Awazi had taken time to groom herself and she glowed. Rasheed observed the unsaid questions in the room. It was obvious that neither Derin nor his attorney was expecting the woman. This might just turn out interesting.
Derin got up to go and meet Awazi at the door and whispered to her “what are you doing here? Do you mock me?”
“You wanted my support? Well, now you have it all,” she responded with a smirk on her face. She floated past Derin and took her seat beside Ope. Once seated, she turned to Ope and extended her hand “good day, attorney. Thank you for taking our case on such generous terms.”
Her politeness riled Ope and her eyes shot daggers at Awazi. But she produced a smile and took Awazi’s outstretched hand “my pleasure, Mrs. Banwo.” She replied curtly. By now Derin had sat beside Ope, and she seethed at how Awazi had cleverly placed herself between them.
“Shall we begin?” Judge Jinadu said, in a rather shrill voice.
There was a rustling of papers as the two attorneys gathered themselves together and everyone stopped talking.
The judge continued when he was certain he had gotten everyone’s attention “what we want to do here today is to find a middle ground between both parties. Life, they say is give and take, and I hope that we can find something that you are willing to give, he pointed to the doctor’s party, and then turning slightly and pointing to Derin’s party, he said “and that you will be willing to take so that this case does not take up judiciary time, cost both parties huge legal fees and difficult situations. So in a concise and clear manner, devoid of all our legal jargon, claimant’s counsel, please state your grievances and claims”
“Thank you my Lord. My client seeks damages to compensate for the heart wrenching loss of his only son due to the negligence and callousness of members of staff of Omega Clinic, one of which is the Chief Medical Officer, the highest authority in the hospital. In view of this irreversible loss, we want the following: One, that the hospital pays a compensation of Fifty Million Naira to cover medical costs of therapy to have another child in the U.S. Second, that the license of the parties involved, parties being Dr. Hakeem Ajanaku, the doctor involved, the two nurses, the hospital and the owner of the hospital Dr. Haruna Ajanaku be revoked. Third, that the hospital will bear all the legal expenses that my client may incur in the course of pursuing this case. If these demands are met now, there will be no need to go to court.”
Rasheed watched as the young lawyer spoke with a straight face.
“Defendant’s counsel?” the judge said, signaling that he should speak
“We have said before, will say in this forum and continue to say that we are deeply sorry for the loss suffered by the Banwos. No parent prays for such and only someone who has gone through such a loss truly understands the pain. But, we must also be reasonable in our demands. My client had earlier made it clear that the first demand involving footing medical bills would be taken care of in its entirety, even without solicitation from the claimant. It shows the sense of responsibility that we feel. The third demand would not be necessary, if as we hope these negotiations are successful. Parts of the second demand have been met already. Dr. Hakeem is no longer the CMO of Omega Clinic. The two nurses involved have also been dismissed. It would however be overreaching to demand that the license of a corporate entity like the hospital should be revoked due to acts of some errant officers which it did not sanction. The counsel will agree with me on this matter.”
“The submissions of the defendant’s counsel seem reasonable to me. They have agreed on most of your demands and the separation between a corporate and its officers are a valid point to note. What say ye?” the judge opined, directing his question at Ope.
“Where the hospital however willfully and knowingly employs doctors of questionable record, and not only employs them, but puts them in positions of leadership, should they not be held liable if the actions of these same doctors result in death? You would agree with me that both the officers and the corporate entity are liable in this kind of scenario”
“None of my staff have a questionable record to the best of my knowledge,” Doctor Ajanaku said indignantly.
“Sir, if this was in court, I would have taken you up on that statement,” Ope said, with mock politeness.
“You will at least substantiate this claim if you indeed believe there is some substance to it? So we can iron it out here.” Rasheed said, touching the doctor lightly to restrain him from barging in again.
“In this forum, I’m under no obligation to substantiate this claim. But as a hint, it is impossible for the doctor here to be unaware of the record of his own son, the former Chief Medical Officer and the one who has primary responsibility for the death of my client’s son, Dr. Hakeem Ajanaku.”
She knew. Rasheed knew without a doubt that she knew about Hakeem. He would not let her age fool him, she was clearly a fighter and she would fight with everything.
“So you would ask a father not to give his son a means of livelihood because of one mistake?” Rasheed asked.
“No, but I would not expect that son is given ultimate responsibility for the lives of many people because of parental love. And when this is done, it means that if the son is again irresponsible, everyone is ready to bear the consequences.”
“Your point is taken. Included in all we are offering, we will offer you the revocation of Dr. Hakeem’s license. But leave the hospital, an institution of impeccable character and with a history that even involves giving care to your client when he was growing up. And also, the good doctor here. Why would you want an illustrious career to end that way?”
“But ending my son’s life that way was thinkable?” Derin said in a low growl.
“Mr. Banwo, I assure you, we don’t think its thinkable, but as much as we would wish, we cannot reverse what has happened. We are trying to work out a solution that everyone would find agreeable here, the path of least destruction, if you may. We will extend our offer, beyond which we will not make extensions. Doctor Hakeem will no longer practice. But the hospital has to be a going concern to pay the bills and fund the reproductive therapy you want it to, so do not kill public confidence in it by your actions. You will achieve nothing. And note, once we go to court, all offers are off the table. So this is a take it or leave it offer. Our cards are on the table now.”
Rasheed observed as the wife tried to keep calm, but he saw through it. She was hoping her husband would take the offer. He turned to her, “and madam, we would like to hear you on this too. In your shoes, I would take the offer and you look like a wise woman.” He emphasized the “wise” and then pointedly looked from her to Ope and back and continued “I’m sure you can prevail on your husband to see reason.”
Awazi almost jumped at the old lawyer’s prompting but caught herself just in time. If she said anything to support the opposition now, Ope would pounce on it and she would lose the other battle she was fighting here. She decidedly rested further in the comfy chair and refused to respond to the prodding.
Ope had hoped Awazi would take the bait and she even paused momentarily to give her an opportunity to speak. When Awazi said nothing, she bit her lip and rolled her eyes internally and then responded to their demand
“My client had made it clear to me prior to this meeting that anything short of a total compliance with our claims would be unacceptable to him,” she paused and looked at Derin who nodded in the affirmative. Awazi’s heart sank. Ope continued
“therefore, I think we should prepare to meet in court. And sir, with all due respect, I would rather a different judge presides on this matter.”
“What are you insinuating, counsel?” the judge asked.
“Well, except my knowledge of legal procedures is fuzzy, case management conferences do not hold outside court. So holding it here suggests things I would rather not be troubled by when we actually go to court.”
The judge was about to say something when Rasheed restrained him. “Very well then,” Rasheed responded. “Have it your way. But I hope you are ready, I want this started quickly and done with, so I will get us first hearing next week. Since your knowledge of legal procedure is so strikingly clear, you will be aware that we need to do front loading of our evidence now.”
Ope sensed danger in this line of talk, but she also knew she couldn’t back down now “yes,” she responded tersely, wondering where the old man was going.
“Well, we need to ascertain the circumstances of death, since it will be very instructive in our argument,” Rasheed said.
“But this hospital issued a death certificate, stating clearly the cause of death, as…” she tried to recall the term she had read in the death certificate, but couldn’t. Awazi helped her “febrile convulsion” she put in.
“Yes!” Ope said, “that’s it. What else would you like to ascertain then?”
Rasheed maintained an even voice as he responded “the doctor is the expert in these matters and he will explain.”
Ope saw the doctor sit up on cue as if they had rehearsed the move and her growing concern grew into dread. He began to explain “there are details that the cursory observation that the doctor carried out to write the cause of death cannot produce and which might be material to this. A specialist, a pathologist needs to perform an autopsy on the baby to establish these facts. The normal procedure when you intend to pursue a case that concerns a death, you delay burial of the deceased to have the autopsy performed.”
Derin cut in angrily “are you suggesting that I should not have buried my six month old son immediately?”
“Mr. Banwo, I am not suggesting anything, I am only explaining procedure, procedure you should have found out since you are so bent on destroying me. If you have buried the baby, which I assume you have, in order to go ahead with this case, we will require you to dig up the baby and have a pathologist perform an autopsy.”
“Never! I will not dig up my baby! It’s an abomination!” Derin exclaimed, banging his fist on the table with each phrase.
Rasheed took it up from there “ah, Mr. Banwo, I’m afraid we cannot progress with the case if this vital piece of evidence is not provided, as we can argue that you are withholding vital evidence that is material to the case.”
Judge Jinadu said “the defendant’s counsel is correct. Any judge would strike the case out if such an argument is presented.”
Derin jumped to his feet, shouting “so this was your plan all along! You want to get away with killing my baby and so connived with this judge! Never!”
“Calm the fuck down!” Ope shouted.
“Decorum people,” Rasheed said, more amused at their theatrics than annoyed.
Ope composed herself and spoke to them “I need to speak with my client for a few minutes alone.”
“Derin! Outside! Now!” she ordered.
She went outside and Derin followed suit. Awazi got up quietly and followed the duo.
Ope was saying in a low voice “Derin, what the hell is wrong with you? those kinds of outbursts make us look like a stupid juvenile bunch. I won’t be made a fool of in front of a senior colleague.” She took virtually no notice of Awazi.
“And,” Derin responded “I should take their suggestion of digging my child up lying low?”
“This your foolish foolish anger hasn’t left you! Couldn’t you see that they had planned that move already? It would have been obvious to a two year old! Damn!”
“So is there any truth in what they say? If we don’t let them do an autopsy on Isaac, we don’t have a case?” Derin asked.
“Sadly, they do. It’s either that or we drop the case. And from this position, they have taken away their deal from the table, so we get nothing, absolutely NOTHING if we back down now.” Ope said.
Awazi stepped up. “I’d like to talk to my husband, ALONE” she said.
Ope was riled. “Look, madam, I understand you want to play you’re my husband is mine games, but right now is not the time for that. We are in a battle here and we must have all our wits about us.”
Awazi sniggered “and who is playing any games with you? I don’t have to do anything to make it a fact that he’s my husband ma. And while he might have engaged you, it is WE that are your clients as a couple, and we’d like to agree now and give you our position, thank you.”
Without waiting for whatever response Ope was concocting Awazi pulled Derin aside. Ope felt like punching her black face. The nerve that she had, making her stand there alone like that.
Awazi was saying to Derin “look, dear, these people obviously had these plans, and our lawyer didn’t foresee their moves. We need to do what is best for us, and not for her bruised ego.”
“they cannot just get away with this Awazi, I can’t just let them get away with it.”
“But honey, are you going to let them dig Isaac up?” Awazi asked, putting an arm on his back.
“No, I couldn’t possibly want that. It’s an abomination,” he responded.
“And it would break my heart. Let’s go back in and try to get them to reconsider that offer. Are we together on this?”
“Yes,” he responded.
The moment Derin turned and Ope saw his face, she knew what he was going to say.
When they entered, Rasheed noticed a visibly annoyed Ope sit down. He smiled, his plan was working. It would seem the wife had prevailed on the husband and the lawyer would be forced to eat her words.
“After serious deliberations, my clients have decided to reconsider and take your offer.” She said with a straight face.
Rasheed noticed she said clients, rather than client this time. Wife was winning big time.
“Well, that is the understanding we were hoping you would come to. We however would only be willing to give our original offer, sans the revocation of Dr. Hakeem’s license at this point,” Rasheed responded, rubbing his hands.
Ope looked to Derin and he looked to Awazi. Awazi nodded and Ope didn’t wait to get Derin’s response. How did she ever love this imp? “We will be willing to take your offer as it is…”
Suddenly, the door opened. “Now who in God’s heaven is that,” Bintu spoke for the first time. Every head in the room turned. Derin shouted, “You!” and got up on his feet in anger.
Dr. Ajanaku held his head in his hands and said “this boy will be the end of me. You this foolish boy, iwo omokomo yi, what the hell are you doing here?”