This book is an Autobiography detailing life and experiences of the author who spent a large time of her career working for the vulnerable and voiceless, who sometimes are caught up in the snare of the law. As a humble contribution, the writer tries to highlight more to the society the plight of people who are not able to access justice for daily problems or when they offend against the law and cannot afford the fees of legal practitioners, however these set of people also have fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.
The book starts with memoirs of the writer's childhood, family background and education through to her career path from teaching to becoming a private legal practitioner, all this in preparation for a life of service to the poor, until she was privileged to be appointed as the Director General of the LEGAL AID COUNCIL, NIGERIAN, for two tenures. It is an institution created to provide free legal service to the poor and vulnerable. This book is laced with real life events that relief boredom while the author hopes readers also get to appreciate how the poor is unable to easily access justice and how the justice sector in Nigeria has intensified efforts to improve service delivery to citizens.
IN THE BEGINNING
“Though thy beginning was small, yet your latter end would
greatly increase” Job 8:7
My father and mother both come from Calabar in Eastern Nigeria but gave birth to the five of us in Ibadan, the ancient city of rusty roofs and seven hills over five decade ago. Apart from its mysterious hills, the city held the unique fascination of being the administrative centre of the old Western Region.
Our home always came alive during the holidays because my four brothers and I often jostled unnecessarily for identity and space since there was often no clear or definite reason for it. As the fourth child and the only female, I usually felt that my siblings believed they had a duty to make me comfortable. Often their protectiveness made me feel special but that feeling was always short-lived as one or two of them would smack me for one flimsy reason or another and threaten me not to report to our parents. So sometimes I would sulk, in sorrow at my inability to retaliate or to report the infraction to mummy whose usual support always soothed my bruised ego. As children, none of us took these things to heart because the next minute we would be seen playing together. “But why am I recalling these anecdotes so clearly?” I ask myself as I look back at that infantile scenario of over fifty something years ago.
But the time I dreaded most was when my three older brothers returned to their boarding schools and I had to fend for myself and my junior brother.
We had been born into a great period of transformation which would later impact our lives. The British colonial masters amalgamated Nigeria in 1914 and divided the country into three regions for ease of administration. This produced the colony of Nigeria and the Northern and Southern Provinces. On April 1, 1939, Southern Nigeria was divided into two provinces, the Western and Eastern Provinces, which came to be known as Regions. The Western Region housed the Yoruba ethnic group but from 1947 – 1963 the Western Region had extended to accommodate the Urhobos, Western Ijaws, Isoko, Edo and other ethnic groups.
In 1963, the Mid-Western region was carved out of Western region and the regions became four: The Northern, Midwestern, Western and Eastern regions. In 1967, the Military administration of General Yakubu Gowon dissolved the Regions and replaced them with states. The first set of states was 12 with Ibadan still nestling in the heartland of Western State. Nine years later, Western State was divided into three states called Ondo, Ogun and Oyo, states. In no time, the states had grown to 19.
For a very long time, we lived with the same set of neighbours and bonded very well since they stayed upstairs and we, downstairs in the same building. By some strange coincidence, the older siblings of the other family often stayed in boarding schools and left the younger ones to care for themselves. They had just one boy and four girls while we were one girl and four boys.