‘The Nigerian Bar Association President Has Lost Credibility’
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has brought utter shame and dishonour to the Noble legal profession and his prestigious office by his impulsive reaction to the arrogant behaviour of a bigoted female aspirant to the Bar who flouted the Rule by wearing hijab to the Call to Bar ceremony.
This is an NBA President whose voice has not been heard on critical national issues; an NBA President that has not been able to react swiftly and efficiently to reported cases of harassment of Nigerian lawyers by the Nigeria Police; an NBA President that is yet to publicly respond to the expulsion of Kayode Bello by the authorities of the Nigerian Law School (NLS) on account of protest against the school over sundry issues.
A. B. Mahmoud SAN is just another example that we are in trouble in this country. He conveniently cited the admission of his daughter into the New York Bar with her hijab on but was not sincere enough to inform his audience that there is a wall of difference between the American Legal System and the Nigerian Legal System in all material respects.
First, wigs and gowns are not part of the American system. Lawyers over there do not wear wigs and gowns like we do here, in Nigeria. Therefore, the issue of his daughter wearing hijab does not arise. It is Non Sequitur.
Second, the United States of America has a totally different mode of admission into their Bar. The American system is decentralised. That is, each State has its own Bar with differing criteria and procedure for admission. The NBA President stated that his daughter was admitted into the New York Bar, not American Bar per se. In the State of New York, Call to Bar is done in a simplistic manner devoid of drama and officialdom. It is a very ‘stressless’ exercise with no stric official dress code.
The opposite is the case in Nigeria. Here, we have a centralised system of admission into the Bar. None of the 36 States in Nigeria have a Bar of its own. We only have one Nigerian Bar. We do not even have a Northern nor Southern Bar here. We do not have a Muslim nor Christian Bar. We have only one secular Nigerian Bar. Our Call to Bar ceremony is more or less a spiritual, ritualistic, official and corporate exercise with a very strict dress code. Here, you cannot just wear any suit that looks like black. It must be black and not just black but solemn black.
Hijab is not ordinarily permissible during our call to Bar. If you must wear one, ALL YOUR FACIAL FEATURES MUST BE EXPOSED FOR SIGHTING.The deviant lady in question from photos circulated on the internet had her ears covered. Even if the court were to rule that female aspirants to the Bar have the right to wear hijab, this lady will still fail because the manner in which she wore her’s was offensive and unlawful. No right is absolute. Period.
Third, the NBA President should be bold enough to tell us the actual motivation for his sudden, eccentric and rather divisive activism. If he wants to reform the dress code for the Call to Bar and the Bar generally, let him come out plain and say so rather than stocking religious tension in the Nigerian Bar with his untenable utterances. He promised us a Brave New Bar. Today, we can all see that there is neither brevity nor newness in the A. B. Mahmoud-led NBA. If he wants the legal profession to abolish wig and gown, he should say so unambiguously.
I believe that the NBA President has lost credibility to lead the Bar with his annoying, polarizing and misconceived tweets in favour of the hijab wearing aspirant to the Bar. Nobody, no lawyer, will be intimidated by the personal opinion of the NBA President. I do not know when the National Executive Committee of the NBA sat to take a position on this matter.
Lastly, if Mr. Mahmoud SAN wanted us to know that he has a daughter who studied abroad, well, we have heard him. We are not surprised. He is one of the elites who do not have faith in our educational system.