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Olumide Akpata Deserves The Support Of All Young Lawyers, and Indeed Every Nigerian lawyer — Caleb Agyoh Terzungwe

Recently, Kelechi Ibe released a short piece titled “Three Distinctive Attributes of Olumide Akpata That No Other Candidate Possesses”. That piece can be read here. I have read that piece several times over and I found Kelechi’s reasons for supporting Olumide Akpata to be very persuasive and compelling. However, I do not agree that Kelechi has done sufficient justice to Olumide Akpata’s person and candidacy.

Olumide Akpata deserves the support of all young lawyers, and indeed every Nigerian lawyer, in his quest to lead the Bar.

1. True Mentorship and Leadership: Dolly Parton said, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” This summarizes Olumide Akpata’s style. At age 23 he started building Templars with his elder cousin. Look where Templars is now. Admittedly, the election is not about his firm, but this fact is important to demonstrate Olumide Akpata’s excellent leadership and commitment to succeed. He has created a legacy that inspires others to dream more. He has empowered people to be more.

Around Olumide Akpata, you would easily find some of the youngest partners in law firms anywhere in Nigeria. These people, with absolutely no personal or family relationships with Mr. Akpata, grew and attained those heights in record time. There are two SANs at Templars and one of them grew at the firm from associate level to Senior Advocate of Nigeria with the right mentorship and leadership. If this doesn’t depict true mentorship and leadership, I don’t know what does. I do not know about any other candidate who comes with this history of growing others and creating a path for them to succeed without feeling threatened.

Juxtapose this with one of the candidates, whose firm has existed for about 30 years but has just two (2) partners, the candidate as Managing Partner and his son, as a partner. Is it the other candidate that has been a SAN for 13 years and hasn’t groomed anyone to becoming like him, or increased the number of partners at his firm? These are indicators of what true mentorship and leadership is and isn’t.
Consistent with his antecedent of supporting others and his understanding that as lawyers our knowledge determines our output and value, Olumide Akpata had sponsored 30 young lawyers selected on a competitive basis from different parts of the country to Lagos on an all-expense paid 2 weeks Legal Practice Preparation Course on new and emerging areas of law. My interaction with some of the beneficiaries indicate that those two weeks marked a watershed in their careers and have equipped them for a better future. Indeed, one of them, Ms. Ubong Onwioduokit (then of NBA Uyo Branch), confirmed that she secured a job in a renowned Lagos law firm about a month after this training and that the knowledge which she gained at the training clearly stood her apart from others who applied for, and interviewed for the role. That, for me, is a true testimony of how the supposedly little things that we do impact the lives of others and set them up for a better future.

For more on Mr. Akpata’s mentorship, read a story by Oyinkansola “Foza” Fawehinmi

2. Key Relationships and Contacts: If we are being honest, the NBA needs someone with the right relationships which can be brought to bear in achieving results. People say somethings cannot be done, but I think that one with the right relationships like Mr. Akpata can get things done seamlessly. While I cannot comment on the relationship bank of the other candidates, I am inclined to believe, and unless anyone else argues the contrary, that Mr. Akpata has more relationships outside the Bar that could be useful in making the Bar more beneficial to its members. Mr. Akpata has promised that should he become President, his leadership will set up a number of funds including an initial 100-million-naira healthcare fund, partner with hospitals across the country and deploy a workable health insurance scheme for lawyers. To achieve these, one needs to have the right relationships and contacts at one’s disposal to drive the conversation, create the required partnerships and raise the required funds. Akpata has the pedigree and resources to galvanize people and make this possible, and I have no doubt that he will do so.

3. Consistency and Innovation: Mr. Akpata is the most consistent and innovative of all the candidates, in his service to people and the Bar. The reforms he has championed are timeless and concrete. The SBL under his leadership became a key player in the economic development of Nigeria (as it should be). His team established a partnership with the National Assembly and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, with support from the UK Department for International Development (UK DFID), to create the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER) as a platform for the legislature and the private sector to engage, deliberate and take action on a framework for improving the Nigerian business environment. That partnership resulted in a comprehensive review of the institutional, regulatory, legislative and associated instruments affecting businesses in Nigeria. His team also brokered the collaboration with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council on the ease of doing business in Nigeria which involved the review of extant laws and regulations and the monitoring of the productivity and response time of Ministries, Departments and Agencies Notably, in his time, the SBL Inaugurated the Corporate Counsel Committee for inhouse counsel and set up a Task Force led by Mr. Ayuli Jemide to determine the scope of legal work that is statutorily prescribed to be the exclusive preserve of Nigerian lawyers and to work out modalities for enforcing such laws.

Notably, Mr. Akpata’s leadership of the SBL started organizing the three (3) months Finishing School for lawyers interested in corporate commercial law. He has planned that the Finishing School would now be operated by the Centre for Commercial Law Studies affiliated with the Lagos Business School, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS). He also promises that the NBA under his leadership will collaborate with the NIALS to deliver specialized trainings to lawyers across the country.

Olumide Akpata has contributed significantly to the profession, has gained the experience required to lead the Bar, and has demonstrated that results-oriented leadership is possible. I will conclude in the words of Chief Femi Okunnu SAN, CON that “It is time we allow the likes of the brilliant and energetic Olumide Akpata to take over the reins of leadership of our Association. We cannot wait any longer and the time for the shift is now”.



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