As the bad blood within the NBA (Nigerian Bar Association) subsists, a concerned senior lawyer has said that Niyi Akintola (SAN) spoke the minds of many legal practitioners when he chastised the immediate past President Olumide Akpata on a radio programme.
The senior lawyer, who requested that his name be withheld, said that Akpata’s actions irritated many lawyers, especially those in Nigeria’s Southwest region.
Akintola had taken a swipe at Akpata, labeling him ‘a transactional lawyer’ who never practised law, stressing that such deficiency reflected in the way he ran the association during his time as seen in the NBA-AGM scenario earlier in the month.
Akpata had reportedly accused a respected Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN of ‘Ambulance Chasing’, a derogatory term used in legal parlance to refer to surreptitious moves by a lawyer to woo and convert clients belonging to another lawyer.
Indeed, Akpata while still in office as NBA president got a commensurate backlash as some members from the SouthWest mobilised support to punish him. Specifically, the opposing camp reportedly instigated Akpata’s secretary against him leading to squabbles that finally led to Akpata sacking the secretary.
Although Akpata has handed over to Yakubu Maikyau as new NBA President in late August, the ripples of the squabbles that peaked in the last months of his tenure still reverberate.
Akintola, who is also a member of the All Progressives Congress, told an Ibadan-based radio station, Fresh FM, “That boy (Olu Akpata) is a transactional lawyer, he has never practised law, he’s a businessman; so, the scenario at the bar conference is not surprising… Did you see any Supreme Court judge at the conference? He called former CJN ostrich! No notable senior member of the Bar was at the conference because we all resolved not to have anything to do with the boy.”
However, the concerned senior lawyer said Akintola may have gone too far with his vituperations, especially the reference to Akpata as a ‘boy’. He insisted that utterances and counter-utterances that have dogged the association in recent time have roots in perceived injustice in the NBA.
He noted that the decision by the Mid-West bloc of the western states’ zone of the association to contest the election that produced Akpata was against the spirit of agreement between Egbe Amofin which comprise six Southwest states and Mid-West (Edo and Delta).
He claimed the mid-West bloc exploited the disunity among the Yoruba lawyers to push through their plans of getting the presidency on the last two occasions it came to the zone.
He said the situation was compounded by Akpata’s ”high-handedness and his abrasive style which forced most moderates to distance themselves from his administration.”
He said,” Akintola (SAN) may have truly gone too far but he speaks the minds of many moderate lawyers ( not Yoruba alone) who were turned away by the abrasive and commando style of Akpata and his band of loyalists. The framers of the current NBA constitution wisely created zones to curtail conflict. The South zone has six southwest states and Delta and Edo.
“In the last couple of years it has come round to that zone but the Delta and Edo States have refused to honour the gentleman agreements in that zone and instead chose to put forward candidates and exploited the disunity among the Yoruba candidates. The Mid-West Bar cited the doctrine of necessity and other arcane reasons for their decision to contest, especially the second time when Akpata won.
“They won both times but instead of managing the victory, the Presidents especially Akpata chose to mismanage it, especially by his abrasive style. It is this abrasive style that turned many moderates away from his Presidency and it is hoped that the new President will learn from these mistakes on how to manage power.”
He enjoined all aggrieved members of the NBA to sheathe their swords and reconcile, charging the new President Yakubu Maikyau to lead the reconciliation process.
He said, “The first job of the new President is to reconcile the bar in order to prevent an already raging fire from getting out of control. A bar divided against itself will fail and fall.”