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Why J-K Gadzama is the right man to lead Nigerian lawyers at this point in time

By Manni Ochugboju on 23/07/2016

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The forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) elections present us the opportunity to elect our President by universal suffrage and electronic voting. It would be a radical break with the old dysfunctional, undemocratic, even dodgy, delegate or collegiate voting system whereby a handful of so-called representatives decide who emerges as the President of the Bar.

Universal suffrage presents us the mass majority of Nigerian lawyers a historic opportunity to seize the moment. It is our chance to shape and redefine the destiny of our beloved Bar in a democratised, equitable, efficient and modern institution far from the chokehold of a hegemonic cabal. And to elect an accomplished, innovative, consummate Bar-man to lead the NBA.

No other candidate in the Presidential race has a better pedigree on qualitative performance, proven record of integrity, national and international acceptability and the ability to transform innovative ideas into reality than Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN). Indeed, Gadzama’s quest to lead and progressively reform Africa’s largest Bar Association is an idea whose time has come.

I have known J-K Gadzama for 36 years, dating back to our formative years as teenagers. It was apparent, back then, he was not just a person of due humility, impeccable integrity, with a progressive vision, who dares to dream big, but he is also an activist who walks the talk. J-K (as he is fondly called) would be the first at the sports ground for training or competition, he would be the first to volunteer for Students Union activities, and the very first in class or the library, continually seeking proficiency in all he does. And looking at his glittering legal career thus far, he is a Learned Silk of many firsts.

J-K Dadzama sizzles with innovative ideas, energy, enthusiasm, organisational skills and a ceaseless quest for excellence. Speaking with a distinguished Senior Advocate at Trinity House, Mabushi, Abuja, on one occasion, he said of JK: “You don’t know him more than I do. J-K Gadzama works so hard. He is the most hardworking lawyer I know. Sometimes, I wonder where he gets all that energy from.”

I have lived and worked in London, United Kingdom, for 25 years. J-K Gadzama’s law firm and the state-of-the-art edifice it occupies is an epitome of a top-of-the-range international law practice. The office is a grandiose impressive pace-setter which will radically alter the legal landscape of Nigeria through improved quality assurance and service delivery. That is a classic example of an avant-garde innovative idea manifested in concrete reality.

From 2010, it is on record that J-K has over the years been canvassing tirelessly for professional integrity, efficiency, and equal opportunity at the Bar, including the promotion of a broader support for the role of law as an instrument of social change and sustainable development.

It is all well and good for some that, suddenly in 2016, “integrity and professionalism” has become their only mantra and call card. It is highly suspect when a man begins to trumpet to all and sundry that “I am holier than thou.” Would a tiger go around proclaiming its tigritude?

Equally instructive is that election seasons throw up an assortment of outlandish claims that are hardly verifiable. It becomes very perturbing, however, when such pedestrian regressive tactics are deployed in elections by professionals. While mainstream politics is fraught with the hauling of brickbats, election by professional associations ought to be devoid of such antics, and focused on the key objectives of an improved Bar governance and service delivery. Socrates, it was, that said: “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”

The principles of ethical conduct underpines every aspect of the legal profession. It seems like a sleight of the hand therefore when a candidate suddenly begins to peddle “integrity” as their only unique selling point. Can you honestly sell ice to Eskimos? To J-K, integrity is a given, as expected of all lawyers in good standing. It is not something he shouts from the roof-top. As has been authoritatively canvassed by Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), “J-K is scrupulously honest, a man of endearing integrity and a stickler for the best traditions of the Bar . . . J-K is a Bar man to the core.”

It is a matter of public record that in July 2010, J-K became the first person in the over 50 years history of the NBA to be refunded some money after auditors found that, as Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee (CPC), J-K contributed his own money to finance the Jos 2005 Conference.

While it is generally believed that some candidates are being propped up for positions, J-K tells anyone who cares to listen that his quest to run is altruistically and autonomously driven. Little wonder there is clarity of his vision for the NBA. In his words: “I see an NBA that provides exemplary leadership with integrity and courage. I envision an NBA that provides visionary leadership that upholds the rule of law, constitutionalism, democracy and good governance as well as commitment to the service of the Bar, the legal profession and the society at large. I share with you my vision for our beloved NBA. I see an NBA where every member shall stand and be counted with pride and candor. I envision an NBA that ranks amongst the foremost Bar Associations the world over.”

J-K has an uncommon graciousness to hold young lawyers by the hand and groom them to exalted positions. Always mindful of his very humble beginning from a remote village in Lassa, Borno State, his abiding passion is the quest to positively impact the careers of as many lawyers as possible. He is quick to tell those who are close to him that the NBA institutional chain is as strong as its weakest link. That having stood on the shoulders of giants to attain his current status, it would only be equitable to render an altruistic inclusive service, “by transforming the NBA into a vibrant, innovative and resourceful institution where everybody is somebody.”

The exceptional transformation of the J-K Gadzama LLP law office into a glittering practice is a microcosm of the type of radical change J-K aspires for the entire NBA. His firm’s continuing legal education programme is marvellous, not forgetting the Annual Lecture and sundry publications on seminal legal issues. As an accomplished arbitrator and Life Bencher, it is no surprise that the J-K Gadzama Court now houses a first class ADR Centre named after his beloved late wife. And consistent with his consuming passion for the well-being of young lawyers, is the recent launch of his popularly acclaimed mentoring programme for young lawyers named after the erudite jurist, late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa.

Without exaggeration, I can go on and on to elaborate on the truly superlative J-K Gadzama’s Manifesto for a radically transformed NBA. That includes a systemic programme to improve accountability, transparency in NBA’s financial dealings, revise and update the Rules of Professional Conduct 2007, reinforce the ethos of integrity, and professionalism. And to pursue a Welfare Support Programme aimed at providing access to facilities, jobs, minimum wage for young lawyers, loans, health insurance, life insurance, support for vulnerable groups like aged and disabled lawyers, and driving Affirmative Action for female lawyers.

As the saying goes, talk is cheap. Campaign promises do not automatically translate into performance. One critical rational guide to the probability of performance therefore is the antecedent of the aspirants. Nigerian lawyers are to choose between two outstanding Presidential aspirants. The word on the street is that “AB Mahmoud is good, but J-K is better.” JK acts over yap. He does not just talk the talk as others do, but walks the walk with a swagger. We look forward to a free and fair election on the 30/31 July, 2016, that is also free of any dubiously contrived electronic glitch.

The NBA Presidential election 2016 is a historic watershed. Though the pattern of selection of the leadership of the Bar, which seemed elitist, oligarchical and undemocratic has radically changed, the old decrepit order of politicking, peddling elitist and sectarian influence, defaming others, dictating to the rank and file who our leaders should be, has not changed. J-K Gadzama is a dynamic, popular alternative to the old order. Each and every Nigerian lawyer is a midwife, with a casting vote, to deliver an epochal bar – of integrity, resourcefulness and inclusivity

Ochugboju is an Abuja-based lawyer. Photo shows NBA Presidential Hopeful, Chief J-K Gadzama.

Source News Express

Posted 23/07/2016 1:09:31 PM





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