I had my doubts! I was reluctant. I feared for the President of the NBA, I feared for the TCCP. In fact, I eventually began to openly express my fears. I queried why the TCCP would not consider the simplest failure that was imminent in the choice of venue of this year’s conference; Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
If you live or work around Victoria Island and Ikoyi, you would understand my fear. The traffic on Adetokunbo Ademola Street (where Eko Hotels is situated) and its environs stretch during peak periods can be most traumatic.
I tried to process how VI would host additional twelve thousand beings. Seriously, who takes a conference to a venue that would be nearly inaccessible? Who does that? I had a conversation where I openly said to the other party that no matter how nice the conference is planned, the access to that venue will mess up every plan. I was wrong!
I decided to appraise this NBA AGC 2019 from my personal experience.
Conference Material and Pick up
On Friday, 23rd August, 2019, I left my house early in the morning torn between heading straight to the office and proceeding to the conference venue to pick up my conference materials. This was basically as a result of so many factors, including the stress of having to cope with last minute rush or having to be told the conference materials had finished. While still trying to make up my mind, I got a call from a friend. It was as if I was expecting what she said.
“Babe, this place is a mess. These guys are not ready. Nothing is going on. The crowd is too much.”
Dejectedly but not willing to give up too quickly, I gave a response.
“Hmmm, really? But, I think we should give them time. It is still 9:am, an hour after commencement. Things will pick up I guess.”
Well, that was it, I drove straight to my office jeje! Less than 45 minutes after, my friend’s call came through again. This time around her tone was high pitched.
“Babe, come and pick up your material o! I have picked mine” “Everything is going on smoothly, all the TCCP members are here, even the President of the NBA is here, everybody is working.” “The environment is conducive”. She went on and on with accolades.
From my office to Harbour Point, the collection venue is about 10 minutes barring traffic. I arrived the conference venue after about 15 minutes and in less than 10 minutes after I settled into a chair, I received my conference materials. I was actually attended to on my sit. I was later informed that the lady who graciously began to attend to some of us who were seated was actually part of the team assigned to senior colleagues and when she had finished attending to senior colleagues she and her team joined others to decongest the collection points by attending to people on their sits.
The TCCP also made provisions for senior colleagues. Chief Folake Solanke SAN in her appreciation speech at the last plenary confirmed that every lawyer above 70 years that attended this year’s conference had an escort. (This would be a story for another day.) I am yet to see anyone who attended the 2019 conference that complained about difficulty in receiving their conference material. Still speaking with my experience, I would say that all conferees received their materials and in record time, I stand to be corrected.
We were given a bag, writing materials, conference brochure and a free conference App; Whova. Many did not understand what Whova had to offer immediately and did not maximize the features of the App. I studied Whova like I was going to write an exam and it was fantastic for the conference. Imagine having an App that organized your activities with the agenda which gives you the topics of the breakout sessions, venue, time, speakers and the papers presented. Whova made the conference interactive, had schedules for social activities, meet ups and so on. I did not have to ask anybody or carry brochure to know where what is going on. I only needed two or three click on my App. I personally got value for my money from just the Conference Materials.
Accessing the Venues
This was one of my major fears but the TCCP got this all covered. First they created a car park at Eko Atlantic City and then provided buses that kept revolving. Throughout my conference, I did not wait one minute for the buses to come. You had the option of joining the smaller buses just at the front of the Convention Centre or stepping outside the gate for the big buses. The big buses I understand went as far as TBS and other places. I did not join the big buses to anywhere outside Habour Point but all my movement around the two venues and the car park were seamless and fast. Surprisingly too, traffic on these days was less than when there was no crowd. There were enough traffic management officials and they did their jobs.
Access to the venues of the various plenaries and breakout sessions was also fantastic. It was as though every road at Eko Hotel led to the venue. You can turn 360 degrees and still find your way to the conference venues. I accessed the venues at Eko hotel through about 5 entrances. It was awesome.
Plenaries and Break-Out Sessions
At the AGM on Thursday, the Conference Content Committee were given an ovation. Rightly so. The plenaries and breakout sessions clearly highlighted the theme of the conference; “Facing the Future.”
Discussions and Speakers
There were three plenaries all fashioned around contemporary issues facing Nigeria and the legal profession. Getting these issues right would not only prepare a lawyer for the future, but position the Nation towards greatness. I would not know what anyone would make of these issues but they gave me great insights and exposed me to a whole lot. The breakout sessions discussed issues on current aspects of law and living, topics were centered on technology, Artificial Intelligence, intellectual property, Social media culture, financial skills, cross border trade, medical negligence and health, sexual harassment and gender issues, lawyers welfare, rule of law and many more. With over 200 speakers comprising of captains of industries, legal luminaries, judges, public and private sector gurus. There was no faulting of these crop of individuals that graced the stage to speak to Nigerian lawyers in the 2019 conference. I was enriched. At some point it became a challenge for me choosing which break out session to attend. I had to sometimes move from one venue to the other just to catch a little of everything. I give it to the Mfon Usoro Chaired Content Committee. I hope they do this again and again. I am a serious advocate of “no need to change an effective team”. Let this team be developed and institutionalized if possible.
Food and Refreshment
I have serious phobia for being on a queue to access food, especially already cooked ones. If you add carrying plate while standing, I could faint. Once there is a queue and it is for food, I start looking for alternative. I have never been interested in NBA Conference food for this reason. As a matter of fact, my measure of success and failure of an NBA Conference has never included food. Who food epp? On Monday, I was walking past the food courts at the Convention Centre and saw the crowd. I could not deal and it was fine with me. Even when a friend told me she had very good food without having to be on a queue, I nodded nonchalantly in agreement just to get her off the food talk.
Again, I was wrong. I eventually ate food at an AGC. On Tuesday and Wednesday, it was very unusual. I became hungry and needed to step out to get something like I did on Monday but surprisingly I saw a scanty crowd eating and my curiosity took the upper hand. So, I stepped forward and asked to be served, and the man courteously asked me to please pick a plate. Well, I had food and it was not just food. It was good. I was given an apple and chilled water too. I sat down to eat and kept muttering ‘wow’!
Ok, so, someone would have to come and tell the experience at the welcome cocktail, the stage musical which featured Fela and the Kalakuta Queens”, the President’s dinner and the Music concert. I was not there. I had a reason and I promised myself that come 2020, I would attend every single event, if not for any reason, to compare and contrast.
In the over all, without fear of contradiction and having also heard that the conference with a record attendance of about 12,000 conferees has been adjudged the most attended NBA conference, I wish to commend the TCCP on a fantastic outing. And if I am asked if there is room for improvement, I would simply respond by saying; “perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away.
So, what then shall we say to Mr. Paul Usoro SAN?