As we prepare to elect our national executives, one thing every lawyer should bear in mind is that there is a big difference between the leader we WANT and the leader we NEED. For any country or group of persons to progress, they must be focused on the need of all, not the want of one. The NBA is no different. Even God operates by this rule.
When God needed someone who could rescue Israel from Egypt, he chose the man who had shown passion for his people by killing an Egyptian soldier who was molesting an Israelite. He chose Moses who grew up in the palace and was used to authority and power. He chose Moses who had the temper that fuelled courage. God ignored the murder and the anger, and saw the passion and courage. These were the qualities a man needed to stand up to Pharaoh – forget his stammering.
When Israel was being oppressed by a Philistine giant called Goliath, God knew that no Israeli soldier, no matter how skilled, had fought anything bigger than himself in size, courage will fail them when they face Goliath. So God went into the bush and brought a boy named David. Why? Because David, as a child, had killed a lion and a bear much bigger than him in size. Goliath will be familiar territory for David. So regardless of the fact he wasn’t a soldier, and was still a child, he alone had the NEEDED qualities to get Israel through Goliath. So God chose David. Funny thing was, when David got to the battle field, it was his brothers who rejected him because he wasn’t what they WANTED. Thank God the king was wiser. Forget his love for women, what was needed was David’s fearlessness, fighting skill and experience.
Fast forward to when David died – the kingdom was threatening to break apart as a result of the chaos in David’s house. God brought up Solomon. David was a man of war, Solomon was a man of wisdom. To keep the nation together was the immediate challenge. A man of war was not what they needed. If Israelites were left to choose, they would choose the same old kind of warring king. But God knew better. Solomon never fought a battle. Some will call him weak. But he prospered Israel more than any king in their history and held them together. All because his strength was not in his armour, but in his head.
I could go on and on, but let me bring it home. The NBA is an embarrassment as it is today. The NBA only exists in name and in practice fees. We all yearn for a Bar that will be relevant to us and make us proud to be members of it. We want an NBA that is visionary, that promotes our image with integrity and passion, we want an NBA that will unapologetically speak truth to power and cater to the needs of ALL it’s members, not just those of a few. We are at a point where we all agree on what we want from the Bar, but getting this will require us knowing who we NEED. We need to shelve the desire to just get who we want. It’s about the good of all.
So first the leader we need must be a person of unblemished integrity, else the FG will take us for a ride by just exposing one dirty linen. We need a leader who is courageous and bold, a person who will stand tall and proud in defending our image. We need an astute administrator, a person with skill in managing public office and getting people to do what is needed; We need a passionate achiever, a reformer, and a visionary leader.
We must identify this one from amongst the rest regardless of whether we personally like them and regardless of who we want. The person with these qualities is who we NEED.
Just like God looked back at David’s past to show us why he was chosen, so also must we look at the “past” of these aspirants to see who possesses these needed qualities.
Learned friends, I give you Teacher, Prof. Ernest Maduabuchi Ojukwu.
This is the man who has held public offices, managed public funds, administered people from diverse backgrounds all his life, and each time delivering resounding success. This is a man whose courage and fearlessness in speaking the truth as it is and doing what was necessary to get a job done has been confused by a few as arrogance. This is a man whose passion to set the Bar straight is unmatched in our time. A man who has been at the heart of the success stories of every NBA administration since 1998 (except when on sabbatical 2014 – 2016). This is a man who, devoid of financial support from the Bar, has organised and conducted clinical legal education trainings and competitions, within and outside Nigeria, consistently for 13years without us ever hearing one story of misappropriation of foreign donor funds.
A man of integrity and guts in every sense of the word. The cabal say he is uncontrollable because cabals always want a puppet in power. He Founded the Eastern Bar Forum, steered them through the stormy tides of the delegate election era, and yet was bold enough to look them in the face and say “we are now in the era of universal suffrage and the presidency is zoned to us. Let everyone be allowed to contest, and let every lawyer be allowed to vote as is their right. I will not participate in any adoption process if you go on with it”. Now the fear of the EBF cabal is that, having gone to war against the man who founded the EBF, they face the danger of becoming obsolete when he wins. What is wrong in saying every aspirant from the East should be allowed to contest as is their right? It beats me.
Some say because he went into the academia he shouldn’t lead. And I say, is it not those who never went into the academia who have been leading us and led us into the mess we are in today? What they will not tell you is that this man practised for 15yrs before leaving to head the Law School at the age of 40, and was the longest serving DDG having served with excellence for more than 12yrs. They will not also tell you that he returned to practice in 2013, went into partnership with two of his former corpers (one Yoruba, one Hausa), and was made SAN barely a year after.
Whether you hate him or love him does not matter now. What matters is that the Bar NEEDS his qualities to take us off this murky waters. When he has taken us off the deep, we will consider persons with other qualities to ensure we never go back in.
Let us vote Ernest Ojukwu to get us out of this embarrassment. Let us SET A NEW BAR FOR A RELEVANT NBA.