A learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Life Bencher, Asiwaju S. A. Awomolo SAN, in a memo written to Chief T.J.O Okpoko SAN, the oldest living past NBA President, highlighting the risks of allowing a person not yet conferred with the prestigious rank to lead the Nigerian Bar Association. This said memo was copied to all members of Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) and also urged the elder to convened the meeting of past leaders of the Bar to arrest a possible decline of the leadership.
The said memo by Awomolo SAN has stirred reactions for lawyers all over Nigeria. Find below some notable reactions.
In reacting to the said memo, Dele Adesina SAN, FCIArb had this to say;
“As a firm believer in the objectives of the Nigerian Bar Association and the role it plays to its members and the community, I believe our Association is at a critical point in history where unity of purpose and synergy among lawyers is in desperate need.
As such it is not a time for members to instigate division either among the senior members of the Bar and juniors or among the Senior Advocates and Non – Senior Advocates. I believe as members of the NBA, the Association is for the benefit of all members irrespective of position or ilk.
The Leadership of NBA must always ensure strategic collaboration between the NBA, its Sections, Forums and other bodies such as the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Law Officers Association of Nigeria, Law Teachers Association of Nigeria, Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria, Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) and “Federación Internacional dé
Abogadas” a.k.a. “International Federation of Women Lawyers.”
Our Association must continue to be a pillar of support and strength for the specialised bodies and individuals in pursuit of their goals and objectives. We must also resist any and all efforts to cause a division among our ranks, if the NBA must remain relevant, active and successful in its role.”
On his part, Dr. Ajibade SAN had this to say;
“My attention has been drawn to a statement made by Asiwaju Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN in which he suggests that the office of President of the Nigerian Bar Association is the exclusive preserve of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
I respectfully disagree with this position. There is nothing contained in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Constitution or in the history of the NBA to support this assertion.
There is near unanimous agreement that one of the most popular and effective Presidents the NBA has had is Late Alao Aka-Basorun and the NBA has had other non-SAN Presidents since.
The focus should be on the character, capacity and antecedents of persons who aspire to lead our profession and not on their title or rank.
There are serious challenges facing the profession at this time and we need to unite the profession in order to effectively address them.”
Godwin Ose Omoaka, SAN, FCIArb reacted to Chief Awolowo SAN’s memo as follows;
“I read with utter shock the letter by eminent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo in which he argued that the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association should be reserved only for Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
As a member of the inner bar, I strongly disagree with the views expressed by my respected leader and learned brother silk who appears to have lost touch with the current trend in the profession. The letter is, at the very least, discriminatory (it offends section 8 of the NBA Constitution), ill-thought out and clearly divisive. I see it as an attempt to pitch SANs against the majority of our colleagues in the outer bar.
To be clear, SANs constitute less than 1% of the membership of the NBA and it would be illogical to suggest, even if faintly, that the presidency of the NBA should be the exclusive preserve of SANs. To be honest, that view is unhealthy for our profession as it would mean that distinguished and highly respected colleagues like Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, MFR, Mr. George Etomi, Mr. Babjide Ogundipe, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, Chief Chris Okeke and many more of their ilk cannot aspire to the leadership of the NBA, assuming they wanted to. It would also mean that the majority of lawyers, so long as they remain at the outer bar, cannot seek election into the office of the president of the NBA. That would be a travesty; and that is putting it mildly.
And to think that the letter is directed at the candidacy of Olumide Akpata, Esq. is telling.”
J. S. Okutepa SAN in his reaction stated that;
“I do not think that anyone should be castigated for his or her views on an issue that the person feels too strong about. Prior to the views expressed in the letter of Chief A S Awomolo SAN on whether the position of the President of the Bar be reserved for SAN, many had expressed the views that the position should not be for only SAN. I think one of the hallmarks of democracy is the freedom of expression. There is no need for anybody to castigate Chief Awomolo SAN or those who hold contrary views. Chief Awomolo SAN has been playing leading role in bringing the members of the Bar together.
As lawyers we are not bound to see things the same. Those trying to make political gains out of the statement should note that in this forthcoming elections all members of the profession who are eligible to vote will vote either they be SAN or not. Let us be tolerant of divergent views. That is the beauty of democracy.“