‘I’M NOT SURPRISED AKPATA WON’ – CHIJIOKE OKOLI

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Bar Leader and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN has given a pass mark to the just concluded NBA Elections, saying he is not surprised that tier-one solicitor, Mr. Olumide Akpata won the presidential poll.

In an interview with CITY LAWYER, the fiery litigator stated that circumstances conspired to hand-over the mantle to NBA President-elect, even as he urged Akpata’s opponents to join hands with him to move the Bar forward.

His words:

“The election seems to be a significant improvement from the last one in which I could not even vote. Without prejudice to whatever genuine complaints some others may have, it was transparent in my view especially with the real-time results as the voting went on.

“It is therefore proper to commend the election committee for a good job. I know my Learned Brother Silk Chief Tawo as man of integrity, and he did not disappoint.

“As for the results, that of the President did not surprise me. Olu Akpata, truth be told, worked hardest and longest of all the contestants. And he rode the crest wave of the long lingering disenchantment of many – especially the vast horde of young lawyers – with the Bar status quo; an aspect of which is the bitterness some lawyers have for the institution of SAN and which was exacerbated by Otunba Awomolo’s rather unfortunate leaked letter to Chief Onomigbo Okpoko.

“Having said that, Olu proved with not only his top-tier firm and his stint in NBA-SBL that he possesses remarkable administrative capacity and vision. I congratulate him heartily as well as the winners of the other positions.

“I’m sure that if Olu works on the desk of NBA Presidency as hard as he campaigned for it then his tenure should be a refreshing and uplifting one for Nigerian lawyers. His cosmopolitan background and outlook should serve well in uniting a badly divided bar, including the seeming marginalization of the South West in the scheme of things. I’m sure he knows that a lot is expected of him, with the young lawyers especially investing fervent hope in his tenure for significant positive change in their professional fortunes.

“His task is enormous on many fronts, especially in leading the fight for the rule of law and enthronement of minimum standards in our administration of justice which are sadly lacking at the moment. The elections are over and we all remain friends at the Bar.

“I would urge all, especially his esteemed co-contestants and their supporters to rally round him to construct an NBA which works for all.

“Finally, the contest for the Assistant Secretary was such a closely fought one as to partake of an electoral thriller.”

Okoli had endorsed Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN in the run-up to the elections.

It is recalled that the Chairman of the Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN had on July 31, 2020 declared Akpata as winner of the NBA presidential election held on July 29 or 30, 2020.

According to the ECNBA Chairman, Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Mr. Dele Adesina SAN polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear.  Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with infractions. The election was held via ElectionBuddy, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

Though a total of 29,636 lawyers were accredited for the election, only 18,256 or 62 per cent of the voters succeeded in casting their ballots.

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