Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome has stated that efforts to establish parallel or rival associations to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), in the name of issues that have been laced with ethnic or religious colorations would be resisted.
This was said by the learned silk at the virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NBA on 28th day of August, 2020.
“I want to say that from my experience that this executive led by Mr. President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, is surely one of the best I had ever come across, both locally and internationally. There is no doubt Mr. President sir, that you have raised the Bar of public discourse, the Bar of national engagement, the Bar of interrogating authorities and questioning powers that be.
“Before your arrival Mr. President, the NBA was being serially disrespected by successive governments in power but you came and upheld the best tenet of the legal profession. Tenet of defending rule of law, of defending human rights, of widening the democratic space and of strengthening democratic institutions. You brought corporate governance, you brought in transparency, accountability in addition to financial prudence. We have all seen it in the various reports of all the organs of the NBA both now and during our NEC meeting.” He said.
“All your promises, at least most of them to the best of my knowledge…you went headlong for them.” He added.
In addition, he noted that despite efforts to bring Paul Usoro, SAN to ridicule by “state-sponsored” actors, an onslaught was led against this by the Bar, commending Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN.
Meanwhile, speaking about the NBA dis-invitation of the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, he noted that “political infiltration, where people are now trying to knock the head of NBA members against each other by suddenly introducing religious and ethnic connotations to a mere innocuous dis-invitation of my very good friend, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
“So, when I see some of these people talking, I always wonder and say, where is your history…you think you can defend El-Rufai more than us. How many of you know that as far back as 2006, I defended Mallam Nasir El-Rufai free of charge pro bono when he was barred by the National Assembly from holding public office for the next ten years, I called him, I went to Court, I won it, both at the Federal High Court and up to the Court of Appeal. I did not charge a kobo. How many of you know that he is a personal friend of all and like Mr. President cried out at the NEC meeting, this man you people are talking about, he’s my own personal friend. I have nothing against him. Nothing had anything against him but everybody has everything against him in terms of his governance. Not necessarily as a Muslim or Northerner because he was never invited to the NBA conference as a Muslim or Northerner but as a Governor and it was in that regard that people had a disagreement.
“And for some people to turn around and start to religionize and ethnicize that, I think that is not fair. We must be honest with ourselves.” He said.
Meanwhile, he stated that efforts to establish parallel associations to the NBA on that basis would not be allowed.
“For those trying to form an alternative Bar, please, let me use the oxymoron, make haste slowly…don’t go that way, when the tongue and the teeth disagree, inside the same buccal cavity, with the teeth biting the tongue, they sooner than later settle because they need each other for the tongue to help to speak up and for the teeth to help to masticate the food that the tongue itself will enjoy.
“So, drop all these issues of trying to form an alternative Bar, whether you call it New NBA or Progressive NBA, it’s not going to work. The progressive forces in this country within the Bar, the elders of the Bar, most members of not all, Senior Advocates of Nigeria who know where we are coming from will resist it.” He said.
Furthermore, he noted that splitting the Association is not good for the unity of the country itself.
“The reason is that when you begin to create a different Bar, let’s say for example Northern Bar or New Bar, the people very soon are going to start calling for Southern Nigerian Army, Southern Nigerian Navy, Western Nigerian Airforce, Eastern Nigeria Tax Authority, Midwest Maritime Authority. We will begin to hear of Southern Nigeria NNPC, Central Bank, where are we heading to, that is nothing but balkanization of Nigeria. God forbid Afghanistan, God forbid USSR, God forbid Sudan, God forbid Ethiopia, God forbid India-Pakistan and Bangladesh. God forbid another Nigeria-Biafra pogrom.
“I beg all of us, let us enjoy this legal profession that God has given to us.” He said.
(THE NIGERIAN LAWYER. COM)