Adegboyega Awomolo, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says junior lawyers are planning a revolution to wrest the office of the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) from senior lawyers.
The NBA election which is held biennially has been fixed for July 24.
In a letter addressed to T.O Okpoko, a senior advocate and former president of the NBA, Awomolo said: “It will be a great failure of leadership for the senior advocates to surrender leadership to the outer bar when there are willing and able senior advocates.”
He described the NBA as “a conservative professional body with strong ethical values of seniority, integrity, respectability and good name as core values to the profession for leadership positions, not wealth or other primordial sentiments”.
Awomolo referred to the Jos conference of 1998 where the late Mudlaga Odic, former president of the NBA, challenged members of the inner bar to take hold of the leadership of the bar “to avoid the occurrence of what happened in Port Harcourt in 1992 the paralyzed the bar association from 1992-1998”.
Addressing Okpoko, he said: “Since you became the president of the reformed NBA in 1998, and to avoid what happened in Port Harcourt in 1992, all successors to the office of the president have been senior advocates of Nigeria.”
“With respect, I believe you need to urgently call a meeting of the past presidents of the NBA and do all within your powers to preserve the integrity, honour and respectability of the office of the president of the NBA,” Awomolo said.
“What I hear is an unannounced but powerful and potent revolutionary move by our junior colleagues who are very much in larger numbers to wrestle the office of the NBA from the rank of SAN.
“That, in my view will be unfortunate for the rank. To the members of the public a ridicule of the rank and office of the president of the NBA.”
Although he did not put it directly, Awomolo suggested that the criminal trial of Paul Usoro, NBA president, by the EFCC also contributed to the mockery by junior members of the bar.
“In recent time, unfortunately, the government did a grave damage to the integrity of the office of the NBA president, by initiating criminal prosecution against the holder of the office of the president,” he said.
“We can see other professions who followed our precedent of putting their first eleven to lead their associations. You may have noticed that the member of the inner bar does not contest for the office of chairmen of over 120 branches nationwide.
Awomolo praised Okpoko for his performance during his tenure as president of the NBA and asked him to intervene in the matter at hand.
“It is on record that you and your team performed excellently well as leaders of the foremost professional organisation in Nigeria,” he said.
“You, courageously as a SAN and president of the bar, looked at the powers that be directly in the face. You asserted your rank and leadership of the bar at NJC and other fora. You successfully conducted the election of officers and handed over to another senior advocate of Nigeria. The bar has since then been led by SAN.
“Sir, I am of the strong belief that you must do your best to keep the tradition of the rank and seniority that helped you and all those who came after you. May God help you.”
Reacting to Awomolo’s letter, Babatunde Ajibade, a senior advocate and aspirant to the office of the NBA president, said: “There is nothing contained in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) constitution or in the history of the NBA to support this assertion.”
“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.”