The opening ceremony of the 62nd Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, started on a good note on Monday with the Presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, former vice president Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, physically present, while the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and his counterpart from New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, Rabiu Kwankwanso were represented at the opening ceremony.
Though, the candidates who were asked to speak on the security challenges in the country and explain how they intend to solve it eventually narrated the problems facing the country, they didn’t profer any solution.
The theme of this year conference is : “Bold Transition.” The annual lawyers gathering is aimed at discussing issues affecting the legal practice as well as addressing some national political and economic issues.
The Association had issued a caveat that, the invitation extended to the 2023 presidential candidates are not an avenue for manifestos or to promote their political agendas. In fact, the compere had warned that there should be no accolades for any of the candidate. However, lawyers supporting some candidates threw caution to the wind by hailing them.
Speaking on the theme of the conference, the keynote speaker, an author, Chimamanda Adichie, noted that the country is yearning for good leadership, which by extension is expected from the Bar.
According to her, the country is bereft of good leaders with good ideas to lead the country out of the doldrum.
She said the country is in need of “heroes who can take bold decision to save the country.”
She said, “Nigeria is in disarray. Things are hard and getting harder by the day. We can’t be safe when there is no rule of law. Nigerians are starved of heroes to look up to. Late Dora Akunyili and Chief Gani Fawehinmi were heroes that Nigerians looked up to before now. Unfortunately, that era has gone. I believe that NBA is in a position to give the nation the heroes that we can look up to, to lead the nation.”
She said, “We are starved of heroes. Our young people do not find people to look up to anymore.”
She said is is important for everyone to speak out against injustice and tyranny even if they were called troublemakers.
According to her, “Bold transition must embrace audacity and innovation. They have called me troublesome. Although, it is never enjoyable to be called troublesome. I never set out to provoke for its sake. But I refuse to silence myself for the fear of what I might inadvertently provoke.
“It has always been important to me to say what I believe, to call out injustice. Federal and state security dragging journalists to prison is tyranny. A journalist ill-treating his domestic staff is tyranny. The rape of young boys and girls is also tyranny. It is tyranny when state governments do not pay pensioners until they slump and die as broken people. The physical harassment of lawyers and some some judges is tyranny. The use of the law by some people to oppress the poor people is tyranny.”
Adiche said Nigerians must be fair in their criticisms before peace can thrive. She said they should become responsible before holding leaders responsible.
She said, “As long as we refuse to untangle the knot of injustice, peace cannot thrive. If we don’t talk about it, we fail to hold leaders accountable and we turn what should be transparent systems into ugly opaque cults.
“My experience made me think there’s something dead in us, in our society; a death of self-awareness and ability for self-criticism.”
“There’s need for resurrection. We cannot avoid self-criticism but criticise the government. We cannot hide our own institutional failure while demanding transparency from the government.”
She challenged the Bar to engage the stakeholders on how to design proactive programmes to be activated to take the country out of its quagmire.
In his address, the outgoing national president of NBA, Olumide Akpata, said this year’s conference will focus on the need for the legal profession to embrace innovative approaches to legal practice “while we continue to serve as the conscience of the public”.
He noted that the five day programme is billed to discuss various topics designed for the conference as well as proffer solutions to issues bordering lawyers and the legal practice.
Among dignitaries at the opening ceremony holding at the Eko Hotels includes, Chimamanda Adichie, Kashim Shettima, Raymond Dokpesi, Governors Godwin Obaseki, Simon Lalong, the Lagos State Attorney General, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo and a host of leaders of the Bar.