Agents of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State as instructed by their leader, are embarking on character assassination and the denigration of the person of Chief Onueze Chukwujinka Joe Okocha, SAN, MFR, JP. Otherwise known as OCJ Okocha.
The charge is being led by young people, many of whom, I can attest have no sense of history and knowledge of the man and is encouraged by Party leaders, many of whom ought reasonably to know that by the very act of condoning and promoting the devaluation of our values, they equally put themselves up for crucifixion.
Their only basis for the attack is that OCJ spoke ill of former Gov. Amaechi, their leader. Nobody said what OCJ said about Amaechi. I doubt if most of them who are firing the shots know what OCJ said. All they repeat is that he spoke ill of Amaechi. The ill that he spoke of remains shrouded in mystery like some aged valuable secret reserved for the Initiates.
Just to inform the deviant young minds, OCJ became a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1978, when most of them, including me, were not even conceived, talk less of of being incubated. He had his Masters 35 years ago.
In 1986, he was Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt Branch until 1989 and also a Member of the National Executive Committee, Nigerian Bar Association, even to this day. He was appointed Notary Public of Nigeria in the 80s.
How many of them know he was Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in Rivers State between 1990 and 1992 or that he was Chairman of the Rivers State Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association between 1994 and 1996 and even President of the Nigerian Bar Association?
One would not wish to raise the issue of his being Senior Advocate of Nigeria, for the mere fact that it reeks of famed notoriety. But, nevertheless, one would only wish to ask how many of them know the criteria for the conferment of SAN on lawyers beyond knowing the meaning of the acronym? Do they think the rank of SAN is plucked off by the highest bidder as it is with political awards?
To begin with, as provided in S. 5 (2) of the Legal Practitioners Act: “A person shall not be conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria unless he has been qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria for not less than ten years and has achieved distinction in the legal profession in such manner as the committee may from time to time determine.”
More specifically, in the last ten years the candidate ought to have to his/her credit 8 judgments of the High Court, 6 judgments at the Court of Appeal and 3 judgments at the Supreme Court which are SIGNIFICANT to the evaluation of his/her competence in Legal Practice and contributions to the development of law. It’s not just judgments but those that are SIGNIFICANT for evaluation! That means the candidate must go beyond the normal into the alleyways of novelty. Such is the character of the competence of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
It is a tough hurdle to cross studying Law alone or being called to the Nigerian Bar and enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. But to be adorned in silk, to be in the class of un triton parmi des vairons, the nulli secundus and the eminent grade of primus inter pares, it takes deep immersion in daunting legal practice and brandishing excellence. It is the zenith of Legal Practice. Beyond it, is nothing of fancy. Behind it are bouts in aspiration. It is the ultimate reward for sound Legal Practice in Nigeria; the very crown and icing on the cake, and it doesn’t come cheap.
So some political, fleeting and opportunistic leaders to allow their minions desecrate the sacredness of the sterling accomplishment that comes with being a celebrated lawyer, hey, nay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the person of Chief Onueze Chukwujinka Joe Okocha is to promote the continued desecration of our values in society. Besides, OCJ is deity in the strict sense of the word!
Only recently, we were informed of some comical news report of a N300 billion claim for damages of a character that is believed to be notoriously infamous. If that could be, in spite of the scarcity of concomitant value in that regard, one can only imagine a claim by the very respected and revered OCJ, going by their standard.
The attack on OCJ exposes the plaguing inadequacies that exists within the precinct of the APC. An inadequacy that is born out of incompetence and would rather propel the desecration of values than address issues. Education is important. Good education is nonnegotiable. The lack of it is a liability that is expressed in conducts such as we see by the folks from the other side.
If we may ask, what was it that OCJ said against or about Amaechi that is shrouded in secrecy? Why is it so biting? Why is a defense not being put up in relation to what was said against or about Amaechi rather than an attack on the messenger of light? Could it be that the truth was so precise that it amounted to an injury of the pride and ego of the class? Could that be the reason OCJ is being vilified? Is it now wrong to speak truth? Oh! He didn’t speak truth? So, what did he say? Who will be brave to tell us? Anyone?
As a Fellow of The Brown Table, I beat my chest to say unequivocally that this is not a battle that the APC can sustain. Let it rest. Enough said.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.