Nigerian lawyers are gearing up across the country to elect the next president of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”). The NBA is not just an amalgamation of lawyers qualified to practice law in Nigeria, it has become the most influential professional association in the country, with enormous responsibilities that anchor for the most part the aspirations of our constitutional democracy. The presidency of the NBA is therefore not an average office and it cannot be mistaken if the occupant is portrayed as a mini Nigerian president with around 125 branches scattered across the country under his supervision. Not to mention the broad responsibility to the people of Nigeria as circumscribed in the founding documents of the Association.
A non-renewable two-year term, around this time in 2020, the Law Society, and indeed the country as a whole, was charged as the Association witnessed a historic contest for office by the triumvirate by Mr. Dele Adesina, SAN, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN and Mr. Olumide Akpata. While the first two were Senior Advocates of distinction, the second was something of an outlier who dared to challenge the status quo. In the entire history of the Association, only a handful of non-Senior Advocates have had the chance to lead the Association. Olumide Akpata’s ambition was therefore a punch in the eyes of the Establishment.
His campaign, however, appealed to the younger segment of the bar, which was in the majority. Before long, it had morphed into such a national movement that doctors, engineers, professionals in other disciplines, and even Nigerians in general were seen advocating a #BarThatWorksForAll which was the slogan of the campaign. by Olumide Akpata.
Indeed, even before the first ballot, it was clear to everyone that the election was an exercise in formality. Olumide Akpata would become the Association’s 30th President, in circumstances that have made him a person of interest when it comes to the election campaign in Nigeria. The rest, as they say, is history today.
However, with the administration’s days now numbered, attention has turned to who will succeed Olu, as he is popularly known. The president’s office is zoned to the northern bar which runs through the 19 states of the federation, in keeping with a tradition that has kept the association going since the crisis that rocked it 3 decades ago. Three candidates were endorsed by the NBA Election Committee, led by Ayo Akintunde, SAN, namely, Chief Joe Kyari Gadzama SAN; Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau SAN, and Mr. Jonathan Taidi, former Secretary General of the Association.
While the competition somewhat mimics the 2020 race, being among two senior lawyers and one non-senior lawyer from Nigeria, there is no indication that the 2020 upheaval would be repeated for many reasons, which is beyond the scope of this intervention. . . Bar policy watchers are somewhat confident that by July 16, Nigerian lawyers would make a choice between YC and JK.
Of the two, Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN of all indications seems the most likely to emerge. For a campaign that has struggled to kick into high gear, Kebbi-born Silk appears to have captured the imagination of Nigerian lawyers: young and old, who see him as a prototype of the new and emerging bar leadership that ‘Olumide Akpata characterizes.
Unlike his opponent, JK Gadzama-SAN, who has struggled to shirk his Establishment toga at a time when the Bar is embroiled in a cold war with an influential ruling bloc poised to undermine authority of the more than 60-year-old Association, YC represents the New Order which is committed to returning the Bar to its true owners: the generality of the Bar community. Again, as JK would run for the third time, after running and losing in contentious elections, particularly the 2016 elections, in circumstances some people claim he has yet to left behind, YC represents a breath of fresh air and one who wouldn’t deploy high office to possibly settle old scores.
As a young barrister of about nine years after the qualifying experience, providence propelled Maikyau onto the national stage as counsel on the Nigerian Human Rights Inquiry Commission-Oputa Panel , created by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 as the country returned to democratic rule. He was almost certain that his career was written in the stars. A dozen years later, he was taking the coveted oath of Senior Solicitor of Nigeria and with it rose to the pinnacle of legal practice in Nigeria through hard work and distinction of character.
A cerebral lawyer indisputably at the forefront, in Re:Abdullahi (2018) 14 NWLR (Pt.1639) 272, he proved the elasticity of the law by convincing the Supreme Court of Nigeria to make an unprecedented decision, allowing the substitution of a deceased appellant in a criminal matter with the administrators of his estate in an effort to preserve civil rights in his estate. A classic place this has caused a welcome paradigm shift in Nigerian jurisprudence on the subject.
Through his mantra “Building a Dynamic Bar”, Y. C recognizes the need for the Bar to pull in one direction while consolidating the achievements of what would be the Akpata years. His 25-page manifesto tells the story of a modest, pragmatic reformer who understands that sustainability, to be organic, must be progressive. The dynamism he speaks of is one that would raise the bar beyond its current heights to the stratospheric altitude where it would meet the needs of the people it is meant to serve.
“The NBA under my leadership will not just be a big, strong, and inclusive bar; it will seek/pursue its members to bring them into the fold. This must be done with the knowledge that it is the NBA’s responsibility to look after the general welfare and welfare of its members – after the “Good Shepherd” similiarity. We will seek out each member, bring them into the fold, and offer the benefit of membership to the whole body. We understand that only by identifying with its members can the NBA appreciate their individual/collective needs and forge the requisite entrepreneurial will that will enable the NBA to fulfill its constitutional purposes,” he wrote. in its manifesto.
With hindsight, his background no doubt prepared him, even unconsciously, for the thankless task of leading the Bar. Having served the Association and the nation as a whole, in many capacities, this is a company that would put to good use his leadership and administrative skills which have seen him excel as both a consummate professional and a family man. . Under his leadership as the pioneering Chairman of the NBA Welfare Committee, under the Olumide Akpata administration, Nigerian lawyers have had a taste of what is to come, should he become the 31st Chairman of the NBA. the NBA. Through programs such as the NBA-Law Pavillion partnership run by his committee, the NBA-NHIS program, and the NBA-Leadway Improved Life-Insurance program, there is prima facie evidence that an NBA led by YC Maikyau would prioritize to the welfare of lawyers. and exploring other ways to make membership in the Bar a value-driven dynamic.
As Olumide Akpata prepares to hand over after a good run, so far as one can infer general feelings at the Bar, a heavy burden now rests on the shoulders of the awakened members of the profession who, by the choices they made on July 16 would determine the course and trajectory of their much admired profession and association.
In this sense, the emerging consensus is that YC Maikyau, SAN is not just footing the bill. It is also widely acclaimed; he is the missing piece of the continuity puzzle. But time will tell.
A lawyer and public interest commentator, Raymond Nkannebe can be reached via [email protected]. He tweets @RaymondNkannebe