5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE NIGERIAN LAW SCHOOL (BAR PART 1)

If you intend to practice as a lawyer in Nigeria, you must go through the Nigerian Law School (NLS). If you have attained an undergraduate degree in a foreign university, then you must submit yourself to Bar 1.  This is a 3 month period during which you will be schooled on the fundamentals of the Nigerian Legal System. After you have passed Bar 1, you will proceed to Bar 2 where you will join the rest of your Nigerian schooled counterparts. If you are Nigerian and a lawyer, you probably already know this but I write this for the benefit of non lawyers and non-Nigerians.

So 5 things you must know about the NLS Bar Part 1.

  1. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU LEARNT ABOUT JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS

This is the absolute ultimate fundamental cardinal rule to surviving law school- FORGET ALL YOU KNOW ABOUT FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE! I did not use all those synonyms for nothing friend! Nobody cares about what is just and what is fair. Almost everyone you meet will as a matter of right trample upon your most basic human rights and expect, rather mandate you do NOT to put up any protest. Now this might sound confusing for 2 reasons.

Firstly, you have spent 3 years of your undergraduate education grappling with the vague and elusive but fundamental legal concepts JUSTICE and FAIRNESS. Through battling sleep and headache and heartache in Jurisprudence class, Legal theory, Human Rights and Public law classes, you come up with fairly acceptable fundamental definitions. You come out of University, your eyes wide with excitement to implement these concepts especially in your country where these terms are not evident except in the dictionary. So being asked to forget everything you know about these terms is confusing and quite frankly alarming.

Secondly,  NLS is an institute of legal learning- it could be termed the foremost institute of legal knowledge for without it, no lawyer is or has been (VERY FEW EXCEPTIONS  but that is the job of your legal systems lecturer – not mine). No lawyer; SAN or Chief Judge, can practice in the country without passing through and exiting its gates. Therefore you would expect that the standards of fairness, equity, justice, amongst others, which the legal profession  holds dear would salute you every morning as you awake and tuck you into sleep as your head hits the pillow. If that is your impression. I enjoin you to please engage in more productive use of your time and mind.

NLS Bar Part 1 will try you in ways you have never fathomed. From

  • being told that the bites scattered across your body cannot be bed bug bites from the infested hostel mattress because the doctor who diagnosed had not conducted a physical examination of the mattress to ascertain the presence of such bed bugs (never mind that a doctor who diagnoses you of malaria  need not conduct a physical examination of the room to ascertain the presence of female anopheles mosquitoes in your room)
  • to being told when you complain of snake infested dormitory (The Boys Hostel interestingly named ‘Afghanistan’) that you should be tolerant as you are the one encroaching on the snake’s natural habitat
  • to being called Batman by school officials for wearing a billowy top, and still being sent back to the hostel to change said top even after putting a blazer over it
  • to being told to take out a full head of dreadlock braids before classes the next day because they made you look like Rihanna’s back up singer and not a lawyer,
  • to having your name crossed off the attendance for an entire week for signing with a green pen (apparently you are expected to know that black and blue pens are the only  ink colours acceptable to lawyers- for signing attendance! Accountants use green pens! Well we learn everyday, don’t we?)
  • to having your phone sitting in your hand seized by a lecturer who walks in a full hour ahead of his class (moral of the lesson- don’t come early to class? Still trying to decode that).

There will be various trying times. In all of these, be strong and of good courage and above all non-confrontational. Stoop to conquer!

  1. ACCENTS

There is a joke people we Nigerians make about ourselves, Mr ABC travels to China for 3 days and returns with an American accent. Extrapolate this joke to Bar 1. Bar 1 will be made up entirely of people who have spent at least 3 years (it takes at least 3 years to complete an undergraduate law degree) of their lives outside of the shores of Nigeria- and you know what that means- there will be a litany of accents floating around the classroom. I choose to group them in the following categories

Pure Britico/ Americana Accent – Now these are the people who have spent all or almost all of their lives in Britain or England and cannot even if their lives depend on this, speak without a British or American accent. This is a small percentage of the ‘Britico/Americana’ accents you will hear in Bar 1. And usually after the initial gra gra of screaming when they talk, we soon get used to them and becoming accepting of them.

The same cannot be said for the By Force Britico/Americana Accent. These also represent a significantly higher percentage of the class, but still a small percentage as opposed to the litany of accents. Listening to these people talk is like doing your worst chore; very very painful and often incredibly embarrassing. They struggle to roll their tongue and make their words airy and light; they try hard to suppress the heavier Nigerian tongues which they have been born with. The struggle is obvious and hence we call then by force Britico/Americana. You easily spot these people by the number of ‘errrrr’s and ahhhhhh’s they have in between simple phrases. My nameee (errrr) is (errrr) Nicky (errrr). This accent is often not sustainable and it isn’t unusual to hear it slip up and sometimes fall into correct warri pidgin when they are bargaining for food or asking for their change at mammy market! The class forever reacts aggressively to these people each time they pick up the microphone (and they love the sound of their voice so they often go for it) by screaming, hissing, banging armrests and throwing mini tantrums.

The I have been Accent – This is the accent majority of the class has. It is that accent which is still very Nigerian but punctuated with a bit of phonetics. Because this is where majority of the class standards, the class is tolerant of these accents, especially after a presentation, this accent welcomes claps and cheers.

The Forever Loyal Nigerians – These are the Okonjo Iweala’s of the class. They might have spent even more time abroad than the By Force Britico/Americana but they speak with the same degree of flavour as our ancestors. They have no time and strength to roll their tongue. The majority of these are older igbo men and their accents were viscous thick and their mannerisms completely the same.

 

  1. NIGERIAN-NESS OF OUR LAWS

I think this is an important thing that is not talked about because well not many people talk about the academic aspects of Bar part 1 because if we are being honest there is almost no such thing. (Okay if we are being completely honest there is such a thing actually but only the week before exams!). Before the final week of exams, all you need to do is show up to classes and sign attendance, or if you have (good) friends they can help you to sign the attendance while you sleep off the hangover from clubbing in town the night before.

So why do I say it is important to know about this? If you are like me who doesn’t like to leave the academics to the week before exams, that is – you actually like to follow what is being said in class, then a lot of things would confuse you at first. Also, if you decide to leave everything to last minute,  you must also understand  some little principles so that you don’t start to question whether or not your parents wasted valuable hard currency sending you to school outside the country.

This little excerpt is just to tell you that many things about our laws do not make any form of sense- at first. I mean for example you would be very confused and find it very hard to grasp the fact that ‘all land in a State is vested in the Governor of that State’ therefore every State government is the chief and original landlord of the land in that State.’  To be fair, this is not an entirely fair example because Land/Property Law is generally a terribly difficult course to comprehend in almost any jurisdiction. (It is where the money is too so…….). But prepare your mind for the Nigerianness of our laws, to grammatical errors in statute books and inconsistencies rife and thriving even in the Constitution. Prepare your mind too for evidence law because that shit makes no damn sense – at least in Bar Part 1!

4.  LOVITOS

This is the only thing in Bwari that reminds law school students of their time outside of the country. Built to double as a restaurant and a a bar/club, official hookup zone of Bwari Abuja. In case you are not aware, you will be thrust in the middle of no-where in Abuja (to think I was actually super excited to move to Nigeria and live in Abuja and live my best life….chile!) Lovitos is what serves as everything. It is where a poor and sweet vegan soul like me thought I could go and ask for a meat free meal being that it is the only place that looked like civilization might have brushed past it as it qucikly hurried past that town! I got a ‘meat free’ pasta meal alright…..WITH SAUSAGES! The waitress didn’t seem to understand why I was so frustrated because ‘there is no meat in the plate now?’ It is the place you are most likely to get taken on a date for some ‘privacy’ if you are not determined enough to drive into town. Lovitos is where the Friday and Saturday parties are at. It is the scene of the last party after Bar 1 exams where if you go all day without eating and stressing for your exams, and after a few shots of what you don’t know, you might end up slow whining with the annoying Nigerian-American guy in your class you can’t stand – the guy who raised hell over the cafeteria owing him N10. Lovitos is a beautiful place filled with regrets and memories that must be suppressed.

5.  PREDATORS
Listen ladies! I speak for ladies because I do not know about the men. But ladies…….LISTEN! The favourite button on your phone will quickly become ‘the block button’. And honestly it doesn’t matter how kind and sweet and friendly your disposition is (I am as sweet as they come). It is close to impossible as a Bar 1 student to leave your room without encountering some guy who is trying to get your number, buy your meal or walk you back to the hostel (because you suddenly have gotten blind and can’t find the way by which you came again.)  Listen I am not even talking about purposeful approaches – just random approaches with the stupidest pick up lines. I mean I had a guy approach me TWICE at the same exact spot -I had to remind me that we had done this before, that he has my number and YES when he calls I do not pick the calls and will not pick the calls.  So ladies, the guys will approach you, YES THEY WILL. And honey, I know you are a babe, and you are fit and snatched! But it has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above! Nope they approach you because you are new meat in the wilderness of Bwari and you are easier to prey on than their Bar 2 colleagues! Men of all sorts will approach you, you will quickly learn to be deaf, to walk super swiftly or to use your block button because sometimes it is easier to give them your number and walk away than to pretend to be deaf.

Good Luck.

 

P.S. It might be too late for us but we can at least laugh about it: Don’t be a lawyer

 

 


I wrote this a while ago! I have been out of law school for 3 years now but I still feel the need to publish because 1. memories 2. for those who come behind 3. to share with those very very ‘unprivileged’ to be lawyers or attend the Nigerian Law School.

 

For the Love of the Profession

The fires in our eyes once shone brilliantly.
Burning with merciless vigour;
Ravenously, eating up everything standing in its path.
We barely slept because the heat of the fire
Made sleep uncomfortable, impossible.
We barely slept because we feared that while unconscious
The fire might consume us too, innards then flesh.

We looked with arrogant pity at those gone before,
10, 20, 30 years post-call,
Who in their eyes, we saw, instead of fire, flickering embers,
Their fires quenched by the realities of the trade;
Eyes dull, eye balls only glistening in moments of remembrance of the days gone before
When they could forego food, shelter and even life itself,
For the love of the profession.

We looked with scorn and disdain at those gone before
10, 20, 30 years post-call
Who have in their eyes the dull green colour of currency notes.
No flickering embers,
Eyes dull as though hypnotised, slavish in their pursuit of money.
‘These ones have sold their souls’ we laughed mirthlessly.
‘What do they know about the law, the common man, and justice?’
Where is the love of the profession?

But experience, they say, is the best teacher,
And learn we did,
That the fire burning in us while we burned the midnight candle,
That fire that kept us hungry, yet no food could fill us,
That kept us passionate and judgmental,
That kept us intrigued and blissfully naive,
That fire;

That fire soon gets enveloped in a wave of reality
When we realise that passion isn’t always the sole criterion,
Neither is qualification nor knowledge alone.
So in that wave, the fire is snuffed out for many,
Buried deep in the seabed of responsibilities.
And then we learn to look without arrogance in our pity,
For how can one be arrogant towards oneself?
And lose our scorn and gain reverence for those whose eyes are dull and green.
For is it not the comfortable place to bear the pain of regret?

We drop the naivety invariably attached to passion?
The naivety that things can change and we can change them
Just by the power of hungry hearts….
We learn the way the world works,
We humble ourselves,
And for the love of the profession
Hope that the jackets of our suits match the trousers,
And that the soles of our feet, while in our shoes,
Are not intimate with the soil on which we walk
So that we have reasons to walk dignified on the streets
While people hail ‘the law’.
So that they don’t snigger and point their lips at us
While we shuffle past, under the sweaty armpits of a yellow bus driver
Into our designated corner in the bus.
So that we never get to hear the words
‘The Law, your money no complete again o.’

OMA & IKUKU*

 

 

*I met Ikuku at Law School and at first he was just my fitness buddy, till he checked me out on facebook and discovered this blog. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t writing anymore (I couldn’t either). I spent the rest of Law School avoiding him because the first thing he wanted to know each time he saw me was when next I would write. 3 Years post-call, it is still the same. Each whatsapp message and each call is started with his encouragement and bullying that I write something and ended with (many failed) promises to write something that week. The few times I have written within this time, he is the first to comment and to send his love and encouragement. I have been afraid and lazy to write recently,  but I wrote this with Ikuku because he deserves not to have his heart broken again by another failed promise. Thank you Ikuku for being there. Here is to hoping that the fires in our eyes for the love of the profession and our friendship keep burning for the rest of our lives.

Blurred Lines: A Short Story.

‘Oya Oya, Dami… Gist me’

‘Is that the new way to say hello?’

‘Dami, don’t play with me like that’

‘Nigerian men have a problem’ I reply, nudging the phone between my shoulder and my ears,while unhooking my bra,  taking off my jewellery, wiping my makeup, washing my hands.  My daily ritual once inside my room.

‘Nne, you are hot. That is their problem’ Amaka replies, excitement bubbling from her voice. I had sent her a message on whatsapp a few minutes ago. It had read ‘I am having an office romance (?) with one of the senior associates.’

Amaka is that friend with whom my friendship solidified over a painful heartbreak caused by her own closest male friend. He had spent 7 months wooing me. I was 19, had never been in a relationship and was afraid of trying it out.

‘I dont think I have time for this? It is too much effort. Too much committment’ I would tell him.

‘But there will be two of us, it will half the effort. It will make the commitment easier, Damilola’ Maleek would say

I gave in after 7 months and after the first date, we went to dinner, and on his persuasion went to my hostel accommodation and had sex, on even more extreme persuasion.  He never called after that. When I did, he was never with his phone. I ran into him during Amaka’s 20th birthday and the dinner conversation was as stale as bread which had sat on the counter for an entire winter. Amaka later became privy to my heart break, listened to me cry about how he was my first and was going to be the last; how I screamed during sex not from pleasure but from intense pain. I told her I was raped as a child. I told her it felt like being raped, again. She cried at that point.I was the one holding her. Consoling her. She was the first person I opened up to, about being raped. She was the last. I do not know how to relate my feelings or emotions. She broke those walls and so with her, and only with her could I relate the darkest crevices of my life on which the sun does not shine, ever.

‘Hellooooo, but nne this guy is hot oo’ Amaka hollers down the line. ‘And you said he is 36?’

‘Yes Amaka. He looks incredible for his age.’ I reply, closing my door. I didn’t want my father walking in on this conversation. He had made a few high profile calls to get me this high profile internship.

‘Oya gist me now. Warrapun?’

‘I dont even know how to start this story.’

‘Start from what you wore on that the first day, what dress, what shoes, what lipstick…’

‘You know I wont do that!’

‘Dami, what is the point of this gist now? Are you not just burning my credit?’ Amaka hisses down the line, while I listen to the faint click-click sound in the background; she was still facebook stalking him.

‘Amaka, I don’t even think this is an office romance to be honest. You know I put the question mark right next to romance.’

‘Yeah I saw that. What does that mean? Okay, just start this gist from the beginning now. You just know how to kill a niggress’ vibe’.

‘I have told you I don’t like that word’

‘Really? Dami? Are we doing this now?’ Amaka says, an edge of irritation rising in her voice

I sigh and prepare to emotionally offload on her; unlike Amaka who gets pleasure in sharing details of her life with me, in finding out mine; I dread every minute of it. I unload the details of how I met Obi to Amaka. My father had pulled a few strings to get me an internship at a law firm. The first 3 weeks of the internship I had been working peacefully. Obi is a senior associate at the law firm. My conversations with him bordered on ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’. We never really spoke, unlike some of the obviously prey-like male associates, he never made comments on anyone’s appearance or made unnecessary conversation. He was the most mature and the most liked amongst the other interns.

‘So on the low he was eyeing you now, Dami?’ Amaka giggled girlishly; as though we were 12 years old and talking about our school crushes.

‘I wouldn’t say that Amaka. I mean I think everything changed the day another lawyer, asked me to go find out authorities for how on when the word ‘may’ when used in a statute actually connotes ‘must’ or ‘shall’. You know this is what is really interesting about words- not just in law but in every day life….’

‘Hian! Dami, you know I don’t give a shit about your law. If I start talking about Economics  now, you will get lost. Just tell me about Obi now?’ Amaka chided, ironically ignoring the fact that most of our university days I had spent my time studying for two degrees,  hers and mine, writing her cumulative essays and preparing her for compulsory exam questions.  ‘I just want a 50’ she would say, while getting restless during the tutoring. ‘Pass mark.  I am not too greedy’, she would add, taking jabs at my need to be perfect,  in everything I did,  especially my grades.  While I concentrated hard on getting our two degrees,  she concentrated hard on stumbling in and out of clubs and Afro-Carribean society events around London.

‘Anyway’ I said, realising that Amaka had little interest in lexicon and semantics.

I relieved to Amaka how I spent the day I was to be doing library research in conversation with him the whole day. Amaka thought that was abnormal because I had about 10 sentences to say each day,  even to people I love. I told her how the next day, he had envelopped me in a very unexpected  hug when I walked into the office library, and during the hug, broke off the hug to let his lips trace my face with kisses, down to my neck and back up, meeting my lips. Amaka squeals with excitement.

‘Why do you always get the juicy love stories?’ She exclaims! You are the cynic but you get all the Suits action.

‘This isnt Suits action Amaka. I can’t decide if this is a case of sexual harrassment in the work place. I definitely did not do anything to encourage this… I mean he just should think he can do that.’

‘But you did not stop him?’ Amaka says interjecting.

‘No, not really. I mean he is an attractive guy. I was attracted to him. In fact the first day I was introduced to him, I made a mental note of his hotness. But it stopped at that. I didnt go groping him in the office after that…?’

‘Wait Dami?’ What is your point? That if this happened outside the office you would be fine?’

‘No! The point is that he is in a position of authority; I am his intern, who happens to be female. But I shouldnt have to go through that; I shouldnt be treated differently from Erasmus…’

‘Who is that one now?’ Amaka pitches in

‘The other male intern in the office.’ I respond, hurrying back to my point. ‘Point is that he took advantage of that position, as well as jumped into conclusions kissing me, in the office library, merely a day after he met me.’A part of me feels I am being taken advantage of Amaka.’ I say, the last sentence, coming out frailly.

‘I see your pont Dami….’

‘But I didnt really stop him. I let him kiss me the first day. The rest of the days in this week, we have been having our little office escapades,  I come in some minutes earlier to work because I am trying to beat traffic or on our way back from court…

‘So he is forcing himself on you?’ Amaka says taking on her motherly protective instincts

‘I wont say he is. I never initiate the kiss. But when he kisses me, I don’t push him away…’

‘Rightfully so, the guy is fucking  specimen of beauty.  Finally I have seen one hot Nigerian lawyer, because you people always look like struggle….’she teases.

‘Babe, see the fact is that I don’t think a guy should just assume he could do that, whether in the office or out of the office.  He feels entitled to me and my body.  Like he hugged me and kissed me based off of this entitlement…’

‘Abeg Dami, you have come again. This your feminism will not allow you find husband or boyfriend sef. Didn’t you just tell me you were attracted to him too? Maybe he could tell that you were feeling him too and he was feeling you and that was the result. All this talk about entitlement or not, and yet when he kisses you,  you kiss him back finish and come here to give me lecture on entitlement’ Amaka lectures in mock derision.

‘Amaka, everything in life is not about finding husband. Sometimes take time to appreciate the niceties of issues before you link it to husbands, please’ I respond, mocking her too.

‘So what is happening now?  Is he asking you out or what? ‘ Amaka continues,  ignoring me.

‘He just keeps asking for us to hang out outside the office during the weekends…’

‘Dami, that one sounds like a booty call o’  Amaka says defensively.

‘That is exactly what I thought….’

‘Do you like him though? ‘

‘Amaka He is 36. I am barely 25.’

‘And your father is currently married to a woman 30 years his junior… So what is your point?. Abeg, do you like him? ‘

‘I think I do.  But a part of me is scared because what happens when he makes more demands that I don’t feel comfortable with. Moreover this is highly unprofessional.  He is a superior at the office…Mehn I don’t know babe. ‘

‘You should go out on a date with him. Just make sure you drive there and have vex money. If he makes any funny moves, text me to give you an emergency call…’Amaka rattles on and on.

‘I don’t know Amaka. We work in the same office…’

‘Man must sha find husband somewhere.  Whether work or church… Stop over doing this feminism thing’ she finally says before the network cuts us off.  I knew she would call back immediately.