Jul 19, 2015 - Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I received Mrs. Toun Oni-Adebiyi's letter in October 2013 telling me about the plans to create a legal drama series and seeking the support of the Lagos State Government, I must confess that my first reaction was one of curiousity.
I was curious as to what had informed the decision to venture into such unfamiliar territory and perhaps I was also more than a little skeptical.
Thankfully, that reaction was both short-lived and temporary and by the time I had read the letter to the end, it had turned to admiration. Admiration for the sheer innovativeness of the idea, the details in the proposal, that betrayed the depth of thought that had gone into its preparation, and the fact that it was coming, not out of Nollywood, but from the Nigerian Law School.
You will therefore understand why I had no hesitation in approving the Lagos State Government's support for such an unusual yet, in my view, entirely effective method of bringing the law to life for law students to, – as they intend, "build and inspire a new generation of legal experts and nation builders", and at the same time educate and entertain the public.
I have since followed the project closely and I am delighted that it has finally come to fruition. My only regret is that I am not there in person to witness this exciting moment with you all.
And why is this moment exciting? It is exciting because its implications are profound. Today is the first public screening of "Eko Law"; a series that will revolutionise the way law students learn and the way citizens are educated about such a key element of our daily lives and various endeavours; – the law.
Discerning observers know that a key function of education is to produce an engaged citizenry; and that a rounded education is not limited to the classroom. That is the beauty of Eko Law. For Law School students whose curriculum now includes participation in the Legal Clinics that inspire the various storylines in the series, there can be no better way to crystallise the classroom experience and improve their knowledge of the law, than the opportunity for learning by doing.
Similarly, people are influenced most by what they see and hear. Films and other forms of cinematographic productions, have long been a convincing tool for shaping public opinion. So the opportunity that Eko Law presents to educate the public about what the law really is, - and what the law really is not, is important for at least one major reason... Only an enlightened society can be a strong society.
Put another way, how strong a society is, is synchronous with how enlightened it is. And if we accept a strong society to be a worthy aspiration, you will agree with me that "Eko Law", will contribute to that goal in no small measure. The significance of today's achievement should therefore not be lost on any one of us; and should indeed be exciting to those of us who practise in this profession.
I am certainly excited, - but beyond that, I am grateful, and I am proud.
I am grateful for the far-sightedness of our Nigerian Law School teachers. For more than fifty years, they have churned out legal practitioners in the best traditions of the profession. In this very hall, we were taught to be Gentlemen; in and out of the bar.
And now with this initiative, they have further demonstrated their ability to be dynamic; to look inwards, and to take stock and reinvent themselves to meet current realities. For that, on behalf of us all, I am grateful.
I am also proud. Proud that this initiative came from within the profession and proud, on a personal note, that I had the privilege of being a small part of it.
It would be remiss of me to end my remarks without mention of the law firm whose support has contributed to the success of this project.
I am aware that many were called, but only one heeded that call. To Olaniwun Ajayi, LP; we salute your commitment to the profession, - and your generosity – with your time and your resources. Even though we may not yet fully appreciate it, we all owe you a debt of gratitude that will be hard to repay. Thank you.
This project is a collaborative effort amongst several trail-blazing organisations and institutions –
Mrs. Bolanle Austn-Peters, CEO of Terra Culture, who is doing a yeoman's job of promoting Nigerian and African culture;
Mr. Kenley Afolayan, multiple award winning actor, film producer and director, most recently renowned for his excellent movie, October 1;
The Public Interest Law Partnership –which is the pro-bono service instituted by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, to engage private sector participation in the defence of public cases; and
The Lagos State Office of the Public Defender, ably led by the indefatigable Mrs. Tola Rotimi.
While the first two provide and contribute to the creative and artistic impetus for the series, the other two, which are agencies of the Lagos State Government, provide the cases and materials for the story lines of the series. We thank you all for lending your expertise.
I have had the privilege of reading a synopsis of the trailer which I will not share.
Suffice to say that, the development of the case studies from the Legal Clinics into stories that "edu-tain"; reveals a brilliant synergy of law students, law teachers and law practitioners that will be difficult to resist.
I see Eko Law becoming the must-watch drama series in no time.
So please sit back and enjoy the trailer of this innovatory work; the first legal drama series on the African continent.
I thank you all for listening.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN