Today, I came across the website for registration to attend this year’s NBA conference. The prices for registration are dependent on the particular category that a prospective attendee falls in, and therein lay the problem: As usual in the legal profession, the categories are based on years of call to the bar as well as rank, however; politicians now have a special category for themselves, and are required to pay the highest amount of all to attend the conference.
In order to be able to visualize the wrongness in this very carefully, let’s take a look at the prices. New wigs with less than 5 years of post-call experience are expected to 8,000 to register; less than 10 years; 15,000; up to lawyers with above 20 years, who are to pay 50,000. Judicial officers pay either 50,000 or 75,000 depending on rank while Senior Advocates are required to pay 100,000. On the other end of the spectrum, politicians (Governors, Legislators and Political appointees) must pay 250,000 to attend the conference.
Since ministers have not yet been appointed and it is unlikely they will be appointed before the conference begins later this month, the political appointees tag can only apply to special advisers and heads of various government parastatals and both the federal and state levels. Apart from the absurdity inherent in the fact that this regime of prices means that a lawyer fresh out of law school who has been given one appointment or the other will suddenly have to pay more than twice the amount being paid by a SAN in order to attend the conference, it also shows that while the masses in Nigeria are continually groaning under the prodigious weight being exerted by the cost of running our grossly bloated governments, a prestigious organization like the NBA is only out to capitalize on that and siphon as much as possible into its own coffers.
The first response might be to say that ceteris paribus, political appointees will be very rich people that can easily afford the amount being required of them, however, we should not blind our eyes to the fact that ceteris paribus, the wealth that political appointees amass is illicit and as a result of corrupt practices, even apart from earning salaries that are inflated out of proportion ab initio. Various calls have been made in recent times for a drastic reduction in the salaries and allowances being paid to legislators and political appointees, and a reasonable man’s expectation would be that an organization like the NBA would be at the forefront of such movements, considering that our profession is built on foundations of such noble ideals as justice, morality and equity. However, since the NBA itself is making active efforts to profit from the status quo, it is obvious that the common man on the street should not expect any help from that quarters in the struggle for a better life.
We have a problem with our expectations from political officers in Nigeria. Instead of good governance and the proper utilization of the nation’s resources for the benefit of all, we instead expect them to launch magazines and books with millions of naira; give out motorcycles and grinding machines; sink boreholes or as in the case of the NBA, buy tickets for inflated prices, all ostensibly from their “personal money.” While all these things are not bad in and of themselves, we need to keep the fact in mind that all the funds used will be taken back out of the national treasury in one way or the other. Also, taking these things makes it impossible for us to speak out when there are issues we ought to challenge the government about. My people have a saying: “enu ti o ba ti je dodo ko le so ododo,” in today’s terms, it would translate to mean – the mouth that has eaten plantain chips can no longer speak the truth.