ASUU LEGAL BATTLES AND PROF. YEMI OKE’S DEFAMATORY PUBLICATION ON FEMI FALANA, SAN By Femi Aborishade – Rights Monitors

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Prof. Yemi Oke’s whatsapp publication on the ASUU legal battles as it concerns femi falana belongs to the genre of pull-him-down (PHD) publications. It is unfounded and bound to fail because in numerous cases, Femi Falana, SAN, has established himself, not only nationally but indeed, internationally. He remains the only living holder of International Bar Association’s Award, after Chief Gani Fawehinmi, ever before the SANship award was conferred on him

ASUU LEGAL BATTLES AND PROF. YEMI OKE’S DEFAMATORY PUBLICATION ON FEMI FALANA, SAN By Femi Aborishade – Rights Monitors

I have just read Prof. Yemi Oke’s unfortunate 15-Paragraph Whatsapp publication on the ASUU legal battles and the performance of Femi Falana, SAN.
The essence of Prof Yemi Oke’s publication is that ASUU should change its Counsel from Femi Falana to some “professors who are SANs and seniors to Falana in the inner bar and command huge respect as known activists, academics, lawyers and strategic personalities” because Femi Falana, SAN is “an activist not an academic activist. Academic SAN should be dragged as volunteers, being stakeholders in the ASUU struggles” (Paragraphs 3 & 4).
With my knowledge of ASUU’s history and particularly its legal history, I can say, without any iota of doubt that no lawyer in Nigeria today is more versed in labour law, particularly as it affects ASUU, than Femi Falana, SAN. He had been handling ASUU matters in his days in the Chambers of the Late Alao Aka Bashorun. ASUU has never lost any case handled by Femi Falana, SAN who has successfully fought, using the instrumentality of the Court, attempts to ban or proscribe ASUU, since 1992 (under IBB) and under Sani Abacha in 1994. Indeed, ASUU has not lost the current legal battle on the 2022 strike. Femi Falana has only advised ASUU to resume work while the appeal against the Ruling of the NICN is still on. That appeal does not stop ASUU from embarking on another strike on payment of salaries on a pro-rata basis, which is a new issue.

In Paragraphs 4, 5, 7, 11 and 13 of his Whatsapp publication, Prof. Yemi Oke advises ASUU to bring in academic lawyers who are professors and/or SANs because of their social weight in society and the judiciary. Prof Yemi Oke, as a lawyer, ought to have factually established that academic lawyers, including professors and SANs are not part of the legal team in the ongoing battle. The training of lawyers is that facts are sacred and one would have expected a Prof of law to demonstrate this attribute, which he, for whatever reasons, chose to ignore.
As a matter of fact, ASUU encouraged all its members who are lawyers to join the legal team. At the NICN, the following academic lawyers are listed as part of the legal team, along Femi Falana, SAN: Prof Joash Ojo, SAN; Prof Sylvester Shikyil, SAN; Prof Alphonsus Alubo, SAN’ Prof. Jamila M. Nasir, Prof Patrick Oche and Dr. Edor Edor. Unfortunately, Prof. Yemi Oke was nowhere to be found among the volunteers to render his legal opinion and expertise to the legal battle. He prefers to run down Femi Falana, SAN, on account that “he is a mere activist”.

The point must be made however, no matter how distasteful it may be to the likes of Prof. Yemi Oke. Legal practice is different from being an academic lawyer, no matter how profound the scholar may be, though a blend of both academic knowledge and legal practice can be beneficial, particularly where the academic lawyer also engages in legal practice. There is a world of difference between being a scholar in law and being a legal practitioner. Legal practice is not concerned with theoretical or academic issues but issues that have practical implications in real life. The vocations and foci of the two vary remarkably.

In Paragraphs 8 & 9 of his Whatsapp publication, Prof. Yemi Oke made reference to the approach of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, in the move to change the name of UNILAG to M. K. O. Abiola University. That Chief Olanipekun, SAN, mobilized 100 other SANs, including “SAN-Professors”. We have made the point abundantly that Femi Falana, SAN does not resist the presence of any other SANs or professors. Indeed, ASUU called on all its members who are lawyers to join the legal team. Neither ASUU nor Femi Falana, SAN could have compelled people like Prof. Yemi Oke to join the legal team. The other point we must make is that the legal team of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN did not legally win the case, as the Federal Government dropped the idea. The point must also be made that the resistance to the change of name of UNILAG was also partly political and partly to the lack of knowledge of the significance of the sacrifice made by Chief MKO Abiola, on the part of the students, on the ground of not being alive or sufficiently conscious of their environment at the time of pro-June 12, 1993 struggles.

People like Prof Yemi Oke must also be told that established and/or establishment senior lawyers like Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, have respect for Femi Falana’s knowledge of the law. In a case by the NLC against the Federal Government of Nigeria, at the Court of Appeal, after announcing appearances, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, conceded to Femi Falana, to conduct the proceedings by adopting the Briefs in the case.

The calamity of the impunity in Nigeria is revealed in Paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of Prof. Yemi Oke’s whatsapp publication where he suggests that the President of the NICN might be approached to understand the “plights” of ASUU members and assign the case to any of the Judges who were former ASUU members who might show understanding, if ASUU were “lucky” in the assignment procedure of cases. Indeed, in Paragraph 5 of his Whatsapp publication, Prof Yemi Oke expressly identified the role of “core academic practicing lawyers”. According to him, they are needed “for maximum efficiencies, including ‘facilitating’, ‘lobbying’, ‘for intimidating’ and related effects”.
In other words, Prof. Yemi Oke has given up the hope that justice may be attained on the merit unless and until prominent people follow up with the Head of the Court and ensure ASUU cases are assigned to friendly judges. It is sad. Prof Yemi Oke perhaps knows that Femi Falana, SAN, would not be amenable to such an approach.
However, I do know, as a matter of fact that Femi Falana SAN utilised his social stature to reach out to several people, in public and private sector, particularly in the Legislature and the Executive over the demands of ASUU, to have the issues resolved politically, so that the strike could be called off. I know he met PMB who promised that lecturers’ salaries would be paid when PMB understood that lecturers would cover the work involved within the strike period before another session begins. Femi Falana, SAN, disclosed his meeting with PMB publicly in the Court Of Appeal in other to persuade the Court to allow time for out of court settlement. He had been counsel to General Buhari before the latter became President in 2015. Femi Falana, is not aversed to using his social network to resolve issues. What he would not indulge in is approaching the bench as suggested by Prof Yemi Oke.

I must however stress the point that unlike the impression painted by Prof. Yemi Oke, the issues involved in the prolonged ASUU strike are not legal. They are essentially political. We have a regime that is not interested in public education. A regime that is not prepared to be challenged just like a military officer who is used only to being obeyed. A regime that prefers to intimidate and capture other autonomous and independent organs of government. For the first time, in the ASUU 2022 strike, very disturbingly, we witnessed the Minister of Labour issuing directives to the NICN, under the guise of referring dispute to the Court for settlement, to issue orders for asuu members to resume work. We equally witnessed, for the very first time, the Court of Appeal ordering ASUU to obey the Ruling appealed against as a condition to countenancing the appeal, even while the same Court agreed with the submission of Femi Falana, SAN, that the appeal on ground of jurisdiction was properly lodged. The Court of Appeal appealed to Femi Falana, SAN, to appeal to ASUU to obey the Ruling of the trial Court being appealed.

Prof. Yemi Oke’s whatsapp publication on the ASUU legal battles as it concerns femi falana belongs to the genre of pull-him-down (PHD) publications. It is unfounded and bound to fail because in numerous cases, Femi Falana, SAN, has established himself, not only nationally but indeed, internationally. He remains the only living holder of International Bar Association’s Award, after Chief Gani Fawehinmi, ever before the SANship award was conferred on him. If Prof Yemi Oke is lucky, femi falana may not institute a lawsuit on the libelous publication.

Prof. Yemi Oke’s whatsapp publication on the ASUU legal battles as it concerns femi falana belongs to the genre of pull-him-down (PHD) publications. It is unfounded and bound to fail because in numerous cases, Femi Falana, SAN, has established himself, not only nationally but indeed, internationally. He remains the only living holder of International Bar Association’s Award, after Chief Gani Fawehinmi, ever before the SANship award was conferred on him…

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