If you are a practicing Nigerian lawyer and you have not come across any of the campaign fliers, messages and statements issued by aspirants to the various offices of the NBA come July, 2020, then I wonder how you have been practicing in isolation all this time. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp are filled with many of these messages. Obviously we are in the campaign season of the NBA and come July 24th and 25th 2020, lawyers who are eligible to vote would be casting their votes for their preferred candidates across board.

Though the ban on campaign has not been officially lifted, many of the Aspirants are obvious to everyone, they are obvious by their heightened media presence, you have met with some in private meetings and some others have been endorsed by various stakeholders and NBA Branches. Over the course of the next few weeks, they will also share their manifesto with us and seek to convince us on why they are the best candidates for each position.

However, lawyers are already forming their opinions of different aspirants and one of the criteria is how rich the aspirant is. For instance, many of these aspirants, especially those aspiring to the office of President of the NBA are approached to pay practicing fees for lawyers; sponsor dinners, trainings and events for young lawyers, as well as give donations to the NBA Branches in support of Bar projects including most recently to send palliatives to lawyers during the lockdown. It is important to note that not these contributions are not mandatory as no candidate is asked to do any of the above under compulsion, but, if we want to be sincere to ourselves as lawyers, we will agree that these contributions go a long way in convincing eligible voters.

Does this now mean we are selling the offices of the NBA?

If one aspirant has the financial capacity to contribute more than others, does that make the more buoyant aspirant the best man for the job. If one aspirant contributes a million naira to a Bar building project and another two hundred thousand naira, does it mean we should vote for the lawyer that dropped the million?

Another reason is the debate on how much an aspirant pays their staff as a yardstick to rate their candidacy. Some weeks ago, a social media post trended wherein the author wrote how much young lawyers earn in the law firms of the various presidential aspirants. Doesn’t that suggest that we should vote the lawyer who pays the highest? Even though, how much they pay their staff have no correlation to how they would lead while in office.

How come no one is taking a look the objectives of the NBA and asking ourselves which aspirants have shown a track record of being able to effectively uphold the objectives of the Nigerian Bar Association? For ease of reference, the objectives of the NBA as set out in Section 3 of 2015 NBA Constitution are as follows:
(a)       Maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Bar and the Judiciary in Nigeria.
(b)       Promotion and advancement of Legal Education, Continuing Legal Education, Advocacy and Jurisprudence.
(c)       Improvement of the system of administration of justice, its procedures and the arrangement of court business and regular law reporting.
(d) Establishment, maintenance and operation of a system of prompt and efficient legal aid and assistance for those in need but who are unable to pay for same.
(e) Promotion and support of law reform.
(f) Maintenance of the highest standard of professional conduct, etiquette and discipline. (g) Promotion of good relation among the members of the Association and lawyers of other countries.
(h) Promotion of co-operation between the Association and other National or International Law Organisations and such other bodies as may be approved by the National Executive Committee.
(i) Encouragement and protection of the right of access to courts at reasonably affordable fees and of representation by counsel before courts and tribunals.
(j) Encouragement of the establishment of a National Law Library.
(k) Promotion and protection of the principles of the rule of law and respect for enforcement of fundamental rights, human rights and people’s rights.
(l) Creation of schemes for the encouragement of newly qualified members and assistance to aged or incapacitated members of the Association.
(m) Establishment of schemes for the promotion of the welfare, security and economic advancement of members of the legal profession.
(n) Creation and maintenance of an Endowment Fund for the proper observance and discharge of any of these aims and objects.

If we are going to jettison the contributions of all Aspirants to the above, and, if we want to focus on how much an aspirant has spent on what some have recently tagged ‘stomach infrastructure’ for lawyers or made as contributions to the various NBA Branches, then we might as well as forget about voting and just ask the Candidates to transfer money into our accounts while we vote for the aspirant who pays the highest.
For ease of reference, the various elective positons at the NBA elections include the following offices –

• President

• 1st Vice-President

• 2nd Vice-President

• 3rd Vice-President

• General Secretary

• Assistant Secretary

• Treasurer

• Welfare Secretary

• Financial Secretary

• Publicity Secretary

• Assistant Publicity Secretary

 Ebele Aka
 Enugu Branch