On the 16th of July just a few weeks from now, the members of the Nigerian Bar Association will elect the new members of the National executive committee that will pilot the affairs of the association until 2024.
The thing about this election is that whoever wins as President out of the three, the NBA for the third time in more than 16 years will be electing one of the oldest persons to lead the association. The euphoria of supporting a young person in an NBA election is absent from this election.
J.K Gadzama a top contender who became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria at 37; who also runs the biggest commercial Law Practice in Abuja with offices in London, South Florida, Dubai celebrated his 60th birthday a few months ago. He is just about two years older than Y.C Maikyau who turns 58 in a few months who is in turn just three years older than another top contender, Taidi Jonathan, a former Secretary General of the association who is the youngest at 55.
In 2018, Afam Osigwe now a Senior Advocate of Nigeria made an audacious bid to become the President of the NBA. He was in his mid-forties and he generated a frenzy among lawyers until he was disqualified on controversial reasons. In 2020 the current President at 48 made another audacious bid to become the President of the NBA and succeeded. His bid also generated an unprecedented excitement. His victory looked like a hostile takeover. In this election, no such frenzy is going on on grounds of the age of the contesters. In fact anyone that wins, the NBA for the third time in a long while will be electing one of its oldest leaders but something else will count which is working in favour of JK Gadzama especially among discerning young lawyers.
Olisa Agbakoba born in 1953 became the NBA President in 2006 at 53. In 2008 , Rotimi Akeredolu born in 1956 became the President of the NBA. He was 52. In 2010 J.B Daudu born in 1959 became President at 51. Okey Wali became the NBA President at 54 while Austin Alegeh born in 1964 emerged at 50 in 2014.
A.B Mahmoud became the President of the association at 61 while Paul Usoro a savvy corporate lawyer became the President at 60 in 2018 followed by the hostile takeover of Olumide Akpata in 2020 at the age of 48
In the absence of a “young” person in the race, lawyers especially the young ones are likely to gravitate towards any of the candidates that has a practice that relates to them. J.K Gadzama resonates in this aspect as his practice cuts across the kind of practice that appeal to many younger ones who are tired of the slow and stressful practice of litigation. Apart from that, J.K Gadzama has been providing practical mentorship programs for young lawyers over the years and the beneficiaries number in hundreds. These lawyers are spread all over the country and they now see themselves as alumni of the JK Gadzama mentorship. Perhaps apart from the fact that he is active in the professional association, this is the reason why his name is the most recognizable name of the three.
For the older lawyers, J.K is seen as a bold person who can speak to authorities in a country that has been bedeviled by insecurity and extreme poverty that also affect lawyers.
Y.C Maikyau is just about two years younger than Gadzama and seen as old school too. He is doing his best to gain momentum especially since only few lawyers started hearing about him at the time he showed interest to run few months ago.
Jonathan Taidi served as the Secretary General of the association just three years ago. That has given him a very good edge and puts him second in the race after Gadzama. He is popular among some quarters in the profession. One thing about Taidi is that he is running a stealth campaign the same way he did when he ran for secretary four years ago. Nobody gave him a chance until he won after defeating a former Chairman of Ilorin branch who was believed to be the only contender even with Taidi and one other person in the race. This is what gives Gadzama supporters sleepless night. Taidi’s quiet supporters.
Whoever wins, the NBA will not have a young person as President but that may change after two years when the presidency will go to the east. Already the body language of six people have shown their interest in the 2024 presidency with four of them (three males and one woman) in Lagos branch of the NBA, another in a branch in Anambra state and Afam Osigwe who made the audacious bid few years ago. Most of them will still be in their forties at the time.
The frenzy of the election hopefully will return by then for the two reasons why it exists. The presence of young contenders in the race and the presence of a candidate from Lagos. For now Lawyers await the 16th of July.