Distinguished Senior Advocates, Elders of our great Branch, Learned Seniors and Honourable Colleagues, 

On this day in 1993, the masses of Nigeria jettisoned ethnicity, religion, and bigotry in all forms to elect Basorun M.K.O. Abiola and Alh. Babagana Kingibe as President and Vice President, respectively, in what has now become the benchmark for true democratic elections in Nigeria. The election was then internationally adjudged our best effort towards democratisation and civil rule; it was adjudged locally and internationally as free, fair, and credible. The powers that be did not allow the wishes of the masses to prevail. The mandate freely given was scuttled by the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and civil society rose in defence of the mandate. The rest as they say is now history with the supreme sacrifice paid by the holder of the mandate and a host of other patriots and martyrs. Chief among those who bore the brunt of the repressive military jackboots were Lawyers and Human Rights Activists who were locked up in several grim detention facilities all over the country. Some paid with their lives while others carry the scars of that dark epoch of our national life with them till date, suffering different health issues as a result of the harrowing and traumatic experiences they were served or encountered. The roll call of the Lawyers at the receiving end include Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Mr. Aka Basorun, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, Mr. Femi Falana, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, Mr. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Mr. Nurudeen Ogbara to mention a few. They used the NADECO, CLO, CDHR, etc to fight for the restoration of the June 12 mandate and return of the country to civil rule.

Gentlemen, let us always remember that the democracy and civil rule we are enjoying now is not free. It came at a huge price. The democratic tree which is blossoming in our land today was nursed and watered by the flesh and blood of certain patriots and martyrs. 

This democracy day celebration calls for sober reflections and rededication. It would be recalled that certain patriots fought hard to have this day recognised and declared as the true democracy day instead of May 29 which is handing over the day. That wish is now in the realm of reality.

As lawyers, we need to commit ourselves to entrenching the ideals and ethos of democracy in our society and Nigeria as a whole. This charge was made decades ago by the first Nigerian lawyer, Mr. Christopher Sapara Williams, who said and I quote: "A lawyer lives for the direction of the people and the advancement of the cause of society."

Gentlemen, let us reflect on this and redirect our thoughts and actions towards ensuring that in no way do our advice to Clients or our actions or utterances in private or public undermine the efforts of our heroes past or our march to full democratisation and true federalism. It is heartwarming that it appears lessons have been learnt and implemented at different levels. Our Branch elections of last week followed after the standard set in the June 12, 1993 election. It was free, fair, and credible. The Presidential primary elections of the two leading national political parties in Nigeria (PDP and APC) held recently also appear to have passed the litmus test. The main issue had to do with delegates' vote-buying and dollarisation of the primaries by both parties which was unfortunate. 

However, while a lot appears to have been done, a lot more needs to be done to engender trust and confidence in the democratic process. A situation where the CBN Governor, a custodian of sensitive election materials of the INEC for national elections, is a member of a political party (the ruling APC) or where a partisan nominee (Ms. Henrietta Onochie) was shortlisted for appointment as a national commissioner of INEC raises suspicion and grounds of bias by opposition parties. The government of the day ought to do a lot more for credible elections and douse tension in the land and not unnecessarily heat up the polity. Everyone charged with the conduct of elections ought, like Ceaser's wife, to be above board; and this includes governments at all levels. 

May the labour of our heroes' past not be in vain. Amen!

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria! 

I.K.Thany, Esq.


NBA Ikorodu Branch.

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