In 48 hours’ time, the elections into the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) would have elected her National Officers to run the activities of the Association for the next two years. Since 2018, the dynamics of the NBA elections was altered from a delegate- based one to universal suffrage- meaning all eligible members of the Bar can vote or be voted for as prescribed in the NBA Constitution. That is where the conundrum arises. In the past eight years or thereabout, the Body of Benchers has been calling to the Nigerian Bar an average of 5000 lawyers per year. This means that there is now a minimum of about 50, 000 new entrants into the profession since 2010. Before 2010 i.e. if my memory serves me well, there were less than 30, 000 legal practitioners on the Roll of Nigerian lawyers starting with the first lawyer Sapara-Williams, including those who are no longer with us. The effect of this arrangement is that it has made the legal profession have a majority of lawyers below the age of 10 years post-call experience.
To digress a little, it is an undisputed fact that the legal profession is a noble and honourable profession etched in the principles of conservatism and history. It is a profession, just like the other estates of the realm that prides itself in the experience and time-acquired qualities of its leadership. Thus, a new entrant into the legal practitioner does not usually lose any sleep about being a new wig today, because he knows that with the right pupillage cum mentorship, he will arrive at the promised land of the profession. He or she too will very soon become a senior, take silk and do the things that ‘seniors’ do. It does not take time. The danger is that a large population of current juniors are disdainful of silks and other senior members of the Bar. The mistaken complaint being that this class usually ‘chop alone’.
Another undisputed fact is that the primary or basic unit of entry into the political activities is the Branch. Now, it is not in doubt that majority of legal practitioners called to the Bar within the period 2010-2020 do not belong to or identify with the NBA branches. This is discernible from the membership population of the branches vis-a-vis the total number of practitioners called during this period.
The advantages of starting NBA activism at branch level is legion. Principally, it acquaints the Nigerian lawyer with (i) the personalities and identity of our colleagues from grassroots to national level, (ii) lawyers are better acquainted with the ethics, nuances, history and complexities of the legal profession, (iii) lawyers are imbued with the genetic understanding that the legal profession is hierarchical and that in due course only anarchy will result if we disregard or ignore the principles of seniority and experience, (iv) The branch provides the young practitioner with the testing platform to hone his leadership skills, (v) and many more.
The 2020 NBA election
Clearly, as a result of the 2017 NBA Constitutional amendments the voting base is seemingly lopsided in favour of lawyers between one and 10 years old at the Bar. Following the campaign lexicon and philosophy, it is clear that it is, at least for the top office of President, bifurcated between the leadership rank of Senior Advocates and non-Senior advocates among other criteria or factors. I do not think that the dichotomy is critical or important so long as the candidates running for the top office have the requisite experience of leadership at branch level.
At this point in time, our dear nation is in dire straits, this is not the time to have the Bar led by novices in the art of conflict management. The nation is plagued by severe security challenges in the nature of unrestrained kidnapping of our citizens, highway robbery, financial defalcations and malfeasances in government circles, the frittering away of the common patrimony of Nigerians, Abuse and refusal to abide by the clear principles of the Rule of law, the assault on the independence of the judiciary, the continuous disregard for the fundamental rights of Nigerians, increased criminality in the land, corruption and general ungodliness. I have read the manifestos of all the presidential candidates in this election and in my humble view, only Dele Adesina (SAN) proffers reasonable solutions to the myriad of problems listed above.
The Nigerian Bar again has a unique opportunity to right its keeling ship of state with this impending elections. If however, the wrong hands are brought on Board, the ship will no doubt sink and disappear under water. Whether it can then be salvaged, or a new ship procured will be a matter for another discussion.
In summary, experience and reliability cannot be ignored in this election. It is to our peril that we allow factors such as sectionalism, ethnic sentiments, parochialism, petty hatred of competent candidates to govern our choice for Presidency and other National Officers of the Bar. Let us put our hands together and bring on board, the man of the moment, the man who can effortlessly deliver the goods, the man- Dele Adesina (SAN). I endorse him for the office of President, Nigerian Bar Association.
Joseph B. Daudu