The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has noted that the new leadership of its Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) was carefully chosen to ensure that the section does not become comatose again.
Speaking during the Annual General Meeting of the section held at the Aare Afe Babalola Bar Centre, NBA Ibadan Branch, NBA First Vice President and Chairman of the SPIDEL Electoral Committee, Mr. John Aikpokpo-Martins said that he was mandated by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata “to ensure that those that will lead SPIDEL will be able to lead it from where we are now to greater heights and to ensure that SPIDEL does not fall into the doldrums again.”
Aside from fiery human rights activist, Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani who was elected as the Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL Council, others are Mr. Steve Abah, Vice Chairman; Dr. Princess Frank-Chukwuani, Secretary; Funmilola Adeogun, Treasurer and Godfrey Echeho, Publicity Secretary. Council members include Prof. Paul Ananaba (SAN); Mr. Kunle Adegoke SAN; Mr. Kola Omotinugbon; Mr. Emeka Nwadioke, Mr. Kunle Edun, Dr. Paul Ebiala, Anne Uruegi Agi, Igbeaku Ukwueso Evulukwu, and Mr. Abdullahi Karaye.
Saying that the newly elected Council was not only in compliance with the NBA Constitution but that “the list that we present to the AGM is the best possible team,” the NBA stalwart assured that “By the grace of God, SPIDEL has been revived. What is left is to build on it.”
He emphasized the critical role of SPIDEL in safeguarding the public interest, saying: “Personally, I believe that SPIDEL is the flagship of NBA; once SPIDEL is working, NBA is working. It is the major section that interfaces with the public and we cannot shirk our responsibilities. The special thing about SPIDEL is that apart from intellect, it is the only section that needs passion to drive it. If there is no passion, it cannot be driven.”
Dissecting the challenges that hobbled SPIDEL before its revival by the Prof. Paul Ananaba SAN leadership, the NBA chieftain said: “The mistake that I believe that was made in the past was that those who had passion were not in the driver’s seat of SPIDEL. Having identified that issue therefore and the onerous task given to us to ensure that there is a new election in the tradition of sections of the Nigerian Bar, passion became the major factor; in fact, it became the distinguishing factor when all other equities were equal. I thank the immediate past EXCO for appointing us to superintend the election.”
On his part, the pioneer Chairman of SPIDEL, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN said: “I have enjoyed the conference; I have enjoyed the comradeship. I have reunited with colleagues and made new friends. Ibadan is a nice place. I am happy for the success of the outgoing leadership. I am also praying for victory for MOU and the new council.
Gadzama traced the emergence of SPIDEL to 2006 when he served a four-year term, saying: “We must stay connected. Like I said at the Annual Conference, if there is one acronym that can replace the acronym ‘NBA,’ it is ‘SPIDEL.’ SPIDEL is the way to go. And I’m saying this from my heart of hearts, from my experiences. For those who don’t know, I was a Council Member of Section on Business Law which was the first in the series to be created. I also became a Vice Chairman in the Section on Legal Practice. Then as God will have it, I became the pioneer Chairman of SPIDEL. You can see the trajectory; so I am talking from experience.
“SPIDEL is a kind of reconnection, a kind of covenant with the public because it is the nexus between the Bar and the people. Prof. Ananaba, we appreciate you on your very successful tenure. MOU, we congratulate you on your assumption of office. We are there for you. We were in the doldrums for almost 10 years but we are back. Without challenges, you cannot celebrate victory. Challenges make life more meaningful.”
Speaking at the AGM, former NBA First Vice President, Mr. Ikeazor Akaraiwe SAN said: “I want to congratulate Elder Ananaba for an excellent job. I am not being sycophantic. Ananaba has written his name into the annals of the Bar in Nigeria. I hope that when we are talking of election at the national level, that you will be interested. If you can be able to revive SPIDEL, I think that you can be able to do a lot. And I am speaking very honestly. MOU is already a public interest man; he is already going to court to challenge everything challengeable. So, what will happen now that he is the Chair of SPIDEL? We have a good team here, good men and women.”
In his remarks, Ananaba said: “The bible says there is a time for everything. There was a time for SPIDEL to go down and go to the wilderness; there was also a time for SPIDEL to come alive and do what it ought to do. SPIDEL is in the hands of God. I will say that because when we started the programme at Ritz Hotel, there was nothing to talk about; it was ‘Try your luck.’ But God helped us. As I look back now, I could see that it was just God. We had no money, we were just being tolerated. Today, SPIDEL has come back.”
Expressing confidence in the new council, Ananaba said: “A ceremony that will be well attended is signposted by the amount of firewood in the compound. If you look at the government we have put in place, you can find out that they will go far. Let me make it very clear, there will be turbulence on the road; the work of SPIDEL is not business or filing motions. We are going to bring that interest that is relevant to the society.
“It is not easy to bring public interest back to the society, to the front burner. In other parts of the world, people do things in the public interest. This administration we have put in place is not accident. We believe that God will be with them. we believe that we all will stand behind them and we will all do the long walk. But it will end in praise.”
Speaking during a dinner he hosted especially for the outgoing and incoming council members, former SPIDEL Council Member, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN congratulated both teams, saying: “MOU, I congratulate you. After your tenure, the great work Elder Paul Ananaba has done in SPIDEL you will do 10 times better. I support SPIDEL.”
Also aligning with other Bar leaders on the pivotal role of SPIDEL within the NBA framework, the former Chairman of Legal Aid Council of Nigeria said: “I think SPIDEL is the spirit of the Bar because SPIDEL defend the public. I pray that in the next two years, the common man will rely on SPIDEL. That common man has lost confidence in us as lawyers. That common man has lost confidence in the courts. That is why during the ENDSARS protest, it was the common man that went to Lagos High Court to put fire because the common man has lost confidence in the judicial system and the lawyers.”
Responding, Ubani noted the vital role of leadership, saying: “Everything revolves around leadership. We will give leadership that we believe and trust. People will come in naturally; immediately we hold our next council meeting, the next thing is how do we get our members to belong to SPIDEL. The next thing is that we will begin to develop programmes.
“I thank God for people like Mr. Victor Nwakasi whom I have so much confidence and trust in. During the planning of this conference, he, Emeka Nwadioke and some of other CPC members that are here sacrificed so much towards the success of our Annual Conference. They were fantastic, they were fabulous. I am very impressed with you all.
“We need to develop our programmes and probably find development partners for us to be a voice for the voiceless in Nigeria. I want to really appreciate all of you on behalf of the council members for your patience in staying to conduct this election. 2022 Conference by the grace of Almighty God shall be better than Ibadan 2021.
“It is clear that our mandate is cut out. We will pursue it and make a difference. In terms of lawyers being the voice of the voiceless, there are so many wrongs in our country but so few people to seek redress. We must begin do things to restore the confidence of the public in the judiciary. We will take enforcement of judgements seriously and cite persons impeding such enforcement within the law enforcement agencies for disciplinary action. Things will never be the same again. Within these two years, we are committed to do a lot of work. JK is a mentor, a father, a friend who is completely detribalized. Chief Ayorinde’s insights on public interest matters is highly impressive.”
Following the presentation of the proposed list of new council members by the NBA 1st Vice President, the general meeting had unanimously approved the list. Aikpokpo-Martins then said: “You are hereby declared as elected members of council of NBA SPIDEL for the next two years.”