VP’s Remarks At Body Of Benchers Awards Ceremony
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, THE VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE BODY OF BENCHERS AWARD NIGHT HELD AT THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL INSTITUTE, ABUJA ON FRIDAY MARCH 29, 2019.
It is a special privilege to be here at this special dinner with some of the brightest and best in our profession and many, whose contributions have decisively shaped the destiny of our profession and even our nation.
I would like to, first, commend this Body for the extraordinary leadership it has provided over the years. As the gateway for access into the Nigerian Bar and as the custodian of our ethics and values, this Body has borne the enormous responsibility of being the conscience, arbiter, judge and interlocutor for the legal profession and our administration of justice system.
I am deeply honoured to have been preferred to the prestigious rank of Life Bencher. It is humbling, but also exciting to be reminded that one still has more to offer. I owe gratitude to the remarkable men and women – teachers, mentors, partners and students, who have contributed to my professional experience. I accept this honour as a call to greater responsibility.
Perhaps, one should also seize this opportunity to salute all distinguished colleagues, seniors and juniors alike, who have internalised the application of the rule of law in the most difficult circumstances; stood for the helpless through advocacy; demanded transparency and accountability in all spheres; and pushed for positive reforms in the advancement of not just our system of justice, but also all the ramparts upon which our democracy is built, alongside our nationhood and common patrimony.
Today, our profession stands at a critical crossroad. Yet, the different possible paths that we could take have, to my mind, never been as clear as they are today. One path is the path of business as usual which of course means that we will face the extinction of our credibility soon enough.
The other is the path of renewal, the right path, a more courageous even if more difficult path.
The weaknesses that have recently been exposed in our profession, as disturbing as they are, have at the same time provided us great opportunity for deep introspection and self-assessment. This is an opportunity for reform and reclaim of that tradition of virtuous ethics; a tradition of moral inquiry and doggedness in the dispassionate and impartial application of law no matter whose ox is gored.
We owe the young and aspiring lawyers the duty to set the ground rules right and to lead by example. We also, as custodians of the law, owe our nation, at the very least, the duty to ensure the proper functioning of the justice system. Our professional practice and the courts must always measure up to the moral, ethical and statutory standards we subscribed to. Whether we sit at the Bar or on the Bench, we bear the responsibility for a fair and just society; a free, fair and impartial justice system that ushers in progressive reforms in governance and protects the social structure of our nation.
Our everyday practice of law has the potential to either strengthen or weaken our democratic values and institutions. The ‘learned’ that everyone ascribes to us, suggests amongst other attributes that we are- skilled not only in the art of our trade/calling, but also in the mechanics of a just society. That just society cannot be established by mere wishes or rhetoric. It can only be by deliberate action and sacrifice especially of those of us to whom our profession has so generously conferred membership of its highest body.
My Lords, distinguished members of the Body of Benchers: Our greatest debt at this point in our lives and careers is to the future. The future of this profession that has been so kind and generous to us and to this society that has yielded leadership at various levels to us. That debt is one which we must discharge faithfully. First by being worthy mentors to an ever-growing number of legal practitioners, but more importantly by fearlessly insisting that the bedrock of justice and the rule of law is personal and corporate integrity.
I congratulate all the honorees tonight. An award from the most distinguished body of our profession is worthy of commendation indeed. I pray that you will go from glory to glory.
I thank you all.
"Our professional practice and the courts must always measure up to the moral, ethical and statutory standards we subscribed to. Whether we sit at the Bar or on the Bench, we bear the responsibility for a fair and just society; a free, fair and impartial justice system that ushers in progressive reforms in governance and protects the social structure of our nation."