My dear colleagues, it’s with a deep sense of responsibility that I write to you. In a few hours from now, we will be voting to elect the leaders who will lead our profession for the next two years.
I have been the Chairman of the largest branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the NBA Lagos Branch. In those two years (2017 – 2019), I witnessed first hand the serious challenges facing the profession. There was hardly a week that went by without a young lawyer approaching me to request that I assist in finding a job for him/her. There was hardly a week that I didn’t receive a complaint about the dysfunctionality of our justice sector. I saw first hand the struggles of colleagues to make ends meet – struggles that called into question the nobility of our profession. There is no doubt that there’s an issue with the welfare of the legal professional. There is no doubt that the justice sector is totally dysfunctional. There are issues with the regulation of our profession and many more.
In light of these existential issues, I firmly believe that this election should be defined by issues and nothing else. It is easy therefore to see why I consider some of the narratives that I have heard in this campaign season quite distracting if not disturbing. For example, I struggle to understand why the title a candidate bears (or does not bear) should have any relevance at all in the election of our Bar leaders. Given the serious challenges facing the profession, the decision to support a candidate for the office of President of the NBA should be based on a clear assessment of the character, antecedents and plans of the candidates.
I have considered these factors and am convinced that Dr Ajibade, SAN is the one we should be lining up behind in this election. I have many reasons for supporting Dr Ajibade, SAN but I will highlight only three.
The first is the demonstrable passion he has shown for the reform of the justice sector and the phenomenal work he has done fueled by this passion. As the Chairman of the NBA Lagos Branch in 2018, I recall that the Judiciary Relations Committee of the Branch under the leadership of Mrs Funke Adekoya, SAN had collaborated with the Commercial Disputes Best Practices Law Network (CRID-LAWNET), an initiative in which Dr Ajibade SAN was involved, in the drafting of the Administration of Civil Justice Bill. This Bill, which contains several proposals that directly address the various bottlenecks that cause the delays and disruptions in civil justice adjudication, has been enacted into law in Ekiti State and is currently being considered by Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and the Federal Governments. In recognition of Dr Ajibade’s passion and work in the justice sector, the current leadership of the NBA Lagos Branch appointed him to replace Mrs Adekoya, SAN as the Chairman of the Judiciary Relations Committee. In further demonstration of his passion for the legal profession, the law firm led by Dr Ajibade SAN – SPA Ajibade & Co. – has for the past twelve years been organising Annual Business Luncheons where different issues affecting the legal profession are discussed. I recall attending one of these luncheons the theme of which examined the imperative of separating administration of justice from administration of the courts. In a brilliant paper presented by Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey, a former Solicitor-General of Lagos State, he concluded, relying on verifiable statistics, that jurisdictions where the management of the courts is left in the hands of professional managers while the judges focus on administration of Justice are a lot more efficient than the jurisdictions where the two roles are fused.
The second reason I support Dr Ajibade, SAN is that he is the only candidate whose experience and knowledge cut across the different subsets of our professional pursuit. Dr Ajibade is an experienced solicitor who has led his teams in some of the most valuable transactions in Nigeria. In addition to being a founding member of the NBA Section on Business Law and sitting on its Council for four years, he’s been Secretary, Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Capital Markets Solicitors Association. Dr Ajibade, SAN is an accomplished Barrister who was the first member of his 1989 Law School class to be admitted to the Inner Bar in 2007 at the age of 39. He is a seasoned arbitrator and and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. His multifaceted knowledge and experience, in my view, place him in a position to understand the issues affecting the different segments of the profession. When you add to this the fact that he’s probably one of the highest-ranking Africans within the leadership of the International Bar Association, it becomes clear why he is the best choice for the position of President of the NBA.
The third reason for my support for Dr Ajibade, SAN is his impeccable integrity and self-effacing humility. I need not say more about these his attributes as they are well-known within the Nigerian legal community.
For all these reasons and those that I am constrained by space to not highlight, I strongly recommend Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, FCIArb for the office of the President of the NBA.
I urge you all to join me in putting this round peg into a round hole.
Chukwuka Ikwuazom, Esq.
Immediate Past Chairman
NBA Lagos Branch