Who Is Dividing The Bar? 

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Arthur Obi Okafor,SAN & some other members of EBF

The prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has over the last two years come under attack from within and outside the legal profession.

While the political class try desperately to drag our learned silks into their acrimonious diatribe, some members of the noble legal profession have joined in this act.

I recently read an article online titled ” NBA Presidency :Time for a paradigm shift” by one Jose Mourinho Ifeanyi Agwuncha, questioning the propriety of a silk leading the national bar and  I was bemused by the illogical argument proffered  by the writer who obviously is executing a poorly scripted hack job.

While it is a fact that every profession or institution has its own share of bad eggs, it will be uncharitable for us to try to destroy such profession or institution for that singular reason.  At the moment,  our judiciary has come under attack due to the actions of some members of the bench,  do we do away with the judiciary and deny the common man justice? The Nigerian police is notorious as a result of infamous acts or omissions of some bad crops within the establishment; will it be logical to call for the disbandment of the police? Today our democracy cannot be said to be the model of constitutional democracy, yet we will not sacrifice it for any other form of government.

It’s true that some holders of the revered title of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, act in manners not compatible with the said title. The institution is trying to cleanse itself and never hesitate to wield the big stick when necessary .  We cannot forget in a hurry,  Chief Caleb Kalejaiye who was stripped of the title of SAN for acting in a manner that demeaned the title.  Just last week another silk,  Beluolisa Nwofor was also stripped of the title. This gives credence to the deliberate attempt by the institution to cleanse its stable, which is highly commendable.

The rank of Senior Advocate is one, every legal practitioner worth his onion, aspires to attain.  I am very sure the writer and his acolytes  in the profession nurse this ambition too, so trying to cause disaffection amongst legal practioners is very unfortunate.  The timing for advocates of this position is not only suspicious,  but a deliberate attempt to polarise our dear association like what is happening  at the  Unity bar today.

The writer  alludes that holders of the office of President of NBA,  since 1998 till date, with the exception of only one have been Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Very true!  It is only rational that  every society should throw up its best to lead and NBA is no exception.  Before the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria was established, the bar has always elected from amongst it’s best to lead  and that tradition has continued, and shouldn’t be sacrificed on the altar of personal interest.

Over the years,  elections in to offices of national executive committee of NBA have always been conducted and every qualified legal practitioner given the opportunity to contest for any office he so desires, as far as he meets the stipulated requirements as provided for in the association’s constitution.

In 2012, Okey Wali SAN,  contested for president with Emeka Ngige SAN and Blessing Ukiri. They all stood for the election and Okey Wali emerged winner.

In 2016, Augustine Alegeh SAN,  contested against Oladele Adesina SAN,  Olufunke Adekoya SAN,  Adeniyi Akintola SAN and Osas Erhabor. In all these instances the issue of dichotomy between non Senior Advocates and members of the inner bar never reared its ugly head  for once.

Why has the issue of Senior Advocates contesting for NBA presidency become a topical issue all of a sudden?

Why are we trying to create the wrong impression? The truth be told,  every legal practitioner in Nigeria aspires to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; in fact it is the peak of legal practice. Seniority in the legal profession according to my legal method lecturer, is an article of faith.  It is wrong for anyone to try to pitch the younger generation of legal practioners against the older generation. It will crumble like a pack of cards.

The NBA Abuja Branch (Unity bar) at present, has known little or no peace,  since a cabal in desperate attempt to foist themselves in office polarised the bar by selling the paradigm shift story to cause disaffection in a once United bar.

It is funny how people desperately try to hide the truth. It’s a fact that a good percentage of silks in Nigeria endevour to protect and mentor  the younger generation of lawyers in the country. A young lawyer once told me how a senior advocate took him to a meeting with a sitting governor in the northern state and allowed the young lawyer handle the meeting like a partner.  There are several SAN who have gone out of their ways to develop young lawyers believing in their abilities and projecting their talents.

It’s totally wrong to try to change the narrative by twisting facts, I wonder who is afraid of Senior Advocates to the extent that he wants to blackmail them.

Like it happened in the just concluded NBA, Uyo branch where same card was played, the young lawyers decern the truth and stuck tenaciously to it,  at the end objective reasoning triumphed over cheap blackmail.

Bar Sam Etuk

(Guest writer)


About the Author

Che Oyinatumba
Liberation wordsmith,committed to self emancipation and provocatively lightening the path for others to find their ways to our common goal;an improved humanity.

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