The conduct of elections into national offices of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is just a few days away. Fate beckons on Nigerian lawyers to elect a President that can solve the myriad of problems currently bedevilling lawyers, the legal profession and the larger legal society. As lawyers, during electioneering periods, we are accustomed to presidential candidates choking us with marvellous promises of el dorado. In the past, these candidates usually seek for power, without the necessary vision and template to effectively impact on the legal community. When they eventually win and attain power, the status quo is maintained, vested interests are protected, the usual wheeling-dealing is perpetuated for personal and class gains. At that point, reality dawns on the Nigerian lawyer that things haven’t changed.
This time, never again! Fortunately, the much awaited change has come!
A “CAN-DO” AND AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT
A simple observation of the life and career of Olumide Akpata gives a clear indication that the Bar is finally gifted a rare opportunity to set itself up for glory. The antecedents of Olumide Akpata in the astronomic growth of his co-owned law firm, Templars, from the 1990’s till this day, is an apparent testament to his “can-do” and excellent spirit. He, alongside his partners, charted new paths for their law firm, delving into hitherto unrecognized areas of law, and trail-blazing in the process. Templars is one of the foremost law firms in Nigeria and the African continent. In partnership with some foreign law firms, Olu Akpata’s Templars was recently involved in the legal aspect of the syndicate-funding for the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) Train-7 expansion project.
He also brought this spirit of excellence to bear when he was appointed into the NBA Section on Business Law (SBL), where on different occasions; he served as Secretary, Vice Chairman and later as Chairman. He, as a team player, was able to push interested lawyers towards the direction of seeing law, not only as a profession but as a business. He continually echoes the words of my principal, Dafe Akpedeye (SAN), that: “as a legal practitioner, it is not enough to just know the law, you also need to know the business of the law.”
Olumide Akpata is equipped with the necessary mental and practical tools to expand the horizon of the practice and business of law in Nigeria. Contrary to the view that Nigeria has too many lawyers, the problem is actually the fact that the legal profession is currently stereotyped and restricted in practice areas, which unfortunately is a relic of our heritage. That has to change. Opportunities abound for expansion. There has to be an enlargement of the income frontiers for Nigerian lawyers. There are many aspects of the practice of law that are money-spinners. A few discerning lawyers are already making a fortune from these areas. Olumide Akpata, as NBA President, will use the NBA platform to institutionalize these new aspects, for the overall interest of lawyers, all over the nation.
LOVER OF SPORTS
It is a known fact that Olumide Akpata is a lover and promoter of sports. During the period I was a member, and later Secretary of the NBA Warri Branch Sports Committee (2012-2018), Olu Akpata consistently sponsored the NBA Warri Branch Football Team to the football competitions of the NBA Annual General Conference (AGC). His sponsorship covered hotel accommodations and monetary contributions to the Branch team. He also sponsored the football team in the 2019 AGC football competition. There are many innovations that an Olu Akpata’s Presidency will bring to the AGC Sports Competitions. Other than football and golf, he intends to introduce various categories of sports to make the AGC more exciting, entertaining and all-inclusive.
Sometime ago, a member of my Branch, (name withheld) was down with an ailment and needed surgery abroad. I referred him to Olumide Akpata, who magnanimously contributed the sum of N2,000,000.00 (Two Million Naira) towards his treatment. There are many instances of his philanthropy which time, space and the need for confidentiality may not permit mentioning.
Olumide Akpata is a rare breed, he fits the bill as the driver for the much-needed paradigm shift that the Bar greatly and urgently needs, at this point of its existence, if the legal profession is to regain its long lost glory. He is currently the best and most equipped candidate for NBA President. My branch, the NBA Warri, at its general meeting of 24th of May, 2020, unanimously endorsed him as its sole candidate for the position of President. I urge you all to vote for him in the forthcoming elections. Thank you and God bless.
JOHN EMUOBONUVIE ARUOTURE is the immediate past Secretary of NBA Warri Branch, and the Managing Partner of Garnet & Hawthorns Solicitors, a Warri-based law firm.