By Abdulrazaq Magaji
From the quantum of high and not-so-high endorsements he has received so far, it is almost certain that Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama is only waiting to be crowned the next president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, next month. Within the learned circle of lawyers, the reasoning is that if he could affect the legal profession so positively in his private capacity, Chief J-K Gadzama could be trusted to use the structures of the NBA to do more. The optimism is well-placed.
Arewa Lawyers Forum, ALF. When it took the decision last March, ALF said it was swayed Chief J-K Gadzama’s First to come was a critical endorsement from his base, the antecedents as a lawyer who has worked assiduously to push the frontier of the NBA and his efforts in improving the lot of NBA members. On June 14, the ALF sent a formal letter to that effect to regional NBA fora to notify them of the decision. Insiders say the endorsement flowed from the belief that, with NBA structure, Chief J-K Gadzama could do more for many more for an even greater number of young and not-so-young lawyers.
Similar reasons were cited in endorsing Chief J-K Gadzama by individuals and regional law bodies. Hear Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, eminent jurist, statesman, and founder/chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti: “ Of all the SAN’s around, none is better qualified to lead the NBA especially at this critical point in time than Chief J-K Gadzama. He has displayed the capacity and commitment to lead. Law is all he knows; he lives it and dreams it. Chief J-K Gadzama is committed to the profession and we trust his presidency will be the beginning of greater things within the NBA family.’’ Aare Babalola’s endorsement came hot in the heels of similar ones by individuals and regional lawyers fora.
Take Adegboyega Solomon Awomolo and Bandele Aiku, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria and like Aare Babalola, prominent members of Egbe Amofin Oodua, a major affiliate of the South West Lawyers Forum. Both legal luminaries were emphatic in their endorsement which they hinged on the belief that the NBA will provide Chief J-K Gadzama with necessary structures to do even more to advance the course of the profession.
At its recent meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun state, and the one preceding it in Ile Ife, Osun state, the South West Lawyers Forum literally rose in unison to pledge their support for the presidential bid of J-K Gadzama. The endorsement by the SWLF, though informal, was predicated on several innovations by the law firm of Chief J-K Gadzama to help lawyers, especially young ones, to hone their skills which several members from the zone say they have benefited from.
It is not for fun that the Otu Oka-Iwu of the South East Lawyers Forum, SELF, refers to J-K Gadzama as ‘friend and ally of Ndigbo’. He is so recognised for the opportunity he gave to numerous young lawyers of Igbo extraction who cut their teeth under his tutelage. Indeed, it takes a detribalized Nigerian in the mould of Chief J-K Gadzama to name an important mentorship programme after Justice Chukwudifu Oputa! Long before he was so recognised by Otu Oka-Owu, Ndigbo had, in 2003, honoured him as Okwulora of Ukpo for being ‘’an authentic and reliable mouthpiece of the people.’’
For the best part of the thirty years he has spent on the bar, Chief J-K Gadzama has carved a niche for himself as a lawyer who has committed himself to the development of the legal profession. With state-of-the-art facilities and a purpose-built moot court for lawyers to practice before they attend court sessions, his ultramodern head office in Abuja has some of the best infrastructure for law practice in Nigeria and compares favourably with some of the best law firms around the world. Little wonder Chief J-K Gadzama was last year listed among the top five hundred lawyers in the world.
J-K Gadzama LLP has one of the largest pool of lawyers in its employment: at present, there are fifty out of which forty are juniors. The firm regularly takes in dozens of youth corps members and, on an annual basis accepts a sizeable number of students from the Nigerian Law School on law office attachment. J-K Gadzama Annual Lectures, already in its ninth year is one big informal training ground for lawyers considering the wealth of ideas exchanged at the sessions. Equally important is the prestigious J-K Gadzama Award for best graduating student which he instituted at his alma mater, University of Maiduguri and the Nigerian law School.
Other innovations that endeared Chief J-K Gadzama to the heart of people within and outside the legal profession is the Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Mentorship Scheme, a quarterly training and mentorship programme coordinated by Dr. Tahir Mamman, immediate past director general of the Nigerian Law School and senior partner at J-K Gadzama LLP. The Justice Oputa mentorship training session, a quarterly training session aimed at honing the skills of young lawyers debuted last April. It is hardly surprising that these and more formed the basis for the endorsements that keep coming the way of Chief J-K Gadzama.
.Growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama followed the mind of his friends and wanted to pursue a career in the military. In fact, teachers and classmates from that era grew up believing it was a done deal that young Gadzama would one day end up as a General in the Nigerian Army. To friends from that that era, gaining admission into the Nigerian Military School, Zaria, in 1975 was like a dream come true.
But this was five years after a better-forgotten civil war. It was also the year of Nigeria’s third military coup, this time a bloodless one that brought late General Murtala Ramat Muhammad to power. But young Gadzama’s mother, like all loving mothers, would have none of this as she was not going to sign away another family member. The elder Gadzama was at the time a high-ranking police officer. His mother had her way
Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama has turned full circle. Today, he is a General of sort, being the deserving recipient of the prestigious Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, at age 37, one of the youngest to be so honoured in 1998. And like any battle-tested General, he is in full control of an equally battle-tested battalion of lawyers at his command post, the octopoid J-K Gadzama LLP in Garki11 district of Abuja. He holds two national awards: Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic, OFR, and Member of the order of the Federal Republic, MFR. He is the Sardauna of Uba in Borno state.
Born Tuesday, November 28, 1961 in Mubi, in present day Adamawa state, Chief J-K Gadzama hails from Lassa in Borno state. He was educated in Kaduna, Song and Maiduguri where he took a Second Class Upper division degree in law at the University of Maiduguri in 1985 emerging, in the process, as the best graduating student in Common Law. Chief J-K Gadzama was the first of the nearly 1700 lawyers in the 1986 class of the Nigerian Law School to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, in addition to being the pioneer Chairman of the class.
In 2006, Chief Gadzama took a post graduate diploma in International Commercial Arbitration from the Keble College of the Oxford University in the United Kingdom after which he was admitted into Lincoln’s Inn. In 2013 and, in recognition of his arbitration and dispute resolution skills, Chief J-K Gadzama was named as a member of a high-powered committee set up by the Federal Government to investigate and proffer solutions to the insurgency in north eastern Nigeria. Today, the Sardaunan Uba maintains law chambers in the United States of America and the United Kingdom where he practices law.
Outside his native Lassa, J-K Gadzama’s is a big voice in north eastern Nigeria where he regularly executes people-friendly projects. And the gesture is not lost on appreciating members of the communities who, in appreciation, have continued to recognise him. In December 2007, he was the sole recipient of the Southern Borno Community Merit Award for meritorious service to community and the fatherland.
J-K Gadzama has every reason to expect a positive outing next month. Over the years, he has proved to be one Nigerian who is passionate about the Nigerian project and continues to do his bit in its actualisation. And some of his suggestions to drive the Nigerian project, just as his antidote to the high cost of governance, are as revolutionary as they are realistic. First, he believes Nigeria must get it right through enthroning the ideals of free, fair and transparent elections.
Again, Chief J-K Gadzama believes the nation has no business with the needless religious and ethnic strife. Thirdly, corruption should have no place in the land as it shades competence. What is more, Chief J-K Gadzama believes the nation will achieve quality legislation at low cost if legislative duties and remunerations are on part-time basis or, as is the practice in some emerging democracies, for legislative seats to be reserved for professionals. This, Chief J-K Gadzama believes, will enrich the legislative process and deepen the nation’s democracy.
These and more are possible but it will take a proactive national leadership of the NBA to push them through. The success story of J-K Gadzama LLP attests to the fact that this, precisely, is the kind of leadership that J-K Gadzama will provide when he executes the presidency of the NBA. Besides, the NBA presidency will be a welcome feather to a colourful cap! The individuals and groups that endorsed J-K Gadzama cannot be wrong.
Nigerian lawyers cannot be wrong!
Magaji < firstname.lastname@example.org.> is based in Abuja, Nigeria