Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN (hereinafter respectfully referred to as (“YC” or “Maikyau”) can be best described as a man of tripartite identity. Firstly, YC is a Citizen of Nigeria by birth; secondly, a Lawyer to All Progressives Congress (APC) by right; and thirdly, the 36th President of the Nigerian Bar Association by choice.
1.1. Maikyau as a Nigerian Citizen
According to Wikipedia, Maikyau was born on 6th February, 1965 in Kebbi State of Nigeria. The circumstances of Maikyau’s birth earned him the first identity and rights as a citizen of Nigeria under section 25(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). As a citizen of Nigeria, Mr. Maikyau is entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information as enshrined in Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
1.2. Maikyau as APC Lawyer
Maikyau is a legal practitioner and founder of Y. C. Maikyau & Co. In his capacity as a private legal practitioner, Maikyau has represented the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its members in a number of cases. Maikyau’s last noticeable Court appearance for the APC was at the Supreme Court on the 13th day of January, 2023 in Appeal No. SC/CV/1453/2022: ALIYU V. NAMADI & 2 ORS (2023-LCER-48013-SC).
Y.C. MAIKYAU, SAN & Y.A.H. RUBA, SAN appeared With T.R. AGBANYI, ESQ and LABIRU AHMED, ESQ. for the APC (2nd Respondent/Cross Appellant).
1.3. Maikyau as the President of NBA:
Maikyau is the 36th President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). He was announced the winner of the election conducted on July 16, 2022 after securing a total of 22,342 votes to defeat his opponents – Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN and Taidi Gunu, who polled 10,842 votes and 380 votes respectively.
2. MAIKYAU’S PUBLIC OUTING & IDENTITY CONFLICT:
2.1. Appearance at the National Collation Centre:
During the collation of 2023 Presidential Election results, Maikyau was conspicuously sighted at the National Collation Centre and was one of the few individuals that were publicly recognized by the INEC Chairman – Prof. Yakubu Mahmood.
Maikyau’s appearance at the National Collation Centre without other national officers of the NBA during collation of the presidential results could have been presumed, to be either in his 1st identity as a citizen of Nigeria or in his 2nd identity as Counsel to APC. Sadly, Prof. Yakubu in a twist identified Maikyau as the NBA President.
2.2. Interview with Channels TV
A good turn they said deserves another. Maikyau was quick to reciprocate the kind gesture by INEC Chairman. He publicly commended INEC on Channel Television during an interview on Saturday, March 4, 2023 for the conduct of 2023 Presidential Elections. In Maikyau’s words:
“There were challenges, definitely. There were some infractions, some of them actually constituted electoral offences but on the whole, I will score INEC as having performed maybe about 78, 80 percent in the delivery of these elections.”
Maikyau’s failure to tell Nigerians the capacity under which he scored INEC 78% – 80% generated a heated debate within and outside NBA. Many lawyers publicly distanced themselves from the comment and wondered why Maikyau could come out to “commend an election that was allegedly marred with voters’ suppression, results manipulation and rigging.” Some called for Maikyau to clarify if he spoke for himself or for the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC). Former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu wrote on his Twitter handle thus:
“The president of @NigBarAssoc, @YCMaikyauSAN, says he wld score @inecnigeria ‘about 78-80% in the delivery of these elections.’ I’m sure he will tell u to #GoToCourt if u disagree. But it’s still important for u to know what he thinks & to ask him whom he speaks for: The bar?”
Maikyau’s 27 paragraphs statement dated 14th March, 2023 with the caption: “STATEMENT OF THE NBA PRESIDENT, YAKUBU CHONOKO MAIKYAU, OON, SAN, ON THE PRESIDENTIAL AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS HELD ON 25 FEBRUARY 2023, SAN,” arguably, did further harm than the intended damage repair. Maikyau alluded in paragraph 2 of the statement “…that the NBA has no candidate in this election and … has no affiliation with any political party either directly or indirectly and so is not sympathetic towards any political party.” The statement was adjudged incorrect, perhaps in view of Maikyau’s appearance for APC few days before the Presidential Election.
2.3. Maikyau’s Letter to President Tinubu
After President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Democracy Day speech, Maikyau was said to have written to the President. The letter reads in parts, thus:
“Your Excellency had earlier in your address today observed that the unnecessary illegal orders used to truncate or abridge democracy will no longer be tolerated. l at all times vehemently oppose any attempt by any person or group of persons to truncate or in any way abridge our democracy, it is important to note that the determination of what constitutes “illegal orders” still remains a matter within the exclusive preserve of the courts of law.
“Nevertheless, change must be accelerated to keep up with the expectations of Nigerians, particularly those of the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Such change must be thoughtfully planned and carefully managed. We are confident that under your able leadership, Nigeria will be able to respond effectively to these various challenges.”
The letter too did not go unnoticed and without criticisms. While the use of “l at all times” in the letter had at least exonerated the NBA, the visible conflict is whether the letter was written in Maikyau’s 1st identity as a concerned citizen of Nigeria or as a legal opinion in his 2nd identity as APC lawyer. To many, NBA was not involved.
2.3 Maikyau’s Response to President Tinubu’s Address at NBA AGC
President Tinubu declared the 67th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association opened in Abuja on Sunday, 27th August, 2023. In his response to the President’s keynotes address, the Guardian (online) newspaper under the caption “NBA Conference: Odinkalu accuses Maikyau of being partisan for inviting Tinubu” quoted Maikyau to have made the following comments:
“President Tinubu got it right in Lagos, and it is our considered expectation that as president of Nigeria, you will not only replicate your achievements in Lagos, but surpass them for our country.”
The praise singing “you will not only replicate your achievements in Lagos, but surpass them for our country” has elicited a lot of derogatory comments against Maikyau and NBA as a whole on Peoples Gazette’s verified X (formerly Twitter) handle @GazettedNGR, some of the comments are reproduced below:
“Even the NBA has lost faith in the judiciary, they’re not waiting for the court to pass judgment at least. Or have they agreed on the outcome?” Obong Of Sankwala @jaro_davids
“It seems the current NBA president is a confirmed APC member! Is this a supposed statement from a body of constitution? Naija!!” Osereme Christian Omofoma @Omofoma
“You won’t like Nigeria if he did that. This is what the NBA has become under this current leadership; romanticising with politicians. During the days of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, NBA is always on the side of the people and the rule of law, not an arm of the govt.” Olasupo Jakes- Bsc (Hons), RPN @JakesOlasupo
“No wonder lawyers are been paid 30k monthly in Nigeria. No one respects them.” Mgbadike 1 Of Enugu @MaziGomez
“Picture: What do you do except when you have Yakubu Maikyau as NBA Chairman? Yakubu Maikyau is the lawyer to Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, a former governor of Kebbi State … “ Omo Iya Teacher @ajaGunSEgun
“NBA has completely lost it. Just like ASUU, ….” OfuokwuAnthony @ChukwumaOliver2
“We are taking note Mr NBA, we understand your not qualified to be in that office and that’s why you’re disgusting and disgracing the whole Nigeria lawyers including my sister.” Vivianelly09 @Vivianpascha
“That NBA Man has been mobilized obviously. Nigeria is almost finished except we the youths act fast.” Uncle Joe @JosephG41626254
“The current NBA chairman of Nigeria has made those in the law field as useless as the Nigerian police in the eyes of the Nigerians and the world.” The Big Heart @OkpotakoFestus
I have carefully undertaken the detour to drive home the impact of Maikyau’s tripartite identity and its obvious mismanagement on the image of NBA and all lawyers in Nigeria. Many believe that even the present internal crises bedeviling the National Executive Council of the NBA are caused by or traceable to the improper management of Maikyai’s tripartite identity. Though YC has issued a statement titled: “NBA PRESIDENT CLEARS THE AIR ON RUNNING THE AFFAIRS OF THE ASSOCIATION” but how clear is the cleared air now?
It seems Maikyau has allowed his 2nd identity as the APC Lawyer to influence or impart negatively on his 3rd identity as NBA President. When you see news items like “NBA President Y.C. Maikyau, SAN thanked President Tinubu for appointing Lateef Fagbemi, SAN as the AGF” you begin to wonder if the Constitution permits appointment of a Medical Doctor as an AGF, hence the appreciation for the favour done NBA by the President.
3. MY ADVICE
3.1 Advice to Maikyau, SAN
It is not in contention that Maikyau has the freedom to hold opinions and to freely associate. Wisdom however demands that Maikyau should be deliberate and consciously mindful of his tripartite identity.
To avoid bringing the entire body of lawyers into disrepute and further worsening the battered image of the judiciary, YC should at all times, identity and let Nigerian know the capacity under which he speaks or addresses issues, whether as a Nigerian Citizen, APC Lawyer or as NBA President.
3.2 Advice to NBA
Let people know who we are and what we stand for. To summon Ifunnaya before the Disciplinary Committee for alleged misconduct but pay Portable to mentor more lawyers at the AGC into “Indecency Carrier” can be best described as a legal hypocrisy.
The controversies surrounding Maikyau’s comment to President Tinubu, the invitation and approval of Portable to educate lawyers and the shameful display by the National Officers during the AGM are the clear indications that we did not get it right despite the laudable Conference theme.
Until we “Get It Right” internally, 20 Annual General Conferences on the theme cannot make any positive impact.
Long Live Nigerian Bar Association