“A o ni ri ogun ejo oo” literally means “we will not have cause to litigate” and by necessary implication means “may we not have any cause to engage the services of a Lawyer”
Saturdays are for “owambe” especially in the western parts of the country. “Owambe” is Yoruba slang for party or party rockers. I had this particular “owambe” which was a naming ceremony of a child of my hubby’s colleague. His wife had put to bed the previous Saturday.
The invite stated that the ceremony would begin at 2pm. I got there at about 3:30pm hoping that the religious rites would have been dispensed with but I met the pastor still giving his sermon. He was a slightly elderly man who looked like someone in his early fifties. In a bid to keep the sermon lively to the guests, he made some jokes at regular intervals that were not funny. The sermon ended about 15 minutes after I came in and it was time for prayers. All manners of prayers were said for the new baby. The Man of God was praying and speaking in tongues. I actually pitied those people at the front who were the couple themselves and their parents; the Man of God was anointing not only with his prayers but also with his spittle. The mother had covered the baby’s face with her spare hand.
‘Holy ghost fire come and protect your child in Jesus’ name.’
‘Amennnn.’ The guests chorused.
‘Ahhh seki bo siki pa stamabo, ha baba. Don’t let the hands of enemies touch her…’
He spoke in tongues of fire once more and snippets of his spittle were flying out again and again from his mouth. Even though the lips looked strong and well formed, they could not hold the spittle back as they flew out like shooting stars.
‘Ha baba all the evil eyes here looking at this child let them go blind in the name of Jesussss.’
Some section of the guests roared ‘amennnnnn’.
‘Bless the child o Lord. In the Jesus’ mighty name I pray.’
‘Amen.’ The guests thundered.
‘This child shall not spend in naira. Yes. He shall not spend in naira. Baba, siki po siki pa…’
‘Heenn take him to America nah. Dollar ko Dolapo ni.’ I said to myself. I was already getting angry. I was not alone. It appeared the man had stayed on for too long. The foods and drinks were already coming out in small batches.
‘Ah Baba… He shall spend in dollars…’
‘Amennn.’ The guests responded again. The ‘amen’ was getting weaker as the foods were gradually penetrating.
I thought we were done with the prayers. The man had started praying again.
‘Ha baba iwo omo yi o ni ri ogun ejo oo. A o ni ri ogun ejo lo ri e. Ha baba. In Jesus name I pray.’
‘Amen.’ The crowd replied again.
It appeared he was done for good this time. Probably when he opened his eyes and saw that food and drinks were already flying all over.
By the time he was done, all the people in his front had left his presence save for the mother of the new baby who had to endure till the end.
As the man of God prayed and repeatedly said ‘a o ni ri ogun ejo’, I reflected deeply about the statement. It is not uncommon to hear ‘a o ni ri ogun ejo’ especially when a lawyer is introduced to a Yoruba man. Most lawyers just laugh it off as it was too common a statement to react in any other way.
To a lot of people, all the works of a lawyer starts and end in the court room. But is litigation the only job of a lawyer? Some people are a bit negative about lawyers and courts generally. There is another common Yoruba saying –“a kiti kootu de ka tun se ore” “which means we don’t go to court and come back to be friends”. Some even believe that all lawyers are cultists. All these are negative impressions about lawyers and the courts as people had taken themselves to court and come back to be friends.
LITIGATION V OTHER PRACTICE AREAS
Law covers almost all facets of human life. Some lawyers help bring people together, others help break them apart. There is the litigation which is adversarial and other areas of practice which are not adversarial but beneficial to parties. These other areas of practice could involve transactional deals and more. These may involve researching, preparing and reviewing of documents that bring individuals and companies together. These kinds of transactions may range from preparation of contracts for large organizations, corporate mergers and acquisitions to the closing documents for the purchase of real properties. Most Lawyers who engage in transactional deals most often do not go to court as advocates. These transactional deals as stated above covers a wide range of business endeavors as would be discussed below and are not exhaustive.
Lawyers are involved in the registration of intellectual property rights which include patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyrights etc. It also includes licensing, franchising and monitoring of these intellectual property rights to prevent infringement and striking out of the registers, where the owners or licensees fail or refuse to fulfill obligations. This area of the practice is big enough for lawyers to earn a living and practice in these areas form the bulk of the income of some lawyers. This is because, there are new developments and inventions daily in medicine, manufacturing and technology generally and the services of a lawyer are needed for the protection of business interests and this service does not require the Lawyer to go to the court.
Property Law (Real Estate)
This area of practice has been and is still highly profitable to lawyers. The main services lawyers render in this area are perfection of title documents and searches at lands registries. It also involves drafting/preparing of all land documents like deeds of assignments, contracts of sale, leases, and conveyances. Registration and perfection of title include, stamping and obtaining governors consent or certificate of occupancy depending on the nature of the transaction.
Family & Probate
This area of practice includes preparation and lodgment of wills and codicils, applying and obtaining probate where the deceased left a will. And where the deceased died intestate, a letter of administration would be applied for and obtained. This area of practice also involves the adoption of children, welfare and custody of children where matrimonial proceedings are not involved.
Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR)
The system and area of practice has rapidly developed in Nigeria. It has the semblance of litigation in certain areas depending on which area of the system the parties involved choose to resolve their dispute. One could say that the system was introduced to provide opportunities for parties to settle their disputes in an amicable manner. The major areas of ADR are arbitration, mediation and conciliation. Arbitration has the semblance of litigation as it is adversarial. It is like a private court established by the parties within the ambit of certain rules. Parties to transactions often agree and put arbitration clauses in their contracts in the event of a dispute before resorting to the court. It is after arbitration fails that the parties may file actions in court. There are mediation centers created by the Lagos State Government across the state. Most tenancy matters are handled at the various Mediation Centers in Lagos. Lawyers are making a living out of these areas as arbitrators and mediators and they do not necessarily have to go to court.
Corporate Law Practice
These lawyers are usually in-house-counsel of business organizations which may include banks, real estate companies, manufacturing companies etc. They serve as legal officers and their duties may include drafting and preparation of transaction documents, ensuring that their corporate employer complies with all industry rules and regulations. Lawyers also serve as company secretaries and the duties may include convening and attending Annual General Meetings, preparing minutes, notices and sending them to appropriate persons as well as filing all necessary documents with all appropriate regulatory bodies.
There are several lawyers who have joined the military and Para-Military outfits and still carrying out their services as lawyers. The fact that they are serving military men or serving in the Police or Civil Defence Corps does not make them less of a lawyer.
Legal Education/Legal Writing
A chunk of lawyers are employed in various educational institutions to teach law subjects. They range from the military institutions, research institutes, universities, polytechnics etc. There are lots of lawyers who earn their living from teaching, research and writing and they are lawyers too notwithstanding that they do not go courts.
All the areas of practice stated above do not require a lawyer to attend court to litigate or advocate before the court. All areas stated the above are not exhaustive as practice of the Law is very wide and as the country continues to develop and the world continues to evolve, more areas of practice will continue to emerge for the lawyers.
I hope that the day will come that the statement – “a o ni ri ogun ejo o” would no longer be made when a lawyer is mentioned.