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Senior lawyers should not relegate junior ones – Alegeh

What is your reaction to the adoption of candidates for the NBA and the universal suffrage?

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The next NBA president is going to do an election, because it is election season. If NBA does not have a president with integrity and foresight then NBA would lose its relevance nationwide. I strain to see how we can move the bar forward.

We have candidates who have no idea of what the NBA constitution says. The NBA constitution provides for universal suffrage, zoning of offices so as to avoid every lawyer fighting to become president. If it is zoned to the West, let the West bring its best out. Lawyers will vote for the best. However, the idea of adoption of candidates is anti-universal suffrage.  It means whether you vote or you don’t vote, a particular candidate has been picked, sometimes by a cabal of maybe not up to five persons. This is an assault to universal suffrage. I will lead the fight against it.

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What advice do you have for senior lawyers fighting against junior lawyers?

For those fighting against junior lawyers and universal suffrage they should also know that there are two sides to every coin. They shouldn’t forget that one day a junior lawyer will win and become NBA president and that may allow them to legislate out the old lawyers. They have the numbers to say that if you are a SAN, you can no longer be NBA president. We should work harmoniously together because respect begets respect. So why do they want to relegate our younger ones. At least you must encourage the younger ones. It is parochial thinking that only the SAN can be president of the Bar. 

In the days of universal suffrage, only two past presidents were SANs and there was no friction or disrespect. Also, Aka Bashorun, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Mudaga Odjeh, a lot of them became SAN after serving the Bar. When we got to the delegate system, the NBA did not pay for transportation, accommodation etc for the delegates who were coming. So, delegates developed a system of inherent corruption to vote for candidates who paid for their transportation, accommodation and even fed them. There are delegates that do not even know the candidate who they voted for but since that candidate has fed and given them money, they feel obligated to vote for him. 

You supported the present leadership of the Bar, are you surprised at the turn of events? 

I believe in the bar and still believe that at the time I supported the current leadership, it was the best available to us. The decisions were not taken on personal favour or relationship but on the basis of the interest of the Bar.

Once you have taken any decision, the responsibility falls on the person to discharge his duties. I didn’t ask him to come and run for election. Out of the two that came forward, I felt that he was more level-headed and understands how to lead the association to greater heights. So, it is your cross to carry and not mine once you are elected. 

If you notice, I have stayed away to allow the president run the association the way he deems fit, but now I have seen we are drifting, I cannot keep quiet. My voice must be heard. 

I have a right in the association and I also have the right to vote. Now that that right is being trampled on, is being challenged by the ineptitude and inefficiency, it pains me. 

In our last election, INEC came to monitor it and was amazed. How can we now get to the level that we cannot even do a proper verification? And the same Chams’ inability to do proper verification was what created its problem with ICAN. Additionally, in which part of the world do four different bodies conduct election? One man will do verification, another accreditation and another the voting. Probably, another will do the counting of votes. Why? 

Election is a process! If the man doing accreditation does not know the basis for verification, it creates a big problem. Who takes responsibility if anything goes wrong?  

Apart from the manner the executive is handling the issue of the election, there is also that of disqualification of some candidates including the former general secretary who served under your tenure, who has gone to court already. What do these portend for the association? 

Because he is in court, I will not go into details so it won’t be subjudice. But that is part of the entire problem. We do not have residency provision in our constitution. For all I have read, nobody says he has not paid practicing fee or branch dues. 

For me, I share the view of the younger ones who believe that the reason he is disqualified is because they felt he was going to win the election. I don’t see any justification whatsoever in disqualifying the immediate past general secretary of the bar. 

If you have trust and confidence in the senior advocates who are running, then let the Bar decide! Why take out someone because you feel that the junior lawyers will vote for him? It is wrong!

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