Justice U. John, Esq

Lawyers work under, for and around the law, hence the title, officers of the law. Even the title, lawyer reinforces the relationship between the person and thee law. It follows therefore, that a lawyer has a special obligation to uphold the law.

Let me veer off a bit into the Nigeria state. You will agree with me that the crux shortfall of our legal system is not dearth of good laws, rather poor enforcement of same. Our laws are beautifully thought and meticulously drafted but sorely implemented.

This brings me to the recent lawful adoption process by the NBA-Constitutionally recognized forum, The Eastern bar Forum (EBF) where Chief, Sir, Arthur Obi-Okafor, FCIArb, SAN emerged successful; there has been a few outcries owing chiefly to misinformation and others, unsportsmanlike mien.

It is a bromide that there is hardly any election, selection, adoption, nomination etc. without a dissent. Nonetheless, the democratic principle of majority rule over minority stands tall in this case, to the shocking dismay of mischief-makers and lonely detractors.

At this juncture, I must commend Mr. S. Long-Williams, for painstakingly shedding historical light on the conception and age-long adoption practice of the EBF in his recently published article titled; “Eastern Bar Forum: Victim of Jaundiced Narratives”.

There is no gainsaying that the misconception of the EBF adoption practice stems from finite knowledge of the enabling laws in this regard by some and regrettably, the selfish desperation of quondam beneficiaries of this practice, to deplete same on the altar of self-serving and anti EBF ambitions.

It is pertinent to stress that the grundnorm of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is the 2015 NBA Constitution and Uniform Bye Laws. Bearing in mind that the NBA is strictu sensu  a professional body, there was a need to give all sections and divides a sense of belonging; to further promote national unity and command loyalty as exemplified under chapter II, Section 14, CFRN, 1999 (as amended). Therefore, Section 2.2 (a), (b), (c), (d) & (e) of the Second schedule to the 2015 NBA Constitution recognizes the Northern, Eastern and Western zones; and equally provides for zoning of the positions of the President and 1st Vice-President of the Association to the respective zones in turn. Following therefore, Article 11 of the EBF Constitution entrenched the guidelines for adoption of candidates for the NBA National offices.

The EBF is comprised of nine (9) states of the old eastern region, to wit; Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo & Rivers States and membership is anchored on State of origin as against state of practice. Furthermore, under the present day Nigeria geopolitical zoning system, the EBF is comprised of both South/South (S/S) and South/East (S/E) extractions though, united and bound together in equality, under the EBF Constitution. This above reality signaled the fair and equitable distribution cum rotation of positions within the forum and the NBA national offices.

Sequel to this arrangement, Chief O.C.J. Okocha, SAN (of the South/South extraction under the EBF) served as the NBA President in the year 2000. In 2006 when it was the turn of the Eastern zone to produce the Bar President, in keeping with this arrangement, the South/East extraction took a turn with Messrs. Chris Uche, SAN and Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, both of the S/E  extraction, indicating interest, the EBF adopted Mr. Agbakoba, SAN and he consequently became President.

Again, after the other two zones, North and West took their respective turns, in 2012, the baton returned to the EBF.  Recall that Mr. Agbakoba, SAN was the last President under the EBF arrangement and was of the S/E extraction, it was clearly the turn of the S/S extraction to produce the candidate. Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN attempted to take a shot on the opening, but the EBF advised against it. Mr. Okay Wali, SAN of the S/S extraction indicated interest and thereafter, embarked on a Nation-wide consultation to prominent EBF members of the S/S extraction. Prominent among the members consulted was Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN who explicitly declared his disinterestedness in running for the NBA top seat, stating among other reasons that he had a lot in his hands and isn’t disposed for the NBA headship. Consequently, Mr. Okay Wali, SAN was returned as the 26th NBA President.

Now, we are in the year 2018, the turn of the Eastern zone to yet again produce the next NBA President for 2018-2020. Accordingly, it is the turn of the S/E extraction. Four (4) aspirants and EBF members are jostling for the job of the NBA top seat. They are; Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, Chief, Sir, Arthur Obi-Okafor, SAN and Mazi Afam Osigwe, (Bencher). Whereas, Mr. Usoro is of the S/S extraction, the other three are all of the S/E extraction.

In line with Article 11, EBF Constitution, aspirants were requested to submit themselves to the Screening Committee as constituted by the Forum, as well as furnish necessary documentations for the exercise, as it is customary. Prof. Ojukwu, Mr. Usoro and Mazi Osigwe all failed, refused, neglected, and disregarded the Screening Committee despite the ample time provided. However, Chief Obi-Okafor submitted himself to the Committee and process in absolute good faith with a pledge to be bound by the decision of the Committee. At the end of the exercise, Chief Obi-Okafor was certified to have met all the requirements and accordingly adopted in consonance with the EBF Constitution. The credibility of the adoption process remained unshaken and was lauded by delegates from the zones of the country as well as an overwhelming majority member of the EBF, both including old and young.

If I may subtly refresh your memory, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN had been the Chairman Governing Council of the Eastern Bar Forum, also known as the EBF Governor for six (6) years and had superintended over several adoptions exercises  including that of Chief O.C.J Okocha, SAN; while Mazi Afam Osigwe, (Bencher) is the most recent beneficiary of the EBF adoption practice amongst the listed aspirants, having been chosen/adopted over the dynamic Mrs. Joyce Oduah, for the General Secretary position of the NBA in 2014.

It need also be reiterated that the EBF adoption of candidates is not a campaign as wrongly peddled by a few ill-informed ones. Campaign may only commence upon the ban been lifted by the appropriate authority. It is therefore cogent to submit that the EBF adoption has not in any way ran foul of the NBA Constitution or any such applicable law(s). This is only a futile attempt by mischief-makers to detract the EBF and the good leadership of the NBA under the competent headship of Mr. A.B. Mahmoud, SAN

The EBF should therefore continue to promote the unity of the Forum and defend her integrity at all times. I submit with respect that the former EBF Governor, Prof.  Ojukwu, the most recent beneficiary of the EBF adoption amongst the Presidential  aspirants, Mazi Osigwe and Mr. Usoro who waived his right in 2012 to put the interest of the EBF above personal interest for the betterment of  the EBF.

Long Live EBF! NBA!! FRN!!!

Justice U. John, Esq

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