Lessons from Rome
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
“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”
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!