THE OLU THAT I KNOW by Tobenna Erojikwe
There may be lawyers that are more compassionate and concerned about the lot of fellow lawyers, but, in my many years of practice across two jurisdictions, I have not met one like Olumide Akpata.
I had returned to the country after a 10 year sojourn and was working very hard to get my feet back on the ground in Nigeria, career wise, so, was spending a lot of time at my office at The Law Crest LLP. I had little time for activities other than work. Two things happened to change that. A request to help develop and implement a strategy for a new direction for the NBA Lagos Branch (my Branch) and an invitation by Olu Akpata to co-ordinate the Entertainment Law segment ( tagged an ‘Evening with RMD’) of the 2016 NBA/ SBL Conference.
The two events happened around the same time and Olu was deeply involved in both and was keen to see that we stepped up to the plate to make a difference. His passion and desire to see that our generation did not let itself down was infectious.
When our candidate emerged victorious at the NBA Lagos Branch elections and I expressed concern regarding whether I would have the time to play a part in the then EXCO of the Branch as well as Chair what was then known as the Continuing Legal Education and Mentorship Committee of our Branch, I remember Olu saying ‘“Tobenna, if those of us who believe in making positive change don’t find the time, then, change would never happen”.
When we had a conversation about the Secretariat of the NBA Lagos Branch, I recall Olu saying to us that “Seven or so of us can fund the move to a more befitting location for the Branch”. He did the maths and it made sense. He also supported that initiative to fruition.
Olu kept pushing for the meeting venue of the NBA Lagos Branch to move to a more befitting and comfortable location and eventually helped facilitate the move to City Hall, where the Branch currently holds its meetings.
After the CLE and Mentorship Committee of the NBA Lagos Branch successfully paired 120 young lawyer mentees with mentors across 4 continents, Olu set up a meeting with our Committee and the SBL to discuss a collaboration on mentorship. It was as a result of the meeting that the NBA / SBL agreed to collaborate with the NBA Lagos Branch in setting up a Law Firm Mentorship Initiative.
In the work that we do in the Continuing Professional Development Committee of our Branch, Olu has never been too far away. I recall his call to me 3 years ago offering about 40 slots to young lawyers in the Branch to participate in a Medical Law Conference that he part facilitated. I also recall him facilitating the sponsorship of a number of lawyers to the ‘Legally Engaged’ inaugural training session. When he got a report that some of the participants were not participating or attending on time, he would call to discuss the issue.
Olu convinced me to have a Knowledge Sharing Session in Medical Law because, in his view, an interest in such areas of law would expand the the scope of practice in Nigeria and create greater opportunity. He did not stop there, he introduced Laolu Osayin who eventually spoke at our Knowledge Sharing Session on Medical Law. He also did the same with Technology Law and introduced Basil Udotai. He has been consistent in supporting capacity building initiatives in the Bar.
I recall a conversation centered on providing the NBA, the SBL and NBA Lagos Branch free trainings with focus on creating benefit for those of our members who would struggle to afford free trainings. Olu implemented the idea at the SBL.
There are so many more instances to refer to but do permit me to stop so far.
As the NBA struggles to define itself for the future, it has become evident that issues like welfare of lawyers, better working conditions for lawyers and investment in human capital development for lawyers are more critical than ever. It would be correct, therefore to say that it is in the enlightened self interest of lawyers to elect a President with a well documented Public Spirit. It is for the reasons given above that I endorse Olumide Akpata for the Presidency of the NBA and ask that you join me in supporting and voting for a Transformational Servant Leader and the number 1 Change Agent.
Tobenna Erojikwe is currently serving a second term as the Chairman of the Continuing Professional Development Committee of the NBA Lagos Branch.