Portable At NBA Event: A Blow To Legal Ethics In Nigeria

Portable At NBA Event: A Blow To Legal Ethics In Nigeria

The shockwaves of the decision rippled not just through the legal community, but also among social media users and the public at large. The uproar has its roots in the singer’s reputation for controversial lyrics and behaviour, deemed by many as inappropriate and antithetical to the ethos of a profession committed to justice, integrity, and community service. If the law is supposed to be a moral compass guiding society, inviting a figure like Portable to perform at an NBA event sends a conflicting signal.

This isn’t merely a one-off event to be brushed aside. It’s reflective of deeper, systemic issues plaguing the Nigerian legal profession—a field often perceived as inefficient and rife with corruption. According to the January 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, Nigeria ranks 150 out of 180 countries, with a score of 24 out of 100, and the legal system has not been insulated from this dubious distinction. Amidst such a tarnished backdrop, the NBA’s ill-advised choice contributes to eroding the public’s already fragile trust in the legal system.

The NBA has defended its decision, stating that Portable’s performance was made possible by the headline sponsor of the conference, Obi Cubana, who is also known for his flashy and ostentatious lifestyle. However, this defence is a deflection from the core issue: the responsibility of the NBA to uphold the dignity and sanctity of the legal profession. Sponsorship arrangements should not be an excuse to compromise the association’s integrity. Moreover, having a ‘cultural night’ should not serve as a pretext for ethical myopia.

Critics argue that this indiscretion could discourage young, idealistic individuals from joining the profession, at a time when the industry needs fresh talent to overcome its existing challenges. With the legal field struggling to attract and retain young lawyers, actions that further dent its image could have a lasting impact. Furthermore, this decision alienates those in the community who believe that the legal profession should stand as a pillar of ethical and moral rectitude.

The situation serves as a grim reminder that the NBA needs to exercise more caution in its actions and decisions, especially when those choices have the potential to undermine the image of an entire profession. It’s not just about the legality of actions, but also their moral and social implications. The NBA should act as the guardian of legal ethics and community standards, not as a promoter of figures who arguably run counter to these values.

The NBA’s controversial decision to invite Portable to its annual conference is a glaring misstep that has far-reaching implications for the legal profession in Nigeria. As the association faces mounting criticism, one can only hope that this episode serves as a wake-up call, prompting a more conscientious approach to its role as the standard-bearer for legal ethics and professionalism in the country. It is high time that the NBA reassesses its priorities and takes steps to restore its tarnished image, ensuring that such lapses in judgment do not recur. The integrity of the legal profession depends on it.

The Paradox of the ‘Unbarred Concert’

The ‘Unbarred Concert’ is a notion steeped in irony—a space ostensibly created for legal professionals to unwind while still encased in the decorum and ethical boundaries that define them. The choice of Portable as a guest performer baffles not only because of his controversial reputation but also due to what he symbolically represents: a cavalier attitude toward the codes of conduct that lawyers are sworn to uphold. To many observers, it was akin to mixing oil with water and expecting a seamless blend.

It begs the question: where should the line be drawn between relaxation and the upkeep of professional ethics? While it’s understandable that lawyers, like any other professionals, need their moments of levity and enjoyment, the choices made for such instances must still mirror the profession’s ethical considerations. There is an abundance of artistes and entertainers who could provide quality entertainment without dragging the association’s reputation through the mud.

The NBA’s attempt to deflect criticism by citing Obi Cubana’s role as the headline sponsor seems more an abdication of responsibility than a valid explanation. Sponsorship should not equate to a blank check for ethical compromises. If the very people tasked with upholding the law turn a blind eye to the image they project, it risks a trickle-down effect where the public’s trust in legal institutions erodes further.

This paradox serves as a stark reminder that even seemingly innocuous decisions like entertainment choices at a professional gathering can have deeper, more lasting impacts. When the association that represents the legal community makes such a controversial decision, it reflects not just on individual members but also on the profession as a whole. It sends a dangerous message that the custodians of the law are willing to push aside their sacred responsibility for the sake of fleeting enjoyment.

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In a country like Nigeria, where the judiciary and legal profession are struggling with issues ranging from corruption to inefficiency, every action and decision should be weighed carefully. If the NBA wishes to maintain its role as the country’s moral and ethical compass, especially within the judiciary, then it must show better judgment in its actions. Failing to do so not only tarnishes its reputation but also diminishes its effectiveness in advocating for legal reforms and justice.

An ‘Unbarred Concert’ should not mean an unbarred compromise on ethics and professionalism. As the NBA moves forward, it needs to resolve this paradox by aligning its actions with its mission, re-evaluating its partnership criteria, and taking steps to ensure that future choices, even those made in the spirit of relaxation, do not contravene the principles it is meant to uphold.

Controversy Over Cultural Night

The concept of a ‘Cultural Night’ typically suggests an opportunity for reflection and celebration of shared values, history, and ideals—ideals that should resonate with the core objectives and principles of the hosting organisation. In this case, one would expect the NBA’s Cultural Night to serve as an avenue to reflect the gravitas and decorum that befits a gathering of legal minds. Instead, the invitation extended to Portable, and his subsequent performance veered the event sharply away from those lofty principles. Rather than enhancing the cultural and professional richness that one would associate with the legal fraternity, the performance had an unsettling incongruity that left many puzzled and disappointed.

It’s not just about optics. At the core of this issue is a critical lapse in judgment regarding the very identity of the NBA as an institution. By choosing Portable, known more for his controversial persona than his contributions to intellectual or cultural discourse, the NBA unwittingly shifted the focus from serious, constructive engagement to tabloid-worthy controversy. What message does that send to young, aspiring lawyers? Or to the ordinary Nigerian citizen who already views the legal system with skepticism?

Moreover, the performance raised concerns over the NBA’s vetting procedures for its events. Who decided that Portable would be an appropriate fit for the Cultural Night of a legal conference? Was this decision weighed against the potential reputational damage? And if so, was the collective voice of the NBA’s membership consulted, or was it solely an executive decision fuelled by the interests of corporate sponsorship? These are questions that require answers, not just for the sake of public accountability but also for the internal health of the organisation.


Sponsorship and partnership, as beneficial as they may be, should never dictate an organisation’s ethical choices. While Obi Cubana’s role as a sponsor may have influenced the event’s entertainment lineup, the ultimate responsibility lies with the NBA. The Association must exercise its own independent judgment to ensure that its actions always align with its mission and values.

As one of the oldest professional bodies in Nigeria, the NBA has a long-standing reputation to protect. Its choices, particularly public ones, should serve to elevate the profession, not demean it. The Portable episode serves as a wakeup call, drawing attention to the need for stricter oversight and more thoughtful decision-making within the NBA. This incident should prompt a comprehensive review of how the Association makes its choices in public forums, especially when these choices have the potential to either uplift or tarnish the very ideals that the NBA stands for.

The decision to have Portable perform at the NBA’s Cultural Night wasn’t just a lapse in judgment; it was a striking departure from the values and principles that should guide the legal profession. It serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen when commercial interests overshadow ethical imperatives. For an association as venerable as the NBA, the stakes are too high to allow such missteps. It’s high time for introspection, revision of guidelines, and a renewed commitment to upholding the integrity of the legal profession in Nigeria.


Ethical Lapses and Perception

The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index should serve as a clarion call for the NBA, underscoring the need for immediate reform and positive action to elevate the perception and function of the legal profession within the country. An organisation that is meant to be a custodian of the rule of law and professional ethics has an uphill battle to fight in reversing these dismal rankings. Every action, every choice, and every public expression should be geared towards bolstering the reputation of the legal community both nationally and internationally.

So, when the NBA chooses to feature a performer like Portable—whose artistic persona, while perhaps intriguing in a different setting, clashes glaringly with the ideals of legal professionalism—it not only squanders a precious opportunity to showcase the nobility of the legal profession but also inadvertently compounds the preexisting ethical quandaries surrounding it. The move seems almost self-sabotaging, effectively undermining efforts to improve the profession’s public image and credibility at a time when it is most needed.

Moreover, this decision reflects poorly on the NBA’s self-regulatory ability. Ethical self-regulation is a cornerstone of any professional association, serving as a barometer for its moral health and institutional integrity. If the NBA is unable to make decisions that align with its ethos without external influence, how can it be trusted to regulate the ethical conduct of its members effectively?
While it may be argued that the cultural night was meant for relaxation and unwinding, the choice of entertainment cannot be detached from the Association’s broader responsibilities. Entertainment doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it communicates values and leaves lasting impressions. As such, choices in this realm should be approached with the same rigour and ethical scrutiny that one would expect in legal proceedings or scholarly debates. The failure to do so results in not just a PR blunder but an ethical misstep, the repercussions of which could ripple through the legal community for years to come.

For the sake of its future and the future of legal practice in Nigeria, the NBA needs to use this incident as a catalyst for introspective evaluation and systemic change. Concrete steps must be taken to ensure that the values it claims to uphold are reflected not just in its mission statements but also in its actions and choices. Only then can the Association hope to rebuild trust with the Nigerian public and begin to rectify the larger issues tarnishing the legal profession in the country. Anything short of this would be a disservice to the long and storied history of the NBA, and indeed, to the very concept of justice it purports to serve.

Political Undertones and Public Trust

The delicate issue of public trust cannot be overstated, especially for a body like the Nigerian Bar Association, which is meant to serve as a bedrock of impartiality and justice in a society rife with complexity and division. One of the fundamental elements of this trust is the belief in the Association’s neutrality. It should stand apart from partisan politics or controversial social figures, focusing solely on the principles that underpin the legal system: justice, fairness, and ethical integrity.

Given that Obi Cubana, the headline sponsor of the conference, has a significant public profile and is not devoid of his own set of controversies, it raises questions about the independence of the NBA’s decision-making process. While sponsorship is often necessary for funding large-scale events, the potential influence of sponsors on programming content should be carefully vetted to ensure alignment with the core values of the Association. The mere perception of compromised neutrality can sow seeds of doubt in the public’s mind, causing them to question the integrity of not just the Association but the legal system as a whole.

The decision to feature Portable, therefore, comes across as a puzzling neglect of the cautious calibration that the NBA should exercise in maintaining its public image. It is not just about whether Portable’s performance was overtly political but that his very inclusion was polarising. This is a significant misstep for an Association that should strive for unity, particularly within a political climate that is already highly polarised.

The question that looms large is: can the NBA afford this tarnish to its reputation, especially when it is already grappling with a declining public trust index? According to a 2021 survey by the CLEEN Foundation, only 35% of Nigerians have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the judicial system, including the courts and judges. Given these figures, the NBA’s decision to include a controversial figure like Portable in an event of this magnitude only exacerbates an already precarious situation. It not only reflects a lapse in judgment but also contributes to the continued erosion of public confidence in the legal system.

In summary, the NBA’s decision to have Portable perform at its Annual General Conference is an unfortunate divergence from what should have been a focus on restoring the legal profession’s credibility and public trust. It serves as a case study in how not to handle the optics of a professional body’s public engagements. In an era where every action is scrutinised, and its implications magnified, the NBA would do well to remember that it is not just a custodian of the law but also of the public trust that sustains it. Therefore, moving forward, the Association must act with the utmost care to realign its public actions with its professed values, thereby beginning the difficult but necessary process of restoring faith in the Nigerian legal system.

A Sobering Wake-Up Call: Reevaluating the NBA’s Priorities

In a world where perception can often translate to reality, the NBA’s decision to host Portable at its Annual General Conference sends a disconcerting message. It raises serious concerns about the association’s dedication to upholding the ethical integrity and values for which the legal profession is known, at least in theory. The invitation to Portable comes at an especially sensitive time, a period of self-examination for the Nigerian legal community. With alarming statistics on public trust and rule of law staring the Association in the face, one would expect a more discerning choice of cultural expression at such an important event.

The NBA’s miscalculation has given critics ample ammunition to question the Association’s values and its commitment to elevating the legal profession. One can only hope that this unfortunate episode serves as a wakeup call, leading to introspection and eventual realignment with the values that should define the practice of law in Nigeria. It is crucial for the NBA to remember that it bears a heavy responsibility, not just in representing legal practitioners, but in symbolising what the Nigerian justice system should aspire to be.

If the NBA aims to recover from this reputational bruise, then it must take actionable steps towards correcting its course. This includes meticulous planning that aligns with the values of the legal profession and serving as an exemplar for ethics, justice, and impartiality. It’s not just about the choice of entertainment at a conference; it’s about the narrative such choices contribute to. For an association already under scrutiny, there is little room for error.

In conclusion, this episode has further illuminated the challenges that the Nigerian Bar Association and the legal profession at large face in today’s Nigeria. The Portable debacle is more than just a temporary lapse in judgment; it is a symptom of deeper, systemic issues that need addressing. For an institution tasked with upholding the highest standards of ethics and professionalism, there’s an urgent need for self-assessment. The question isn’t just whether Portable should have performed at the conference, but what the invitation says about the NBA’s priorities. Until these fundamental issues are tackled, the shadow cast by this incident will continue to loom large over the association and, by extension, the legal profession in Nigeria.

Africa Digital News, New York