Chief Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, Disagrees with Awomolo’s Letter, Says the Bar is Built on Inclusiveness

Ferdinand Orbih, SAN

Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN needs no introduction in the legal profession in general and politics of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in particular. The Chief in a recent widely circulated letter addressed to Chief T.J.O. Okpoko, SAN  expressed some very strong views on NBA leadership and her future as follows.  

 “…unannounced but powerful and potent revolutionary move by our junior colleagues who are much in larger numbers to wrestle the office of the NBA from the rank of SAN. That in my view will be unfortunate for the rank. To the members of the public a ridicule of the rank and office of the President of the NBA.”

It is common knowledge that the NBA ECNBA has cleared three [3] candidates to run for the office of President of the NBA in the forthcoming NBA 2020 elections; two candidates are from the inner Bar and one is from the outer Bar. Apparently, the Chief’s expressed position is based on his fear that the candidate from the outer Bar appears to be more widely acceptable to the Bar and may win the 2020 NBA elections. However, this is not the first time that a member of the outer Bar is contesting for the Office of NBA President. In the 2012 NBA elections Late Blessing Emomena Ukiri, Esq. of Port-Harcourt Branch ran for the office of NBA President. In the 2014 NBA elections, O. J. Erhabor, Esq. of Ilesha Branch ran for the office of NBA President. It is interesting to note that the Chief Awomolo, SAN did not intervene in this manner in any of these past elections to truncate the possible election of a member of the outer Bar as NBA President. I will say no more on this for now.

It would be important to review the position of Chief Awomolo, SAN by reference to the history of the NBA, which I believe most members of the Association are very familiar with. Kindly note that Dr. Mudiaga Odje, SAN [of blessed memory] to whom Chief Awomolo, SAN referred to, served as NBA President from 1974-1975 but took silk on 1 December 1978.

The list of NBA Presidents since independence in 1960 till date is set out below:

 Frederick Rotimi Williams1960–19683/4/75
 Peter Thomas1968 – 1969NEVER TOOK SILK
 Chief B.M Boyo1969 – 1970NEVER TOOK SILK
 Chief Richard Akinjide1970–19731/12/1978
 Chief Adebayo Ogunsanya1973–197416/7/90
 Dr. Mudiaga Odje1974 – 19751/12/1978
 Dr. Nwakamma Okoro1976 – 19781/12/1978
 Chief B.O. Benson1978–19801983
 Chief Adetunji Fadayiro1980–19823/5/88
 A.N Anyamene1982 – 19845/3/81
 Prince Bola Ajibola1984–19855/6/86
 Ebele Nwokoye1985 – 1987NEVER TOOK SILK
 Alao Aka-Bashorun1987 – 1989NEVER TOOK SILK
 Charles Idehen1989 – 1991NEVER TOOK SILK
 Chief Clement Akpamgbo1991 – 199231/7/85
 Priscilla Kuye1991 – 1992NEVER TOOK SILK
 Chief T.J.O Okpoko1998 – 200025/2/87
 O.C.J Okocha2000 – 200224/4/95
 Chief Wole Olanipekun2002 – 200419/7/91
 Chief Bayo Ojo2004 – 200520/9/99
 Prince Lanke Odogiyon2005 – 2006NEVER TOOK SILK
 Olisa Agbakoba2006 – 200814/9/98
 Olurotimi Akeredolu2008 – 201014/9/98
 Joseph Bodurin Daudu2010 – 201224/4/95
 Okey Wali2012 – 201431/10/2007
 Augustine O. Alegeh2014 – 201631/10/2007
 Mahmoud Abubakar Balarabe2016 – 201825/7/2001
 Paul Usoro2018 – 20208/9/2003

The above table shows clearly that the NBA has had 15 Presidents from the Outer Bar and 13 Presidents who took silk prior to their election as NBA President.

I do not believe that any of these fine gentlemen of the Bar, who became NBA Presidents from the outer Bar ridiculed the rank of SAN or the office of the NBA President. I do not believe that it is intention of Chief Awomolo, SAN to denigrate the memories and/or lofty contributions of these our respected and noble Past Presidents, as the position he canvassed in his letter under reference would seem to suggest.   

We have several respected senior members of the Bar who have never applied for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. These are respected and responsible Bar leaders in their own rights. We also have senior members of the Bar who have specialized in Corporate Law matters but are not involved in Litigation and would consequently, not be eligible for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The position Chief Awomolo, SAN is pushing has the tendency to totally deprive them the opportunity to aspire to lead the Bar. This would in my humble view be unfair.

The NBA Constitution, 2015 [as amended] sets out the qualifications for the office of NBA President and it does not limit the office of NBA President to only holders of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The position canvassed by the Chief Awomolo, SAN clearly offends the NBA Constitution.

Our Bar is built on inclusiveness and every member of the Bar must be allowed to aspire to lead the Bar after meeting the qualification criteria set out in the NBA Constitution. We must accept and embrace the aspirations of all members of the Association. We must allow our members to freely choose who leads the Association at each election.

Finally, I am of the humble but firm view that rather than seek a means of truncating the aspiration of a member of the outer Bar from emerging as President of the NBA in the forthcoming NBA elections, Chief Awomolo, SAN should showcase any qualities that the candidate of his choice has to offer the Bar and allow the Bar to decide freely.

May God continue to bless my respected Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN and keep him in good health.

Chief Ferdinand Oshioke Orbih, SAN

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