May 21, 2024

Open Letter to Ekiti Bar by Oludayo Olorunfemi

Oludayo Olorunfemi

I, Oludayo Olorunfemi, 3rd Chairperson NBA Ikere Branch, Ekiti bring you warm greetings.

Now that I am no longer Chair of a branch and not contesting for any Bar position at any level, I believe I owe you all a duty to speak openly about issues that plague us. This treatise is a call to action and I will be relying on parables to elucidate. I hope the message will ring loud and clear in our hearts and mind. Most importantly, I pray for understanding of the letter and spirit of this text.

1.Many are called, Few are Chosen. As lawyers, we all took the oath at our swearing in. We were all called to the Bar. In fact, it was 18 years at the beginning of this month when I heard the words, “you may now wear your wig” at the very solemn proceedings of the Call to Bar ceremony. Many went through the same process before me and many more will be sworn in after me. However, when it comes to leadership of the Bar at all levels, few are chosen. Clearly, this means there can be only one leader at a time. As simple as this is, many do not understand it. The tenure is for 2 years. Wait for your turn and while waiting, be of good cheer and support those in leadership. It behoves of the few anointed to give a good showing of themselves recognizing that they carry a burden not just for themselves but for the collective. If you belong to this category of people who have been chosen to lead in whatever capacity, pray for wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding. Do not forget, many are called, few are chosen. You have a duty to the Bar, to the people.

2. Love is the Principal Thing. Ekiti is the only homogenous State in Nigeria. There is no minority community or a majority community. We all have the word Ekiti hyphenated to the names of our towns, villages and branches. So we go by the name Ado-Ekiti Branch, Ikole-Ekiti Branch etc. All peas in the same pod of Ekiti. Ekiti Bar ought to be a strong and united bar. Regardless of our individual mandate to our separate branches (There are three branches for a reason. This is not a call for us to merge as one branch). We must be able to galvanise together for a common goal. The competition must be healthy, without malice with a view to grow our members and our branches. I recall someone once criticized me for my perceived ‘aggressive’ membership drive while I was Chairperson of Ikere Bar. I couldn’t help but wonder, what was my mandate if I cannot increase membership, particularly among young lawyers in my branch. Leadership is about service: selflessly, continuously giving of yourself (time, energy, ideas, finance, network, goodwill etc.) to a cause and a people. How else do you define Love if not by service?

3. Be like the Berean Christians. Let me quickly admonish us to be like the Berean Christians who received the gospel with readiness of mind (attitude) and at the same time took it upon themselves to go back and check the veracity of the message. I urge you all to do the same to my letter. Search your heart and ask the difficult questions. Find honest answers if you please. How much do we lose as a whole with our lack of cooperation? We have all just concluded our branch elections. Can we honestly say we did well as a group? If nothing else is achieved by this epistle, let it be that you question the divisive nature of ‘us against them’ which is beginning to take root among us. Let it be that I nudge you to embrace the synergy of inclusiveness and togetherness. Our strength is measured by how we treat the perceived weak among us. What is our attitude to the people we lead? Are they pawns in our continuous quest for power? Do we really care about the issues that matter to them? Are we only just desperately seeking patronage? What really is our mandate? People can see through your façade.

4. The Caleb & Joshua of Ilesha Bar. I woke up to read the list of candidates cleared to contest in the upcoming national elections of the NBA. Two names struck me. Oluwaseun Ezekiel Ajoba former chairman Ilesha Bar and Olayinka Ayodeji Sokoya, former secretary Ilesha Bar. Incidentally, both of them have strong ties to Ekiti. Ajoba is from Ikole and Sokoya has maternal roots in Ido. These two gentlemen have refused to define themselves by their geography. Ilesha Bar is not even the capital branch in Osun. The voting population is about the size of Ikere Bar. Yet these two men are about to make history in the upcoming polls. Their winning votes will not come from Ilesha Bar alone or Osun Bar or South West Branches. They have positioned themselves to their peers across the 125 Branches of the NBA. Be like Caleb & Joshua of Ilesha Bar, see beyond your immediate environment, and see the BIG picture. Ajoba and Sokoya have refused to be limited. Though challenges exist, we are not limited by the size, location or how people perceive us. Can this happen in Ekiti? Where are our Caleb & Joshua?

5. The Labour of our Heroes Past. A few people will be quick to make reference to the leaders of the Bar from Ekiti. Yes we have the unique opportunity to stand on the shoulders of great men who have shown exemplary leadership at the Bar and the Bench. Asiwaju Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, OFR, former president of the Bar (2002-2004), Deacon Dele Adesina SAN, former General Secretary (2002-2004) and Obafemi Adewale who was General Secretary (1990-1991) are all Bar men per excellence. They represented Ekiti on the big stage and they gave a good account of themselves. Iyalode Foluke Dada, Ph.D is currently the 2nd Vice President NBA, a first among equals on many fronts. She by her example as 1st Vice Chairman Ado and later 1st Female Chairperson in Ekiti Bar paved the way for people like me at the Bar. What support has she enjoyed from us as a Bar? The leadership strides of Kabiyesi, Aare Afe Babalola SAN in all spheres of the legal profession is beyond compare. What are we doing in Ekiti with this heritage? Apart from our annual pilgrimage to these people for support in cash and kind towards our events, what real value are we bringing to bare from our relationship with these leaders? How are we grooming the next generation of leaders who will take up the mantle from them? How do we leverage on the labour of our heroes past?

6. My Charge. Finally brethren, I hope I have stirred within us a holy anger, a righteous indignation, a longing to do better than our present best. The land is green, the harvest is plenty but the labourers are few. Our individual and collective potential and capacity for greatness is humongous. We need a strategic global agenda that can be distilled into actionable points. Will you obey the clarion call of Ekiti Bar? This is not the time to play blame games. This is the time to bury the hatchet of pettiness, self-contrived grievances, perceived disrespect, imaginary enemies, ghosting of destiny helpers, and feeling of superiority over nothing. This is the time to lend a hand to help someone up. This is the time to listen, mentor, guide, encourage, support, push, coach, stand in the gap, drive and challenge each other for better. This is the time for Ekiti Bar to arise and shine. With only one star in a dark sky, the night is still dark. The more stars the brighter the sky. Together we shine brighter.

Ire O!

Oludayo Olorunfemi
Chairperson NBA Ikere Branch (2018-2020)

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