By Sylvester Udemezue
In a personal statement, I made public on 23 May 2020, I had declared thus:
“… after a careful thought, deep analysis and in line with principles I hold dear, I have chosen to not only support but to diligently and vigorously canvass support for Dr Babatunde Ajibade, Ph.D., SAN, to become the next NBA President… once I have chosen to support, I listen only to the immortal words of Abaraham Lincoln: ‘ I do the best I know how – the very best I can and I mean to keep on doing so until the end…. while I work very hard and pray fervently that Dr Ajibade should win, because I think he is the best among equals, I have prepared my mind that whoever wins is the will of God. I am guided by the words of Benjamin Disraeli: ‘Work and hope for the best, but prepare for the worst….’”
The elections have now come and gone. Through our candidate, our team (#TeamAjibade) has congratulated Mr. Olumide Akpata. On my part, in my personal capacity, I have sent a message, via the SMS and WhatsApp, to the President-elect, to congratulate him:
“Good afternoon, sir. I had called twice yesterday (31/07/2020), to congratulate you. I called again some minutes ago. Perhaps, you’re too busy to answer. Please, accept my hearty congratulations on your victory. May your victory favour the NBA and the entire legal profession. Amen. I am particularly happy with your resolve to ‘secure the future through a United Bar that works for all.’ I pray God to help you keep the beautiful promise, in the best interest of the NBA. Amen. Once again, sir, congratulations, sir. Faithfully, Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
I have also chosen this medium to, again, heartily congratulate the NBA President-elect, Mr. Akpata, on his victory. It was a keenly contested election, but someone had to win. The term “election” itself suggests a contest between two or more persons at the end of which one person must win and another or others must lose, while all must thereafter continue as one. Dear sir, I urge you to be high-minded in victory; to reach out to the other contestants, indeed to all camps and also to endeavour to carry everyone along in your leadership of the NBA, during the next two years. This you should do in order to succeed, and make the NBA better, because your camp or supporters alone cannot make you succeed; they can only make you remain for only one side! I sincerely hope you be guided by the words of Michael Watson who once advised, “true winners and strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up.”
Further, leaders that aim to succeed must adopt all-inclusiveness as their motto, so as to be able to create an environment in which all individuals and sections feel empowered to express their opinions freely within the larger group. Diversity of thinking is critical to effective collaboration and management. A leader has not begun leading until the leader has learned to rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all members of society he leads, and in fact the whole of humanity. In Jesse Jackson’s words, “inclusiveness is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth. When everyone is included, everyone wins.” NBA is the better for it. As I wrote in my message to you, I am happy with your declared resolve to ‘secure the future through a United Bar that works for all.’ I pray God to help you keep the beautiful promise, in the best interest of the NBA.
I congratulate all other declared winners, on their victory. I urge you all to see your victory as an opportunity to make a difference, in the best interest of the Legal Profession in Nigeria.
On the other hand, I congratulate Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN and Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN, on their doggedness in pursuit of their respective aspirations to lead the Bar. I am particularly happy that I supported, and campaigned for, the emergence of Dr Ajibade, SAN, as the 30th President of the NBA. Dear distinguished Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, I thank you immensely for having given me the opportunity to support you and for your having demonstrated that you are a true sportsman and fine gentleman, by your decision to let bygones be bygones. It accords with your earlier statement that “I am not desperate.” Besides, it shows that you recognize that losing an election is as much a great feat as winning an election; the real loss lie in never to have tried at all, or to stop trying after you have lost.
Please, sir, note that I agree with you that “the process leading up to and during the election itself have, once again, not been devoid of controversy.” Yes, people have genuine reasons to believe that all did not go well with the process. But the Nigerian Bar belongs to us all; we must not shy away from it, nor from our responsibilities as Bar-men. We must remain together in love and peace, cooperating with and advising the leaders, on how to get things right and better in future with a view to making the NBA better and greater, because NBA is supposed to be the cynosure of all eyes, a leading light, and a perfect example for other sectors and professional groups to copy from. It is my hope that with all hands on the deck, we would one day arrive the promised land.
While I appreciate the reasons for the concerns raised by some other contestants, I humbly appeal to all that we should move ahead as one, in the best interest of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and legal profession in Nigeria. For every challenge encountered, there is an opportunity for growth.
What is more? In the past 36 hours, I have read that there are some of our colleagues who feel so aggrieved that they think the idea of a parallel organization is the solution to a flawed process. I do not agree with this feeling; I believe that if a member of an organization desires to correct perceived ills of the organization, such a member would better achieve the planned reform from within the organization, than from the outside. All problems become smaller when we confront them instead of trying to dodge them. Escapism is no rational solution to overcoming life challenges; you cannot run away from your shadow. According to Russell L. Ackoff, “we fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem.” Running away from a problem only increases the distance between us and the solution.
To supporters of the declared winners, you must see people on the other side as co-winners; you and your masters alone may not be in any position to effect desired positive changes, save with the willing cooperation of other members of the Bar. To all Nigerian lawyers – the winners, losers, and all — we must unite, cooperate, relate and work together as true learned friends, or be prepared to perish together as fools.
I hope to deliver my personal appraisal of the election, shortly, for purposes of making the future better. In the meantime, I have one question for NBA members: Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
Long live the Nigerian Bar Association!
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)
(July 01, 2020)