The immediate past President of the greatest mediation institute in Africa (soon to be the greatest in the world) my brother and friend, Chief Emeka Obegolu. Past President of the Institute, Chief (Dr) Paddy Njoku. The immediate past Registrar of the Institute, my brother and friend, Segun Ogunyannwo. Past Registrar of the Institute and my predecessor in office as Registrar, Chinonye Obiagwu, SAN. The outgone executive committee. The Deputy Presidents, Registrar of the Institute and other members of the Executive, Founding fathers of the Institute, members of the governing council of the Institute, distinguished members, inductees, ladies and gentlemen.
It is indeed humbling for me to stand before you and address this distinguished assembly as the 6th President of our great yet noble institute. I am humbled further by the confidence that has been reposed in me by members of our governing council and our founding fathers. My joy knows no bounds on this occasion particularly as it marks, at least from my point of view a unique demonstration of faith in my abilities and capacity. I assure you today that I intend to keep with that article of faith.
When I began my journey as a mediator a little over 18 years ago, I did not realise that fate had destined for me a journey that I had to undertake, one which I am still on and hope to keep faith with till I draw my last breath. It is interesting to note that I happened on mediation by accident. Of course, I had received some knowledge on ADR from the 1-hour introductory lecture at law school in 1999 by the great Kevin Nwosu (of blessed memory) but had not come in contact with mediation or any training in mediation.
Sometime in July 2002, I had just won a case that didn’t feel like I won. It was a classical example of an unsatisfactory determination of the case for me as well as for my client. Then a colleague, Ben Ogbaini showed me a newspaper advertorial for mediation training in Port Harcourt. I registered and participated in the training and on the 30th of October 2002, alongside Segun Ogunyannwo and many others, we were inducted as the first set of inductees of our institute.
The rest is history today. I consider myself lucky to be given this privilege to build on the work of our founding fathers and the great leadership that they and their successors in office have brought to bear on the affairs of the Institute. It is on account of this fact that I use this inaugural address to pay tribute to the Presidents and leaders of the institute before me.
I salute the tenacity of our founding President Dr. Ozonnia Ojielo who along with his fellow travellers at the time, Chinonye Obiagwu SAN, Chuka Agbu, SAN, Dr. Jide Olagunju, Dr. Emeka Ezeh, Akin Akingbulu and others who set the foundation work for our institute. The vision of our founding President is the light that has guided all other Presidents and has brought us thus far. I will be guided by that vision.
The 2nd President of the institute was Chuka Agbu, SAN, who in his time as President demonstrated an uncommon passion for the Institute by putting it first above all to the extent of leaving office only after one year because he did not want to deny the Institute his attention.
Then came the great Omenuko as we fondly call him. Dr. Paddy Njoku is credited with relocating the institute from Lagos to Abuja and under his leadership; the institutional framework, which the institute currently operates, was put in place. His depth and wealth of wisdom and organizational prowess was manifest throughout his tenure and still guides us today. I had the privilege of serving him as Registrar.
The tenure of Dr. Brown Ogbeifun, “the Godfather” as we fondly call him was marked by an improved administrative framework, expansion of the frontiers of the Institute, and strategic collaboration between the institute and the labour movement in Nigeria and, an incursion into the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy on account of his vast network in these two sectors. His term in office also witnessed an increase in the number of trainings.
Then in 2016, the institute welcomed its tallest President and probably the tallest for some time to come. Council elected Chief Emeka Obegolu President. When he took over in Asaba, one thing that was clear was that he was set do great things. His legacy is apparent for all to see. From the growth of the institute in term of membership, to the financial stability that the institute now has, to the Mediation house project, the achievements are numerous.
Today I consider it a privilege to succeed one who has taken the institute to heights that had never being imagined. Today our institute stands out as the greatest of them all. My dear brother and friend, I thank you for making us all proud.
I must confess that looking at the height you have taken the institute to; it appears that the shoes that you have left are too big to be filled. I take consolation in the fact that we both wear size 45 in shoe length, and as such they should fit quite nicely. With regards to the difference in height, the shoulders of my team will serve as a good pedestal to shoot me up to level out. What I can assure you is that your confidence in us will be justified.
I salute your work and the work of all our past leaders. The work of our past leaders would have been impossible without tribute to certain key personalities. In this regard, I pay tribute to Chino Obiagwu, SAN who redefined the phrase selfless service by his actions and commitment towards the greatness and development of the institute. Those who can will remember 270 Lamlat House Ikorodu, and how he hosted us in his suite of offices for several years.
I also pay tribute to the immediate past Registrar, my worthy successor in office, Segun Ogunyannwo. If you are a member of the institute and you do not know Segun, then your membership ought to be withdrawn. Your selfless service and commitment to the institute is legendary. To borrow your own words “I appreciate you sir.
It is said that the biggest room in the world, is the room for improvement. Consequently, I take your confidence as reposed in me and my team as a call to improve and expand the frontiers of the institute. This charge I gladly accept and embrace, and I shall dedicate myself to ensuring that when I step down as president in 3 years, I would have creditably delivered on your mandate.
To actualize this objective, we shall develop a strategic plan of action that will focus primarily on the following thematic areas:
It is early days to begin to weigh you down with our plans. The new executive shall meet in the coming days and we will develop a road map for our time in office. Please be rest assured that whatever we do as an executive, the interest of the institute and our members will reign supreme.
We shall within our first month in office publish our strategic action plan for the information of members and to present a template by which our tenure of service to the institute can be assessed.
We are open to advice, suggestions and constructive criticism. Our doors will always be open to our members. We are grateful for the opportunity to service.
I thank you for your kind attention.