By Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, Notary Public

With Akpata’s out and Maikyau’s in the NBA Presidency, I must once again say that I have been justified by my continuous agitation that there is the need to fully democratise the composition of the National Executive Council of the Nigerian Bar Association often referred to as the (NBA-NEC). What the NBA really need is truly a Lawyers’ Assembly and not a President’s Assembly or what people often referred to as a Rubber Stamp Assembly in the conventional politics. As long as we continue to have a NBA-NEC whose significant number are co-opted by the President rather than being elected, so long shall we continue to have an unfortunate or embarrassing scenario where the NBA-NEC will be ratifying an action which has been a subject of litigation before a court of competent jurisdiction. How do you expect the members co-opted by the President into the NBA-NEC to challenge his action that is apparently wrong? I believe if the composition had been otherwise, there would have been those bold enough to maintain the strong position that ratifying that suspension at that stage would be inimical and prejudice to the suit already before the court. The NBA needs a NEC that will always be bold to tell the President that his action is wrong when it is wrong and good when it is good. There is no any doubt that the out-gone Akpata regime did very well during his presidency compare to what we have had in the past but the truth must be told that some steps taken by that regime towards its tail end were not good enough for the concept of the rule of law which ironically is the motto of the NBA. This review is necessary to serve as a guide for the new NBA regime under the leadership of Mr. Y.C. Maikyau, SAN. As the saying goes: A fly that has nobody to advise it, follows the corpse to the grave!

The President and the NBA-NEC have unfortunately refused to learn from history. A classical example of this was the last act under the Akpata regime as they did not pay due regard to the existing court precedent or judgment as to the principle governing the concept of fair hearing in the exercise of their power to suspend or ratify as laid down by the court in the case of Bayo Akinlade Vs. Registered Trustee of the NBA (Suit No. ID/6127GCM/2019) where the Lagos State High Court of Justice on 9th January 2020 nullified his (Mr. Akinlade) suspension by the NBA- NEC on the ground that he was not accorded fair hearing before his suspension as the Chairman of the Ikorodu Branch of the NBA. Sometime in 2017, the NBA received an upper cut blow from a High Court in Abuja in the case of John Austin Vs. NBA. If the NBA has forgetting, we as students of history will not forget. The court precisely on 17th October 2017 declared as follows:

“The NBA is an association of distinguished gentlemen who have a responsibility to lead and live by example … Unlike the conventional political party where morality and obedience to such party constitution has no place, the Nigerian Bar Association cannot afford to expose itself to such ridicule and embarrassment. No member of the NBA shall be disqualified on the basis of loyalty or disloyalty to any person or group. The constitution of the NBA is the ground norm. All allegiance shall be to the constitution of the NBA and not individual or group. Any act done in disobedience to the provisions of the NBA constitution or constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as in the present case, remains a nullity.”

When I read that the NBA has filed an appeal against the Federal High Court’s order setting aside the NBA-NEC’s decision ratifying the suspension of the Akpata regime’s General Secretary, Mrs. Joyce Oduha and the way some of our colleagues are playing politics with the words: “Suspension” and “Ratification”, my reaction was that “I have been saying it for a very long time that lawyers are the most difficult set of people to sue. Lawyers will never accept defeat or throw in the towel if they are defeated in a legal battle. They will always insist on the right to appeal so as to frustrate any claimants suing them”.

This is one of the reasons why our appellate courts are congested with unnecessary appeals. One of the unpleasant aspect of the NBA politics and by extension the conventional politics is that if a person is no longer wanted , the other people know how to scheme his or her exist from their midst whether rightly or wrongly. The examples are abounding in the history of politics in Nigeria. The conspiracy theory is usually about egoism of being in control and may not be about the honest right of enforcement. A Governor of a State because of a mere disagreement with his Deputy in a show of power will mobilise members of the State House of Assembly to illegally impeach his deputy and appoint an acting one in replacement. The Governor, having known for sure that by the time his Deputy goes to court to challenge such illegality, and by the time the judgment in favour of the Deputy comes probably the tenure has come to an end. While the Governor will now be going about boasting that he succeeded in removing his Deputy from government; the Deputy is left with the option claiming his damages awarded against the State rather than the Governor that schemed his unlawful impeachment. Importing this kind of politics as instrument of frustration into to the NBA politics will not be proper and decent for the profession. In the past NBA Presidents have been accused of hijacking the functions of other executives or turning the position of the NBA President to that of Sole Administrator. All these cross abuse of power are not expected of responsible leaders.

On the controversy between the NBA and the Body of Bencher on the earlier faceoff between the law firm of Ajumogobia & Co. and the law firm Wole Olanipekun & Co., where the NBA to play the role of policeman. It was a case NBA seemed to have wanted to cry more than the bereaved because when I eventually looked through all the papers filed by the NBA against the lady, I could not see a petition or statement on oath signed by the Mr. Odein Ajumogobia (SAN). When the controversy was raging, I asked the question whether despite the fact that the lady and her sympathizers had apologized to Mr. Ajumogobia, would it still be proper going ahead to write petition against the lady or her firm. Now, from the available report, the firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co. had gotten a clean slate on the ground that the lady in the midst of the controversy never got the permission or the consent of the other partners in the firm before going about looking for the forbidden fruits to pluck for her firm where she was a partner.Whatever your view on this findings and clearance may be, one of the things that this controversy has brought to the opening is to buttress my long time contention that in this country, many right people are not getting the right place whether in the private or public sectors. Many people that are not competent, experienced or have adequate knowledge befitting certain positions are occupying those positions. By this I will like to be proved wrong, please tell me how many big law firms like that of Ajumogobia & Co; Wole Olanipekun & Co. and Wemimo Ogunde & Co., will employ a lawyer that is competent, experienced and with the adequate knowledge of law but from a poor family as Partner in their law firms? The position of thing as stands today is that it is not the question of what you know but whom you know. It will be easy for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for the children of the poor to get through many of these big law firms. That is one of the reasons why this country is not developing.

NBA leaders all this while till date are still yet to get it right on the distribution of the conference materials and this unfortunately again led to some lawyers going the way of terrorists and bandits, two times they went rampaging and destroying properties during the conference to steal phones and other conference materials. This kind of attitude does not befit those claiming to be learned members of the noble profession. Their action was very disgraceful to the profession. While agreeing that lawyers deserve the best conference materials for the money they paid, any contractor being engaged to produce any item must not be allowed to take the Association for granted or for a ride. Why NBA must be deceived to believe that the bags will be produced overseas when we are agitating that we must embrace local contents in this country. Couldn’t the NBA get good and standard leather bags Made in Nigeria for NBA Conference from places like Onitsha, Ibadan, Kano or Lagos? While the contractor that brought ridicule to the association must be thought a very big lesson, scapegoat must equally be made of those identified lawyers that went the way of terrorists and bandits to avoid similar future occurrence.

It will not be in the interest of the NBA that prides itself as promoting the rule of law to be found wanting when it comes to the demonstration of that concept. It will amount to nothing but tyrannical when those that know the law but deliberately violate the concept of the rule of law by wanting to prove a point that they are in control or want to settle scores. Going about with the badge of the rule of law without believing in it is nothing but hypocrisy. According to the Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar, the evils men do live after them. I do not want to believe anybody will like to be remembered for doing evil things when he or she was at the helm of affairs or has gone to the great beyond.

While bidding farewell and good bye to Mr. Olumide Akpata from the NBA presidency, I welcome Mr. Y.C. Maikyau,SAN to the office of the NBA President. May his reign bring more progress to the Association. If I were him , one of the first steps I will take is to reverse the suspension of the out gone General Secretary as if that incident never happened. Some lawyers may wonder how is that possible when the matter is still pending before a court of competent jurisdiction? I strongly believe that is possible in the interest of peace, harmony and reconciliation. Some people will say, we cannot go to court and later come home to be friends. If the new President can travel that way of reversal of the suspension, I seriously believe that our learned Jurists on the bench will be save the time and energy of taking evidence in court where necessary and writing long ruling and judgment when it becomes necessary, so that they can face other cases before them.

If this new regime later decides to amend the NBA constitution, I will suggest we should have a second look at the composition of the NBA-NEC. Let it be made elective positions rather than by co-option. Some lawyers or presidential hopeful may not like this idea because that is where their hope to be compensated by co-option by any Presidential candidates that eventually emerge in the future elections. I am of the view that is an option for better and dynamic NBA. If any lawyer is interested in being a NEC member, why will he be afraid of being elected by his branches or regions. If the election of the NBA Representatives to the General Bar Council could be subject to election as done in this year, why not the membership of the NBA-NEC?

On those suggesting that the tenure of the National or Branch executives should be increased beyond two (2) years, I am of the view that is very unnecessary because it is not the number of years that matter but the achievement make within that two (2) years. Any National Executive Committee or Branch Executive Committee that could not make meaningful and positive impact within that two (2) years will achieve nothing if given more than two years. A classical example is in the conventional politics in Nigeria, to what extent has Nigerian politicians who have spent two term of 8 years in offices justified those years positively? Why do we not as lawyers again begin the clamour that in the conventional politics, FIVE YEAR SINGLE TERM and no more should be enough for the Nigerian politicians? According to Martin Luther King, Junior:

“ Our lives begin to end the day we keep silent about things that matters.”

NOTE: Anyone is at liberty to disagree with my above submissions as I will surely appreciate a balanced, fair and objective rebuttal.

08055476823, 08164683735:,
28th August 2022

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