Lessons from Rome

- ONIKEPO BRAITHWAIT­E onikepo.braithwait­e@thisdayliv­

Last week, Jude Igbanoi, my Deputy Editor and I, attended the Internatio­nal Bar Associatio­n (IBA) 2018 Conference in Rome, which held from Sunday, October 7 – Friday, October 12. Registrati­on was online, but some people still registered at the venue. On Sunday, I arrived at the conference venue by taxi. The drop off point was manned by security, and they did so effortless­ly, ensuring that traffic was at a bare minimum. I walked down the stairs into the venue, went through security screening, and then up the escalator to the registrati­on area where conferees either registered, or simply collected their conference badges and materials. There were about 10 registrati­on points. You simply joined a short queue, provided photo identifica­tion at the counter, and collected your materials. Shi ke nan! The process was seamless. It took less than five minutes. No shouting, no rancour or rowdiness.

I didn’t bother to attend the 2018 Nigerian Bar Associatio­n (NBA) Conference, partly because of the hell that I encountere­d, in attempting to register and gain access into the 2017 conference. It was the first time, that I had attended an IBA Conference, and while I thought that there were many Nigerian Lawyers in attendance, I was told that we were not even as many in attendance this year, as we normally are; the only other country surpassing Nigeria in attendance, being the United States of America.

The first thought that crossed my mind was that, since so many of us attend these internatio­nal conference­s annually, why is it that when we are called upon to organise our own NBA Conference, the event turns out to be just a little better than a disaster; we make a big mess of things, making the event nightmaris­h for attendees. Yet, we have been exposed to conference­s like the IBA. A friend of mine keeps saying that, we blacks seem to be incapable of organising and governing effectivel­y! I wonder whether there is any truth to his assertion, or whether the problem is just that, we find it difficult to focus and prepare adequately.

There was food laid out at different serving points, all day – breakfast, lunch and light refreshmen­ts for in between meals. Though I must confess that, I didn’t care too much for the lunch because it was predominan­tly vegetarian, and I could have done with some meat balls and beef lasagne, the other meals were satisfacto­ry. People were able to eat something throughout, so there was less of a run on the service points, at any given time.

Let us not just attend such events for decoration, and not learn or gain anything from them. We should take a leaf out of the book of the IBA Organisers, even ask questions, so that we can emulate and replicate their successes. Over to you, NBA 2019 Conference Planning Committee!

Babatunde Fashola, SAN

The conference is not only a melting pot for Nigerian Lawyers, it is an excellent arena for internatio­nal networking. A Learned Senior Advocate even confided in me that, he was able to conclude a matter with his brother Silk at the conference, something he had been unable to achieve at home.

I ran into the Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN. I guess he is still very much an active part of his primary constituen­cy, the legal profession. Even though there is still much work to be done with regard to power supply in Nigeria, I had to encourage the Learned Silk and congratula­te him, because the power supply in my area of residence, has been extremely steady in the past one year, to the extent that my generator is lying there unused, not even connected. I have been able to live comfortabl­y, without a generator or an inverter, for almost one and a half years. However, we are eager to see this feat, performed throughout the country, so that Nigerians can enjoy a better quality of life.

Europe: A Land flowing with Milk and Honey?

For those of us who believe that Europe is a land flowing with milk and honey, and the streets are paved with gold, and therefore, have only one main aspiration in life, to ‘check- out’ by any means possible, and migrate to greener pastures in Europe, even endangerin­g our lives (and in some cases, losing it), making that perilous journey to Italy or wherever, Europe is definitely not paradise, though I concede to the fact that, it is certainly more orderly than a place like Nigeria. On this trip, all the ‘white collar’ Africans whom I encountere­d, were those who came from their countries and the UK, for the IBA Conference. A few Africans who we saw outside the conference, were doing semi-menial ‘blue and pink collar’ jobs.

In my hotel, I did not see one single Black/ African staff, not manning the reception, working in the restaurant, or even working as chambermai­d. I therefore wondered, what types of jobs are available to Africans who insist on migrating illegally to places like Italy, apart from prostituti­on and slavery.

There were several hotels not too far from the La Nuvola Conference Centre, which were selected for conferees to lodge in. They were all four star hotels. When I checked into mine, from my hotel room window, I couldn’t help but notice the view opposite us – a series of garbage dumpsters which were overflowin­g, because they had not been emptied. Of course, it was not in epidemic proportion­s like Lagos, where the garbage is simply littered all over the ground, and left there indefinite­ly, to stink and pollute. Garbage that could not fit into the dumpsters, were placed in big polythene refuse bags, which were laid alongside the dumpsters. I thought that, maybe it was because it was a weekend. However, when the dumpsters remained like that till I left on Thursday, I figured that the same company that is in charge of refuse collection in Lagos, must also be in charge of it in Rome!

Thank God we left Rome on Thursday, a day before the closing ceremony of the conference. On Friday, public transporta­tion workers in Rome, embarked on a 24-hour strike. It affected buses, trams, metro (like the London undergroun­d train service) and light rail services - unlike Nigeria, where strikes can go on for any length of time, this one lasted a day, but would definitely have affected those conferees who depended on the metro and buses, to get around. For instance, when we went on the Vatican tour earlier in the week, we made use of the metro, since it was the quickest way for us to get there, as it was across town.

Adeola Austin Oyinlade

Funny enough, one of the most notable people I met at the conference, was a Nigerian - a young man called Adeola Oyinlade. He is only about 37 years old. It seems that, his father, who was the breadwinne­r of their family, died when he was doing his School Certificat­e examinatio­ns. I didn’t ask him whether, this was the reason why he didn’t further his education immediatel­y after School Certificat­e - maybe due to a lack of finances. His radio talent was however, discovered, and he made his name as a radio presenter. After about six years doing radio, Adeola gained admission and studied law at the University of Lagos. He is a Human Rights Activist/Internatio­nal Law Expert/Pro bono Lawyer.

Adeola educated Bisi Soyebo, SAN and I, about some of the things he does, like purchasing huge numbers of copies of the 1999 Constituti­on, and going from door to door distributi­ng them and educating people about their rights. He has won many awards, the latest being the IBA’s 2018 Award for Outstandin­g Contributi­on by a Legal Practition­er to Human Rights. He is the second African to win the award. Congratula­tions Adeola.

My point? Yes, there is suffering in Nigeria, but suffering exists everywhere. We must stop looking for what we perceive to be the easy way out, like illegal migration to greener pastures. I laugh when I hear some Pentecosta­l Pastors misleading their congregati­ons, praying for example, in Yoruba, for annointing “Ki a sise bi era, ki a jere bi erin” (we should work like ants, and reap like elephants)! Magic! Teaching people to be lazy. ‘Au contraire’, let us work hard, make a difference, make our country proud, and put our country in the spotlight for positive great achievemen­ts, like Adeola, instead of for prostituti­on in Italy, electoral malpractic­e and corruption.

The Return: Murtala Muhammed Internatio­nal Airport, Lagos

When will the Nigerian Government realise that, first impression­s are important? Remember I told you last year, how the airport was leaking during the rainy season, and how the plastic containers meant for placing laptops and other items going through security screening, were used as receptacle­s for rain water? This time, on arrival in Lagos early Sunday morning, still tired from the flight, we passengers were ‘rejuvenate­d’ with the horrible stench that permeated the airport. It was as if, decayed corpses had been


littered all over the airport, including inside the air conditione­r vents. There was also a feeling of dampness, that encompasse­d the environmen­t. I was even more ashamed, because there were some Europeans walking directly in front of me. I wondered, what was going through their minds. Probably that, Nigerians are a bunch of rich, filthy ‘Apas’ (wastrels), with fairly low standards. Very sad indeed.

The old terminal at Kotoka Internatio­nal Airport, Accra, Ghana, sparkles, the toilets - clean. I stopped myself from imagining what the toilets in our airport would be like, since I was rushing home for a sumptuous Nigerian breakfast, having not eaten Nigerian food in two weeks. I didn’t want any disgusting thoughts, to ruin my appetite! Again, just like Nigerians go to IBA Conference­s annually, we visit Accra even more regularly.

This time, we do not have to travel to Europe, to take a leaf out of the IBA book; Ghana, is just round the corner!

 ??  ?? Front L-R: Onikepo Animashaun, Folashade Alli, Behind L-R: Onikepo Braithwait­e, Editor, THISDAY Lawyer and Precilla Oditah, at the opening ceremony of the IBA Conference 2018
Front L-R: Onikepo Animashaun, Folashade Alli, Behind L-R: Onikepo Braithwait­e, Editor, THISDAY Lawyer and Precilla Oditah, at the opening ceremony of the IBA Conference 2018
 ??  ?? Adeola Oyinlade receiving his IBA Award
Adeola Oyinlade receiving his IBA Award
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