” Why do you want to go to the lower bench. Private Practice is the best. Remain in it”. The remarks of a Learned silk few years ago during the last recruitment exercise for Magistrates in Anambra State. It was a cold reception as I confided in him of my plans to be a Magistrate seeking the proverbial and ritualistic “blessings”.
Well I participated in the process, passed the exams , got shortlisted for the interview but I wasn’t selected hence I remained in my present vocation. The manner the lower bench is viewed is the same way some view lawyers on Government payroll working in the Justice Ministry.
I do not know what their experiences or perceptions are but it is wrong to tarr everyone with same brush of mediocrity and incompetence. Whether at the lower bench, private practice, academics, public prosecutions etc there are intelligent hardworking lawyers and there are dumb advocates. They are not concentrated in one place. They cut across all divides.
Interestingly why some of us taint the Lower Bench and Advocates from the Ministry with misgivings, those in the North think otherwise. Most Justices of the Supreme Court of Northern Nigeria extraction inclusive of those that made it to the CJN are largely lawyers from the Ministry of Justice and lower bench.
Regardless of the flaw in Tanko’s appointment as the CJN, it is important to note that he progressed from the lower bench as Khadi of a Sharia Court. Across the Niger, in Anambra State, they just scrapped the Customary Court of Appeal, which tells a lot in the perspective of the decision makers!
If the permutations bandied in the press is anything to go by, then expectedly if Onnoghen and Tanko goes away, the next senior Justice of the Supreme Court to mount the saddle as the CJN is Rhodes Viviour, an ex DPP of Lagos State, a brilliant Jurist with stellar career in the Ministry of Justice prior to his elevation to the Bench!
There is nothing wrong with private practice. If it bodes well for the lawyer it is very fulfilling. However the brains requisite for appointments to the Bench are not solely domiciled in private litigation.
Destiny differs. Our paths must not necessary be the same. There are brilliant lawyers across all divides whether private practice, academics, public prosecutions etc.
All needed is to pick the best hands who have integrity!!!