Mr. Adesina Ogunlana is the Chairman Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch otherwise known as the ‘Tiger Branch’.
The branch has been in the news in the recent time for its stand against what it termed as oppression, either from the Police or government.
These include human rights abuses by the police to Lagos State government tax regime.
casefileng.com Managing Editor, Olufunke Busari caught up with him and asked him questions that you will be eager to find answers to, especially on the Bar’s renew vigour for activism.
Please read on.
CASEFILE: The Branch you lead the ‘Tiger Branch’ has always been known for fighting for the Masses, but it got to a time it seems it was losing its voice. But recently I can see that that fighting spirit is reawakening. What informed this choice?
Ogunlana: Thank you very much. I should like to say that traditionally the ‘Tiger Branch’ is actually the Nigerian Bar Association – Ikeja Branch, also known as the ‘Tiger Bar or Tiger Branch,’ has always been dynamic but you will recall that there was a crisis in the immediate past, that lasted for a whole year. We had issues and we are not the only one. Abuja is still in crisis and I think Aba or somewhere Awka are still in crisis. But God helped us to pull out.
The preference of people happened to be me and the leadership of what we want is what we are giving them.
We are not doing anything new like you said, we are just trying to be dynamic, to be socially responsive to our people. Yes.
CASEFILE: You are one of the professionals that brought in this government with your “Lawyers For Change”
CASEFILE: But, why did you believe in that change?
Ogunlana: Why did I believe in the change? I believed in the change against the backdrop of Jonathan administration. That administration was not only bankrupt and bereft of ideas. It was not capable. In fact, it was not so much as people voting for Buhari but voting against Jonathan. We had no choice. If we should reverse the clock, I will still vote for Buhari. What informed? We expected not to continue in the failure of Jonathan. His Ministers were controlling him. A whole sorts of corruption going about. In fact, Book Haram had taken 17 local government in Borno State. You know and there was no hope, that’s what informed for our calling for change and the most viable figure as at that time is the Buhari/Osinbajo combination of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
CASEFILE: Assessing this government now, do you think the struggle is worth it?
Ogunlana: Yes, the struggle is worth it. They have not lived up to expectation but to the extent. I can’t rate this government worse than Jonathan. Even though, they’ve not lived up to expectation of what we expected. And I think two or three things caused this.
One thing is the personal limitation of the President. He being an old man and a sick man. When you are sick, doctors may attend to you, you may get the best of medical care but you are not like somebody who is healthy.
Then the personal limitation too I think goes to the issue of personal competence and I don’t think he is actually sincere in his fight of corruption as he should have been able to do. You understand.
His government is working in fit-and-start. Good today, very poorly tomorrow, jerky but I will rate it. For example, except for the Book Haram that is still trying to come up again. Generally, he has succeeded in the area of Boko Haram. He has succeeded in exposing the political class as a whole including his own party as a pack of thieves.
But all the stories about budget padding, we never had it under Jonathan or under Obasanjo, PDP years.
Though the magic of TSA, how it has blocked many routes for corruption, his government has done that too. Even exposing the rot in the judiciary. I mean for the first time, we have the situation where judges and senior advocates, those are the leaders of the Bench and the Bar are standing trial for corruption and having, facing the prospect of being sent to jail. All these are achievements.
But in economic terms, whether life has become easier for Nigerians, I would say no and under Jonathan, it looks as if its easier because those ones were stealing and borrowing money but this person try to be more straightforward but he is surrounded by crooks and he himself in my personal opinion cannot convince me like before that his integrity is intact. I don’t think he is stealing money personally but the political will to deal with people who are looting our economy is not too strong in him as we thought it would be.
CASEFILE: Inspite of so many court pronouncements that Dasuki and El Zakyzaky should be release. They are still in detention, what is your take on this?
Ogunlana: My take is this, that is one of the weaknesses of this government and it is an embarrassment to the legal community. Even though I’ve not followed the case of Dasuki very well, I think I was reading it last week, the Supreme Court was saying no its not the EFCC that is detaining you and all that.
But I don’t think the Federal government in particular can be said to score high in respecting court orders as pertaining to the liberty and freedom of certain class of people that I might call political offenders. It is not done well enough. I think this needs to be improved upon.
CASEFILE: What is your assessment of modern day activists. Do you think they have derailed from their cause of fighting for human rights or defending the rights of people?
Ogunlana: Well. The question is that who are the activists? What do we mean by activism? Before one can easily make a definition, but you know Nigeria as we grow everyday, we expand in scope, we expand in operation and all that. My own understanding about activist in the sense, you know there are social rights activists, there are environmental activists, there are even religious activists. You know, but I think there are some economic activists, people that are interested in consumers’ rights protection who are the likes of Sola Salako and likes.
People are doing activism against financial exploitation of the Nigerian people, consumercialism. These are activists too. But if you are talking about (coughs) political activists, there are still social media activists, all sorts of activists. There are people of activists ( phone rings) in the people are waging campaign for the promotion and enthronement of fundamental rights of people and for governments to be responsible and to be accountable to people. I would say that they are lacking in quality, they are lacking in quality. They are only few that Nigerian people and Masses can trust.
Activism should not be mistaken for rabble-rousing or what I call playing to the gallery, all that.
There are some people they now call money rights activists, that when they make a lot of noise to gain attention or to either get a political post or appointment or in their various professions being elevated and all that. It makes people to say they are fighting for their pockets.
But we can still see genuine activists. In fact, some of them are quiet and doing fundamental issues that keeps government on their toes.
Easily, I want to recall SERAP, you should know SERAP of Adetokunbo Muminu.
The Amnesty International, the local Branch trying to expose the ills of the police – extra judicial killings. But again, you have other bodies, some persons led by one one lawyer that has been disband now. What is his name now? Ki ni nkan? (something like), he used to campaign against women and child trafficking and one DPA, what is the name of that organisation, DPA (kini kan DPA) one Ogoye, later a lot of stories came out that he is a scammer. He collected money from them, trying to sleep with women. These are allegations. I have not said they are true but these are the kinds of allegations will make against that community of activists.
But as it is, you know in any large family, once a family becomes large, a congregation becomes large, the chances to have bad eggs and black legs are common. That’s my response.
CASEFILE: What else should we expect from the ‘Tiger Branch’ under your watch?
Ogunlana: I have only four months to go. We have two levels of responsibilities. One socially, one to the profession. So for the profession, we are engaging the judiciary, that’s why I announced there that we will launch, I think March 22 or 26 or something, our position paper, we call it ‘This Temple Must Work’, our observations and inputs on how to make the Lagos State Judiciary work better for the people.
Before, we are going to hold our Law Week and all that and then the one that is social level – outside of our profession is this one against burdensome tax regime in Lagos State, we will continue doing that.
By God’s willing, God sparing our lives, in June, I will be out of office and we pray the Branch will continue.
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