Apr 9, 2020

NBA ELECTION 2020: An opportunity to secure the future of Nigerian Lawyers and the Legal Profession - Onochie Obuna Esq

 

While sitting with some friends and fellow colleagues a couple of days ago, I broached the subject of the upcoming NBA 2020 elections and almost everyone in the group waived the topic aside, all of them disinterested. I tried one more time to stimulate their interests by naming some of the candidates vying for the office of the NBA President but this brings forth an entirely different result, a feeling of resentment and apathy for the NBA, an association they believe has done little or nothing to help their respective practices.
 
These are lawyers who manage their own firms and are partners in some of the top tier firms in the country, they work very hard and according to them cannot state how the NBA has helped boost their careers or promote their practice. In a nutshell, they cannot state what the NBA has done for them.
 
"What has the NBA done about expanding the frontiers of practice in real terms;

"How have they prevented the encroachment on the jobs of lawyers;

"What have they done to rectify the poor salaries earned by many junior lawyers;

"How have they protected the human rights of lawyers, many of whom have been assaulted severally by the police;
 
"What has the NBA done asides holding conferences where all they do is talk and issue statements that have no effect whatsoever; and 
"How have they upheld the Rule of Law, remember Onnoghen, how come the NBA could not prevent such shameful exploitation of the Rule of Law;
 
All at once, they drilled me with questions. It is obvious that many lawyers feel this way and a large number of practitioners have stayed away from the NBA totally save for paying their practicing fees and branch dues. However, unperturbed by their non – challant attitude, I felt the need to engage them a little further and state my case.

Gentlemen, I begin, I understand how you feel but if some of our best minds in the profession choose to ignore the growth and promotion of our collective welfare through the Nigerian Bar Association, little wonder many of us are not as satisfied with the current position of things.  All this however can change if we ensure we get the right kind of leadership that can continue to build on the achievements of the past administrations and help us to promote the welfare of lawyers and help secure the future of the profession.

Most sincerely, I appreciate that the Paul Usoro administration may not be perfect but it has never failed to challenge any attack on the Rule of Law, nor to secure the obedience to the fundamental rights provided for lawyers and everyone else according to the Constitution. Could the PUSAN administration have done things better, most definitely, however perfection is not a destination but a journey and by voting the right person for the job, going forward we may be able to build on the foundations laid by the current and past administrations.
 
"So who is the right leader you may ask?"

Over the past few weeks many have postulated a formula for determining who the next NBA President should be. While many have postulated that it should be the man with the biggest law firm, others have said it should be the lawyer who pays his lawyers the highest. All these in my opinion are the wrong factors to consider. I recall during the last election that ushered in Paul Usoro SAN, there was debate about how much he pays his lawyers compared to other candidates and how his firm, Paul Usoro and Co., was bigger. 

My question for this class of lawyers is that in the past two years, has the amount Paul Usoro SAN pays his lawyers or the size of his firm increased your salary in any way? Has it resulted into a minimum wage for lawyers? Or has it brought briefs to your firm? I am sure the answer is no. This means most definitely that all these should have no bearing on who leads the NBA as its President.
 
There are other things I will like to consider such as track record, long term contribution to the Bar, leadership qualities and a thorough understanding of how the Nigerian Bar Association works. I have evaluated the candidacy of the top 3 candidates vying for the office of the President of the NBA and while I agree that all 3 of them are very successful lawyers, only one of them meets all my under listed requirements. I in no way claim that others are bad for the job, I only recommend that we choose not only the best man for the job but the right man as well. That man is Dele Adesina SAN and I will tell you why.
The Deacon as Mr. Dele Adesina SAN is fondly called by lawyers all over the nation has a track record of long term contribution to the Bar, leadership qualities and a thorough understanding of how the Nigerian Bar Association works. I will now pick my reasons one after the other.
 

Track Record
The Deacon has held a number of offices in the NBA, he was the Chairman of NBA Ikeja Branch during the military era and was instrumental to many of the victories won against the Military regime. As Femi Falana SAN put it, there was no time I called Dele that the NBA needed to make a statement or put it to the military regime of the day that he ever refused. 

The Deacon was also the General Secretary of the NBA between 2002 – 2004 under the leadership of Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, where he was instrumental to many of the wins of that administration. Dele Adesina SAN is also a Life Member of the Distinguished Body Of Benchers, the highest regulatory body of the Legal Profession, a member of the Governing Council, Lagos State Multi-Door Court, High Court Of Justice, Lagos State, Life Member of The National Executive Committee Nigerian Bar Association and was the Chairman, NBA Electoral Committee in the 2008 NBA National Elections just to mention a few.
 

Long Term Contribution
During his time as the General Secretary of the NBA, the Deacon was instrumental to a number of innovations now experienced within the NBA, including providing life insurance cover for lawyers, introducing the various Sections of the NBA and also being the only lawyer who was successful in moving a motion for a minimum salary for lawyers at the NBA NEC, among other things.
 
Understanding of the NBA
Recently, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) Chief J.K Gadzama SAN, described Mr. Dele Adesina SAN as unbeatable in terms of his leadership capacity at the Bar. Furthermore, D.D. Dodo SAN stated that Mr. Adesina's track record and respect for the tradition of the Bar makes Dele Adesina the best candidate to provide leadership for the association at the moment.

Another highly respected and respectable member of the Association Prof Fabian Ajogwu SAN, the Chairman of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria 's Annual Lecture Committee spoke of Dele Adesina SAN who is also the Chairman of the Scholarship Committee of the Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria as a thorough professional with a well known passion for the Bar and the Profession. The learned Professor said further that the views and position of Dele Adesina SAN on Rule of Law and how to advance the cause of justice administration in this country is well known.

Moreso, in an exclusive interview with DNL Legal and Style published on the 11th of December, 2019, when the Deacon was asked about his past activities in the NBA, he had this to say, "I have been active in the affairs of NBA since 1986. Between 1987 and 1989 I was one of the ardent followers of Alao Aka-Bashorun. We elected him President of the Bar in 1987.  In 1990 or thereabout, I became the Secretary of Ikeja branch and in 1998 I was elected the Chairman of the branch. Since that 1990, I have remained at the National Executive Council of the NBA till today." 
I am sure Titans of the profession such as J.K Gadzama and D.D Dodo SAN must know what they are talking about when they refer to Mr. Dele Adesina SAN as the best and right person to lead the Bar at this time. Most importantly, I agree with them totally.
It is time to secure the future of the Bar and with Dele Adesina SAN will secure the future of the Bar.
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