The man-made calamities befalling this twisted nation are so overpowering that even the multitude of stoics, the throng of patient, indifferent citizenry who have given up through a conscious surrender to the bewildering snares of siddon look, are bound to be confounded and roused by the provocative capabilities of a chain of organised misadventure repeatedly imposed by those who ought to know better. In recent times, where to begin from for any candid assessor of Nigeria’s ever widening pool of deliberately crafted catastrophes has always been a problem. Just when steadying to make sense of one heartbreak, another promptly springs up with the usual brazen disdain. Indeed all the way, it’s been an embarrassment of depressing choices that will shock even the most prolific author of fictional horror.
Certainly, not to be excluded from this bouquet of disaster is the election of fresh executives of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) which held in Abuja a couple of days ago. It was a parody of everything a free, fair and credible election was supposed to be, featuring all the despicable machinations associated with politicians in this environment. In every department of atrocious electioneering, the lawyers – indeed very senior lawyers including some elements among the out gone executives of NBA – shamelessly planted themselves in the front seat to rival politicians in disgusting politicking. Every ingredient of today’s vile politics was on display at Sheraton Hotel where the lawyers converged: excessive use of money, influence peddling, desperation, skewed playing field in favour of the anointed candidate, rigged voters register, vote buying and much more.
It is not a secret that Nigerian governments, military or civilian, from the time of the self-styled evil genius, General Ibrahim Babangida, have always taken more than a passing interest in who leads the body of lawyers. But unfortunately, the interest shown is self-seeking, invariably more pernicious than benign. Viewed against this unsavoury background, an intense sense of déjà vu could hardly be overcome. Quickly rewind the dramatic tape on the chequered history of this country to 1992, then a sense of what happened at this year’s NBA election would come into sharp focus. Twenty years ago in Port-Harcourt, the NBA election was marred if not by the same degree of official manipulations, but certainly by an equal amount of interference from powerful external forces. As the beleaguered regime of Babangida was trying to perfect a perpetuation plot, it also struggled so hard to rig into the NBA presidency a candidate of its choice, who by all means was attuned to the regime’s continuity stratagem, in contrast to Priscilla Kuye, who was more popular and seen as an opponent of the Babangida agenda.
Of course, in spite of the military might arrayed against her, in spite of everything the regime did to stop her, Kuye prevailed in the end and became NBA president. That was one glorious moment when the NBA truly came to realise its essence. Since then the body has progressively slid down the ladder of national salvation, apparently totally shorn of the vibrant activism required to tackle the sweeping travesty being put out as governance by successive administrations. Though once in a while it makes seemingly robust effort at halting the obvious drift, truth is the NBA lacks the energy and ability sorely needed to mobilise Nigerians towards a desired national aspiration. And this is the kind of atmosphere preferred by any administration lacking ideas as to how to deal with the country’s myriad problems, an atmosphere where a supposed countervailing force is enfeebled by its own internal contradictions and appalling compromise.
It is not to the credit of the immediate past president of NBA, Joseph Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, that he led a group of other senior lawyers to work with a ruling party with an unmatched track record for rigging elections to ensure the emergence of establishment candidate Okey Wali (SAN) as his successor. Not that Daudu’s tenure in office was particularly admirable. Besides blandly condemning the suspension of President of Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, by the National Judicial Council, and the withdrawal of a non-existent petroleum subsidy by government, he took no concrete steps as the leader of a body whose remit prioritizes societal justice to protest flagrant violations of the law by certain individuals and institutions.
In the absence of anything meaningful in the interest of the public, to what extent the NBA under Daudu was able to reform itself can only be measured by the quality of election the secretariat under his watch conducted on the eve of his departure. That election, even according to many of his disinterested colleagues, was a classic mockery of democracy, an unqualified assault on and unmitigated bastardization of the very values lawyers are supposed to instil, cultivate and guard jealously. Even elections of executives of national labour unions are several times better. If the NBA, which sponsors members to observe local and foreign elections, describes what happened in Abuja as election, then lawyers have no moral right to condemn the sham Nigerian politicians have been taking part in under the guise of elections. That election was as worse as any of the local polls the body of lawyers might have written off sometime in the past.
Just in case the full import of this farce is yet to sink in, bear in mind that it in no way offends the sensibilities of its perpetrators. It was designed so to happen. Why should the NBA not have a stooge as president if the aim, as it has always been, is to preserve the status quo? If the NBA has been so weakened as to have discarded its sense of rectitude, then you can be sure that the rot has eaten deep into every area of Nigerian life. One man who knows this too well is Emeka Ngige, the SAN who “lost” to Okey Wali in the (s)election. What played out in that hotel in Abuja is nothing but a reflection of the enduring decadence that has knocked the country into a perpetual coma. Unless a saviour shows up soon enough. . . . . Forget it.
- Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist based in Abuja
NBA is composed of Nigerians. Why should we expect it to be different from the rest of Nigerians? Are those lawyers who tried to subvert the Constitution by fighting for stolen mandate not members of NBA? Of course, they all claimed it was part of their professional responsibility. The most ridiculous was when some of them pleaded that a High Court (or Court of Appeal) should overturn a Supreme Court verdict. What did NBA do when one of its members used his official position to frustrate, rather than promote, justice? Let's not kid ourselves. As long as we have selected and not elected leaders, the rot will continue in all sectors of the nation.
This is a full-throat and wholesale indictment of the NBA and by extrapolation, Nigerian Lawyers! I do hope that the NBA will promptly respond to the myriad charges laid bare.
it is indeed true that lawyers and everyone else are merely products of their environment.... but we can be positively influence our environment or be consumed by it! Lawyers ought be beacons and shining examples of society... Lawyers are and ought/should be social engineers! Nigeria should be a nation of laws, rules and due process and lawyers are most suited to advocating, promoting and advancing the course of democracy.... free society, freedoms and liberty etc
Babangida's heritage of debauchery and evil planted in Professional Bodies lives!
Here is a patriotic Nigerian Suis juris, compos mentis etc hoping for National Saviour to show up!
An otherwise beautiful work of fiction (a la Sonala Oluhense) spoiled by that last conclusion.
Some Nigerians are law-less, order-less or just plainly selfish. NBA is not the only Professional Association Ibrahim Babangida bought. But 20 years after, NBA is still on life support battling external forces.
You cannot get some Nigerians to just conform to any order. You want a Yoruba Speaker, Hausa go go file nomination. He go say na him fundamental right to contest. You zone Presidency of Nigeria to Ndi-Yoruba, Igbo-man go go file nomination (and rally ndi-Igbo-in-the-diaspora saying he is the "best" candidate. This is the chaos just replicated in the NBA. The two independent candidates got good support from external sources in line with the legacy of the evil genius.
Of course, our cherished electoral tradition is that the loser alleges the election was rigged and goes to work to ensure the administration fails. (Chorus singers yell the chorus: No free and fair election in Nigeria) Its similar to the litigation tradition. where both parties reach to the Justices but one prevails. The other party screams: Nigerian judiciary is corrupt. or No justice in Nigeria
My burodas, Paul, Enyi and Chukwu In view of Godwin's excellent familiar verses make una join me in nominating Godwin, our courageous journalist as Leader of the Movement for National Salvation! No more waiting: Eureka!
Wrong premise. I am not sure if you read the thread I initiated, entitled-Wither NBA? My comment on the current thread is not based on Godwin's write-up. Both sides have stated their side of the story in various news media. It is therefore left for each and every one of us to draw his/her own conclusions. IMO, there is something fishy about the election. Of course, if you have facts that contradict my opinion, it will be good to have them out in the open.
well intended and well written. who will take heed? as the author points out, this kind of situation is prevalent in all spheres of naija life.
i sure hope the appointed saviour will find his way to nigeria soon (or kick into action if he's been biding his time) or i fear there may be nothing left to save.