I read Inibehe Effiong’s article entitled SENATOR ITA ENANG: THE STORY OF A SHAMELESS LAWMAKER. I managed to read up to the last word. I was tempted to abandon the reading midway. But I persevered to the end because I wanted to grasp the whole picture before making any evaluation. Doing it took a balance of restraint and endurance, the kind you need to hear a person with bad breath out.
As you engaged the piece, a number of grammatical blunders leaped off the piece. And that can be accounted for. The draft obviously escaped the sanitization of proofreading. However, as you read, you discovered that the frequency and nature of the errors bespoke a far weightier reality – the writer’s grammatical handicap.
Effiong had a case that seemed to be valid. He had collected some grievances against Enang. But Effiong’s flawed grammar sabotaged Effiong. His grammar ensured that an average reader would pivot from considering Enang, the anathema, to querying the touted credentials of the writer.
Effiong added the tiny detail that he was a graduate of the Faculty of Law of the University of Uyo. That should lend him gravitas. After all, having a law degree meant something. It meant that he was well read. That’s exactly what makes his tragic offering so embarrassing.
We can excuse Patience Jonathan’s English. She speaks the language out of spite. She has quit attempting to acquaint herself with the language. She has turned her frustration about those exotic rules into a pretext for making comedy with the language. But we expect more from a lawyer.
A lawyer is a language worker. Words are the tools of his trade. He is supposed to cultivate the art of making words serve his intention. He is supposed to be skillful at using words to persuade, to dissuade, to argue, to defend. He is the people’s advocate. He gives clarity and pulse to their case.
Effiong may have been honest. All his assertions could be true. But he botched his case against Ita Enang. He turned the nozzle of the gun from his target to himself. He ensured that the average reader of that piece would pivot from pondering the claims made against Senator Enang to querying the authenticity of the qualification of the accuser.
Ita-Enang can afford to ignore Effiong’s piece. Effiong’s publication is incapable of hurting Enang in a substantial measure. Effiong served a cup of palm wine that is too adulterated to intoxicate.
English language is Nigeria’s lingua franca. And it is a mandatory subject in all of our schools. Mastery of that language is one of the key indices of education. These days, however, the decline in standards of education has resulted in the emergence of university graduates who can hardly speak or write without exposing their low proficiency.
Some questions need to be asked: of what use is a full-fledged lawyer who is demonstrably incapable of penning a clean opinion? When the lot to defend a murder suspect falls on Effiong, how can he present his argument? Does he speak worse than he writes? Does he write better than he speaks?
The high failure rate at the Nigerian Law School has escalated in the past couple of years. Yet, I could venture to infer from our lawyer’s performance that the students may not be failing enough. At least, the examiners skipped one person who deserved to fail in the year that Effiong graduated from the law school.
Effiong did us good by referencing his alma mater. That answers the question of which institution could have been awarding law degrees to people who can’t express themselves in acceptable English. We now know.
We can work a positive out of this. And we can start by scrutinizing the process that gifted us a lawyer of Effiong’s kind. Is it true that ‘’ I did not just passed through the university, the university passed through me?
Does he represent thousands of law graduates being produced by our universities? Or is he an exception? Did Effiong earn UNIYO’s law degree by lugging bad grammar all through his time on campus?
Enang’s conduct may have disappointed Effiong. And Effiong, the lawyer, knows that he can punish Enang beyond publishing one scathing article on the internet. He can mobilize other constituents of his senatorial district and effect Enang’s recall.
But the quality of Effiong’s writing suggests that we are now in an era that demands the creation of a category of lawyers lower than ‘’ charge and bail’’…
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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