And the ones we once had, the military bandits playing the coup games destroyed, so that they will be heroes. Today alas, Nigeria has neither Eton-style systems nor the gymnasium. That is, we lack what may be called the systems of competitive and competing excellences. And that, by the way, is the only way to greatness. At least, that is what ofo na ogu veritably canvasses. And that leads counterintuitively to the fashionably misinterpreted and grossly misunderstood concept of Igbo enwe eze, unimaginatively translated as Igbo have no kings. To pre-empt ourselves, Igbo enwe eze, if properly understood, is one of the supremely sublime thesis ever made by man.
Having ditched the definitive and life-giving concept of Igbo enwe eze, how can a people, a nation, develop or be developable, even with the finest leaderships? How would one even produce a great leader without the concept of Igbo enwe eze? Ahiazuwa.