May 29, 2018

The Team Player; Reflections on Paul Usoro SAN |Nelson Uzuegbu

A lot has already been said and written about Paul Usoro as The Man, The Lawyer, The Candidate... Some have however called for reflections from a time more distant into the past. I am in a position to  offer this; so I will start with a glimpse of Paul from earlier days and from my own perspective . I will progress from there, giving my own impressions of Paul Usoro as a boy, a law student and then a legal practitioner.

Paul Usoro The Boy
I was privileged to know Paul when we were quite young. It was a singular honour to meet and know and interact with his wonderful family:  his father, mother and brothers, all of them pleasant souls blessed with a beautiful spirit - But this is not their story; it is about Paul in family setting with them.

When young boys and girls are growing into young adults there is always some degree of anxiety about their healthy development, hence cautionary words are doled out generously on the need to make the right choices, avoid danger and stay out of trouble. However, with Paul's parents I noticed what seemed like total confidence in him. In their house we came and went as we pleased,  no questions asked. About the only advise I knew them to give him then was on the need to be modest and not attempt too much. They knew he would aspire to great things; but he should first prepare well. (He has always done so.) I wondered why there were not the usual warnings about dangerous hours and people and places and about bad girls. The answer came one day when we were travelling between Calabar and Ikot Ekpene. As usual, Paul was driving. It was late in the night when we ran out of fuel. All efforts to refuel failed; but there  was no panic. We were settling down to sleep by the roadside when a man from a nearby village offered us a chance to spend the night in his sitting room. We returned late the next morning to a welcome that was so nice and cordial that I could not stay cool anymore. I confronted Paul's elder brother and asked him why there was no search party mobilised for us and why there was not even the slightest sign of worry or question asked about our welfare. He laughed and said to me: "My Dear brother, we knew you'd be fine; Paul takes care of himself. Always".

Paul Usoro The Law Student

It is no longer news that Paul was the President of our Law Students Society in University of Ife,  the first to be elected from a minority tribe. He ran a transparent and vibrant administration. Towards the end, his administration was subjected to a most incisive scrutiny; at the end of it, everyone (including the harshest doubters) were up on their feet applauding.

At the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Paul had a word of encouragement for all and humour to enliven any situation. He also knew how to answer  disparagement with chilling silence.

Paul's response to fear was revealed one night when we were out on the night and got stranded far away from our base in Victoria Island. Buses were not available at that hour and we did not have enough money to charter a taxi. Paul said we should trek home. I was worried, the distance was up to seven kilometres,  I did not know the route well and we could be mugged... Paul assured us he could trace the route home, it could be fun; and then he added:

"Look, guys, fear not; we are three young men challenging a dark and dreadful night. If we stay solid good people will take courage, the fear will be in the bad guys, not us."

And so it happened. We got home safely. I slept the best sleep ever that night and discovered the benefits of walking.

Paul Usoro The Legal Practitioner

It seems that almost everything has been said about this aspect of our candidate's life. Those who have read recent write-ups on Paul are aware that he has become more than an institution in our noble profession. His celebrated cases, deft moves in industry and work in ground-breaking legislations and support for NBA activities are already in the public domain. He has impacted well on the profession in Nigeria and beyond our shores. This is well known. So I will dwell only on one aspect - that of Paul Usoro SAN as a team player. His work has not often been done alone, but in a team. When teams were formed and he was brought in he worked as a loyal member of the team and played strategic roles. Most times, however, he assembled and led teams; he led with courage and vision and a deep understanding of humanity. I worked in some of his teams. I can also say that always the results were outstanding.   When Paul worked with his team pro bono the sense of accomplishment was reward enough. When professional fees accrued Paul has always been fair and generous to his team members. I have never known anyone to evince the slightest hint of discontent.

Today our jurisprudence is developing rapidly in the usual as well as in new  areas such as Information Technology and Telecommunications,  Sports and Entertainment, Science,  Human Relationships,  etc. Paul has noted that many lawyers have not grown to keep pace and key into these developments. He has promised to address this need as Paul Usoro SAN the President of the Nigerian Bar Association Putting-You-First. I believe him. I KNOW, dear learned colleagues, that Paul will put you first. And he is ready for the tasks ahead...

- by Nelson Uzuegbu