My Elementary Law 001 Lesson In GCI

One personal but very memorable incident which I will always recall in my days in Government College Ibadan was an expensive indiscretion, for which I paid with six good strokes of the cane on my backside.

It was early evening sometime in 1967 or thereabout. As a young boy just leaving home for the first time to live in the boarding house, I was getting hungry and I wanted to eat something, because at home, I had become used to eating whenever I desired. Unfortunately, I was broke, having spent my pocket money recklessly on inanities. Mr. Oloko's tuck shop was out of the question because I had no pocket money left.

Meanwhile, Ebenezer Olatunde Ajanaku (nicknamed Bomber T) now of blessed memory, had become my friend as we were both in Swanston House. So, I came up with what I later realised was a crazy idea. I sent an innocuous note to him that I was hungry and we should both raid the school kitchen so that we could get something to eat.

Hmmm! My note began its journey, but was intercepted by a Prefect, and never got to its destination. The said Prefect saw the severity of the message and forwarded it to higher quarters. Eventually, the note got to the Principal (Bullock) and he summoned Bomber and I to his office, for interrogation, before a 'panel' of three members of staff. My note was tendered in evidence against me and I was called upon to enter my defence, if any.

Innocently, I admitted the authorship of the note and began rambling and repeating myself like a broken gramophone record.

Bomber's defence was first class and unassailable. He admitted that indeed we were friends, but that even though he was the addressee of the note, he was not the author and the note did not eventually get to him, until he read the contents in the Principal's office. Therefore, he was not privy to the note, the events and the intention contained therein. In effect, the allegation of conspiracy to commit an offence could not be sustained. The panel evaluated our respective submission and Bomber was promptly discharged and acquitted.

'See wahala o.' To cut along story short, it was time for punishment. Needless to say that for my audacity, ingenuity and impudence, I got six strokes of cane on my backside.

Later in life, Bomber became a medical doctor, while I ended up as a lawyer, and I always told myself that perhaps our professions would have been reversed, because if at the age of about twelve years, Bomber could spontaneously enter a defence like he did on that day, without the guidance and support of a lawyer, then he would have most probably made a fantastic advocate or an erudite judge, if he had studied Law instead of Medicine.

And so, I learnt my first rudimentary lesson in law, which I now refer to as Elementary Law 001 in a bitter manner - the offence of conspiracy to commit an offence can only be sustained if two persons evince a common intention to execute an unlawful purpose. The panel found out that even though there appeared to be an intention from that note, it was a unilateral intention, as the addressee of the note was not privy to that intention.

Notwithstanding the presence of an intention (mens rea) albeit unilateral, that imtention was not manifested by an overt act, which was the actual raid (actus reus) of the kitchen. Consequently, the offense of conspiracy was not established, as the essential ingredients of intention and the act were missing. The Prefect had been too hasty to criminalise us and had not been patient to catch us in the act.

However, I was still damnified for the attempt to commit an offence, and for my 'efforts', I got six good strokes across my backside.

Culled from 1967 Set's book - Fifty Years, Not Out.

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