SWITZERLAND, AUGUST 3 – A wind of change is blowing across one of the oldest and most noble professions in Nigeria. A few days ago, history was made in the annals of law practice in Nigeria when a dynamic practitioner not anointed by the establishment, emerged the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella body for all practicing lawyers in country. This new development, analysts believe, has set the pace for an awakening
Olumide Akpata won the NBA election, becoming the first non-holder of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN) title to lead the association in three decades, despite facing off with much senior colleagues, and a history that had served to keep godfathers of the profession at the helm.
In the July 29 election, a total of 18,256 lawyers voted electronically nationwide, according to the Electoral Committee of the NBA. According to the ECNBA, Akpata polled 9,891 votes to defeat Dr Babatunde Ajibade (SAN) and Mr Dele Adesina (SAN) who scored 4,328 and 3,982 votes respectively.
Today’s Echo gathers that one of the factors in Akpata’s emergence was the desire of young lawyers for much needed reforms in the Nigerian law practice. For years, the NBA election has served to keep a conservative elite in leadership at the bar. While these erudite tycoons have brought prestige to the profession over the years, they have neglected pressing issues including the welfare of young lawyers and increasingly poor renumeration of lawyers at the lower rung of the ladder. Many people began to believe that to succeed in the profession, you have to belong to the right click.
A source told Today’s Echo that there is an unwritten rule that the NBA president must at least be a SAN and the precedent has been maintained for a long time he could remember.
“Olumide did not belong to the caucus favoured by the establishment. He was not a SAN, but he had the support of many of the forgotten members of the bar, who yearn for a change in the status-quo” he said.
The notion that Akpata was a dark horse is underscored by the revelation that Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, a SAN and one of the NBA godfathers wrote a letter to another SAN, advocating that the NBA should remain the exclusive preserve of SAN holders.
Another factor which may have played a significant role in his emergence is the use of electronic voting, which was introduced in 2016. While not perfect yet, the electronic voting system enables lawyers who might not have the resources or time to travel to wherever the NBA convention was taking place, to vote from the comfort of their homes or offices.
However, beyond all the above factors, Olumide’s vibrant, dynamic campaign, contributed in no small means to his emergence. Today’s Echo gathers that the charismatic litigation tycoon leveraged on the momentum of young lawyers who are savvy with social media to campaign, garnering several votes from that demography. Several lawyers were said to have stayed up all night, campaigning for him across social media channels.
Moreover, his antecedents as a gifted and charismatic legal practitioner has inspired confidence in his ability to steer the rudders of the association to the next level.
The Senior Partner and Head of the Corporate & Commercial Practice Group, Templars Law firm, Olumide Akpata is known as the witty, suave maverick, who has build almost three decades of successful law practice with expertise in Mergers & Acquisitions; Capital Markets; Corporate Law; Labour & Employment; Immigration; Telecommunications, Media, Entertainment and Technology; and Regulatory Compliance.
Born in 1972, Olumide Akpata had his 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, He was called to the Nigerian Bar in December, 1993, at the young age of 21.
Akpata’s almost 27-year journey in the law practice began with a stint in Warri under Dr. Mudiaga Odje, SAN, one of the most seasoned Litigators of his time, and under whom he learnt the rudiments of litigation and court room advocacy.
In 1996, he set up Templars law firm in Lagos, in partnership with his cousin, Oghogho Akpata. Together, they have built a world class, multi-sectoral law firm, reputable as the advisor in monumental corporate and governmental deals, including the Access Bank-Diamond Bank merger; Azura Power West Africa Limited’s financing of US$1 billion greenfield 459MW independent power plant in Edo State, General Electric’s strategic acquisition that heralded its oil and gas operations in Nigeria ;and the restructuring and unbundling of the now defunct state-owned power monopoly, National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).
Akpata’s emergence has underscored the fact that leadership of the bar is not the exclusive preserve of the privileged few, that young lawyers can also aspire to be at the top.