Sunday, December 15, 2019 7:00 am
By Festus Adedayo
The temptation to comment today on the surfeit of political issues raging in our troubled country is very high. Ranging from the insipid, the insulting to the idiotic, a commentator has in them an overflow of what I term “commentarial materials.” There is nowhere you turn that you are not choked by the palpable fume of governmental irresponsibility that has become the poster of the Nigerian state. It is so disgusting that Nigerians have turned activists in their closets. It is a malaise that signposts the fact that Nigeria is being governed by men without ears, literally and metaphorically, apology to Ifeoma Okoye’s Men Without Ears. It does even worse: Makes the writer feel very hollow, incomplete and little, as if he was on a barren weekly shuttle. How can you continue to talk to deaf and dumb people, men for whom blood-flow into their auditory nerves ceased since 2015? It is why the supine bereftness of logic and common sense in the Chief Driver of the Nigerian airplane’s call for full Sharia law in Nigeria, the very hollow cants of the DSS over its shameful and obnoxious failed abduction of Omoyele Sowore in court, the very contradictory statements from the Press Office of the presidency, Aisha Buhari’s incongruent Save Our Soul to hapless Nigerians over her purely domestic dislocation, the “Major General” prefix that the Punch has aptly elected to tag Buhari with, Adams Oshiomhole’s shameful dance in Edo and sundry others, will not engage my attention today.
Instead, I have chosen to go Afghanistan. Not for fear of being Sowore-d; I have gone past that worry, but to focus attention on a tiny member of the Nigerian orbit that can be said to be the proverbial masquerade at the village square whose eclectic dancing steps are enthralling and fascinating to its minder – the Nigerian people. Rather than my choice of commentary today being escapist, it looks to me like a purifying therapy for, not only the writer, but the Nigerian public who may stumble on the piece. You, me and everyone are fast losing our sanity at this maddening emanations from Muhammadu Buhari’s Aso Rock. A piece like this may be a soothing balm against the current system’s plans to drive us mad. Though what I am about to delve into is a personal narrative, we could proceed from this specific into making a helicopter view judgment of the discourse at issue.
I was admitted to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos campus, in November, 2018. I had earlier completed a course of study in Law from the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan. I arrived UI – pardon the argot – pregnant with what had become a cliché among people of my generation and the ones before us, to wit that the present Nigerian educational system had gone to the dogs and the dogs, unable to stomach the stench, threw it to the swine. My classmates, the Class of 17, as we called ourselves, jolted me off this typecast. Exceptionally brilliant students, I knew from the outset that they would positively embarrass the university. And they did. By the time the final results were announced, 21 had First Class, a feat unprecedented in the history of the 71-year old university. Those boys and girls were very brilliant, thorough and painstakingly committed to their vision of being lawyers. Whenever they stood up to pontificate in class, you would see a future for Nigeria; see in them the Gani Fawehinmis, Femi Falanas, Olisa Agbakobas and other great law titans.
The Lagos Campus’ “notoriety” predated my entrance into the school. Anyone who heard of your “bad luck” of being posted there, pitied you. You would think you had been sentenced to a term in Hades. The campus would not disappoint your fear and apprehension; it in fact did worse than that. From your first day in class, you had the feeling that you had come for dinner with Mephistopheles. The verses of the code of conduct spelled out by the lecturers at the induction programme were laced with scalding hot lines of the Salmon Rushdie’s fatwakind. The school didn’t hide the fact that it could not stomach indolence and laziness, and that breaking of its rules tantamount a sting from its wasp. It spells out in unmistakable lines that it would grill you, bend you over backwards and retreat only when you are about to snap. From that moment, you begin to create a space for those lecturers in your profile of hate. How could lecturers be consumed by such massive hatred for their students? How could they be that unfeeling?
If you ever doubted their resolve to follow the rigid codes with strict abidance, you were shocked the next day, the beginning of lectures. At the point of daily biometrics for attendance, a horde of girls with skimpy bikini-like black skirts as short as the morality of a whore, haughty-looking neck chains and seemingly revealing tops, were sent off the queue, back to their hostels. If you thought you could study part-time, you had chosen a wrong school in the Lagos campus; the second biometrics for the day is impromptu!
Now, the academics at the NLS. It was so manifestly thorough that at some point, I contemplated throwing in the towel. Indeed, some lily-livered students fell by the wayside. The lecturers taught as if their lives depended on the students passing in flying colours. The rigour of the academic work at the NLS was better imagined than confronted. Among us, we believed this approach was deliberate – get students to be captives of the mindset, ab initio and ultimately secure their daily scampering to catch up. From the Deputy Director of the school, Mr. Nasiru Tijani, who himself taught Criminal Litigation, Ugochukwu Kanu and the Late Mrs. Olabisi Ayankogbe, to Mrs. Gbemisola Odusote, Sylvester Udemezue, Mrs. James, (of the Property Law course) to Mrs. Yinka Odukoya, Mr. Sesan Orimogunje, Mrs Takuro (Civil Litigation), Mrs. Motunrayo Egbe, of the Corporate Law Practice and his crew of dedicated young lecturers assisting her – Monye and Ayo, as well as Dr. Titi Hameed of the Professional Ethics class, one thing linked them together – their selfless pursuit of excellence in the students and their commitment which, I must confess, I had never seen in any lecturer/teacher in my decades of interface with the academy. They inconvenienced themselves to the optimum to bring out the best in the students. If anyone told you they didn’t collect extra cash for the success of the students, their hyper dedication to the course of teaching would belie such a claim.
Of all of them, I want to single out three. One is Mr. Tijani, the DDG. Imbued with an unusual calmness, Tijani is a teacher’s teacher. If he taught you Charges which is the backbone of Criminal Litigation and you didn’t know it, you obviously never will. If he takes his time to explain a topic to you and you still find it obscure, you probably can never know it until you were in the presence of your Maker. He does his explanation with the presence of mind of a clergy and the clinical finish of a surgeon. The second is Mrs. James. It is at the Law School that I learnt that if you could not commit words to memory and reproduce them by rote, you are half-failed. This young Christian woman comes in handy here. She teaches her students as if they were in a crèche lesson, backed up with release of Christian prophetic prayers into their lives. She is so matronly that if there was an avenue to vote the best teacher of the NLS, James would go home with awards in all the probable categories. I doubt if any of the students would not be waiting to repay her children someday.
Then the lecturer you will hate to love, Udemezue. Feared, dreaded for his hyper-abidance by the school’s code of conduct, the fear of Udemezue is the beginning of wisdom in the school. He seizes phones of students who take their eyes off the academy to fiddling with the small machine and didn’t see any qualms in being labeled a Law School sheriff. At the end of the whole exercise, it dawned on the students that their Number One friend was this brilliant, peripatetic law teacher whose name students insolently shortened to Udemz.
Having said the above, one cannot fail to bring out the drawbacks of the Nigerian Law School system. One is that the Lagos campus’ hyper-fascination with moral regeneration is misplaced. This is because, it forgets that it is dealing with students who are already formed and whose eight or nine months of fleeting sojourn on its campus cannot reshape. These are, for instance, girls many of whom have seen men’s nakedness more than an Ijaw fisherman can ever see shrimps. Though the school does this with eyes on excellence, it is regrettable that it merely scratches the surface of rots in students whose moral codes are as warped and turgid like a dried fish.
Second issue is that of the very long hours of teaching in the Lagos campus. I remember a day that we left the Corporate Law class at 7pm. Educationists would tell you of the period of the attention span of a listener and thus, students. From a 9am lecture, by that time, the teacher is talking to zombies and robots. The Lagos campus may want to slash these unfriendly long hours of teaching. And third is the Law School system in totality. It would be better to redraw the law course curriculum itself. Since the Law School is where the real architectonics of law is taught, it may not be a bad idea to reduce the five years spent in the university to, say four years and extend Law School period to two years. The curriculum is too wickedly cramped that what is taught in the eight months period far outweighs what is taught in five years in the university.
Not minding the above, you would be proud to have passed through the Lagos campus. No wonder it is the Premier of all other campuses and the place to be if you wanted to have a First Class. After a seemingly wicked run through an unpleasant mill, the probability of your having a distinction is very high, all things being equal. Its 77 First Class this year, out of 147 throughout Nigeria and the about the same quantum the previous year, are testimonies to this. How about cloning those dedicated and committed lecturers in all Nigerian schools, without exception? We surely will have a total rebirth in the Nigerian educational system.
Garlands for Abiola Ajimobi at 70
Tomorrow is my ex-boss, former Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s 70th birthday. I have written so many things about Ajimobi that another would be a repetition; from the negative to the positive. Like all human beings, Ajimobi’s life is a binary configuration. His foibles are plenty and his greatness huge but one thing you cannot remove from him as an administrator is his passion for development and knack for excellence. Ajimobi is extremely finicky, so much that if he enters an environment, he will begin to re-arrange its disarranged chairs. You can see this in the quality of infrastructure that his administration laid its hands upon.
As a critique, his undoing, like most Nigerian leaders, was being surrounded by mostly fair-weather aides. For fear of their daily breads, aides of politically exposed persons scarcely tell them what they don’t want to hear and thus, refrained from telling them the truth. Having studied their psychology, I found out that they love to be placed on what Yoruba call the back of the cockroach-horse. They like their inadequacies to be wrapped with beautiful cellophanes and their praises sang like that of the Kabiyesi in pre-colonial Africa. Having seen through this foible, their aides effectively place them on the back of the cockroach-horse. They tell some of them that the way they talked was exactly how Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe talked. This is their bane and they are cloaked in the apparel of Super humans. It is only when they leave office that they see how human they are afterall but by then, the fair-weather aides have taken their flights, leaving their bosses to their fates.
Ajimobi is however blessed with a gift: he may be annoyed if you told him a singeing truth but he will later return to you with thanks. The Ajimobi that I knew could not put up with mediocrity but he put up with so many mediocre, for the sake of politics. One thing you can be sure of is that, Ajimobi will not gravitate towards the mediocre for an assignment of grave import. That was why the mediocre who thronged him in large numbers have found their course now, leaving the few who love him for who he is.
Being with him in the first four years, I can testify that Ajimobi loved Oyo State with a baffling candour. He bent over backwards to ensure an Oyo that was at par with the best. He spent sleepless nights on the Oyo Project and testimonies abound that he out-performed his predecessors during this period. I am however not unmindful of criticisms of his hitting his feet against the stone during the second term. I do not have any defence to those criticisms.
Someday, if opportune to do a biography, I will put the two ex-governors I was lucky to serve on a scale. Ajimobi would not weigh low, and certainly, neither will Chimaroke Nnamani, the man who made me to cross many rivers to a land whose people’s language and customs I understood seldom and who gave me a detribalized embrace that is still fresh in my memory.
This is wishing my oga, Abiola Ajimobi, a happy 70th birthday.