By Innocent Anaba
Immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association,NBA, Mr. Augustine Alegeh, SAN, has advised lawyers in the country to ensure that they vote a candidate that has the leadership qualities to head the Bar at this stage as President.Ahead of the 2018 NBA election scheduled to hold later this month,Alegeh said failure to elect a president with integrity and foresight, will make the NBA lose its relevance at the national level. Speaking with newsmen in Lagos on the state of the nation, Alegeh said he has assessed all the candidates for the next election and he’s eager to see how the Bar could be moved forward.
“We are in an election season and it is the critical time for the Bar. The Bar must vote a candidate that has the leadership qualities to head it at this stage.Let us forget about the internal issues of the NBA. If we do not have a president with integrity, a president with foresight, then NBA could lose its relevance at the national level. These are critical issues.I have looked at all the candidates and I strain to see how we can move the Bar forward. But we have to see how we can make the best of the situation. No candidate in any election is perfect but everybody who is meant to vote, must vote for the candidate that has the basic rudimentary understanding of what the NBA is. We have candidates who have no idea of what NBA Constitution says at all.
“Our Constitution says there is universal suffrage; our Constitution says there’s zoning of offices. What are we trying to achieve? If an office is zoned to the Midwest, it is already zoned to the Midwest, so anybody who wins from Midwest makes it work.What the Constitution says is that, if it is zoned to the Midwest, Midwest give us your best, then let us exercise our rights to vote. And what is the issue that a junior lawyer cannot become President? Is the man not paying his practicing fees? Can we not have free choice? How old is Macron? Is he the only man in France? When Macron became President he was the youngest, so, the point I’m making is that, this parochial thinking that only the old ones have an idea of how to run the Bar is wrong. Where does the future of the Bar lie?”, Alegeh asked.
The former NBA President also appealed to the incumbent President, A.B. Mahmoud, SAN, to save the association from the looming leadership crisis. According to him, though overcoming the NBA’s present challenges is not a fight for one man but a fight for all “If the NBA falls, something will shake. When NBA had crisis in the past, we knew what happened and some key players involved in former crisis, are still involved in this election.So, we have to be very, very careful,because we have no other Bar to go to. The Bar is our own; we cannot run away from the Bar and no country without a vibrant Bar can develop or make a success of democracy.” On the issue of state police, he said, “We need to interrogate the question of state police, its pros and cons. Firstly, we are coming from a federal system. Let us take Ekiti as an example. Assuming Ekiti has state police and we are having an election in Ekiti State and federal and state police are involved in the election in Ekiti, what would have happened?
“The point I’m making is, we need to look at what the challenges are. We need to have a balance, no one will give us a total solution, but we need to look at what we really want. If we want state police, let us start. If we start state police, it will probably be like Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA. It will have its teething problems, they will be overzealous, they will do the wrong things, but eventually as they mature, they will get better and better.If we have state police and we have federal police, assuming a state equips its police better than the federal police, you might be having shoot-outs regularly. It’s because the states might decide that, even for federal offences, that they are people who they are protecting. So, we need to have a fair balance. Those are the challenges. State Police is neither here nor there. It may work, or it may create more problems. So, we have to be wary in making our choices. We must make our choices to solve today’s personal needs, we must look at the implications going forward”, Alegeh advised.