Based on the rotational Presidency provisions of the NBA Constitution, it is the turn of the WESTERN BLOC to occupy the office (2020-2022). My humble opinion is that if we have adopted rotation for ourselves in the NBA, WE HAVE A DUTY TO BE CAREFUL TO ENSURE AN EQUITABLE ROTATION OF NBA PRESIDENCY ACROSS ALL INNER BLOCS WITHIN THE BIGGER BLOCS in the NBA, SO AS TO ENSURE EQUITY, to give EVERYONE SECTION a sense of belonging, and ensure that there’s no predominance or people from one inner-bloc to the detriment of others. Example, the WESTERN BLOC has two INNER components — the SOUTH WEST COMPONENT & the SOUTH SOUTH/MIDWEST COMPONENT.
In 2008, when it was the turn of the WESTERN BLOC, Nigerian lawyers elected MR ROTIMI AKEREDOLU, SAN and in 2014 when it came again to the western bloc, distinguished legal juggernaut, AUSTINE ALEGEH, SAN, Life Bencher (from the South south/MIDWEST inner bloc) was elected to occupy the coveted position. Hon Life Bencher held the office from August 2014-August 2016. Now, in 2020, it has come all over again to the WESTERN BLOC. The wisdom of unity and fairness behind rotational NBA Presidency necessarily demands that the SOUTHWEST INNER BLOC be the one to occupy the NBA Presidency from 2020 to 2022. Anything short of that is, with due respect, is promotion of inequity and might defeat the very purpose for which the ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY was introduced. If we must rotate at all, as we have chosen for ourselves, then we ought to rotate to the very bottom in order to ensure that the various peoples of Nigeria are carried along. If, in power-sharing and in governance for the Nigerian Federation, we who are lawyers have been (as we are) encouraging lay politicians to observe EQUITY and abide by FEDERAL CHARACTER provisions in CAP 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (CFRN) , we also ought to adopt OBEDIENCE TO the same FEDERAL CHARACTER as our inviolable creed in order to ensure equity and fairness and to afford NBA members in every segment and section of the country a sense of belonging. Feeling of a sense of belonging is arguably the most important requirement for an honest peace, strong unity and genuine progress in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Accordingly, in line with spirit and intendment of section 14(1) of Chapter Two of the CFRN, 1999, the NBA and all of its members have an obligation to work to ensure that leadership of the NBA is based entirely on the principles of democracy and social justice. And as section 14(3) CFRN prescribes, the leadership of the NBA must be distributed in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote unity and oneness among NBA members, and also to command broad loyalty from lawyers from all segments of the country. In other words, there should be NO predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the leadership of the NBA. As Christopher Hitchens once said, “there is almost no country in Africa where it is not essential to know to which tribe, or which subgroup of which tribe, the president belongs….”
Flowing directly from the aforesaid, it is seen that in 2020, Nigerian lawyers ought to ensure they elect only a core Yoruba man as the NBA President. Any candidate who is not from the SOUTHWEST geopolitical zone (comprising OSUN, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos and Ekiti) cannot fit into this equation. It is immaterial that the person bears a Yoruba name. I therefore humbly suggest to Nigerian lawyers to go all out in 2020 and do the right thing by electing a Yoruba man or woman from the Southwest geopolitical zone as the next NBA President. I repeat, the MIDWEST segment of the WESTERN BLOC has taken its turn in the NBA Presidency, in distinguished Alegeh, SAN. It is time for the Southwest inner bloc to occupy the coveted position. Our hope and progress as a nation would be strengthened only when we learn to carry every section of our country along in all manners of national leadership.
Having said this, may I now turn to the second, important point by suggesting to Egbe AMOFIN that Nigerian Lawyers are not bound by any resolution reached by any tribal or ethnic NBA group. While the Egbe AMOFIN or a section of its membership reserves the right to support or sponsor whoever it wishes to the NBA presidency, Egbe Amofin must realize that its wishes are not in any manner binding on any Nigerian lawyer, including even lawyers from the Southwest. I see the recent resolution by A FEW MEMBERS of EGBE AMOFIN adopting one person as their candidate as merely an indication of support for that candidate by some members of EGBE AMOFIN. Such resolution doesn’t bind other members of EGBE AMOFIN who were not carried along before the resolution was passed neither does the resolution bind the numerous Yoruba lawyers who reserve the right to campaign and or vote for a candidate of their choice, provided she/he’s from the Southwest. The only OBLIGATION Nigerian Lawyers have is to ensure that a YORUBA MAN or WOMAN is elected to occupy the NBA presidency from
August 2020. No Lawyer in Nigeria, whether from the Southwest, South south, Southeast, Northcentral, Northeast or Northwest, is obliged to be guided by any Egbe AMOFIN resolution in deciding who to vote for during the forthcoming NBA National elections. Egbe AMOFIN can support whoever it wishes, but Nigerian lawyers would vote whoever they think is very suited for the NBA Presidency. I accordingly respectfully urge all Nigerian Lawyers to disregard such tribal or section ADOPTIONS for the following reasons:
(a). Adoptions by ethnic or tribal groups only help to further divide rather than unite us. The adopted person is now viewed more as a product of ethnicity and parochial interests. We don’t need such mentality in the NBA. NBA deserves to be ruled by one who is elected by the an overwhelming majority of eligible Nigerian lawyers based on broad acceptance and genuine leadership credentials, and not based on any ethnic or tribal adoption. When the NBA says it is the turn of a lawyer from the west to occupy NBA Presidency, NBA doesn’t call for nor need any ethnic or tribal group to the one to present a candidate to NBA members, for endorsement. What NBA said is that only persons from the west are eligible to aspire to lead the NBA in 2020-2022.
(b) If we elect as the NBA president, a candidate who is said to have been adopted by some ethnic or tribal groups, the tendency is that on assumption of office such NBA President, such an “adopted” candidate might dance more to ethnic tunes and be guided in his or her decisions and policies mainly by parochial and tribal sentiments, in order to please the tribal adoptors, rather than facing the task of leadership with the broad, free and independent mind required to deliver good governance.
(c). Adoption hinders inclusiveness and broad mindedness. A true good leader must endeavor to carry everyone from all parts of the country along in his leadership, in order to succeed, because LISTENING to the President’s supporters or ADOPTERS alone cannot make him succeed; they would only make the president to be for and remain for only one side, which would mean that, unfortunately, the leader is not for ALL, but for only some! This is the greatest of all of Nigeria’s problems – the wrong notion that only those who helped us to ascend the throne could make us succeed on the throne! Leaders that aim to succeed must adopt all-inclusiveness as their motto, so as to be able to create an environment in which all individuals and sections feel empowered to express their opinions freely within the larger group. Leaders ought also to realize that diversity of thinking is critical to effective collaboration and management; thus, they must pay close attention to team composition and team processes in order to fish out all capable hands to work with for success. How would an NBA president be free to observe all these pre-conditions to good governance if he is foisted on Nigerian lawyers from all the THIRTY-SIX (36) states plus Abuja by the decision or resolution of some members of a tribal group the scope of whose membership does not extend beyond SIX STATES. This is why such adoption habit is harmful to the best interests of the NBA. Take as an example, would an NBA President who is a product such ethnic or sectional adoption be able, on assumptions office, be free to declare, as did Marty Rubin once did: “ I pledge allegiance to Nothing and No one but only to the freedom for which it stands.” Honestly, to such a person, occupying the NBA Presidency is all about and for [my] people.
(d). Finally, I have read a comment where someone says that a certain candidate to the 2020 NBA presidential elections has come out a couple of times in the past but was prevailed upon to STEP ASIDE for some other candidates. According to the commentator, it is only right that such candidate, who had been stepping aside for others, be allowed to go this time since he had made enough sacrifice in the past by so stepping down for others. With due respect, this reasoning is hollow. Is this commentator now saying that NBA is the property of that particular candidate? Must the candidate continue to contest every NBA presidential election? And how is the mere fact he, in the past, had stood down for another person to get elected sufficient reasons to insist he must be the NBA president now? Is the agreement this very candidate had AT THAT TIME with those in whose interest he had stood down, binding on the present generation of NBA presidential candidates from the west? Illustration: If MR A had reached an agreement with MR B in 2008 for MR. A to step down for Mr B, and again in 2014 with Mr. C for MR A to step down for MR C, how is that the business of MR D and MR E who have now shown interest in contesting for the NBA presidency in 2020? Are MR D and MR E privy to the agreement between MR A and MR B in 2008 or to the agreement between MR A and MR C in 2014? Why then try to enforce the agreement you had with MR B and Mr C against MR D and MR E who both were not parties to the agreements you had with Mr B and MR. C? Or, are you saying MR. B and or MR C are now the determiners of who stands for elections into the NBA presidency? I don’t understand! I honestly do not understand why we should prefer to dwell on and pursue mere frivolities while leaving the substance!
In conclusion, I respectfully encourage all Nigerian lawyers to ignore any story or alleged story of tribal or sectional adoption by any group, by whatever name called, and to go all out to elect an NBA President of YORUBA extraction (from Southwest geopolitical zone) come July 2020. Our own Idowu Koyenikan, in his book, “Wealth for all Africans: How Every African Can Live the Life of Their Dreams,” has this to say on the dangers of ethnic or identity politics: *”you can no longer see or identify yourself solely as a member of a tribe, but as a citizen of a nation of one people working toward a common purpose.” Marty Rubin counsels: “Get rid of sectarianism, nationalism, tribalism, and there will be peace on earth.”