NBA DECIDES 2020: Three Distinctive Attributes of Olumide Akpata No Other Candidate Possesses – Kelechi Ibe

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NBA DECIDES 2020: Three Distinctive Attributes of Olumide Akpata No Other Candidate Possesses – Kelechi Ibe

This would be the first time I would keenly follow, or even be involved in, the NBA elections since my call to the Nigerian Bar in 2016. I had always maintained, like most other young lawyers, that the NBA offered no useful value particularly to the younger lawyers. This perception gets reinforced everyday with my exposure to the sad fate of many young lawyers around me. Very recently, I had to rally round to get support for a younger colleague who needed funds to undergo a major surgery. That wouldn’t be the first time I would see calls for support to assist a young lawyer treat one ailment or the other. I don’t even want to speak about the unemployment or underemployment rate of young lawyers in the country, orthe harassment lawyers face everyday from employers, law enforcement agencies, clients, etc. These issues and many more contributed to my disinterestedness in NBA politics.

My joy then knew no bounds when I learnt Olumide Akpata was contesting to lead the NBA as President, with a focus on repositioning the Bar and making it work for all. Like I posted recently, it feels good to be part of this vision, as it gives me a sense of purpose that rather than complain about the issues bedeviling the NBA such as listed above, I would be playing my part towards delivering the transformation that the NBA so urgently needs. This drive and conviction stems from the fact that Mr. Akpata is different, and this is the fulcrum of this piece. I have read different claims and promises from all candidates, some of which are either laughable, outrightly false, or borrowed, and these have elicited my response via this write up.

For one who rarely comments on NBA political issues, I feel I have a duty to my friends, colleagues and other young lawyers to share some insights on three (3) distinctive attributes that only Olumide Akpata possesses amongst the current set of candidates and which make him completely distinct from the others.

  1. Availability: Mr. Akpata in a recent interview with the PAL Magazine noted that if elected President, the Partners in his law firm have agreed to allow him to proceed on a 24-month sabbatical, to afford him the required time to tackle the myriad of issues besetting the NBA. We all agree that to fix the issues with the NBA, we not only need a very competent and effective leader, but almost more importantly, an available one. Of the three (3) candidates, only Mr. Akpata can completely focus on the NBA without distractions, because he has for 25 years “depersonalised” the law firm and built an institution of about 100 lawyers and 15 very bright and competent partners, who can hold the fort while is away. Akpata understands the benefits of “strong institutions” rather than “strong men”.  The other two (2) candidates cannot,in all honesty, attempt to do same, as both are Managing Partners of their firms, and have built practices that revolve around them, their personal names and personal brands and it would be professionally suicidal for them lose their legacies while serving the NBA.  At a time like this, the Bar needs someone like Olumide Akpata, who would devote sufficient time to the NBA and face the issues head-on without any limitations.
  • Recent Relevant Experience: All the candidates come with different experience, but the real question should be, how relevant and recentthe experiences are and how they canbe brought to bear in leading the NBA.  While the candidates have their diverse experience, of all of them, only Olumide Akpata has the recent and relevant experience required to lead. Recent in the sense that he led the NBA-SBL as Chairman between 2016 and 2018. I would need to dedicate a whole article to write about his stellar performance as Chairman of NBA-SBL. Relevant in the sense that each of the three sections of the NBA (of which NBA-SBL is one) is like a micro NBA. As Section Chairman, you deal with similar issues affecting your section in the same way that the NBA President would deal with issues affecting whole Bar.  If Mr. Akpata could successfully lead the NBA-SBL and drive timeless reforms like he did, I have no doubt that he will do an even more excellent job as President of the NBA. Ask around, no one has been able to fault Olumide Akpata’s performance as NBA-SBL Chair, and his accomplishments are being lauded till date. Same cannot be said of the other candidates. For one, his most recent relevant experience was when he served as General Secretary of the NBA 16 years ago. For the other, he comes with very generic and rudimentary experiencegained from membership of largely populated committees where his leadership abilities have not necessarily been tested and from which there are, understandably, no actual records of verifiable results achieved.
  • Genuineand apolitical concern for the Young Lawyers:I have read how suddenly the other two (2) candidates love the young lawyers so much. It is not surprising, as this is expected of anyone running for an office as the NBA President, who needs all the support he can get. I guess the real question to be asked is what have these others done historically to improve the lot of young lawyers, that were not politically motivated. Any records?I can speak for Olumide Akpata.

For a very long time, Mr. Akpata has been running a mentoring scheme where he pairs young lawyers who come up to him for guidance with other successful young lawyers to act as their professional coaches and also follows up with them to ensure that the mentorship is progressing as it should. Many of the people whom he has paired as mentors to younger lawyers and those who have benefitted from that mentorship are very well known. 

Mr. Akpata has always been big on capacity building for young lawyers aimed at developing their skills, so that they remain competitive in the practice of law. This love has driven him, at different times and in every position that he has been privileged to hold, to either organize or sponsor lawyers to attend trainings that have helped them advance their careers or better their law practices.  For instance, in 2017, Mr. Akpata’s leadership of the NBA-SBL sponsored over 70 young lawyers across Nigeria to attend the 2017 Annual Business Law Conference held at Eko Hotel.  I was a beneficiary.   But for that scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the conference which changed my professional life and redirected my trajectory. I met my some of career mentors at that conference and the professional story has not remained the same for me.

Since 2017, that tradition has continued. There was the 2018 International Bar Association free training for over 100 young lawyers on the fundamentals of International Legal Business Practice again sponsored by the NBA-SBL under Olumide Akpata’s leadership.  Read more here: https://dnllegalandstyle.com/2018/nba-sbl-business-law-conference-young-lawyers-get-incentives/

In the same 2018, Akpata’s leadership of the NBA-SBL as part of its mentoring programme for Young Lawyers also provided a scholarship to 50 (Fifty) young lawyers to enable them participate in the Healthcare Management Conference 2018 themed “Medicine, Accountability and Law” at which the young participants were exposed to the ethical and legal implications of aspects of medical practice in the context of Nigerian law. Read more here: https://www.barristerng.com/nba-sbl-offers-scholarship-to-50-young-lawyers-see-conditions/.

I also remember that Mr. Akpata’s leadership brokered a partnership with Indiana University Bloomington, to offer LLM scholarships to young lawyers who gained admission. Read more here: https://businessday.ng/legal-business/article/sbl-offers-indiana-university-scholarship-young-lawyers/.

He has personally assisted young lawyers with funds for education, personal needs, referrals, name it. The list is indeed a long one.  He is a human being and has his limits, but if any of what I have said makes any sense, you would agree that he has deep love for young lawyers and if elected, he would use his offices as he has always done to better the lot of young lawyers like you and I.

As the elections approach, the choice before us is a critical, yet easy one.   As a young lawyer who truly understands that the decisions made by the leaders of the profession today would affect my future and as one who is truly interested in ensuring a better future for the Bar, I will support and vote for Olumide Akpata.  Of the three candidates, Mr. Akpata, in my view, has historically shown more genuine support for young lawyers that the other candidates. 

I am confident that Mr. Akpata will do more as NBA President. We must see the other political latter-day young lawyers’ lovers for who they truly are and support a candidate like Olumide Akpata who has always been, and will continue to be, there for us.   

Kelechi Ibe  is a young lawyer and writes from Lagos.

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