Thursday, 2 July 2020

DR AJIBADE POSSESSES THE QUALITIES SORELY NEEDED TO TACKLE CRIPPLING PROBLEMS OF THE BAR & ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN NIGERIA -- Chijioke Okoli, SAN

DR. BABATUNDE AJIBADE, SAN: THE MAN FOR THIS SEASON

By Chijioke Okoli, SAN,

Ex Chairman, NBA,

Lagos Branch

This Nigerian Bar Association [NBA] national election year is hardly like any other. The legal profession in Nigeria and the country in general are at a momentous crossroads, with self-evidently daunting problems but behind which lies the promise of an enlivening new beginning. The situation is such that, more than ever before, we must be particularly careful with our leadership recruitment processes and choices. Luckily, the NBA is well served this year by an undoubtedly strong field of candidates for the NBA Presidency; three distinguished senior practitioners with good records of service to the legal profession.

I shall however speak of only Dr. Tunde Ajibade SAN who is remarkable in many more ways than one, especially because he stands out as the best of the lot. He brings to the table of the present NBA Presidential contest qualities which are sorely needed to tackle the present crippling problems of the legal profession and administration of justice in Nigeria in general. He epitomizes phenomenal breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise; belonging to that very rare breed of top-line litigators who are equally at home with transactional law practice. And his willingness to share and democratize legal knowledge is underscored by the annual Continuous Legal Education series organized by his law firm of which I have been privileged to attend a few times.

Perhaps most importantly, the present period of widespread anomie requires of the NBA leadership the exceptional personal and professional integrity which Dr. Ajibade exemplifies. More than at any time since the advent of our dysfunctional civilian rule, there is the urgent need for an NBA leadership capable of telling truth to power. His temperament is undoubtedly excellent for the task; possessing quiet but immense strength and courage which saw him visiting and showing solidarity with colleagues in the insurgency-ridden North East region of the country. And his instinctive courteousness and overall civility is unfailingly present in interactions with lawyers of all ranks and ages, in and out of the courtroom.

Finally, this. Whilst the generality of Nigerian lawyers owe the Austine Alegeh Presidency a debt of gratitude for the introduction of universal suffrage in NBA national elections, he was but a Paul who came to water the ground tilled by some of us Appollos; i.e., those who were appalled by the now jettisoned grossly unfair and corrupt delegates system and fought for its change. Part of the unfairness of the delegates system was that it badly shortchanged the larger branches exemplified by the Lagos Branch. Seeing it as my duty as Chairman of the NBA Lagos Branch at the time [between 2009-2011] to see to the correction of the injustice to the Branch and vast majority of lawyers, I heartily campaigned for universal lawyers’ suffrage for the election of NBA national officers.

Whilst I recollect the likes of Anselm Chidi Odinkalu and Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN being in the trenches of the struggle, so to speak, Dr. Ajibade was one of those Lagos based senior practitioners who steadfastly encouraged me from the sides, sharing my view that the concept of equality at the Bar can hardly find more practical and appropriate expression than giving each Nigerian lawyer the right to a direct vote in the election of NBA national officers. Ultimately, the goal was achieved for the majority, properly so called, to determine who leads the NBA. And it is to this majority, all of us essentially, that I appeal to give their vote to Dr. Tunde Ajibade. I have no doubt at all that the NBA would be in very good hands with him as our President.         

Chijioke Okoli, SAN.

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