Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Johnson Odion Esezoobo Esq

So, ‘There Is Hope’, Job.11:18 –By Johnson O. Esezoobo Esq

When I listened to the admonition of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) to the young graduating students of the July 2022 Nigerian Law School, I had concluded that there was no more hope for the legal profession in the light of what the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, had circulated as his experience with members of the Body of Benchers (BoB), who called him privately to speak against what was going on but would not raise it at their meeting. 

But reading the press release this group has sent out, I can go to bed tonight glad because according to Job 12:18, “..there is hope….”

In a right environment, where things are done properly, and people respect themselves, the BoB chairman would not wait for a debate over whether he should step down or not. But not only did the otherwise revered Chief and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria stay put, he felt comfortable admitting the young lawyers to the Bar with an admonition to avoid the Pull him down syndrome his meaning of Phd, a very tendentious statement.

I compared the admonition to that which was given to us in July 1980 by the then Chairman of BoB, Chief TOS Benson of blessed memory. He explained what the hood on our gown stands for. He made us to understand that the legal profession is not all about money and stressed that as lawyers we should be courageous to defend the truth and stand always for justice. 

After all this, I had a short stint with my mentor, Suru Akele, of blessed memory. His admonition seemed to be an addition to what we were told at our call. He said to me ‘A lawyer is not supposed to be rich, but comfortable. The money the lawyer needs is money to check insult‘. 

He explained the meaning of this ‘Insult‘: if you are a tenant and you pay your rent when it is due, you check the insult that will come from your landlord. If your car breaks down and you able to fix it, you check the insult that follows, you pay your NEPA bills, you check the insult that follows etc. 

In summary, what TOS Benson’s admonition, like Suru Akele’s meant was never to be desperate for money, indeed for anything in life. Let moderation be your watchword. Avoid covetousness and greed. And what all these translate to is commitment to the the integrity of the profession more than any other thing. Be reminded that no one can pull you down if you follow these admonitions. What will pull down a man is in that man. 

As my illiterate mother used to admonish us when we were growing up, The thing that you do always in which you excel, succeeding all the time, is the very thing that will bring you down if you are not careful. If Johnson Odion Esezoobo, son of a poor farmer from that small village Afuze-Emai in Edo State, after having been able by the grace of God Almighty, read up to becoming a professor/lecturer in the university, forgets where he is coming from and takes to sleeping with the young female students he is supposed to teach values also. If he gets cut naked in a video by fellow students who organise his exposure, it is not the students that have pulled him down but what he made his indulgence. 

The case of Samson in the Bible is illustrative. Ahithophel in the Bible was a great adviser of King David. But his betrayal of a friend pulled him down. Judas Iscariot loved money, he ended the way he did. The Watergate scandal in the US just like the Bill Clinton and Lewinsky scandal, all stemmed from what these men were given to. 

Against all these, any admonition of a young lawyer not to engage in Pull him down syndrome but to always respect his seniors is a wrong admonition; it’s like telling him that even when his senior is lying or stealing, he should slavishly respect him. That is unnatural and unpatriotic.

Sometime in 1982 or so, I was doing a case before Honourable Justice Sowemimo, or so, of blessed memory of the Federal High Court. I sought to tender a document which I pleaded and for which I gave notice to produce. The opposing Counsel, a Chief and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said he did not have the document. The Judge ruled against me because he was not satisfied with the mode of delivery of the letter to the other side. But curiously, in the course of his defence, the Chief, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, brought out original of the same letter and sought to tender it to make his point. And when I drew the attention of the Judge that he did not plead the letter and secondly, he had said earlier that they did not receive the letter, the Judge said, Chief, you said earlier…, then he quietly withdrew the letter. From that day, and until the man died, my level of respect for him dropped. 

It is against the foregoing that I commend this group for this press release. Let us all work together to keep alive the hope that the release offers. May God help us to do this.

Barrister Johnson Odion Esezoobo Could Be Reached Via +234 803 320 0595