NBA Conference: Of nation building, Tinubu’s speech and matters arising

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At the just concluded conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja where about 20,000 legal practitioners converged, issues bordering on nation building among other topics came to the fore. KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

The crux

Successive administrators at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have always pledged to leverage on the legacy built by their predecessors. Against the backdrop, it was not surprising therefore to see the body setting an agenda for successive political leaders in the country while still maintaining its etiquette and sense of professionalism.

Shortly before the 2023 general elections, the current President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, once reminded lawyers in the country to be conscious of the strategic place they occupy in the nurturing of the nation’s democracy.

According to the NBA helmsman, lawyers he said would be playing a critical role during and after 2023 elections.

Maikyau said, “I feel constrained to remind us of our place as members of the legal profession and the critical role we play in nation building. We must reawaken our primary responsibilities to our nation, the people, and our clients.

“Our nation is going through challenging times, and there is no other body more equipped to bring it back on the path of recovery, reformation, and repositioning than the body of legal professionals.

“Lawyers have all it takes to rebuild Nigeria, operate with that mindset, knowing that we have very important roles to play in determining the outcomes of the elections; either as voters or as counsel.

His predecessor and the immediate past President of the body, Olumide Akpata once said: “Our association is very dear to us, so I was just calling lawyers to watch out for what I consider the conspiracy to dim the power of the NBA.

The NBA is one of the foremost professional organisations ’ in Nigeria and I think we must be careful. We must protect what we have achieved.

“This organisation not only superintends over the affairs of lawyers, but has interjected into the affairs of the nation. As lawyers, we have the mandate of the people to defend them, enforce the rule of law, to speak for them and to ensure that this country is run on the basis of our constitution and not on the wings and caprices of anybody.

Before him, a former NBA President, Paul Usoro, had also reiterated the need for the body to work with the government, saying it would not only help to stamp out corruption, but that the partnership will also enhance better lives for the citizenry.

Usoro said, “We would also continue to support the government in its efforts to better the lives of our citizens and stamp out corruption in all its facets.

“The NBA would in the succeeding days, “unfurl the concrete steps that the NBA would take, in a non-partisan manner, to contribute to the success of the2019 elections.”

The annual ritual

At its 62nd conference last year, leading presidential candidates like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was represented by Kashim Shettima his then running mate, were invited and they spoke on how to make the Nigerian economy viable.

With the theme ‘Bold Transitions’, the candidates at the ceremony, took turns in offering solutions to the economic instability plaguing Nigeria.

Speaking at the conference, Obi insisted that the “only way” to stabilise the naira is for the Nigerian economy to “move from consumption to production.”

He also harped on the need for Nigeria to manufacture and export to earn dollars to stabilise the Naira.

In his own submission, Tinubu described diversification of sources of country’s income as the only panacea to grow the economy.

“Ours is a great nation in chains. Chained by ineptitude, chained by corruption and chained by incapacity,” he said.

On his part, Atiku pointed out that in order to stabilise the economy, multiple exchange rates must be “abolished, while the “convergence of official and unofficial rates” be allowed.

The President speech

But prior to the gathering of about 20,000 lawyers who thronged the nation’s capital for the conference, Maikyau, SAN, had at a pre-conference press briefing at the NBA house in Abuja reminded members that as lawyers, they have the responsibility of charting the course of the country’s development.

“The responsibility of nation-building is on us. The country is a creation of the law,” he said.

Maikyau who heads the largest Bar in the continent of Africa added: “Outside the rule of law, we cannot have economic growth.”

Speaking on the theme of the conference, “Getting it Right: Charting the Course for Nigeria’s Nation-Building,” President Tinubu at the ceremony told the gathering that hard decisions must be made to set the country on a growth trajectory, saying meaningful reforms usually bring initial pain.

Some hours after he delivered the speech, it received more kudos than knocks among Nigerians.

One of the people that applauded it was Daniel Bwala, an aide to the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar, who reacted to the speech, declaring that the president gave an impressive speech.

Bwala who expressed himself via X said: “Greetings my people. This is our week of the Annual General Conference of the NBA. PBAT gave an impressive speech yesterday where he said to the effect that ‘If I do well please praise me, and if I don’t do well, please criticize me to do well.”

In the speech, the president stated further: “Prosperity will only occur once poverty is banished.

“Can we continue to service external debts with 90% of our revenue? It is a path to destruction. It is not sustainable. We must make the very difficult changes that are necessary for our country to get up from slumber and be respected among the great nations of the world.”

“We cannot have the country we desire without the reforms we have initiated. It is painful at the beginning, in the short and medium term, but we must do what we have to do to take this nation to its great destiny.

“It is not about you and it is not about me. It is about our generations yet unborn, for whom we must bequeath a great and prosperous country.

“You are learned. I want to learn. Why are we so blessed and we are still lacking? We must have a change of attitude and a change of our mindset. We accuse our nation and its previous leaders.

“We complain a lot about the past. Is that the solution? No! Let us look forward and be determined! God has given us what we need.

“We must work hard with determination to make our country great and it begins with you who are seated here with me,” the President exclaimed.

“Yes, it is a shame not to have adequate electricity for the mass majority of homes in Nigeria and to power our industries. How can we address poverty without electricity?

“We can take many people out of poverty with an uninterrupted electricity supply. Poverty is not acceptable, and we must banish it,” President Tinubu noted further.

While making his own remarks, Maikyau expressed the confidence of the NBA in the ability of President Bola Tinubu to deliver good governance to Nigeria because of his pedigree and past track record of excellent performance in Lagos State, where he was the governor between 1999-2007.

He said, “President Tinubu got it right in Lagos, and it is our considered expectation that as President of Nigeria, you will not only replicate your achievements in Lagos but surpass them for our country.”