Nigerian Bar Association Elections and the Tackiness of Felicitations and Goodwill Messages: Matters Arising

By Dan Whisky


As the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) prepares for its Annual General Conference one cannot but think of the upcoming general elections in 2024, a wave of “goodwill messages” and campaign materials has flooded various WhatsApp groups and social media platforms.

While such practices have become customary or expected during election seasons, they raise questions about ”real issues” bothering our profession, the welfare of members, our deference and response to national issues and the general public estimates and perceives the Nigerian lawyer. The lawyers who make up the NBA, often seen as the conscience of society and an intellectual body, should rise above these tacky practices and focus on substantive issues that truly matter.

The Importance of the Nigerian Bar Association:

The Nigerian Bar Association is widely recognized as the premier professional organization for lawyers in the country. By its rules it is supposed to play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law, protecting human rights, promoting legal education, and providing a platform for legal professionals to exchange ideas and collaborate as well as criticize policies of Government that are anti-people. Given their significance, the NBA’s elections hold great importance in shaping the direction and leadership of the legal community and the Nigerian society at large.

The Tackiness of Goodwill Messages:

In my little years of practice, during NBA elections, lawyers vying for various positions flood WhatsApp groups and social media platforms with “goodwill messages” and other forms of tacit campaign material. While these messages are intended to gain visibility and face time with potential voters, they often come across as superficial and traditionally what ought to be done. The legal profession, with its emphasis on integrity and professionalism, deserves better. Beyond trying not to breach the ban on campaigns until when same is lifted, the Nigerian lawyer deserves better and deeper communication on levels that give a measure of hope that the individual possesses both the intellectual and empathetic qualities to drive the association to where it needs to be. The present administration gives more than ample evidence of the need for a serious shift for how we do this as a profession pre elections.

The Unfortunate Disconnect:

The inundation of goodwill messages during election seasons highlights a disconnect between the ideals that lawyers are expected to embody and the practices they engage in during campaigns. Lawyers are considered the intellectual backbone of society, entrusted with upholding justice and championing the rule of law. Yet, when it comes to elections, some candidates resort to tactics that undermine the dignity of the profession. This raises concerns about the motivations and priorities of those seeking office within the NBA.

Moving Beyond Superficiality:

Rather than bombarding their colleagues with an endless stream of trite messages, NBA candidates should focus on substantive issues and engage in meaningful dialogue. Voters deserve to hear about candidates’ visions for the association, plans for addressing pressing legal challenges, and strategies for advancing the profession. Campaigns must move beyond mere pleasantries and emphasize the core values that lawyers should uphold.

At this rate, we would begin to understand the core of the individual aspirant and potential bravery to challenging institutional mediocrity or lapses. The average Nigerian will never understand why the same Court of Appeal appear to be saying two different things in the space of only 10 days. The NBA should be able to call its members to be professional in their approach so as not to ridicule the judiciary in the eyes of the ordinary man as well as to speak to the forum of judges to be abreast with coordinate jurisdiction decisions of its Courts before making pronouncements that such earlier decisions may have impacted on. Lastly, for aspirants to show and for its members to assess how they would move the Association to ensure that no man whether as an individual, corporate organization or the Government should disobey court orders going forward under their watch.

The docility in felicitations and congratulations should stop. It makes us look intellectually lazy and poor.

The Association and the Nigerian populace deserve better.

Raising the Bar:

The legal community should reflect on the impact of such electioneering practices on the perception of the profession as a whole. Lawyers have a duty to project an image of integrity, competence, and professionalism. By engaging in meaningful conversations and presenting well-thought-out proposals, candidates can inspire confidence among their peers and the public at large. Lawyers must take a step back and consider the long-term implications of their election campaigns on the reputation of the profession.


As the NBA gears up for its Annual General Conference, the AGM presents an opportunity for its members to voice out concerns and the way things should be done going forward and possibly get resolutions from the AGM in readiness for the 2024 election. The barrage of goodwill messages and campaign materials serves as a reminder of the need for introspection within the legal community. Lawyers, as the custodians of justice, should strive for excellence in all aspects of their professional lives, including election campaigns. By moving beyond superficial tactics and focusing on substantive issues, NBA candidates can contribute to the growth and development of the legal profession in Nigeria. It is time for the legal fraternity to elevate the discourse and present a more dignified and intellectual approach to elections within the Nigerian Bar Association.

Dan Whisky is a Lagos based lawyer and writes from Lagos.