HONOURING THE PAST, CELEBRATING THE PRESENT AND PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
I am delighted the Nigerian Bar Association, Gwagwalada Branch (the Eagle Branch), invited me as a keynote speaker at its 10th anniversary.
Interestingly, NBA Bwari (the Cradle Bar), turns 10 this year.
Another interesting divine coincidence, both branches chose the same theme for the celebration. Against this back drop, my paper will address them jointly.
I am in fact enthused that the Branch invited to play this role as I was the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch (Unity Bar) when the Branches were chartered (created).
Indeed, I was the last person to hold office as Chairman of NBA for the whole Federal Capital Territory, Abuja before the charter of Bwari and Gwagwalada Branches.
By consent of the Chairmen of Bwari and Gwagwalada Branches of the NBA, I became the first Chairman of Chairmen of NBA Branches in the FCT, in 2012.
I am therefore very grateful to the Chairman and other members of Executive Committee of the Branch for marking the 10th anniversary as it calls to our mind the importance of finding an ideal balance between honouring the past and celebrating the present, as well as acknowledging past problems, hardships etc and looking forward to (optimistically) brighter days.
There is of course no right answer to the question.
HONOURING THE PAST
It was Soren Kierkegaard who said that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” This celebration today is an attempt by the Eagle Branch to understand its existence by looking backwards.
The past, obviously, is the history of the branch. It is the story of how the Branch came to be, where it is coming from, its travails, its setbacks, its triumphs and celebrations. Some of the issues that may have shaped the history of the branch may not always be pleasant. Some may indeed have been traumatic, yet the branch has every reason to celebrate.
When we honour our past as well as those who contributed to it, we are ensuring that “the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain”. “Honouring” in this context therefore means to “regard with great respect”.
Thus, the Branches recognize that from its early days, it has grown into the branch it is, now.
The tenacity and sacrifices of Chief S.M Attah and Dawud(D.A) Sulayman), Elder Ibeh and Mazi Okoroigwe, who were then the Chairman and Secretary, respectively of the then Gwagwalada Lawyers’ Forum and Bwari Lawyers’ Forum, in no small measure led to the charter of this Branches.
They will always enjoy a pride of place in the story of these Branches. Indeed, the story of the Braches, will never be complete without them.
I have singled them out for special commendation not because they worked alone but because they provided the leadership that birthed the branches.
The Branches have since then survived near-crisis situations like the first election which produced its pioneer Chairman, John (JET) Amokaha and a crisis situation which produced its second Chairman, Abdulwahab Muhammad. Same for NBA Bwari(Ibeh to Nafagah exchange of leadership.)
Despite these and some other events, the Branches have maintained a solid course and recorded huge successes and milestones.
CELEBRATING THE PRESENT
At every point after the Branch faced some difficult or traumatic situation it appeared to apply the wisdom that “you cannot move forward if you are staring in the rearview mirror”. It has indeed never allowed any reason to stop it from celebrating the present.
While not suggesting that we must forget the past, it simply means that the past is gone. Though we may have lessons to learn from our past, we have more reasons to celebrate the present. The past should not be an excuse not to celebrate or move forward, nor should it be a restraint. The past has happened and cannot be undone.
According to Dr. Luke Iorio, “Decisions and actions that have already occurred are gone. Finished. Never to be experienced again. We can revel in the glow of our achievements or wallow in our perceived misgivings, but they are now, for all intent and purposes, simply a memory. Essentially, nothing ever truly happens “in the future.” Our deeds and actions only occur in the present”.
We must therefore revel in the glow of its achievements. Still in infancy, the branchproduced a National Officer of the NBA, AliyuIsah Abubakar (Assistant Publicity Secretary, 2014-2016), Dorcas Ngwu (Bwari Branch) within its first two years of existence.
These Branches have also taken a pride of place among the branches of NBA. They have recorded so many achievements not yet recorded by older branches. It is one of the branches to be reckoned with. Its continuing legal education series is among the best.
I will leave the Chairman of the branches to dwell more on the specific achievements of the branch which call for celebration.
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
Many of us are content to do the same thing over and over again whether or not we get the desired result. Yet some of us are afraid moving out of our comfort zone.
Many persons are contented to leave things where they are. If conceivably, they fail and become unsuccessful, they blame it on evil persons or malevolent forces. Of course, it is not their fault. It must have come from their village or their enemies.According to John C. Maxwell, unsuccessful persons are burdened by learning, and prefer to walk down familiar paths. He further stated that their distaste for learning stunts their growth and limits their influence. These persons do not plan, they live for the day, they do not improve themselves, they have a disdain for advice, are sometimes set in their ways, spend all they earn, hate exploring new opportunities or venturing into uncharted territories.
To prepare for the future, you must dream creatively of what you want to achieve, what you want to do, what you want to be and where you want to be.
According to Norman Vincent Peale, the use of the word ‘dream’ “is not the reference to those shadowy images that flicker through our minds when we are asleep. No, dreams I’m writing about are the indistinct hopes, the far-off visions, the first faint stirrings of the imagination that comes when we are in the earliest stages of planning something worthwhile”.
Continuing, he stated that “there’s a wonderful thing about such dreams. In some uncanny way that no one fully understands they seem to contain the seeds of their own fulfilment. If you dream something long enough and hard enough, a door seems to open and through that door come mighty forces that will guide and support you in your efforts to make the dream come through”.
To prepare for the future, we must identify our goals (dreams) and make plans on how to achieve these dreams. We must not overlook opportunities. As William Shakespeare, said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”.
It is reported that the founder of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid, was once asked about the future of his country and he replied, “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I ride a Mercedes, my son rides a Land Rover, and my grandson is going to ride a Land Rover…but my great-grandson is going to have to ride a camel again.” Why is that, he was asked?
And his reply was, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create easy times.
Easy times create weak men, weak men create difficult times. Many will not understand it, but you have to raise warriors, not parasites.“
A similar quote to “tough times create strong men, strong men create easy times” can be found in the 2016 post-apocalyptic novel “Those Who Remain”, by G. Michael Hopf. The quote reads: “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men and weak men create hard times.”
It is a historical reality that all great empires, the Persians, the Trojans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and in later years, the British all rose and perished within 240 years. They were not conquered by external enemies; they rotted from within. A good example of how a system will rot within can be illustrated with water intrusion which can ruin a house. Sometimes, water seepage arising from poor plumbing or faulty construction can allow water to seep into a home. Mold will began to develop, almost from day one. It will impossible to see immediately, but it is there. Building experts, blame the problems on rushed work, poor workmanship, under-trained workers, low-quality materials, and little to no oversight by the construction company management.
Therefore in trying to avoid, going back to riding a camel and ensuring that water intrusion does not damage our home, we have to plough everything we have and more into planning and development. I will therefore suggest these tips on to prepare for the future:
Taking a considerate look at the way our framing of history impacts our outlook on our Association and efforts we make today, is an important task, which we hopefully steer us in the right direction. We may hate the idea of preparing for the future, but we should realize that making strategic plan allows a Associationto plan for the future. Let us therefore make sure that expectations are reasonable; no matter how well intended, if they are unreasonable, expectations will not be met. We must also work towards realizing these expectations.