Now that Akpata feels betrayed
By Ishaya Babagana
Now the smokescreen is clear and like lawyers would say, the veil has been lifted. Mr. Akpata’s interview of July 27, 2022, was a momentous whirlwind which shattered the fluff to expose the hen’s cloaca. In an interview published by an online blog, titled “EXCLUSIVE: “It is a day of shame for the Legal Profession……We are hypocrites…”, Akpata had expressed his frustration at how those who had reached out to him who were present at the meeting of the Body of Benchers held on July 26, 2022, including those he had personally nominated to the BOB, failed to plug their own end of the tunnel by raising the issue of his controversial letter to Chief Olanipekun at the meeting. The palpable agony in Akpata’s voice is akin to that of Julius Caesar at the moment of his assassination, when he sighted his friend Marcus Junius Brutus as one of the assassins and he exclaimed: Et tu Brute (even you, Brutus). Akpata who defensively explained the reason for not being present at the first BOB’s meeting after his letter to Olanipekun mentioned that nobody raised the issue at the BOB’s meeting which according to him, he had attended remotely. He also mentioned that he refused to raise it because he has done his own duty. For many who hitherto entertained doubts about the mischief belied by the allegations and demands in his letter of July 22, 2022, which spread all over the social media, the interview is a potpourri of revelations. It is also a validation of the opinion of respondents that there is more to the controversy than meets the eyes.
One thing to be deciphered from the interview is that there is a wider spectrum of the grand scheme to be executed in phases and by different actors. So, Martins-Aikpokpo was to include in his petition against Ogunde, a prayer, asking for the LPDC’s direction to prosecute the Olanipekuns, then same is to be blown to the media on the morning of July 22, 2022. Once this is in the media with the screaming headlines all imputing allegations of misconduct against Olanipekun, Akpata was to write a letter on the same day to Chief Olanipekun, asking him to recuse himself from the chairmanship of the BOB. Submission of the letter was to be deferred till Monday, a day preceding the BOB meeting, so as to minimize the effect of any reaction or clarification by the victim of the letter, Chief Olanipekun. I know that the dilemmic conundrum showed up when the need to whip public sympathy and acceptance came into the conversation. The only way was to damn the implication and throw the letter open in the social media the same Friday- at least, the weekend would be enough for the social media to feast on the missive and the old man who may not even be on the social media, would not be able to react to what he has not been served with; then the grand finale, being Tuesday, July 27, 2022, those Akpata claimed had reached out to him in the BOB, were to fire the killer shot by moving the motion or in the worst case, pass a vote of no confidence, while Akpata would stay far away from the scene, since he has at least, concluded his own portion of the chores. I give it to Akpata and his team- they are very calculative and strategic, but I suspect that the ship could not berth safely when the people he claimed had reached out to him (assuming the claim is true), saw the mala fide behind the ploy and the fact that it was only Akpata playing a script all along. Invariably, the end goal was to ridicule the old man. At least that should serve as enough lesson for him and also operate to cut him to size. Then, it will present a laurel to Akpata for being bold and daring. Otherwise, how else would you describe the attack on an employer in such a big law firm for the wrongs done by one of the employees. The refrain is the fact that the culprit is a partner in Wole Olanipekun’s office. But even at this, nobody has cited any law in support of this novel practice where the sons eat the sour grapes and the teeth of the fathers are set on edge. Even those who referred to partnership law failed to appreciate the provision of the said law.
Since I will never allow my own emotions becloud my sense of logic, I am honestly unable to absolve Olanipekun’s firm for allowing a person with such indiscretion as Ogunde on its board. In fact, I feel this singular occurrence will serve as a lesson to law offices and the Nigerian formal sector as a whole, that it takes more than foreign certifications and technical capacity to mount critical positions in such large establishments. Cognitive ability and emotional quotient are very critical to leadership and Ogunde grossly fell short of this. Nevertheless, I make bold to challenge anyone to point me to a law which prescribes decapitation for this error.
Also worthy of observation from Akpata’s interview is his angst for the BOB’s secretary’s failure to list the subject of his letter in the agenda for the meeting of July 26, 2022. For context, and as seen in the acknowledged copy of the letter put in circulation in the social media by Akpata’s team sometime on July 26 (that is the second in the series), the letter was only submitted to the BOB’s secretariat at exactly 9:12 am on Monday, July 25, 2022. He then forwarded a copy of the same letter by email, copying all the Benchers at exactly 1: 59pm, ‘instructing’ the Secretary to include that in the meeting agenda for the following day. This is suggestive of certain unsavory administrative styles by Mr. Akpata. Would agenda for a meeting which has been scheduled since March, 2022, be set a day to the meeting? Does Mr. Akpata fix the agenda for his own NBA NEC which he chairs, a day to the meeting? By my understanding of the BOB arrangement, Akpata is only one Bencher out of the several Benchers. So, can he really issue directives to the Secretary of the BOB to fix an item on the agenda without the consent of the leadership of the Body? If all Benchers could instruct the Secretary on what to fix and not fix on the agenda, would the meeting, just like any other meeting not be rudderless and chaotic? Do agenda not come with notices of meetings? Akpata heads a commercial law firm and I assume that even though like some of us, he claims not to be a court goer, I presume that he is conversant with the CAMA which mandates that the notice of company meetings should contain the general nature of the business to be transacted in sufficient detail.
Now, the basis for Akpata’s vituperation remains unknown. The letter with which he entertained us on the social media on Friday, was addressed to Chief Olanipekun. The Body of Benchers as a corporate entity was not copied. Neither were the members copied individually in the manner written. Therefore, it is totally unfair on the part of Mr. Akpata to condemn his friends in the BOB, for failing to act on a letter that was not addressed to them. Meanwhile, he claimed to be remotely present at the meeting and we all know that there are facilities on virtual meeting platforms to react and speak at meetings. So, when Mr. Akpata saw that his friends were not going to strike the cat which he had belled some days earlier, I would have thought that he would muster the same kind of courage employed in writing and disseminating the letter, to at least, see through his project.
Recusal, as we know it, implies that a person is sitting in an adjudicatory position and is required to step down from that capacity for another person to sit over a trial. Every definition of “recuse” that I know reference a judge, judex, prosecutor, or juror. Was Akpata actually guided in the use of the word “recusal” or he simply just needed Olanipekun to vacate his seat as the chairman of the BOB? Since this whole thing began, the only thing that proponents of the “recusal” theory have peddled is the parroting of one of the twin pillars of natural justice: “nemo judex incausa sua”, meaning, “no man can be a judge in his own cause.” Like I have mentioned earlier, an application of this principle clearly presupposes two things, i.e., that there is a cause and that the owner of the cause, is a judge. Hence, it is not only legal, but also commonsensical that such owner of the cause who is also a judge, ought not to be allowed to sit as a judge over his own cause. As I write this piece, I am yet to be told of the cause pending against Wole Olanipekun before any committee or court in Nigeria. While Akpata has succeeded in misleading some innocent commentators about a synonymity between the LPDC and the Body of Benchers, neither Akpata nor his few supporters has/have been able to point to a single provision of the Act establishing the BOB, which grants the BOB or even its chairman, such power to interfere in the proceedings or decisions of the LPDC.
Like I read in one of the commentaries, Akpata’s theory could be likened to asking all judges to recuse themselves in every case involving the executive arm of government or the President/Governor, simply because the judiciary is an arm of the government or because the judge’s appointment was made by the President/Governor. It is true Akpata has never been pretentious about his disconnection with the litigation angle of legal practice; but then, Akpata remains a lawyer and the President of the Association of all the lawyers in Nigeria, at that. As such, he is expected to demonstrate at least, basic knowledge of some of these rudimentary principles which are by now, rules of the thumb to lay men. Like I later found out, the chairmanship tenure of the BOB lasts for just 1 calendar year, and Olanipekun had assumed office since March, 2022. This means that by March, 2023, his term would have expired and Justice Mary Peter-Odili would assume the seat. Even assuming that Olanipekun is the chairman of the LPDC, or that the BOB does in fact, control proceedings at the LPDC, it is highly unlikely that the petition against Ogunde (not even Olanipekun) will be heard any moment soon. I challenge anyone to dispute the fact that petitions which have been filed between an average of 2-3 years ago are yet to be heard by the LPDC. This implies that even assuming there is a personal case against Olanipekun himself, same is extremely unlikely to come up for hearing in the next one year. Or, since Akpata has insinuated that the LPDC is susceptible to external influences, does he intend to influence them to give this particular one a special attention and an accelerated hearing over other petitions pending before the LPDC, simply because he is convinced that Olanipekun is involved? This vendetta and personalization are just too nauseating.
While I may not be in the best position to counsel Olanipekun on what to do and not to do, I am of the strong opinion that if he “steps aside” “recuses himself” or act in any manner suggested by Akpata in his letter, the apex body of the legal profession (the BOB) will be setting a wrong precedent too dangerous to follow. Firstly, this will legitimize interference from the BOB to the LPDC, such that it will no longer be a product of Akpata’s imagery, but a reality in obvious scale; secondly, this will suggest that for every relation, friend, or associate of the chairman of the BOB who is charged before the LPDC, the chairman of the BOB must of necessity “step aside” or “recuse himself”; thirdly, it will also bolden subsequent politicization of the BOB leadership, where any NBA President, being a single member of the BOB, can stampede the leadership of the BOB on the basis of his abstract imagination, personal satisfaction or aggrandizement. I come in peace!