By Mumini AbdulKareem
Today Friday June 26, 2020, the search for who succeeds the outgoing chairman of the Ilorin branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) would finally be concluded. Interested aspirants before now have stepped up campaigns to convince the electorates why they want to lead the bar for the next two years.
The contest which is between three past members of the executive has continued to generate comments among members of the bar about who is best among the trio to succeed Barrister Muhammad Idowu Akande as the 23rd chairman of the NBA in Ilorin. But what value do these gladiators want to add to the legal fraternity in the state considered as one of the most vibrant in the country and how have they been able to convince the electorates to consider their candidacy during the electronic voting which has been scheduled to commence from 6am till 3pm according to the chairman of the electoral committee, Bar Lawal Idowu Saliu.
In this piece with Acting Editor, Mumini AbdulKareem, the three aspirants unveil their agenda and why they think they will best represent the interest of the bar if elected.
There is need to institutionalise NBA – Bar AbdulGaniyu Bello
Why are you contesting this position?
I have served the bar in three different occasions as assistant General Secretary between 2003-05, Financial Secretary between 2005-07 and General Secretary from 2007-09. But I now want to lead because the chairman is the spokesperson of the bar. It’s not that we don’t have other competent hands but it depends on commitment and I am aware that people know that I am a complete bar man who has sacrificed a lot for the Ilorin bar which is one of the foremost in the country. Among the three of us, I am the only person that have served the bar this much. I have also served as statutory and co-opted NEC member at the national level, chairman of the electoral committee in 2013 and alternate chairman of the NBA Ilorin Dinner Committee in 2017 and in other various capacities. I believe that people will prefer my choice as the chairman.
What do you think has been missing in past leaderships of the NBA Ilorin that you think you want to add?
There is no administration that has never impacted the bar except if I want to lie right from inception but we need to move forward to institutionalize our bar. Our Law Retreat, Law Week and Dinner are normal programmes, but of recent, the national NBA made a uniform by-law for all branches that eligible voters for any election must have attended bar meetings at least five times. Now our bar leaders who are mostly Senior Advocates normally reside in Abuja where we have the Supreme Court, Lagos and Port Harcourt, they don’t normally stay in this jurisdiction because of the nature of their job. Others are handling election petition matters that can take them away from Ilorin for six months. The by-law does not provide exception for SAN and they are agitating, yet we run to them for finance during any of our programmes which they gladly obliged. But the law disenfranchised them when it comes to voting to make their choices. I will return the system we used to operate while serving under Prof MM Akanbi where we take meetings to them to host and fund and they will invite their colleagues to be part of it. Then we were having SANs present in our meetings because of the solidarity they have with us which will now encourage them to attend. They hardly do now and you hardly see them in meetings. Also as an arbitrator, I intend to liaise with relevant authorities to bring down the training to Ilorin jurisdiction so that interested members who registered will be trained here by arbitrators who will come down here instead of them having to travel. Also I happened to be part of the technical committee of the Multi-Door Court House established by the then Chief Justice Eleelu Habeeb which could not manifest then. As chairman if elected, I intend to liaise with the incumbent Chief Justice Suleiman Kawu to commence it here as obtainable in Lagos. It’s not every case that must be litigated upon, some can be settled through arbitration. Then on the ACJA Act, our administration will work with the AG to ensue the enforcement that non lawyers should not prosecute cases even in lower court unlike the case today with policemen who are not trained as lawyers prosecuting cases. We would agitate for more lawyers to be employed by the police so that some of our colleagues will be placed on salaries and be also promoted. Then I was a member of NBA Roll of Honour committee in 2005 during the tenure of Mallam Olaolu Alli (SAN) and we used to have a Roll of Honour board at the bar centre where various individuals and institutions that have impacted our association were listed. It is no more there and I intend to bring it back. I urge my colleagues to vote for me as the best candidate and not the good or better one and by God’s, I will not disappoint as I have never done so in the past. If elected, I will need the support of my opponents to take the bar to the next level and we should be committed to improve it because that is where we trade.
We’ll improve on predeccessors legacies – Bar Ebenezer Abiodun Dada
Why are you coming out now to contest?
Well, the last time in 2017, I was fortunate to be the chairman of the Dinner Committee and I was called by one of our seniors that why am I working so passionately like this that do I want to contest because he has a candidate. I have to jettison my ambition then and told him I will not contest. That was also the year that Professor Abdulkadir Abikan contested and I can’t contest against him because of the respect I have for him as an individual. So I decided to wait. In essence, I have made up my mind to contest since two fears ago, my coming out now is not a decision that was made now. And I believe I have something to add to the Bar and not just to complete the number.
What do you intend to achieve if elected?
You see, we have some statutory responsibilities to achieve which include prompt attendance to getting our seal that qualify us to practice. Secondly, we have some legacies that are already on ground by our past and serving executives like the Mallam Olaolu Alli gym, the E-Library, NBA hall and a business centre named after Baba Akin Akintoye I. Part of our responsibility is to improve on what we met on ground. Aside this, we must try to organise continuous legal education which will help to curb some issues in the NBA. Arising from the last crisis, we shall go all out to persuade the senior lawyers to not only participate in NBA activities but attend meetings as well and also organised half hour for our senior colleagues that will be educating us on the ethics of the profession and need to respect our seniors whether in court or outside. This will even boast our image within the bench. We will also need to have good relationship between the security agencies in the state and curb the incessant friction between them and lawyers. What I observed is that so many people are interested in my candidature. Before now, I used to have the conviction that I have to be friends to everybody both seniors and juniors and I think that is part of what is really speaking for us today. Honestly, I am surprised by the number of people that have given us support which has made us to be hopeful. But that is not to conclude that our election will be automatic. The electorates should sustain their love for us and we promise to continue to carry them along because there is no way we can run the affairs of the NBA without them.
I’ll consolidate technological revolution – Bar Kamaldeen Gambari
Why is it necessary for you to contest NBA Ilorin chairmanship seat?
Two things, I am the immediate past secretary and while in that capacity, I contributed a lot to the growth and development up to the stage it is now. And I think I have a lot of ideas which I could not ordinarily sell to other persons but which I can only actualise if I am the chairman. That is why I am throwing my hart into the ring to make the difference. This is a generation of the younger ones in NBA and I am the closet to that generation among the three aspirants. My opponents are my senior both at the bar and in life but the world is dynamic now and younger generation are the one pushing and moving things. Among the electorate, the younger generation constitutes the largest majority of voters, I am the closest to them. I have discussed with them and they have assured me. Now this is not leaving out the elders who I have also consulted and they have all blessed by ambition.
What would be your blueprint if elected?
My manifesto include a mandatory continuous legal education for lawyers. Legal education is segmented into NBA Annual General Conference (AGC), the Bi-Annual law week and Law Retreat. The AGC is been organized by the national body while the other two are a local affair. The tradition is that the lawyers must pay to register for all of them but I want to make a difference, it should be the responsibility of the bar to organise the continuous legal education to enhance our professionalism, it is the bar that will take the glory if we are well endowed with the modern knowledge of our profession. I don’t see any reason why we should pay to attend such programmes. I have told my people that I will organise law retreat free of charge financed by the bar if elected. The only condition is that those that will benefit must have paid their national and local practicing fees.
You are contesting against people that ordinarily are more experience than you and have the resources more than you…?
Well if you say in term of practice of the law, I will give that to them. But if you say experience in terms of bar politics, I don’t think any of them can beat their chest to say they are more than me in this regard. The highest position that the three of us have held is secretary and executive member of the bar. However, I am the secretary of the modern era and brought in the use of technology to the administration of the bar which we are all enjoying today. It was not in existence during their time, we are no more in the analogue period. The electorates know me as a straightforward and honest person who pursues a cause he believed in with everything. I am very accessible as the secretary. I am even going to be more accessible this time around as chairman if elected.