As He Urges Other Competitors To Support Him
By Kolawole Ojebisi
Reactions have been trailing the emergence of Barrister Olumide Akpata as the newly elected President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
In the buildup to the 2020 NBA election Akpata was touted as a dark horse in an election many thought would be a two-horse race between Dr Babatunde Ajibade and Barrister Dele Adesina both of whom are Senior Advocate Of Nigeria(SAN).
Some analysts even predicted with aplomb that it would be a squeaker between the two Senior Advocates who are both shining stars in the jurisprudential firmament of Nigeria.
But Akpata caused an upset by emerging winner of the NBA presidential election conducted
electronically between 11pm on Wednesday and 11pm on Thursday.
Akpata didn’t just win but won by landslide going by the results released on Friday.
Akpata polled 9,891 votes to emerge winner while Dr. Ajibade came distant second with 4,328 votes and Adesina brought up the rear with 3,982 votes
Speaking after emerging as winner, the President-elect of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, described his election as a victory for young lawyers.
In his acceptance speech on Friday, titled, ‘Let us secure the future through a united Bar that works for all,’ Akpata said his victory was for young lawyers and lawyers who felt marginalised in the NBA affairs.
He said, “The victory of last night is for our young lawyers who have become disillusioned with the way the NBA had been run over the years and how the profession appears to be disconnected from the challenges that face them and their future.
Akpata, however, said there was a need for improvement in the NBA electoral process, promising to see to such improvement during his two-year tenure.
The NBA switched from manual to electronic election in 2018 and this year’s was its second experience.
Though a total of 29,636 lawyers were accredited to vote in this year’s e-election, only 18,256 succeeded in casting their ballots.
There have been reactions from the other two contenders as well.
Prior to the end of the poll on Thursday Adesina hadcalled for its cancellation, describing the exercise as a sham.
But Akpata held out an olive branch to the two also-rans in his acceptance speech by calling on Ajibade and Adesina to join him to ” achieve our common goal of revitalising the Bar and ensuring that our voice is firm and unshaken when we speak.”
Reacting to the outcome of election, a young lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of ‘persecution’ said the election was a revolt from young lawyers who see the senior ones, especially those Senior Advocates as being insensitive and tyrannical having a proprietary hold on anything that is NBA.
He said, ” Those Babas see us–the young lawyers– as nonentities. They don’t factor our wellbeing into the affairs of the NBA. We’re meant to be seen and not heard. And they say the future belongs to us; the future they are not ready to leave for us. So most of us saw Akpata as our representative and we voted for him. He is a good man. He takes the welfare of young lawyers working with him seriously. You see them and they don’t smack of poverty, unlike others that we know.”
He also talked about an ‘intercepted’ letter from one Senior Advocate to another one with that enviable title. He said in the letter the Senior Advocate urged his colleague to let them do everything within their powers to frustrate the ambition of Akpata to become the NBA president saying that it would be a slight for the senior advocates should Akpata win the election.
He, however, added that he could not verify the veracity of the story stressing that who ever did must be a psychologist as the story drew the ire of young lawyers and made them decide to vote massively for Akpata. He said those sitting on the fence prior to the story of ‘intercepted letter’ immediately decided to vote for Akpata.
“There was also the story, though it is not verifiable and I’m convinced it might not true, of an intercepted letter from one of the babas to another that urged Senior Advocates not to let Akpata emerge as NBA as it would be an insult to them. The story kept spreading like wildfire on the eve of the election and it infuriated most of the young lawyers. After all the NBA is a collective thing; an umbrella association not meant exclusively for the Senior Advocates.”he concluded
Meanwhile, a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, on Friday, described the election of the NBA as a deeply flawed exercise.
He said it “would be worthwhile for the new leadership of the NBA to consider instituting a root and branch internal inquiry into leadership elections in the NBA and begin from its first day in office to prepare something seminally different and better in 2022.”