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By : Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, Notary Public

When Mr. Olumide Akpata emerged as the winner of the 2020 NBA Presidential election, the question I asked was: WILL OLUMIDE AKPATA REVOLUTIONIZE THE NBA?. In all honesty and from what I have seen on the ground so far, Akpata has answered the question in affirmative. This question was earlier prompted by some of the grudges I have had against the NBA politics. It may interest you to read this (https.// as I belong to the class of lawyers who were giving up on NBA. Mrs Hairat Ade Balogun, the first female Secretary of the NBA was also in that class but Akpata has now reawakened our hope in the NBA. So far so good, Akpata as NBA President has not let down his supporters particularly those that endorsed him during the campaign for the NBA Presidency, the race he out with other two formidable and prominent candidates from the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria which he is yet to be one. Olumide Akpata’s achievement so far in the NBA Presidency has proved a point that leadership is not about big title but about great vision and competence. When I read on the social media about what some lawyers called: “some very important new provisions in the (NBA) Constitution as amended”, my first reaction was that: “ The revolt of some NBA branches secretaries against being removed from NEC as recently reported seems to have done a great magic. But has the NBA Constitution really addressed the electoral inequality in the NBA politics?”

A response to my question came from Mr. Ademola Lema, a core bar man and former Secretary of NBA Lagos branch which was very instructive when he said: “You can now contest dear Ibrahim without being a NEC member prior to your contest.” My further response was: “That will be very wonderful and interesting Chief Lema, can you please avail me the new constitution? The question is not about me but about the generality of the Nigerian lawyers to be accorded franchise in the Association they belong to. A good constitution should give people the right to aspire and allow the electorates to determine the aspirants’ fate”. Lema was actually right in his view because he knows very well what has been my position on some of the provisions of the NBA Constitution. We served together in the NBA Lagos branch executive committee of 2013-2015 under the Chairmanship of Mr. Alex Mouka. Lema succeeded the late Mr. Tola Apata of blessed memory as the Secretary of branch after his unfortunate death in the active service to the bar. When I applied in 2018 to contest for the position of the National Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Mr. Adebola Lema was one of my two nominators but unfortunately I was subsequently disqualified by the then Electoral Committee of Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) on the sole ground that I was never a NEC member previous to my nomination.

Some colleagues at that time suggested that I should go to court to challenge my disqualification but I declined that that was unnecessary but that rather than going to court I would take up my pen to clamour and agitate for the amendment of those provisions that are very discriminatory in the NBA Constitution. To the glory of God today, the wisdom has prevailed as the incumbent leadership of the NBA has seen reason to bow to the clamour and agitation for the change in the interest of the generality of the members of the Association. I had at different times strongly asserted that the NBA Constitution that has just been amended promoted what can be called the “tyranny of the minority against the majority”. The NBA prides itself as promoting the rule of law but its Constitution on the other hand electorally endorsed the theory of George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM’s law of “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than the other”. In my article (htts:// earlier referred to and published on 2nd August 2020, I said:

“….From the above discussion so far, any rational mind would have been able to see some of the lapses in the NBA Constitution that require necessary review and reforms as suggested by Mrs. Hairat Ade-Balogun. On the NBA reforms, I am on the same page with the life bencher and we hope Mr. Akpata and his new team will make this a reality. On the serious note those provisions that disenfranchise majority of lawyers from vying for positions at national level need to be reviewed to accommodate them in the participation of the NBA political system. It is very unjust, unfair and unreasonable to disfranchise financial members with adequate qualifications and requirements from taking part in the NBA politics. There is need to again look into the composition of the NEC membership as I personally do not see the reason why some lawyers will remain in NEC for over 10 or 20 years. Allowing the President with the absolute power to co-opt 100 lawyers who are not elected into the NEC is not democratic enough as it can be easily abused as being presently done. The composition of NEC needs to be made representative in nature wherein members are elected through their various branches as it is done to the National Assembly or State House of Assembly. The idea of making the chairman of a branch the sole giver of Letter of Good of Standing is equally not good enough as that can also be easily abused.”

As if taken the hint of the above words of wisdom, Mr. Olumide Akpata on being sworn-in as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association immediately constituted the NBA Electoral Reform and Audit Committee under the Chairmanship of Chief Ayo Akintude (SAN) which immediately called on the members of the Association to forward memorandum to the committee for consideration. To the glory of God, I submitted a memo to the committee with the heading : A MEMO TO NBA ELECTORAL REFORM AND AUDIT COMMITTEE. After Chief Akintunde (SAN) submitted its report another committee was again set up and under the Chairmanship of a Learned Silk whose name I cannot remember now. The latter also called for submission of memorandum but I declined submitting any as I do not believe in the proliferation of memorandum. I was of the view that since I have made all the suggestions I considered necessary in the earlier one, the choice was with the NBA to consider it or not.

With the resolutions reached at the conclusion of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the annual conference of Nigerian Bar Association held on Friday, October 29, 2021, my positions have been justified as the NBA political system is now being made to be more democratic as some of the discriminatory provisions are now being removed as I have clamoured for over the years. Notable among these amendments and reforms are that “The AGM resolved that requirement for NEC membership required to contest election be removed for all the national offices except the President,1st Vice President and the General Secretary.” In 2018, the ECNBA that disqualified me from contesting on the ground that I was not a NEC member was the same panel that sat on my appeal against its decision contrary to the known principle of law that “You cannot be a judge in your own case or in a case against you”. The position has now changed with the new amendment to the NBA Constitution whereby the AGM has resolved that “Decision of electoral committee of NBA are no longer final but can be subjected to the appeal at an Appeal Committee.” It is a good thing that the young lawyers are now to be fully involved in the scheme of things in the administration of the NBA which are part of what we have longed been agitating for as the future belong to the responsible youths.

In the new amendment, the so-called position of branch representative in the NEC has been expunged. I have been seriously against this position because in some NBA branches the immediate past branch Chairmen were usually made to assume the position automatically regardless of whether he/she performed very well during his/her tenure of office or not. Although some branches made the position elective which was democratically the proper thing to do as the members of the branches must be made determined who they want as their branches representatives. The co-option of members to the NEC has been reduced from 180 to 150 and this is a very good development. I am still of the view that rather than co-opting members into the NEC which is most time solely at the discretion of the NBA President to compensate those that assisted him during the campaign, the various classes should be subjected to election from their various branches because there were allegations in the past even among the National Officers that some NBA Presidents turned themselves to the “Sole Administrators” in the selection of the co-opted members. Since the NBA President already has the power to choose whomever he wants to any national or statutory body, the NBA President can be left to be enjoying that discretion while the NBA branches should be allowed to elect members to the NEC rather than the President co-opting members to the NEC. In the alternative, the President could be allowed to co-opt certain percentage while the majority should be through elections from the branches. This is to avoid a situation where you see some lawyers particularly senior ones who are not contributing anything to their branches but suddenly you see them in the NEC because of their closeness or relationship with the NBA President. With some of the reforms and amendments that have been put in place courtesy of Mr. Olumide Akpata , I salute the man for being a great reformer of the NBA in recent time..

It is not only in the amendment of NBA Constitution that the positive impact of the incumbent NBA President has been felt, Mr. Akpata has broken some other records. Before he became the President, lawyers after paying their annual practicing fees were required to pay additional the sum of Four Thousand Naira (N4, 000) for the purchase NBA stamps. There was this contention that a set of stamp cost NBA about Three Thousand Six Hundred Naira (N3, 600) to produce the stamp being sold for Four Thousand Naira (N4, 000). I was amazed by that contention that I began to ask whether those stamps were being produced in the United Kingdom to cost as such. What happened to the principle of the more you print the less you pay in the printing business? The incumbent NBA President has been able to make a difference in this direction by making lawyers to be entitled for free NBA Stamp upon payment of Annual Bar Practicing unlike what was happening in the past. The question now is: Is Olumide Akpata paying for the free NBA stamp from his personal pocket ? One hopes that future NBA Presidents will be able to sustain this noble and remarkable legacy.

On the NBA Journal, Akpata has succeeded in reviving the publication of the NBA journal that has been on recess for a while. If some of the past Presidents have been fully committed to the project, the publication of the journal would have been able to stand the test of time. If great Nigerian lawyers like Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Gani Fawehinmi both SANs and deceased could have the vision and through their personal efforts could establish the Tribune Newspaper and Nigeria Weekly Law Report (NWLR) respectively and sustain them for decades even after their demise, then I think we need to ask our past successive NBA Presidents why they could not sustain the NBA Journal? By the latest publication of the NBA Journal, Akpata has proved once again that leadership is not about big title. How the future NBA Presidents will sustain this legacy is a question to be answered by the passage of time.

I earlier talk about a being in the class of lawyers that were giving up on the NBA, some people may ask why we were giving up on NBA? There is no better way to explain this than the way Mrs. Hairat Ade Balougn once put it :

“In my almost 60 years of law practice in Nigeria, I have witnessed different types of leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). I have also been privileged to watch our profession rise and unfortunately, I have also seen its decline. However, I have always kept hope alive that a time will come, possibly in my lifetime, when the institutional shortcomings that culminated in our present situation would be redressed by the right kind of leadership at the NBA. The emergence of Olumide Akpata as a frontline candidate for the NBA presidency suddenly brings that hope to bear. In Olumide Akpata, I see the hope for the required reforms. In him, I see the chance for a compassionate and competent NBA leadership .In Olumide Akpata, I believe hope for redemption of our profession is not far-fetched .I have decided to pitch my tent where the future lies , and I dare say that the advent of that future is now! To this end , I encourage all lawyers regardless of your posturing (inner or outer bar) to support Olumide Akpata for the position of the President of the NBA. Our collective future belongs to the younger generation. The elders rose and shone and have left their legacies in various parts of the profession. It is sunrise time for the younger ones ,let us give them a chance with the confidence that they have learnt from the elders. May I add that the inner and outer bar dichotomy should never be a consideration in deciding the next NBA President The consideration in deciding the NBA president should be candidate that possesses the credentials, the unquenchable drive and the passion for the job.I have watched Olumide Akpata closely in his most 30 years of successful practice. Olumide is selfless and skilful in managing the affairs of men .He is the kind of candidate that our profession urgently needs at a time like this…”

Has the old woman not been justified? Honestly with Olumide Akpata’s NBA Revolution, our class’s hope in the NBA has been revived and restored because reforming and amending the NBA Constitution to make the NBA political system to be more democratic , introduction of the free NBA stamp, reviving the NBA Journal among others contrary to what used to be on the ground are indeed very big and wonderful achievements which one hopes that those coming after him as NBA Presidents in the nearest future will be able to sustain it as Akpata has created legacies worthy of being sustained and improved upon. Long live, the Nigerian Bar Association, long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!



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


5th November 2021

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