Legal luminary and one time President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN has advised the three presidential contestants in the recently concluded NBA election; Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN and Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN to put all that happened during the election behind them and chart a path to building a virile and formidable Bar Association.
Chief Wole Olanikepun gave the above advise in the heels of persistent agitation and complaint about alleged irregularities at the election which saw the emergence of Mr. Paul Usoro SAN as the preferred candidate.
While congratulating the President elect on his victory at the polls and showing praises on him for extending olive branches to the duo of Chief Obi-Okafor and Pro. Ojukwu, Chief Olanipekun encouraged them to eschew the bitterness of losing as there can be only one President of the NBA.
Chief Olanipekun’s letter is reproduced hereunder:
My dear Paul, permit me to acknowledge receipt of your endorsed mail to Ernest and Arthur, both of who contested the last NBA presidential election with you, you being the declared winner. Congratulations. May I commend the wisdom and thoughtfulness behind your mails, both to your illustrious co- contestants, as well as the past Presidents of our great and noble Association.
That’s how it should be; and that was how it had always been until we started losing or feigning ignorance or forgetfulness of what NBA used to be and represent. Truth be told, each of the three of you is well qualified, equipped and experienced to become our President; but there can only be one President at a time.
Having won the election, you’ve become our leader and a leader. It’s your duty to assuage feelings and ensure the emergence of a United Bar. More than ever before, both our nation and profession need a strong, virile and formidable Bar, to speak both for the profession – the Bar and the Bench, as well as for the generality of our citizens.
A divided house cannot achieve this; a harassed or distracted leadership cannot face the mounting and daunting challenges facing our profession and nation. While I will submit that you’ve started and done well by your afore- mentioned mails, you have and need to do more, and very urgently too. Put behind you the soap box rhetorics and take the bull by the horns.
Kickstart the process of healing and reconciliation within the NBA and unite all the diverse factions and interests. Put in place a transparent system that will ensure all and sundry that the NBA presidency is for service, rather than self-aggrandizement. Like the late President Umoru Yar’adua, be humble and manly enough to admit that the system that brought you to office was/ is faulty, and say it loud and clear that through you, our Association will never pass through that way or path again.
Please don’t mount any high horse! Very important. For the past three elections or so of NBA Presidents, similar allegations as are now being made and repeated against you had dominated the Bar landscape and hemisphere. Presently, the case challenging the election of the outgoing President by Chief JK Gadzama SAN is still in court! For God and goodness sake, put a halt to this mess! As for Ernest and Arthur, each of you is a gentleman of the highest order. You’ve carried out your respective campaigns with maturity, poise, style and much elegance.
But there cannot be three Presidents of the Bar at the same time. Since the Lord lives forever, there’s a better tomorrow for each of you, both at the Bar and the larger society. Without adjudging your complaints as frivolous or unmeritorious, I plead , with all sense of responsibility that let us forget the past ; let’s forgive ourselves ; let’s join hands with Paul to rediscover and re- situate the Bar ; let’s now resolve that never again shall any presidential candidate of the Bar embark on the type of hazardous trips you all underwent in the past twelve months or indulge in the humongous expenses you all incurred.
As for me, my loyalty and fidelity are always to our noble profession, and I believe I owe a duty to plead with all our colleagues, across the length and breadth of Nigeria who have some grievances and complaints against the last election to bury their hatchets; and come together as a united body to chart a glorious way forward for the profession. My respect to you Paul, as the in- coming President ; my high regards to Ernest and Arthur as my worthy Colleagues ; my love to all.
-Wole Olanipekun OFR , SAN President , NBA , 2002-2004.