Olumide Akpata, Newly Elected NBA President says His Victory is for Outer Bar

Olumide Akpata, Newly Elected NBA President says His Victory is for Outer Bar

…Calls for Concerted Effort to Revitalise the Bar Newly elected President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata has said that his over whelming victory in the Association’s election is victory for young lawyers and the outer bar who have been largely disillusioned with the running of the affairs of the bar. He also wants

…Calls for Concerted Effort to Revitalise the Bar

Newly elected President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata has said that his over whelming victory in the Association’s election is victory for young lawyers and the outer bar who have been largely disillusioned with the running of the affairs of the bar. He also wants members to work in concert to build a greater and more responsive association.

“The victory of last night is for our young lawyers who have become disillusioned with the way the NBA has been run over the years and how the profession appears to be disconnected from the challenges that face them and their future,” he said.

In the election in which one of the contestants complained about manipulation, Akpata scored 9,891 votes out of a total of 18,256 voters who participated in the elections, representing 54.3% of the votes. He defeated two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and members of the inner bar, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, who scored 4,328 and Mr Dele Adesina who got 3,982.

The Outer Bar

A jubilant Akpata, a former chairman, NBA Section on Business Law, further explains the significance of his victory:, “It is for the progressive senior lawyer who refused to accept the status quo and took firm steps to ensure that things are done better. It is for the corporate counsel, law officers, law teachers, the police and military lawyers, and lawyers in all components of the profession who for long have been treated as unequal members of an Association that ought to be the umbrella body for all legal practitioners.

“The victory of last night is for the lawyer with disability who has long suffered neglect and indignity by the profession. Above all, our victory is for non-lawyers and the general populace who took an unusual, but a special, interest in the conduct of our elections, thus lending credence to my long- held belief that the Nigerian society has always yearned for a legal profession and indeed a Bar that stands tall as an unwavering bastion of the rule of law, an advocate for the sanctity and independence of the judiciary, and a bulwark against tyranny and oppression,” he said.

Overwhelming Victory

Chairman, Electoral Committee of the NBA, Mr Tawo Tawo (SAN), who made the declaration around 12:52am on Friday says, Akpata, scored the highest number of votes cast and satisfied the provisions of the NBA constitution.

“I, Tawo Tawo, the Chairman, Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA), as the electoral officer for the 2020 National Officers’ Election, hereby declare Akpata Olumide Anthony, having scored the highest number of votes cast and satisfied the provisions of the constitution of the NBA 2015 (as amended), the winner of the election into the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association,” Tawo said.

The election which was conducted via electronic voting began at 11pm on Wednesday and ended by 11pm on Thursday.

Other winners who emerged in the elections are: Mr John O Aikpokpo-Martins, who got elected the first vice president with 6,010 votes, and Mr Adeyemo Kazeem Debo as second vice president with 8,794.

Ms Joyce Oduah was also returned as general secretary; Mr Nwadialo Esther Uchenna, assistant secretary; Ms Mercy Ijato Agada, treasurer; and Mr Edun Olukunle, welfare secretary.

The assocation also elected Mr Anagor Raphael Nnamdi as financial secretary; Dr Nduka Rapuluchukwu Ernest, publicity secretary while Mr Naza Ferdinand Afam was voted as assistant publicity secretary.

The new officers are expected to be sworn in at the forthcoming 60th Annual General Conference of the NBA holding virtually from August 26th to the 29th.

In his acceptance speech, Akpata, who will be jnaugurated as the 30th NBA president, stated that when he decided to throw his hat in the ring, he realised the election was really not about himself.

Driven By Passion

“I was driven by the passion to use my time, talent and resources to improve our Association by making it fit-for-purpose, beneficial to all members and responsive to the needs of the society,” he stated.

“On Wednesday 27 May 2020, I submitted my nomination form to signify the formal expression of my intent to contest for the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the foremost and oldest professional membership association in Nigeria and the most influential network of legal practitioners in Africa.

“Alongside the nomination form, I submitted a document embodying my Leadership Programme of Action for the NBA, if elected President. In that document, I pledged to use what I consider as my greatest personal attribute: discipline of execution, in carrying out the undertakings that I had given to the members; and I also promised to lay the foundation for the future profession that we all desire.

“On the strength of the foregoing pledge, I asked you to give me your mandate and join me in bringing about an Association that works for the majority of its members. Last night, you answered that call in an overwhelming and unequivocal manner when, at the end of a long and intriguing process, you made me the President-elect of the NBA (2020 to 2022). I write to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Let me assure you that I do not take for granted the hard work, passion and commitment that you all invested into the process that has now culminated in my emergence as President-elect.

“When I decided to throw my hat in the ring, I was certain that the election was really not about me. I was driven by the passion to use my time, talent and resources to improve our Association by making it fit-for-purpose, beneficial to all members and responsive to the needs of the society.

Disconnected Membership

“Throughout the electioneering process, I saw many Nigerian lawyers who had either lost faith, or never been interested in the NBA participate with utmost enthusiasm in the hope that things would become better. This further goes to show that the extraordinary movement that heralded this electoral victory was not, and could never have been about me.

“It is therefore with immense respect for you, a deep understanding of the value of your mandate, a demonstrable appreciation of the factors that have bedevilled our noble Association and with humility to the will of God, that I wholeheartedly accept this mandate from you. The outpouring of support is only indicative of the amount of work that needs to be done. The greatest appreciation that I can show to all of you is to keep to the various promises that I made, and this, I assure you that I would do.

“Regarding the electoral process, I am not unaware of the complaints by at least one of the Presidential candidates about the administrative issues surrounding the elections. As members of the legal profession, our electoral process ought to be and remain a standard for others to follow. I said this much in my second letter dated 29th July 2020 to the Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the NBA. I strongly believe that there is plenty room for improvement in our electoral process, and I commit to making this possible.

“In closing, I congratulate all the contestants for the various offices in the Association for the hard work that they put in, and for the successful outing that they had. The expectations are high and together we have a duty to devise measures to tackle the problems of our noble Association. We need to hit the ground running.

Call for a Virile Bar

In calling for the building of a more virile bar, Akpata extended his olive branch to his two opponents who are members of the inner bar. “My friends and learned seniors, Deacon Dele Adesina SAN, and Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN, against whom I had the privilege of contesting for the office of President of the NBA. One thing that remained unshaken throughout the election process was my utmost respect for these distinguished and respectable gentlemen. May I humbly assure them that my respect remains intact. The election is over but the work ahead of us is immense.

“We must now unite in order to achieve our common goal of revitalising the Bar and ensuring that our voice is firm and unshaken when we speak. I obviously cannot do this alone and will be counting on their support and counsel as we work towards Securing The Future through a United Bar that Works for All,” he said.

Complaint of Manipulation

Just like the election of outgoing president, Mr Usoro Paul Usoro which was muddled in controversy, one of the contestants for the office of NBA president, Mr Dele Adesina, has petitioned the ECNBA, alleging gross manipulation in the polls.

In the petition addressed to Mr Tawo, the chairman, Adesina claimed the poll was marred by over-voting, disenfranchisement of some eligible voters and non-compliance with the provisions of the NBA constitution.

He said the verified voters’ list was only published about five hours to the commencement of voting contrary to the provision of the NBA constitution (2015) as amended, which provided that the list be released not later than 28 days before the election.

He also said the list contained 86 “names of lawyers under the subheading international diaspora” which is also a clear violation of association’s constitution.

Adesina said over 4000 names of lawyers on the list were not ascribed to any branch of the NBA while many others found their names in branches they do not belong.

“Inflation of the list of some branches, for instance, Obollo-Afor branch on the final list for verification had only 39 names on the list from serial number 30424 to 30462. Strangely, this increased to 662 on the verified list,” he said.

“Very many members, particularly from the branches in the west, like Ibadan and Ado-Ekiti, did not receive the link to vote and some of those who received the link could not vote. The same protest came from several branches in the North, like Gombe, Katsina, Birnin-Kebbi, Yobe, and Kaduna. The same complaint was lodged vehemently by members of NBA Enugu Branch.

Disenfranchisement of Members

“Several cases of reported disenfranchisement by members whose names were not on the list. A senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who contacted the helpline line to lodge his complaint was told that it is because he did not have his SAN’s number. Query! Is SAN’s number a requirement?”

Adesina said as of 2pm on Thursday, “the addition of votes recorded plus notices yet undelivered amounted to 29,820 which is 185 votes over and above the total number (29,635) of voters on the register.”

He also questioned the security of the electronic system used for the election, saying it “was said to have been registered the very day the election was to start and MoU was signed on that same day.”

“This was done all alone by the president of the NBA. There was no opportunity to interrogate the system before the commencement of the election in order to determine its vulnerability, security and capacity,” he said.

“I call on you Mr. chairman and members of the electoral committee of the Nigerian Bar Association to cancel this sham election. It is needless to say that if the process is bad, the product cannot be good.”

Ajibade Congratulates Akpata

But the other co-contestant, Dr Babatunde Ajibade, has congratulated Mr Akpata

In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, Ajibade said he was proud of the level of the debate and the quality of the ideas that were brought forth during the elections which held on the 29th and 30th of July, for the improvement of our association, the welfare of its members and the good of our society.

He, however, pointed out that the processes leading up to and during the election itself have not been devoid of controversy, while also expressing hope that the repeated challenges with conducting objectively free and fair elections in the association will be resolved.

“It is unfortunate that the process leading up to and during the election itself have, once again, not been devoid of controversy. It is my fervent hope that we will get over these repeated challenges with conducting objectively free and fair elections into the leadership positions in the association.

A United NBA

“I remain resolute in my belief that we cannot succeed in addressing the challenges confronting our profession unless we unite and I urge the incoming President and his executive to take deliberate and proactive steps to unite the Bar,” Ajibade said.

Speaking further, he thanked all those who supported his aspiration to be elected President of the association, noting that although they did not achieve the desired goal, the experience was rewarding and fulfilling.

“I say a heartfelt thank you to all the persons too numerous to mention, who supported my aspiration to be elected President of the Nigerian Bar Association.

“Though we did not get the result we wanted, the experience has been rewarding and fulfilling. I have met and established lasting bonds of friendship with colleagues from different parts of our great country Nigeria who share my values and aspirations for a better, stronger and united legal profession.

“To all those who sacrificed their time and resources, both material and otherwise, I owe a lasting debt of gratitude. I pray that God will reward each and every one of you.

“Thank you and God bless,” Ajibade said.

The Affluent SANs

Both the former Solicitor General, Nasarawa State, Mr Tony Akika and a Senior Journalist and acclaimed Juridical Writer, Mr Richard Akinnola were agreed that Akpata’s victory is a reflection of the groundswell of resentments by the younger lawyers who think that the SANs do not represent their interest. They also posit that the SAN title has lost its lure.

Argues Akika, The very rich and affluent SANs are held responsible for the problems of Nigeria which has made it almost impossible for younger lawyers to thrive. The SANs are also perceived as part of the problem of corruption in the Judiciary.

Many also believe that SANship has become bastardised in the country. Many are made SANs not on the basis of competence but on the basis of other base consideration. The title therefore no longer commands the respect and aura exuded by the likes of Rotimi Williams, GOK Ajayi and other great men of the bar,” he said.

Akinnola concurs: “I’m not surprised the election has gone that way. The younger lawyers think that the SANs are completely disconnected from their aspiration and therefore cannot represent them.”  

Akpata’s Vision on Human Rights

Although Akpata’s vision on human rights and the fight for justice is not too clear, Akika, also a former permanent secretary, Ministry of Justice, Nasarawa state, however wants Akpata to follow the glowing path earlier thread by former NBA presidents like Alao Aka Bashorun, Olisa Agbakoba and Rotimi Akeredolu in order to make the association live up to the aspiration of the people.  

“These are really difficult times. The NBA must champion the cause of justice and human rights for it to be relevant,” he said.

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