A medical doctor asked me the above question over the weekend. I lied to him. I told him that NBA had since inception fought and won battles for lawyers and for the preservation of the profession. I defended NBA with all the strength I could monster and the veins on my neck glided out like the map of the world. I was obsessed. I wanted to know why my friend asked the question but he kept laughing uncontrollably.
I knew why he laughed. NBA doesn’t protect anyone. We have had instances where lawyers are frustrated by court registrars and many times, exploited but this has never form a major discourse at any of the NBA conferences organized by the association in recent times.
Just recently, in Lagos state the cost of filing cases at the courts across the state was increased such that lawyers have to pay more than was necessary to get a matter commenced. For a profession that all other professionals look up at to exert their rights one would have thought that the leadership of the NBA would be living up to expectation to undertake the bigger task of ensuring that society is governed in compliance with the enabling laws of the Nigerian state. This is sadly not so and so we are trapped on the scary binaries of a lost fate.
NBA seems to be missing too many things at the same time. One of the objectives of the association is to promote the Nigerian law and the well- being of lawyers who are ministers in the temple of justice. Whether or not the NBA has achieve the former i will leave that to your own judgment but for the later I can categorically say the well-being of lawyers appears not to bother the NBA or how do you explain a situation where a lawyer earns N20, 000 in an employment in a law firm and NBA chooses to look the other way. Is there nothing the NBA can do to help young lawyers in this kind of situation? Of what use is an association if it cannot address the pressing needs of its members.
I think the leadership of the bar must come to terms with the yearnings of lawyer in the profession. It must first be known that lawyers are the reason for which the association exist and the operations of the association must address the affairs of lawyers first and by extension that of the larger Nigerian society.
It must be made clear to the policeman that lawyers are not stooges that should be scornfully treated by the arbitrary jambalaya of police brutality in diminished proportion. The NBA must stand firm for lawyers and the Nigerian society. It must be made known to the politicians, especially the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigerian that the office of a Judge is sacred. That every court judgments, decisions or rulings are drawn from the purified lethargy of existing law and as such, must be obey at all times. The presidency had constituted itself in recent times as working against democracy by violating human rights and disobeying court orders. This is a President who swore to an oath to uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
NBA must wake up to the reality of the moment and address issues that affect the legal profession and the Nigerian society. In Nigeria, the peoples’ first contact in their attempt to access democracy is the local government. In most states, there are no democratically elected representatives of the people at that level. The peoples’ desires and aspirations are met with the brick walls of impositions of candidates orchestrated by their respective state governors. This is the kind of menace that one would have thought the NBA would have addressed since it is part of her responsibilities to safeguard society from social malady and fight their course in the midst of this socio- economic and political injustice. The NBA is mute on the most fundamental issues of society.
NBA will lose its relevance if it does not take hid of this crucial message. I have written this in good faith and as a lawyer I should know exactly what I am saying. The Nigerian state is looking up to us for solution and we must no fail them. We must redeem our image. But if the leadership of the NBA thinks otherwise they must remember that if the lizard of the homestead should neglect to do the things for which its kind is known it will be mistaken for the lizard of the farm land.