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Akpata: Why He Floored His Seniors In NBA Presidency



Olumide Akpata

By Joseph Onyekwere
Many factors contributed to the emergence of Mr. Olumide Akpata, erstwhile chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), as President of the association.

One of such factors is the adoption of a new constitution in 2015, which abrogated the delegate system and introduced the universal suffrage. Under the former system, only selected delegates from branches were eligible to vote.

According to a former president, Austine Alegeh (SAN), who spearheaded the amendment of the constitution to introduce the online voting system, the delegate system was prone to a lot of manipulations and disenfranchisement of young lawyers, who are actually in the majority.

With the introduction of universal suffrage, all lawyers who pay their Bar practicing fees and branch dues are qualified to vote.

The entry of Akpata, considered young and pragmatic, into the race brought a lot of euphorias, as many lawyers, especially the young ones, saw him as someone they could easily relate with, more so, they were inspired by his message of transformation and inclusion.

When Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) watched the frenzy of Akpata’s campaign, he wrote to his colleague and former president, Chief Joseph Thompson Okpoko (SAN), urging him to intervene to ensure that a non-SAN did not win the contest.

Somehow, the letter leaked and went viral. Instead of achieving the desired purpose, it incensed the young lawyers, who reasoned that their seniors want to dominate them perpetually.

Added to this was Akpata’s campaign message of “an inclusive Bar” that works for all, which was akin to the kind of euphoria that greeted the emergence of Barack Obama in 2009 when he contested for the presidency of America.

Many voters, especially the junior lawyers, believe Akpata is better positioned to place the profession for the competitive global marketplace of the 21st Century, which would be marked by new paradigms of legal work and deployment of new and potentially disruptive technologies.

They believed he would improve on their welfare, as he pledged, considering that his firm is one of those that pays living wages for lawyers and he shows passion for the training of young lawyers.

In addition, the NBA presidency is rotated according to the former three regions of the North, West and East, which, this time, was zoned to the West. Akpata is from Edo State, which is considered part of the zone, while his two other opponents are from the core Yoruba states of the zone.

When none of the two senior advocates agreed to step down for the other, the umbrella body of Yoruba lawyers, known as Egbe Amofin, under the leadership of some prominent lawyers, adopted Adesina as a consensus candidate, a development that did not go down well with Ajibade and his supporters, who dismissed the adoption and continued with his campaign.

The consequence of lack of common ground was that their votes were split.

Although the margin of votes between Akpata and the two is wide, some pundits believed the race would have been fiercer and the pendulum could have swung in a different direction had the contest ended up being between one core Yoruba lawyer against Akpata.

This year’s elections into NBA national offices opened at 11 pm on Wednesday (July 29) with a total of 29,635 accredited voters and ended at 11 pm on Thursday (July 30). A total of 18,256 ballots were cast.

Other elected officers for the various offices include John Aikpokpo-Martins as First Vice President, with a total of 6,010 votes; Adeyemo Kazeem as Second Vice President, with 8,794 votes; Joyce Oduah as General Secretary, with 8, 979 votes, while Uchenna Nwadialo polled 7,314 votes to emerge Assistant General Secretary.

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Mercy Agada was elected Treasurer unopposed; Nnamdi Anagor, Financial Secretary (unopposed); Olukunle Edun as Welfare Secretary, with 9,001 votes; Rapulu Nduka as Publicity Secretary, with 11,964 votes, while Naza Afam polled 6,490 votes to emerge Assistant Publicity Secretary.

Akpata, who would lead the NBA in the next two years, has expressed appreciation to members for electing him, promising that the association would record transformation during his administration.

He stated: “The victory is for our young lawyers who have become disillusioned with the way the NBA had been run over the years and how the profession appears to be disconnected from the challenges that face them and their future.

“It is for the progressive senior lawyer who refused to accept the status quo and took firm steps to ensure that things were done better.

“It is for the corporate counsel, law officers, law teachers, the Police and military lawyers, and lawyers in all components of the profession, who for long, have been treated as unequal members of an association that ought to be the umbrella body for all legal practitioners.

“The victory is for the lawyer with a disability, who has long suffered neglect and indignity by the profession.

“Above all, our victory is for non-lawyers and the general populace, who took an unusual, but a special interest in the conduct of our elections, thus lending credence to my long-held belief that the Nigerian society has always yearned for a legal profession and indeed a Bar that stands tall as an unwavering bastion of the rule of law, an advocate for the sanctity and independence of the judiciary and a bulwark against tyranny and oppression.”

He said the outpouring of support is only indicative of the amount of work that needs to be done, adding that the greatest appreciation is to keep to the various promises he made, “and this, I assure you that I would do.”

In the spirit of sportsmanship, Ajibade has accepted the outcome and called Akpata to congratulate him, saying: “As a co-contestant, I am proud of the level of the debate and the quality of the ideas that were brought forth for the improvement of our association, welfare of its members and the good of our society.

“It is unfortunate that the process leading up to and during the election itself has, once again, not been devoid of controversy. It is my fervent hope that we will get over these repeated challenges with conducting objectively free and fair elections into the leadership positions in the association.”

He urged the incoming executive to strive to unite the NBA, thanking his supporters and noting that although he didn’t get the result he wanted, the experience was rewarding and fulfilling.

Adesina was yet to accept defeat. In fact, a few hours before the end of the election, he called for the suspension of the process in a petition he sent to the chairman of the electoral committee, citing breaches to the rules.

Similarly, the National Coordinator of his support group, Mr. Adesina Adegbite, called for the cancellation of the election while the process was underway, saying it had brought another bad testament to the legal profession in the country.

Born on October 7, 1972, Akpata had an early education in Warri, Delta State and thereafter attended King’s College, Lagos, from where he proceeded to study Law at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), graduating in 1992 and was called to the Nigerian Bar on December 15, 1993.

He did his national service in Kano State and subsequently joined the firm of Dr. Mudiaga Odje and Co. in Warri, where he learned under the late sage, Dr. Mudiaga Odje (SAN).

In 1996, he relocated to Lagos and teamed up with his cousin, Oghogho Akpata, who had just set up the law firm, Templars, the previous year, building and sustaining a world-class, multi-sectoral and full-service Law firm made up over 100 fee-earners, including two SANs.



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