Kenneth Gbagi, minister of state for education in the Jonathan administration, says any attempt to subvert the election of Olumide Akpata as president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will be strongly resisted by the majority of lawyers who voted during the exercise.
Akpata emerged winner of the NBA election which ended on July 31, defeating two senior advocates of Nigeria (SAN).
Dele Adesina, a candidate in the election, had called for the cancellation of the poll alleging gross manipulation of the exercise.
In a statement on Sunday, Gbagi questioned the motive of those against Akpata’s emergence as NBA president.
“Any attempt to truncate Akpata’s election will be resisted and strongly opposed by the majority lawyers in the country,” he said.
“There are many things that need to be reformed in the NBA. For example, despite universal suffrage for all lawyers, it is sad that only lawyers who have held a position as chairman or secretary of their local branches can contest for NBA National offices or those who were co-opted to the NBA national executive council.
“Why are those complaining about the conduct of the last elections not championing such reforms which benefit the larger number of lawyers in Nigeria? These are the kinds of reforms we implore the incoming NBA exco to consider.
“Those who are calling for cancellation of the NBA elections are not being fair to the vast majority of lawyers who participated as voters and contestants, who are not complaining.
“I understand that out of the three presidential contestants, one won, one conceded victory and one is disgruntled. So, you can tell whether the majority is dissatisfied or not.
“While it is okay to advocate reforms and improvement, it is certainly not okay to call for cancellation of an exercise that has cost so many so much and widely accepted by the vast majority as reflective of their will.
“As for those persons hiding under the guise of clamouring for reforms today, where were they since the inception of the NBA? Why were they not bold to clamour for those reforms before now? Is Olumide a lawyer or not?”
Gbagi said Akpata, even though not a SAN, satisfied the constitutional requirements of the NBA to contest in the election.
“I have personally spoken to large groups of lawyers, and over 72 percent of them who are not SANs feel strongly concerned about the sentiment held by those in the minority, and consider same an insult, as though that office is meant for those who perceive themselves as being at the top of the coveted legal profession,” he said.
“The laws of the NBA are clear. We are looking to see any such document violated by the Olumide-led NBA and if there is none, my strong advice to fellow colleagues in the legal profession is that they sheathe their swords and support Olumide to succeed.
“I call on all SANs, most of whom are my acquaintances, friends and brothers to rally support for the Olumide-led NBA as no man will take a bulldozer to pull down his own house, no matter the issues therein.
“A great opportunity to show love to all lawyers within the legal profession has presented itself, and it must be used under the new leadership to bring discipline, purposefulness, and a rebirth of the NBA.”