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Voice of Emancipation: An Endless Opportunity

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By Kayode Emola

There is a belief presently prevailing amongst residents of Nigeria that they can hedge their bets – play it safe and thereby guarantee their future in either scenario: the continuance of the collapsing Nigeria or the emergence of the Yoruba sovereign nation. In reality, those who try to avoid risking anything end up risking everything; there can be no guarantee of success for those that sit down and do nothing.

For this reason, I highly commend our gallant men and women who, this Monday, 9 January 2023, sacrificed their time and risked their lives to boldly stand up to the Nigerian government in civil protest. Whilst people may ask what purpose this protest rally serves, I believe it sent an unignorable message to the central and state government of Nigeria that the Yoruba nationalists are not backing down.

I am devastatingly grieved that we lost one of our own in the course of the protest. I pray that Almighty God will grant eternal rest both to him and to many of our heroes past who have sacrificed their lives for the greater good. Some of them will never grow old and we who are alive must not fail to honour their sacrifice.

We have no means by which we could compile resources on a scale to compete with the politicians who appropriate the wealth of the country for their own private enterprises. However, even with the few resources we have received through goodwill, we have shown that we can create disquiet in the polity.

Some people have asked us to reconsider our strategy, return to the drawing board and start over from the beginning. However, I propose that encountering a small setback is not cause to throw out the entire operation. Human beings naturally are quick to criticise you when obstacles hamper achieving your goal, but readily keep silent when you do succeed. No one ever said the journey to Yoruba nation will be quick and easy; however, it is certain that we will surely reach our final destination. The impediment experienced this last week is not cause to abandon the fight altogether

For those who need some more motivation to fight for their freedom, perhaps a picture of how glorious the Yoruba sovereign nation could be will help inspire them. The Yoruba sovereign nation will be one where everyone will have equal opportunities in life, and crime is a thing of the past.

Modeling of various sectors, including transportation, education, health, and retail among others, has demonstrated the real feasibility of every worker within the Yoruba sovereign nation receiving a monthly wage equivalent to one thousand dollars. This will apply no matter what job s/he may be doing, and would be achievable nationwide within three years of the implementation of a Yoruba sovereign government. This would be a far cry indeed from the pittance our workers currently receive from the Nigerian government.

All retirees would be placed on an adequate living allowance, pending calculation and allocation of an adequate pension. At the moment, the large majority of our retirees are left to survive on their wits alone, with the consequence that many of them die prematurely due to lack of resources. This is a mark of shame for the nation they served faithfully in their youth.

All nursing mothers would be given a minimum of six months maternity leave, adequately paid, to enable them to take care of themselves and their new-born. Childcare would be provided by the Yoruba sovereign government for every child from two years old until they become of primary school age, whereupon education will be made free and compulsory until the completion of secondary school. All of this clearly demonstrates the abundance of opportunities presents and the high number of jobs created in the Yoruba sovereign nation.

However, if we do not get the Yoruba sovereign nation now, we will remain entrenched in the mud forced upon us by Nigeria. This situation is clearly detrimental to all but the political elite. Even those who have previously benefitted from the corruption within the political classes are now beginning to speak out against the trajectory the country is taking. Although many of these are canvassing for remedial action to sustain Nigeria, the truth is that the only path to freedom and quality of life is the complete dissolution of the country. It is incumbent on those of us on the side of Yoruba and other indigenous nationalities to take a stand to get out of Nigeria.

It is becoming increasingly likely that the 2023 election in Nigeria may not take place. Even if it were to go ahead, it may well become the spark that causes this time bomb of a country to explode. Those collecting monies from the politicians during this election season, believing that they are utilising an opportunity to enrich themselves, would do well to realise that they are selling not only their own future for far less than its value but also that of their children and the children after them.

In view of the insecurities pervading throughout the country, and the likelihood of the abortion in this year’s election, we must be on our guard against tactics from the politicians to extend their office. We must not be fooled into accepting any form of an interim government or similar, but rather be ready to exit our country at a moment’s notice.

This is not the time to be timid. It is especially not the time to condemn those who came out for this week’s rally. These people risked it all, gave it all in one case, for the sake of the wider freedom of our kinsmen. Even if the results appear incommensurate with the hard work put in, this does not undermine the work that they did. We can be sure that their remonstrance has generated valuable returns, contributing towards the continuing edging forwards to our final destination.

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Opinion

The Oracle: Nigerian Law Firms and Foreign Names: Matters Arising

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By Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR, Ph.D.

Juliet, soliloquizing in one of the most romantic scenes (“The Balcony Scene”) in Shakespeare’s epic, “Romeo and Juliet” (Act 2 Scene 2), said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Juliet was telling Romeo that a name is just a name; with no meaning behind it. What matters is what something is; not what it is called. To Juliet, Romeo would still remain the handsome young man, even if he had a different name.

Certain questions criss-cross my mind as I attempt to critically analyze the above quote in the light of some Nigerian law firms and legal practitioners adopting Western/foreign/white-sounding names in preference over their Nigerian names. Why ‘Mungo Park & Clapperton’, instead of ‘Aluko & Oyebode’; ‘Banwo & Ighodalo’; or ‘Ozekhome & Femi?’ Why ‘McCullough & Clyde’; and not ‘Sobowale & Okonkwo’, when the firm is neither owned by, nor affiliated with the former? Why ‘Westborough Partners’; and not ‘Mustapha & Oche’, when none of the partners bear ‘Westborough’? Why ‘Greenfields, Everest & Associates’; ‘Westbrook, Blackberg & Co’; ‘Bracebridge Attorneys’; ‘Bladerstone & Cottingham’; ‘Stone & Cozens LLP’; ‘Woodpecker & Bird Solicitors’; when none of the partners bear such foreign names? Why not simply ‘The Prestige Chambers’; or ‘God is Marvellous LLP’? Why must it be names given to natural persons of Western origin, usually English?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a name as “a word or set of words by which a person or thing is known, addressed, or referred to”. Wikipedia defines a name as “a term used for identification by an external observer. They can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context. The entity identified by a name is called its referent. A personal name identifies, not necessarily uniquely, a specific individual human.”

Just google some names of Nigerian law firms bearing foreign names, and you will appreciate my great concerns. Does this mindset suggest a bias against Nigerian names? Cultural cringe? An internalized, but undisclosed inferiority complex, leading to the dismissal of one’s culture as inferior? Is it a belief that Western/foreign names are more polished and easily roll off the tongue? Is it an identity management/destigmatization strategy for foreign businesses with foreign content? Is it believed that the use of such names gives one a particular status? Or is it just a matter of fashion, vogue, fad, fancy, or trend? I do not know. Or, do you?

It is conceded – that name choice is purely within the discretion of founders/partners of a law firm and as permitted by Nigerian laws. But, should native identities, for the sake of profit or fashion, be lost to foreign influence? Names are markers of identity and denote one’s community membership. My concern arises from the fact that, rather than indigenous names, none of these adopted Western/foreign names is associated with the names of any persons within such firms.

I must not be misunderstood to argue that law firms in Nigeria cannot bear names that are by patent, invented; or abstract, or religious names. Nor do I mean that Nigerians who bear European/foreign names as their indigenous names cannot establish law firms using such foreign names. I also must not be understood to posit that a firm cannot coin a name from the names of its Head or Partners; e.g., MOC, coined from Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers. My concern rather, is when individuals who neither bear such names, nor are in partnership with foreign bearers of such names; nor affiliated to or constitute subsidiaries of the foreign law firms bearing such foreign names, decide, for whatever reason, to take on western or white-sounding names belonging to natural persons, in establishing their law firms.

The reason for these may oftentimes be attributed to fashionability; ease of recognition, spelling, and pronunciation; for international business transactions conducted by these law firms; and perhaps to emphasize the founder’s or partners’ foreign qualifications. I respectfully submit that it is most demeaning to elevate foreign names over native identities. It is equally insulting to posit that ‘Saoirse Whitsborough & Partners’, or ‘Livingstone & Churchill Solicitors’, are better easily pronounced than ‘Gani Fawehinmi’s Chambers’; or ‘Chief Rotimi Williams Chambers’; or Wole Olanipekun & Co; or Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers; or ‘Olisa Agbakoba LLP’; or ‘ Uzoamaka Okeke & Co’; or Aluko & Oyebode; or Udo Udoma & Bello Osagie; or Banwo & Ighodalo; or Olaniwu Ajayi LP. To me, it amounts to sheer cultural cringe to hold that Nigerian names are less fashionable than Western/foreign names.
Conversely, ‘Juggernaut Chambers’; ‘Divine Mercy Law Firm’; ‘Salam LLP’; and ‘Shalom Chambers’, are examples of appealing abstracts; coined or invented names; and religious names, couched in English and other foreign languages. Founders or partners may settle for such where they prefer not to use their indigenous given, middle, or surnames. Names such as ‘Rosenblerg LLP’, ‘Witheresburg & Co’, or ‘Bottomleg & Neck Partners’, have unfortunately become the vogue. I experienced this aberration firsthand. A foreigner wanted to do business in Nigeria. I easily recommended a friend of mine who is an expert in that field of law where I am not. I told him so clearly. His google search revealed my friend’s name, quite alright, but not his law firm. He raised concerns, as he wanted to deal directly with a law firm and not an individual. It was then I got across to my Nigerian bossom friend, who disclosed to me, to my utter amazement, his law firm’s foreign name. I asked him why. He simply said, “oh boy, leave matter”. Really?

My concern is that this practice is not, by the same token, embraced by Western/foreign legal practitioners and law firms, whether practising law in Nigeria, or other African countries. Never has it been heard of that Western/foreign Legal practitioners or law firms, for example, ‘Rodriguez Salamasor’ and ‘John Hawthorne’, that for the purpose of doing business, ease of recognition and easier pronunciation of names, or for any other reason howsoever, established a law firm with a wholly indigenous Nigerian or African name, say, ‘Agbedor, Adekunle & Obiora LLP’ ;a law firm which neither has an affiliation with an Agbedor, Adekunle or an Obiora; nor has a partner with such names. They do not and will never ever adopt Nigerian or African names in establishing their law firms. Why then must we continue on this degrading path? I do not know. Or, do you?

I dare say that use of foreign names does not constitute any stronger factor in revenue generation than the solid reputation of the driving minds and brains behind such law firms. Many of the biggest law firms in Nigeria bear wholly indigenous names. Firms that earn the highest revenues and income across the world do not borrow African or Nigerian names; yet they thrive. According to the ‘2021 Am Law 100 Report’, the largest law firms in the world are found in the US. They collectively earned $111 billion in total revenue in 2020. Also, in Wikipedia’s compilation of the world’s largest law firms by revenue, referencing ‘The American Lawyer’ in its article titled, “The 2020 Global 200: Ranked by Revenue”, the following US law firms were listed as top generators of annual revenue in the global legal market:
1. Kirkland & Ellis with $4,154,600,000 in revenue; 2,589 lawyers (at the exchange rate of N735 per dollar, that amounts to N3.053 billion Pa).
2. Latham & Watkins with $3,767,623,000 in revenue; 2,720 lawyers.
3. DLA Piper with $3,112,130,000 in revenue; 3,894 Lawyers.
4. Dentons with $2,920,000,000 in revenue; 10,977 Lawyers.
5. Baker McKenzie with $2,899,600,000 in revenue; 4,809 lawyers.
6. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom with $2,632,615,000 in revenue; 1,694 lawyers.
7. Sidley Austin with $2,337,803,000 in revenue; 1,922 Lawyers.
8. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius with $2,265,000,000 in revenue; 2,063 lawyers.
9. Hogan Lovells with $2,246,050,000 in revenue; 2,642 lawyers.
10. White & Case with $2,184,850,000 in revenue; 2,200 lawyers.
11. Jones Day with $2,077,000,000 in revenue; 2,514 lawyers.
12. Norton Rose Fulbright with $1,904,019,000 in revenue; 3,266 lawyers.
13. Ropes & Gray with $1,903,616,000 in revenue; 1,247 lawyers.
14. Greenberg Traurig with $1,641,790,000 in revenue; 2,070 lawyers.
15. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett with $1,618,633,000 in revenue; 996 lawyers.

In the UK, some top law firms are:
1. Clifford Chance with $2,500,000,000 in revenue; 2,489 lawyers.
2. Allen & Overy with $2,160,729,000 in revenue; 2,447 lawyers.
3. Linklaters with $2,093,569,000 in revenue; 2,393 lawyers.
4. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer with $1,942,013,000 in revenue; 1,812 lawyers.

In Canada an article by Statista Research Department shows that the Canadian law firm of Toronto-based ‘Borden Ladner Gervais’, though not a global mammoth, is one of the top generators of revenue in the global legal market, competing with United States law firms. Not a single African or Nigerian name ever featuresin these. Indeed, no Nigerian law firm can boast of 250 lawyers, a minuscule for small-time law firms in the USA, UK, and other Western countries.

None of the above-listed law firms has taken on African or Nigerian names (whether for the ease of conducting foreign transactions; indicating a wide geographical spread of its offices; or for any of the reasons usually given by Nigerian Firms for the preference of western/foreign names). Yet they thrive. Do they not?

Although revenue, as shown earlier, is undoubtedly key to the sustainability and success of any business and constitutes an important tool for law firm owners/ partners to track growth and improve profitability, the name chosen by a law firm does not necessarily affect the ability of a law firm to generate income.

A person is his own name. I humbly submit that the choice of using Western/foreign names, or white/foreign-sounding names in setting up law firms, oftentimes indicates the pitiable perception of one’s name through the blurred lenses of prejudice, inferiority complex, cultural cringe, colonial and neo-colonial mentality.

It is said that “the worst form of colonialism is the colonialism of the mind”. This choice of foreign names is absolutely unnecessary. A colonialism of the mind reflects in another man’s name being preferred to one’s name. We should never again opt for western or foreign names of natural persons. We should instead, be proud of using the original names of partners. It could also be indigenous, abstract, invented, coined, or religious names; but certainly not foreign or English names.

What is in a name? “Though that which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet”, I respectfully submit that naming one’s law firm by the given foreign name of a natural person of western/ foreign descent with whom one shares no tie or affinity whatsoever, would not smell any sweeter than one’s indigenous name; an abstract; or patented name. What is of utmost importance is the value brought to bear on one’s law practice. It is about the content and not the form; the substance and not the shadow.

DISCLAIMER: ALL NAMES (EXCEPT THOSE KNOWN TO ME OR FROM STATED SOURCES) MENTIONED IN THIS PIECE ARE FICTITIOUS. NO IDENTIFICATION WITH ACTUAL PERSONS (LIVING OR DEAD) IS INTENDED OR SHOULD BE INFERRED.

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Adding Value

Adding Value: Credibility As Essential Element of Greatness by Henry Ukazu

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Dear Destiny Friends,

One of the most endearing qualities of all great people, companies, businesses, leaders, and friendship is credibility. Credibility is a currency if properly nurtured. It works like character. When you have good character, it will be easy for people to work with you. No matter how smart, intelligent, or hardworking you may be, without good character, it will be difficult for you to be accepted. The same principle is applicable to credibility. Every employer loves to hire a credible employee. Nobody likes to associate with a person who is not credible.

Credibility works out what an employee has on the resume. Credibility in this case refers to attitude, mindset, personality, orientation and understanding of life.

What actually is credibility? Credibility is the quality of gaining legitimacy, trust, integrity and dependability in a person or organization. When you have credibility, people will naturally be attracted to you. According to Aristotle, the three C’s of a credible leader are competence, character and caring. Any leader that possesses these traits will endear himself to the people.

If you really want to succeed, you must be intentional. One of the intentional steps you need to take is being credible. When people perceive you as being credible, it will be easy to associate with you. It truly takes more than credibility to succeed; you need discipline, concentration, consistency, accountability etc.

Credibility works in different ways. It can be ascertained by direct evidence which is basically first-person experience. This works when people meet and interact with you; they’ll be able to determine who you truly are and what you represent. Secondary evidence is ascertained from indirect sources which can be what people read or watch about you or even what people who are experienced about you which they either say or publish for the world to know about you. Then, we have indirect evidence which is derived from effective presentation. You must establish primary or direct evidence first before people can believe you.

Nobody establishes credibility by speaking, people establish credibility by their actions which must be verified. Isn’t it true that circumstances don’t say who you are, rather it establishes who you are?  You must establish credibility for people to believe in you. When you have been tested and trusted, then, secondary and indirect evidence will begin to key in.

One of the packages that normally comes with greatness is credibility. This is because greatness always comes with a price. You don’t attain greatness by accident. You must put in the work which will entail denying yourself some hours of sleep. In such cases, you’ll have to sleep late, wake up early. This is necessary because you will have enough time to enjoy your sleep when you are done building your brand. A major mistake people engage in life is trying to reap when they have not sowed. There are cases when lazy people like to eat fruits they haven’t planted.

For instance, while some Bank Chief Operating Officers, corporate titans, Captains of industries and successful entrepreneurs have paid the prices by investing their time and money into their business, are sleeping, a budding entrepreneur or employee will want to enjoy the same amount of sleep without investing their time and money in their craft. It takes diligence to establish credibility.

 As Christians, the Book of life made us understand, God rested on the seventh day after creating for six days straight. What does that tell you? You must put in the work first before you can rest. People will have to see your credibility before you can earn their trust. It’s instructive to note that God didn’t rest on the first or second day, but it’s quite unfortunate most people would like to rest on the first and second day without putting in some work. God rested on the seventh day, why are you resting on the first day or second day? You will have to establish trust, diligence, and competence before you can rest which will ultimately give you some credibility when people have seen your work.

At a stage in life, all that is important is loyalty and trust, at this stage, people are not concerned about your money, words, perceived actions and understanding of life, they just want to know if you have their back when the chips are down, it is on this stage that circumstances don’t say who you are, rather it reveals who you are.

In any sphere of life, you must establish credibility for people to take you serious. When you are credible, people will want to do business with you, people will trust your judgment, and people will see you as a reliable resource person.

The question you may want to ask is how do you establish credibility? To establish credibility, you must be consistent in words and actions, you must be honest, you must learn and be knowledgeable, you must spend time to do the needful, you must be accountable, and you must be principled by not comparing yourself with others. You must stand for the values you believe in, even if it means standing alone as opposed to following the bandwagon.

In conclusion, in all you do, endeavor to establish credibility by building good human relationships beginning with your family, close friends, business partners, associates and the public at large. Trust me, when you do, you can be rest assured your name will be announced where you don’t imagine and you’ll be a treasure to behold.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a Human Capacity & mindset coach. He’s also a public speaker, youth advocate and creative writer. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success

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Opinion

Voice of Emancipation: An Exercise in Futility

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By Kayode Emola

Surprisingly, given the issues of corruption and wealth inequality in the country, Nigeria’s banking system is one of the strongest banking institutions in the world. This is due, ironically, to the sector having been forced to adapt to various threats and challenges to financial security. For example, Nigeria implemented name verification for funds transfer on mobile banking apps about five years ahead of the UK introducing the same. It is also one of the few countries that have been able to create its own payment system, Verve, rather than being tied to applications owned by international corporations, such as Visa or Mastercard.

However, despite this, the country’s financial institution has failed in its efforts to build a sustainable banking system. The lack of a robust framework tackling on-line financial fraud, combined with delayed processing of payments, has caused people to rely principally on cash-based transactions in their day-to-day personal and business activities. Consequently, the high volume of cash in the community causes liquidity problems for the financial institutions and their regulators, who then don’t have the physical cash when it is required.

Overcoming this challenge requires adequacy of basic infrastructure, such as a stable electricity supply and a countrywide e-communications network. However, instead of focusing on developing these, the government embarked on policies that charge ordinary Nigerians exorbitant fees for the mere use of banking facilities. This has further alienated many people who might otherwise have been proponents of the cashless policy sought by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Having failed to transition Nigeria into a cashless society, the CBN embarked on an alternative strategy to mitigate inflation and draw liquidity back into the banks, by introducing a re-design of the currency. Their aim was to force the general populace to return their old currency, but restrict how much of the new currency could be withdrawn in cash at any given time. This then presents people with the option of either accepting having no available cash to spend, or else paying a premium to retrieve their funds. This unfavourable choice is likely to cause general unrest and therefore trouble for the government.

However, redesigning the naira does not answer the fundamental question of what is causing it to remain in the community in the first place. Since cash can be either circulating within the community or circulating within the financial institutions, but not in both places at once, this question becomes the crux on which the matter hinges. Eventually, the same monies that were recalled from the community into the banking system will be collected back by the people and returned to circulation within the community.

This makes the efforts to stem inflation and collapsing exchange rates an exercise in futility. With the community being heavily reliant on a cash economy, and consumers disincentivised by high fees from keeping their money in bank accounts, it becomes doubly difficult for the financial institutions to recall cash back into their treasuries. The people will merely revert to hoarding cash and conducting transactions in the traditional way that they understand.

The only way to tackle this is with a change in policy that eradicates the exorbitant fees charged by banks and Point of Sale agents. It is therefore imperative that any future Yoruba government ensures that we have both the soft and hard infrastructures needed to compete in a global financial system. We must ensure that the populace can make payments seamlessly with their debit or credit card without worrying about additional charges from their banks. We must also ensure that people can transfer cash from one bank account to another without incurring fees. Achieving this will increase people’s appetite for utilising financial institutions, and thereby reduce the need for cash-based transactions.

If more payment gateway operators develop systems that can integrate seamlessly with the banks’ structures, ensuring payments are processed quickly and effortlessly, more merchants will take payment by credit and debit card payments rather than relying on bank transfers. This will generate significant savings in the time, effort, and costs involved in performing financial transactions.

Many people across Nigeria are becoming disillusioned with the financial institutions’ handling of these matters. It appears undeniable that Nigeria’s lifespan has expired and the only workable solution is dissolution. In this event, we would no longer have Nigeria holding our Yoruba people’s finances for ransom, forcing our people into poverty.

The CBN has failed. The government has not only been ineffectual at resolving this mess, but they have also actively contributed to it. The Fulani government, knowing that they cannot match the material wealth of the Yoruba people, is seeking to diminish what we have by destroying the very fabric of our existence. We must rise in unison as the Yoruba people to bring an end to this Nigerian menace that is daily chasing millions of our people out of their homeland.

We need to rescue the multitudes of people in Yorubaland trapped below the poverty line. Only when we extricate ourselves from the sunken ship that is Nigeria, can our glory as a people be collectively achieved. The sooner we do so, the better it will be for every one of us.

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