The victory of Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN (his admirers prefer to shorten his name as PUSAN) and his inauguration as the President of our dear Association, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is still being celebrated. The generality of our members may expect me to begin by congratulating him and the other newly inaugurated members of EXCO of the NBA. Fortunately or unfortunately, I do not congratulate public office holders on assumption of office. I congratulate them when leaving office if they perform well in my view. I congratulated Mr. Alegeh, SAN on the day he left office. Therefore, I reserve my congratulations. For now, I wish them success in their various offices. Let me proceed to business of the day
Last year, Alhaji Tajuddeen Oladoja, the past President of Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN) and Life Bencher sought for my consent to add me in the WhatsApp group of PUSAN tagged Team Paul Usoro. I promptly told Alhaji Ladoja that I had no objection because I knew he would not invite me to join anything bad. I trust and respect him because of the way he handled MULAN during his time as its president and the elderly role he continues to play up to today. I see him as the equivalent of Mr. O. C. J. Okocha, SAN in the NBA.
When I first met and heard PUSAN at a meeting in Onyx Hotel in Abuja, I was not disappointed. I found him to be a gentleman. I became more comfortable in his candidacy when I saw my Law School mate, Ibrahim Aliyu Nassarawa in the group. From then, I have no doubt that he is eminently qualified and has what it takes to pilot the affairs of NBA to the Promised Land.
However, as far as I am concerned, qualification and experience to be NBA President is one thing, and the will to deliver after occupying the position is another. That is why when other contestants came to Gombe I bared my mind to them. I told them that the three SANs and even the non-SAN that were contesting had the qualification and experience to lead the NBA. However, I was quick to add that I had my doubts whether any of the contestants (including PUSAN) would not fail us like many past NBA Presidents failed us. I told them that I believed that most of the successive Presidents of NBA, at least from 1998, had
abandoned the core objectives of the NBA in favour of jamborees. I consider as core objectives of the NBA protection of the interest of the profession, protection of the interest of the members and protection of the rule of law and independence of the Judiciary.
I follow the affairs of NBA with a passion from restoration of its leadership at the national level in 1998 to today. There are 11 past Presidents so far including Chief Lanke Odogiyon who completed the tenure of Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN upon the latter’s resignation to serve as the Attorney General of the Federation. Out of the 11 past presidents, I worked with three (Ojo, Odogiyon and Agbakogba) that served while I was Chairman Gombe Branch (2004 – 2006). My humble opinion is that most of the 11 past Presidents of NBA did not perform up to expectation. That is the source of my frustration and loss of hope in the manner NBA is
I cited some examples to the two contestants with Gombe Branch in particular and the North-East in general. In Gombe Branch, there was a time we lost a colleague who was returning from a court to a trigger-happy mobile policeman. I cannot recall the national body of NBA sending even a message of condolence to us. The insurgency in this part of the country claimed limbs and lives and practice of lawyers including a sitting Attorney General of the troubled Borno State. I recall that we were with the late AG during NBA conference in 2012 only to hear of his gruesome killing a few weeks thereafter. I am not aware of any tangible thing done to such victims or their families. In other parts of the country we hear about maltreatment of lawyers in course of their duties by mostly uniformed security personnel. If such maltreatment were to be meted out to laborers or tanker drivers, their associations would have shut down the cities or highways where such
incidents happen. Their associations always stand solidly behind them and the authorities have to listen to them.
When PUSAN came to Gombe I did not tell him what I told the other contestants. I was earlier hinted that I would make a remark at that occasion. However, I was not called upon to make any remark. I suspect that his Gombe handlers were not sure of what I would say bearing in mind that I expressed my anger with an incident that happened in the venue shortly before his arrival. They wanted to be on the safer side, so to say. I did not bother to request to say anything. Therefore, PUSAN did not hear my position. I hope his Gombe handlers will draw his attention to this write up.
Incidentally, on 16th August, 2018 Prison Warders in Gombe molested and maltreated our senior colleague Mr. Joseph Kolchi, Esq. who is 30 years at the Bar. He went to see his client in Gombe Prison and there was a minor misunderstanding between him and the Warders. The Warders physically assaulted him to the extent that he could not drive his car. I personally posted the news in the Team Paul Usoro WhatsApp platform. The news was also carried by DNL Legal and Style, an online legal news platform. The NBA national leadership, as usual, did not pay attention to the issue. But I saw that one of the candidates reacted to the issue. I did not see a reaction from PUSAN or his handlers. That made me to be somehow disappointed with him. However, I was later told by one of his handlers in Gombe that he got Mr. Kolchi’s GSM number and personally called to commiserate with him. That rekindled my hope. I am comfortable that PUSAN became aware of the incident even before he assumed office. Concerned members of our Branch wait to see how he will handle Mr. Kolchi’s case and it will be the beginning of our assessment of his performance.
I do not think that I need to remind PUSAN that he has tremendous support in Gombe. We have not seen a candidate that attracted popularity like him in NBA politics. NBA members waited for him and got tired. But they continued to wait for him. Even married women that are hardly seen outside after sun set waited for him patiently. I may, however, need to draw his attention to the margin with which he won the election. It is most likely that as, small as Gombe Branch is in terms of numerical strength, our votes made the margin.
The problem with Nigerians is not lack of good programmes on paper. The problem lies in lack of implementation. Now that PUSAN is in charge he should hit the ground immediately by rolling out the programmes in his manifesto. As far as I am concerned, all the other contestants also have good programmes. He should borrow the good programmes in their manifestoes and involve them in the implementation. His effort to reach out to them should continue. The former Chief Judge of Bauchi State, Honourable Justice Sabo Suleiman Darazo (of blessed memory) once said that: “The NBA Chairman is the father of legal profession. But he is a very young father.” PUSAN should, therefore, see himself as a father of the profession. Our major concern is the progress of the NBA.
PUSAN should bear in mind that the tenure of two year is a short time. He should act before it is too late. We all know a past Chief Justice of Nigeria that served for about six months and he recorded many achievements.
By Ibrahim M. Attahir, Esq.
31st August, 2018