The call came against the backdrop of moves by junior members of the Bar to wrestle the office of the NBA chairman from the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in the forthcoming election of officers scheduled for July.
Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) made the call in a letter addressed to Chief T.J.O Okpoko (SAN), past President of NBA and Life Bencher and copied the Trustee of the BOSAN, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, OFR, (SAN) entitled, “NBA Leadership’’.
He said the legal profession being one of the oldest, most respected and revered professions in this country whose members by culture and ethics cherish rank and seniority, should be run by members of the Inner Bar (SANs) and not the outer Bar.
“What I hear is unannounced but powerful and potent revolutionary move by our junior colleagues who are very much in larger numbers to wrestle the office of the NBA from the rank of SAN. That in my view will be unfortunate for the rank. To the members of the public a ridicule of the rank and office of the President of the NBA.
“We can see other professions who followed our precedent of putting their first eleven to lead their Associations.
“You have never failed at all public speeches at formal functions to extol the virtue of leaders past and present of the NBA. Legal profession is one of the oldest, most respected and revered professions in this country. Lawyers by culture and ethics cherish rank and seniority.
“You will recall sir that Dr Mudiaga Odje, SAN (of blessed memory) Past President of the Nigeria Bar Association, at the Jos Plenary Conference in 1998 called and challenged the members of the Inner Bar, to take hold of the leadership of the Bar to avoid the occurrence of what happened in Port Harcourt in 1 992 that paralyzed the Bar Association from 1992-1998.
“Since you became the President of the reformed NBA in 1998, and to avoid what happened in Port Harcourt in 1 992, all successors to the office of the President have been Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
“The gains are enormous both at national and international fora. NBA is not just a social club or ordinary society, it is a conservative professional body with strong ethical values of seniority, integrity, respectability and good name as core values to the profession for leadership position not wealth or other primordial sentiment.
“Since the death of Chief Richard O Akinjide, SAN you are the most active Senior, Past President of the Bar and one of the surviving senior members of the Inner Bar who has good knowledge of the culture and values of the Bar. I believe you cannot afford to look away or be unconcerned about the future and the leadership of the NBA.
“With respect, I believe you need to urgently call a meeting of the Past Presidents of the NBA and do all within your powers to preserve the integrity, honour and respectability of the Office of the President of the NBA,’’ Awomolo wrote in the letter, a copy of which was emailed to Persecondnews.
He, however, noted that in recent time, the Federal Government did a “grave damage to the integrity of the office of the NBA President by initiating criminal prosecution against the holder of the office.’’
Awomolo recalled that he and other committed and dedicated members of the legal profession from all the branches revived and restored the Bar Association back to life after its “death” from 1992-1998 following the inconclusive Annual Bar conference in Port Harcourt.
He stated: “God in His infinite mercies gave you the opportunity to lead the Bar Association after my time as Chairman of all Chairmen and Secretaries of the then 44 branches. It is on record that you and your team performed excellently well as leaders of the foremost professional organization in Nigeria.
“You, courageously as a SAN and President of the Bar, looked at the powers that be directly in the face. You asserted your rank and leadership of the Bar at NJC and other fora. You successfully conducted election of officers and handed over to another Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The Bar has since then been led by SAN.
“Sir, I am of the strong belief that you must do your best to keep the tradition of the rank and seniority that helped you and all those who came after you.’’
Awomolo said it would be a great failure of leadership for the Senior Advocates to surrender leadership to outer Bar when there are willing and able Senior Advocates to lead the association.