Since the return of the Nigeeian Bar Association, NBA after the hiatus precipitated by the Crisis in Port Harcourt where Dr. Bashir Dalhatu and Mrs. Priscilla Kuye were the Principal Actors, the Nigerian Bar Association, has re-engineered itself, introducing Zoning of the Presidency of the NBA Constitutionally to the North, West and East, which has ensured relative peace in the succession trajectory of the Association.
A quite insidious and prevailing trend in the Association though an unspoken Rule is that the President of the NBA should be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
This restricts the Choice of Lawyers because the number of SANs are less than 600 Lawyers, both those living and those dead!
Whereas the Legal Profession is made up of over One Hundred Thousand Lawyers. What a travesty of Justice that our Association ,which has as it’s Motto ,”Promoting the Rule Of Law ” has its action in the regard of choosing its President being an apposite paradox.
The Rule of Law presupposes legality ,equality , impartiality and unbiasedness.That is why the Lady of Justice is blind folded.Justice knows no one whether you are high or low. We as custodians of the Law must eschew such inequality and in fact illegality of foisting an SAN on us as our President ,whether he is popular or not or restricting our choice of those we can elect as President to only SANs.
If you are a SAN and you are qualified you can contest with all other Members of the Bar that are so qualified. This is what the Constitution of the NBA stipulates .
The Practice of disqualifying non SAN contestants who are popular must stop .In fact, if it happens again, we will revolt .The Bar Leadership is for us all and it is met for those who understand its peculiar intricacies . Aigboko Martins Esq , the former vibrant Chairman of the Warri Branch of the NBA – (The Radiocative Bar ), aptly captured the matter thus :
“I said here recently that the rank of SAN is not conferred by the NBA nor attained by distinguished service and dedication to the NBA. It is rather conferred by the legal profession on lawyers for distinction in the legal profession. Whereas there are many SANs who have no verifiable contribution to the NBA, so also there are many lawyers who have contributed immensely to the NBA, yet have not distinguished in the practice of the law. Though we have those who have distinguished themselves on both sides, but there are many SANs who know nothing about the Bar. It is therefore unacceptable to restrict leadership of the association to only the SANs. With due respect, some of them cannot manage the affairs of even branches. It should not be about the rank of SANship, it should be by passion, dedication, service rendered and vision to move the NBA further. Let whom the cap fits, wear it.”
It thus follow that you can be a SAN and you know no jack about the running of the biggest professional Association in Africa-the NBA and you can be a non SAN and you will have a great portfolio in the Management of Bar Activities.
Since the early 2000s, when Chief Thompson Onomikpo Okpoko SAN, became the 1st Post Crisis Era President of the NBA , there have not been a non SAN Elected President of the NBA. Lekan Odigiyon became President when Bayo Ojo SAN was appointed Attorney General of the Federation.
This is a very disturbing trend which must stop.
Let SANs as they are, be Lawyers of distinction in Litigation and the academics.
Let the Bar be led by those who have appropriate credentials whether they are SANs or not .
“I will stand by what is right, even If I stood alone “.
-Chief Gani Fawehimwin, SAN of blessed memory.