By J.S. Okutepa SAN.

In the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, annual general conference, there were some troubling revelations which were not new, but which took a public show of what appears to be washing our dirty linens in the public.

Some of our national officers accused the President of NBA of not allowing them to perform their Statutory duties. In the most commendable matured approach the president allowed them to air their grievances publicly. He did not stop them. This is commendable I must say.

Then it was the turn of the president to react. He gave reasons for his actions. Some of these reasons are bothered of financial profligacy. That these national officers wanted to share NBA money for nothing. He gave statistics.

Now these allegations and counter accusations are not new in NBA. I will not go into historical details. We all know. Some lawyers are experts in NBA elections. They graduate from one office to the other. There must be some reasons for always wanting to “serve” in perpetuity.

But I think time has come for more responsible and accountable leadership in NBA. We need to screen thoroughly those who want to lead the NBA. What are their capacities and professional intergrity. It appears to me that many lawyers who go into NBA offices either at National or Branches are doing so because of free meals in NBA offices.

When NBA was vibrant and a very responsible and a very respectful association, there were no free meals in the Association. Leaders and NEC members paid their ways to attend NEC meetings. There were no free accommodations for National officers and NEC members.

Everyone paid for his or her accommodations to attend NBA meetings. Some seniors members were willing and ready to assist some of their juniors to attend meetings. Senior lawyers were accorded due respect. These senior lawyers were guiding lights of the profession. Serious issues were discussed and enforced. Attending NEC meeting was for serious business. It was not for social jamborees.

But since we adopted the policy of payment for accommodations for branch chairmen and secretaries from National purse for those who put themselves forward to serve the association that our problems of jamborees started.Today there are open corruptions in NBA. Some Branches cannot account for branch dues and money.

Again, we started to monitize the elections of our colleagues to lead our Association. Those jostling to lead the Bar corrupt their ways to be elected. Those who are to votes demand for bribes in many forms to vote for candidates they extorted from. Leadership recruitment in NBA has become very faulty and has unprofessionally being monetized.

Now that we are going to have new national officers next year those who have their eyes on what they want to gain not the services they want to rendered to members of the legal profession and the Association, have started unsolicited morning salutations and have suddenly turned emergency humanists and human right crusaders.

Honestly the hypocrisy in NBA has lowered the reputation of the profession in grave geometrical proportions. We have closed our eyes to the rots in the profession and things are not well with NBA. We have stomach so many things that are wrong. The sores we keep tolerating in the profession is gradually leading to professional amputation of the credibility and nobility of the profession. We are no more taken serious by any right thinking members of the society. We have been grouped amongst the rogues in the society.

The free meal in NBA has turned the association to a laughing stock. Time for all of us to agree to return the Association to its past vibrant glory is now. The recruitment processes to national and branch leadership must be thoroughly reviewed. Those jostling to lead NBA at national and branch levels must be scrutinized. Today NBA has been divided. Senior members of the profession are endangered species now. The reverend rank of SAN is now a crime for leadership.

Yet this division was promoted for leadership positions. Even within the revered rank of silk, some encouraged some lawyers to disrespect elders just because of ambition to lead NBA. We cannot rubbish our best just for two years tenure in office. The traditional respect in the bar appears to have gone. Anyone can just wake up and want to be president of NBA.

There is a need to stop free meals in the NBA.

Let those who want to lead the Bar do so from their pockets.

They should pay their ways to conferences. There is no need for sitting allowances. If you know you can’t foot your bills, don’t aspire to lead the Bar.

NBA free meal must be stopped before it totally rubbishes the noble profession. This is my thought. Correct me if I am wrong.