By Innocent Anaba
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, will next week Thursday, elect its national officers to run the association for the next two
years. To this effect, the 88 branches of the association will gather in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo State for the election. As usual, the office of the President, is always the most keenly contested. This time around, two prominent lawyers, Chief Jeo-Kyari Gadzama SAN and Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN are both running for the position.
Both candidates are eminently qualified for the job, andÂ are active members of the association. Even though lawyers in the country today, are all in support of a free and fair contest between the candidates, earlier moves by a section of bar elders to have a consensus candidate by the adoption of a particular candidate, generated so much bad blood, that the only option forward was for both candidates to run.
In every election for the national offices of the NBA,Â it is always a year of so muchÂ activities, as candidates for all the positions, particularly the position of President and Secretary General, tour the 88 branches of the association to solicit for votes.
Same has been the case since the second quarter of the year, as the candidates have been touring the branches on campaign. In the 2002,Â 2004 and 2006 elections, it was fun all the way, as candidates for the various positions, led by their choice Presidential candidate visited the branches, seeking for either adoption or endorsement. It was only the 2008 election that was devoid of this, as the President emerged by consensus. But the office of the Secretary General, and other offices, which were contested equally gave delegates a sense of election, which had always been the highlight of an election year conference.
Even though this yearâ€™s annual conference will not feature election, as same will take place this month, delegates are all the same mobilizing for the exercise. The center stage of this yearâ€™s election remainsÂ Gadzama and Daudu.
Other candidates for the election include Ukiri Blessing Emonena, Fayokun Foluso, Adekunle Ojo and Ndionyenma Nwankwo for 1st Vice President. For 2nd Vice President, we have Irabor Osas Justy, Udobong Ini-Abasi Thomas and Akande Dare. Bode Makinde and Dr. Ogugua Ikpeze for 3rd Vice President.Â Ogbara Nurudeen Alowonle, Akinboro Olumuyiwa and Ayigbagbe Edward will slug it out for the position of General Secretary.
For Treasurer are Oluyede Olufunmilayo, Mussa Adamu Zamdi and Ganiyat Adetutu Shinyobola, while
Financial Secretary candidates are Alhaji Yaâ€™u Musa and Adekunle Ajasa.
Alabelewe Mosud, Sule Usman and Ejelonu Ezena Kelvin are in the race for the position of Welfare Secretary, while Publicity Secretary has Emeka Jude,Â Philip Ogbegolu and Anthony Oka as contestants. For Legal Adviser, Nwaugwo Victor Chima, Komolafe Muheeb Ishola and Amaefule Seth Stanley are the contestants, while for 1st Assistant Secretary, Ailerua Jonathan and Abar Stephen Terseer are in the race. Okpayinka Gabriel Adeniyi and Ebiala Paul Odah are running for 2nd Assistant Secretary; forÂ Assistant Financial Secretary, Nwadike Chinwe Joy andOdiamma Udoka. And for Assistant Publicity Secretary, Abdulahi Man Idris and Obiafam Augustine.
Meanwhile, many bar fora have been hosting the candidates and endorsing candidates. For example, the NBA Warri branch conducted an election on July 18, to decide who to support between Daudu and Gadzama.Â After the vote, Daudu had 51 votes, as against 81 polled by Gadzama.
The Eastern Bar Forum, EBF, however,Â did not adopt any candidate for the position of President, though it adopted candidates for other positions at its meeting in Ogoja, Cross River State, on July 17, where Gadzama was accompanied by 22 branch chairmen and secretaries of the Arewa Bar Forum.Â The Western Bar Forum, christened Egbe Amofin, walked out journalists from its Ibadan meeting venue on July 17 and it was reported that some candidates did not accept its adoption of some candidates for the various positions.
It was learnt that those who protested the recommendation of the forum were Mr. Foluso Fayokun and Mrs. Ganiya Siyanbola Tutu,Â who were advised to step down for Mr. Adekunle Ojo and Olufunmi Oluyede.
Though, Mr. Fayokun quickly accepted his fate, it was difficult for Tutu to be appeased as she complained that she had earlier been asked to step down for another person,Â who contested for the post of a financial secretary by the Lagos branch of the bar.
The politics of the NBA election, notwithstanding, it is the two Presidential candidates, who are the main attraction, as regard what they have planned for the association in the two years the eventual winner will pilot the affairs of the association.
For Joe-Kyari Gadzama, his programmes for the association, if electedÂ include to re-strategise, re-define and re-dedicate the NBA for greater heights by refocusing on the core values, ethos and integrity of the Bar. Born in Mubi, Adamawa State, Gadzama attended the Borno College of Basic Science, Maiduguri and later, the University Maiduguri, where he read law. He was called to Bar in 1986 and became an SAN, 1998.
According to him, his vision for the association remains â€œan NBA that provides exemplary leadership with integrity and courage, that upholds the rule of law, constitutionalism, democratic values and good governance. An NBA committed to the service of the bar, the legal profession and the nation. An NBA that ranks among the foremost bar associations in the world, where every member shall be counted and stand with pride and candor.â€
His mission statement, include independence of the Bar, integrity of the judiciary, welfare of members (young and old) and service to humanity are his mission, while hisÂ core values are courage, integrity, charisma, hard work, innovation, excellence, dynamism, accessibility, foresightedness and exemplary leadership.Â Gadzama is the first member of the association to be refunded money he spent in the prosecuting the activities of the association, after auditors audited the account of the Jos 2005 Conference Planning Committee, which he chaired.
On his programme of action, Gadzama said, â€œmy mission in the service of the NBA will be articulated within the framework of the set goals and objectives as contained in Section 4 of the NBA constitution: (i) Developing adequate support structures for lawyers.
I have discovered over time that most lawyers, whether they are just starting or have been in practice, require a medium that provides periodic information updates, and resources for their work, a place where they can acquire skills or get information and assistance. Providing these resources will be the primary goal of my leadership. This will be addressed using different methods like symposia and round table discussions.
â€¢Periodic workshop: We shall have more workshops, seminars, symposia and conferences to address all issues of concern to lawyers ranging from welfare to employment.
â€¢Functional NBA website: This is to ensure that information is available as and when needed and will utilise information technology tools that are available to us. The NBA website will provide real time information and will be completely interactive. All enquiries made by lawyers will be responded to within 24 hours. Information on the website will not become stale but will be constantly updated to ensure that it is relevant and current.
â€¢Robust resources – the NBA website will provide amongst other things, a monthly newsletter on the activities of the association, job listings for lawyers and a well-equipped and accessible library.
â€¢Support for troubled lawyers Provision of a lawyersâ€™ hotline where lawyers with ethical questions, social challenges or financial problems may seek help confidentially.
â€¢Senior lawyers- Deserving senior colleagues in active practice shall be encouraged to accept appointment to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
â€¢Senior Advocates of Nigeria – Reformation of the process for the appointment of Senior Advocates of Nigeria shall be ensured and vigorously pursued. â€¢Establishing a branch support network: A branch support network shall be established and a branch forum shall be held to enhance exchange of ideas and discussions on various issues facing the branches.
â€¢NBA Presidential Advisory Council of Elders: This Council will be established and shall be responsible for advising the president on peculiar and critical issues, such advice will be useful to the Executive Council when controversial issues need to be resolved.
â€¢Funding of legal aid services: We shall vigorously pursue the Federal and state governments to embrace and promote funding of legal aid in the same way medical care is supported. That way, we shall provide:â€¢Access to justice;â€¢Enhanced productivity;â€¢More work for lawyers, especially junior counsel.
â€¢Increasing the relevance of the NBA through:
â€¢NBA services: The goal is for an all inclusive NBA. Even though membership is automatic for every lawyer subject to payment of dues, lawyers would be made aware of NBA services potentially available and beneficial to them. Lawyers should see NBA as a â€œbig brotherâ€ organisation with a united front effectively representing our interests.
â€¢NBA brochure: Existing and especially newly admitted entrants to the Bar will be provided with welcome packets advising them of the services of NBA at their disposal.
â€¢Mentoring of younger lawyers: Arrangements will be made for older members of the Bar to provide mentorship and guidance to younger members in order to maintain best practices and high standard. â€¢Timely and coherent contribution to topical issues: The NBA will issue timely and relevant statements on topical issues.
â€¢Quarterly NBA newsletter: There shall be an improved, updated and regular quarterly NBA newsletter where issues and matters relevant to the association, the nation and the international community will be aired and discussed.
â€¢Promoting the efficiency of the NBA via exemplary leadership with integrity and courage. â€¢It is true that the NBA has done a lot to promote its aims and objectives and striven to carve a niche for itself over the years. However, it would be erroneous to say it has reached its peak. The NBA must begin to transcend the realm of dreams and visions to that of reality and actualisation. The existing structures of the NBA will be repositioned to achieve optimum efficiency.
â€¢Staff: Provision of staff training facilities for members of staff so as to equip them to meet the unique needs of lawyers and ensure professionalism.
â€¢Sections and Committees: The NBAâ€™s relevance will also be imprinted into the consciousness of the society by the â€œgivebackâ€ initiative. There will be an annual minimum pro_bono requirement for law firms and lawyers to meet.
â€¢Rule of Law: In promoting the essence of the NBA, we will pursue rigorously and see to fruition, the present constitutional reforms.
â€¢Digital Bar Initiative: We shall monitor and expedite the process of Digital Bar Initiative and ensure an up-to date, accessible electronic listing of admitted lawyers.
â€¢Accountability & Transparency. Without doubt, in an office of this nature, i.e. that of the President, accountability and transparency contributes to building the confidence of followers and the integrity of leaders. The goal is to:â€¢Ensure effective and accurate dissemination of information on all the activities of the association to every member of the Bar.â€¢Adopt a participation based strategy which would increase the role of all lawyers in the NBA so that everyone can make an input in governance. This way, rancor is reduced and an all inclusive administration is achieved.
For Daudu, SAN, he was born in Ogori-Magogo, Kogi State and attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he read law and was called to Bar in 1980 and became an SAN in 1995.
According to his mission statement, â€œthe thrust of our efforts will be to improve on the prosperity and financial capabilities of the Nigerian lawyer. Steps to be taken in achieving this will include:Â (a) Reviving the criminal justice system by ensuring that all criminals get charged to court.Â (b) Urging all lawyers to become computer literate and embrace modern paraphernalia of legal practice so as to ease communication locally and internationally.
(c) Revising upward$, the Legal Practitioners (Remuneration in conveyancing matters and legal documentation) Order 1991 to meet up with the current rate of inflation and currency devaluation.Â (d) Restoration of the traditional preserves of lawyers such as documentation in land registries, banking documents and the Corporate Affairs Commission.Â (e) Encouraging specialisation among lawyers so as to gain entry into beneficial areas of practice not adverted to.Â (f) Encouraging arrangements in chambers that will ensure financial reward for hard working juniors.
(g) Organising seminars and workshops on modern methods of . law office management and encouraging the creation ofÂ partnerships.
2. The amendment of the Legal Practitioners Act of 1975 so as to reflect current developments in the training, admission, ethics, discipline and matters relevant to the practice of law by the legal; practitioners. (a) Most of the existing provisions ofÂ· CAP 207 LFN as amended are not in harmony with the current trends in legal practice. It is therefore necessary to secure amendments from the National Assembly that will among other things reinvigorate the process for discipline of legal practitioners, reorganise the Body of Benchers with a view to ensuring greater efficacy of that body and reshape the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee.Â (b) Introduction of compulsory continuing legal education in the new Act so as to make all lawyers retrain and get familiar with innovations in the legal profession.
(c) Ensuring that lawyers attend afix,ed number of hours for CLE and failure to attain the minimum will disqualify such lawyer from practising in any capacity thenceforth, until remedied.
(d)The codifying of the Stamp and Seal project into the proposed amendment to the LPA CAP 207 so that possession of the stamp annually can be an additional determinant of a lawyerâ€™s right of audience, thus ensuring that latter has paid all his dues.
(e) In the spirit of true federalism, providing in the Legal Practitioners Act, the provision that at least 20 per cent of the practising fees collected in any one year be shared among the 88 branches to enable them cater for specific functions and programmes.
3. The overhaul of the training of lawyers in order to confirm to current international standards and to bring efficiency and greater skill in the performance of the new wig.Â â€˜There is unspeakable corruption in the Bench aided in some instances by members of the Bar. â€˜The mode or speed in the dispensation of justice has been gravely affected by several factors not limited to the quality of the members of the bench.
â€˜Above all there exists in most judiciaries conflict of interest among members of the Bench.â€™
If elected Daudu hopes within the two-year tenure to make concerted efforts to rectify the anomalies and unethical practices that currently bedeviled the Bar. He says â€˜As for the Bar, there is a dire need for the enforcement of discipline within our ranks.
â€˜Lawyers now, more than ever, cheat their clients, embezzle monies, breach professional ethics with impunity, pervert the course of justice, use improper and uncouth language and generally display conduct unbecoming of the distinguished and learned profession of law.Â It will be our mandate to strengthen the existing disciplinary procedures and make them faster and more result oriented so that the growing number of bad eggs can be dealt with decisively,â€™ he added.
A new dawn we cannot afford to mess
By GabrielÂ Adebayo
AFTERÂ much ado and the hodgepodge that trailed the 2007 general election, we finally began crying out, then ultimately ended up yelling for sanity, order and sincerity of purpose in our polity â€“ three principles which more and more we have come to understand as ingredients that cannot be diluted, in so far as the development and advancement of Nigeria is concerned.
So far, we have managed to put a half-century of a promised nationhood down the drain – come October 1, Nigeria will mark its 50th independence anniversary and yet, for the hoi polloi, nothing of true substance had been achieved. The benevolent purpose set out by our founding fathers had been denied its glory by the coups and counter-coups of the mid-1960s.
Nigerians had fought a senseless and bloody civil war. Senseless because judging by todayâ€™s pitiable state of the nation — in terms of unity, the economy, infrastructure and human resource development — it may very well have been better that our political state was never born.
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka could not have been more correct when he referred to Nigeria as being only â€œa nation spaceâ€ â€“ an entity yet to be transformed into true nationhood.
It may be said that the civil war never really ended with the declaration of â€œno victor, no vanquishedâ€ â€“ that it continues, albeit in other less-recognisable forms, to wreak havoc on our lives and make us all habitual losers. While we could have used the lessons of our bitter experiences for the betterment of our lot, we dashed off such an opportunity. Instead, we paved the way for sycophants and economic saboteurs rushing into the stage of governance after the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed. Until now, we mostly sit and watch in virtually helpless abandon, as they continue to perpetuate themselves in power.
Thus, it can also be said that for 50 years going, our so-called nation-state has achieved nothing other than becoming a spigot of petro-dollars, directed at foreign bank accounts owned by these home-grown economic saboteurs, which enhances the host-countriesâ€™ economies at the expense of Nigeriaâ€™s.
Meanwhile, our youths have come to be tagged as â€œunemployableâ€. The truth is that the untrained youths, and the leaders responsible for having made them such unproductive heirs, are birds of the same feather â€“ both are functional illiterates.
No wonder some Nigerians view the earmarking ofÂ N10 billionÂ for the golden jubilee celebration as the apex of national wastage, if not insanity.
Dismal as it is — our Nigeriaâ€™s state-of-the-nation — from a critical lens, a counter-perspective bears out that in fact, on the dawn of our countryâ€™s second-half century, a fresh opportunity to make Nigeria a true nation, and a force to be reckoned with by the international community, has presented itself.
This opportunity is occasioned by the emergence of a young-generation leader, longed for by the youths and by many among the more matured generation who still sincerely hold this nation dear to their hearts, who has the potential of finally taking Nigerians to the â€œPromised Landâ€.
The stated determination of President Goodluck Jonathan to pursue the dream ofÂ 20: 2020 — of Nigeria becoming one of the worldâ€™s top 20 nations by the year 2020 — which was first enunciated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo; his pronouncements in favour of a free and fair election; and his strong support for the electrification of the country as attested to by his chairmanship of the committee – these are steps in the right direction that could propel Nigeriaâ€™s betterment in the foreseeable future.
In our long-term quest for nationhood, founded on justice and equity, we should always bear in mind that a free and fair election, come 2011, is the key to our success. It allows for the election of credible leaders with foresight and probity. Indeed, it may very well pave the way for the rise to power of think-tank type leaders, the kind of state stewards with the best abilities to build a â€œship of stateâ€ and steer it toward our 20: 2020 advancement adventure.
However, the truth must be told that the ruling political party — the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — by its nature, cannot win in a fair contest. This was amply demonstrated in both the 2003 and 2007 general elections.
Thus, the task in need of immediate attention by the President is, first and foremost, the reformation of his political party, the PDP – which at the moment, is rather seriously detested by the electorate as a â€œparty of plunderersâ€.
Â Dr. Adebayo, a commentator on national issues, writes from Chicago, USA