The Nigerian Bar Association is, in my humble opinion, in a state of
decline. That is the association that should protect the interests of its
members. I don’t think we are doing it; and I don’t think we are doing it
adequately, if at all. Many lawyers are disenchanted with the Bar association
both at the branch level and the national level. If you ask any lawyer to come
to branch meeting, they will ask you: ‘What is the association doing for me for
me to have my daily bread. I don’t have time to come and sit in any branch
meeting.’ I think this shows the level to which we have fallen. So why I am
running this election is so that we can raise the Bar, raise the Bar back to
where it used to be – where a legal practitioner was respected and trusted by
civil society, where when we spoke other segments of the civil society
listened to us because we were always on point and on time with our

interventions into what is going on.

For one thing, we need to look at our internal structures within the association
and change the things that have meant that our members are disenchanted. They
feel they don’t have a voice, they feel they cannot
participate in the
affairs of the association at the national level.
We must revisit the exclusion of observers from NEC. I for one will not bar observers
from NEC. And the reason is simple: it is a generally unpopular decision and I
for one will take steps to overturn it. We are not a secret society. Attendance
at NEC meetings is an opportunity for members across the country to socialize
among themselves, to network among themselves. And those who are not NEC
members, who attend with their friends who are NEC members, use it as an
opportunity to decide to become more involved in the administration and
management of their branches, either by contesting election at branch level or
at the national level. It is a breeding ground for our next set of leaders.
Instructively, the presidency of the NBA is not a one-man affair; that is why the president
has many other National Officers to support him.
That is why the president has three
vice president, has a Treasurer,
has a Financial Secretary, has a
Welfare Secretary, has a Legal Adviser. And if everybody is allowed to do their
jobs, then it is not a stressful exercise at all. The problems that we are
actually seeing in the Bar association today is that people are trying to put
all the powers of all the officers in one place. That is not what it is
supposed to be. So I don’t see it as more stressful than running my law firm here
where we have 60 people – 25 administrative staff and about 40-something
lawyers in three different offices, one of which is even outside of Nigeria.
And I was the Managing Partner, and I ran it successfully from the day we
started for four years till 2008. So I don’t see any difference. It’s a
question of having structures in
place and having procedures in place.
Once the structures are in place, then the staff  know this is the process. If it is a
disciplinary complaint, it goes to the administrative staff in the secretariat;
they review it; it then goes to the Legal Adviser who looks at it and says, ok
fine, take the next step. If there are procedures in place, when the
disciplinary complaint comes to the
secretariat, the staff know what the
procedure is. So the procedures
are there, the structures are there, the process
runs seamlessly.
For instance, let us just take our national secretariat. We have a
national secretariat that does not have an effective staff manual. Now, an
effective Staff Manual covers all the things that can happen and what you
should do to respond so that whoever is in-charge of Bar Services for instance
will know that if there is an enquiry in respect of a particular issue, does
that enquiry go to the Legal Adviser if it is a legal enquiry? Or does it go to
the head of Disciplinary Committee if it is a disciplinary enquiry? Or does it
go to the head of the Membership department if it is an enquiry that involves
membership? So those
are the structures and procedures that we should
put in place. We don’t have that type
of comprehensive manual. Those
are the type of structures and procedures that I am
talking about.
When I was the Chair of the Conference Planning Committee 2009, we planned the Lagos
Conference. In 2010 we planned the Kaduna Conference. We sat down and we wrote
a Conference Planning Manual
which indicated, by this date, this is what you
need to have done; these are the letters you ought to have sent out. And we
have precedents of the letters inviting the Guest speaker, inviting Session
chairmen. By each date, for each month, we knew what we were supposed to do.
Those are the type of processes that I am talking about.
It is my view that all lawyers must embrace an ‘international’ outlook as the world has
become a global village. I believe that the experiences I have gained at the
international level – especially at the International Bar Association (IBA) –
will be useful to the developmental agenda of my own Bar association. We must
as a professional body think globally and act locally. That is the only way we
can raise our standards, be of good standing in the comity of our professional
colleagues, and be just as relevant on issues affecting us and our nation
internationally and at the domestic level.
I will not make empty pledges merely to win an election. In my previous
record of service to the Association I fulfilled the pledges I made when
seeking the mandate. As National Treasurer, I ensured that accounts of the
Association were audited and presented to NEC (a tradition that continues till
date), and that a statement of the current income and expenditure of the
Association was presented to NEC at each meeting.  As 1st Vice President,
I ensured that the Stamp and Seal Project was established. That it is
non-operational till date has nothing to do with failure to fulfill any pledge
made. Again, in the forthcoming elections, I am putting myself out to be held
accountable for any pledge that I make. I shall keep my word! That is what our
noble profession enjoins us to do.
It is noteworthy that some of the issues I raised in 2006 when I contested the
presidency of the NBA have not been resolved till date.
I said then – as I
say now – that towards its members the Association
has both a
representative and a regulatory role to play.  The Association is
regulating its members through the collection of practising fees and
disciplinary procedures, but has still not fulfilled its representative role of
providing membership benefits or even improving on and protecting the
livelihood of the average lawyer. The Association must be relevant to its
members. If it fails to do so, if we as an Association do not project that
relevance, then the Association is certain to become increasingly irrelevant to
our professional well-being or even the nation at large.
I am not a stranger to matters of leadership of the Nigerian Bar
Association. Irrespective of the different power blocs and shades of opinion
within the Bar, victory at the polls rests wholly on the votes cast for a
candidate. I believe strongly that the Agenda set out in my Manifesto is what
the Bar needs at this time. I have the leadership experience, exposure,
candour, and above all, competence to deliver on the pledges and commitments
made in my Manifesto. I am aware that the majority of the delegates and members
are tired of “business as usual” and there is a conscious effort by
them to make the Bar better.  Many NBA members have called me to pledge
their support; many keep calling to urge me on. The election is the opportunity
to vote as our conscience directs us, and I believe delegates will individually
and corporately live up to their commitment to join me in ‘Raising the
The assertion that the NBA is not ripe for a female president is not
borne out by facts and current trends. It is mere propaganda. If the
Commonwealth Lawyers Association – of which Nigerian lawyers are a
substantial part –
can elect a Nigerian woman as President and she distinguished herself, I cannot
see the point in that assertion. In fact, there is no better time than now to
elect a female NBA President to replicate at the Bar the giant strides done by
the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria at the Bench. If we are all agreed
that things have to be done differently, then I can tell you without
equivocation that the time to elect a female NBA President is now!
It’s an idea whose time has come! The best man for the job is a woman. That’s the refrain I
hear everywhere I go.
* Adekoya is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and leading aspirant for NBA


Culled from