We are all looking for something relatable, an outlet for frustrations, or some lead to help manage our expectations.
With the lenses of a litigator and corporate attorney, Olaoluwa Oni, the engaging debut, The yNBA provides a fine vignette of the career lives of practicing young lawyers in Nigeria. When Senior Counsel and member of the NBA, Otunba Yemi Carrington walks into his litigation firm on a Saturday to find all twenty-eight employees gone, he is determined to stay in business. Imagine his shock when he discovers that he is up against The yNBA, a clandestine group of young lawyers who are fed up with the oppressiveness of the older wigs and are bent on turfing it out, firm by firm, employee after employee.
The author uses a bearable degree of legal jargon to flesh out the knotty relationship between old and new wigs in a way that entertains and mildly enrages. The bad blood that centers Otunba and his employee, Jiboye, forms the capsule for another conflict of the old and the new - this time, a more personal one concerning matters of the heart. The yNBA vs. NBA crisis that persists almost throughout the novel is an unpleasant reflection of the perceptions and realities of a profession’s moral state - shame that it is the very same profession that should uphold fairness and equity.
The yBNA is steeped in the details of the Nigerian lawyer’s life – from beggarly pay to demigod Principals and work instability – the description of these conditions would be funny if they were not grossly unfair. So, is the Nigerian lady justice asleep, especially when her older children try to have the younger ones for dinner?
Jerry Chiemeke, lawyer and author, documented the intolerable conditions that young lawyers have to endure in a Twitter thread. The replies were nothing, if not a mess – a muddied side to the immaculate white shirts and bibs. A Twitter user, @KingEsene, replied, “…young lawyers will rather vote for anybody that can pay their practicing fees and branch dues, and that’s it. The status quo won’t change until young lawyers are ready for action” – an allusion that young lawyers are partly to blame for their plight. @Othmanthree believes that “the exodus is coming…” Perhaps, Oni brings this exodus, even if in fiction, with her portrayal of the mass exit of young lawyers from Yemi Carrington’s firm, but then, there is Otunba’s underserved deal at the book’s end, a pointer to the existence of insurmountable structures. The Twitter replies pose several obvious questions, but the most important one is, can the real-life yNBA overcome?
As the story skips through time, one anticipates a character arc or a certain mystique to the Aisha-Jiboye-Christie “ship,” but the novel falls short in this regard. The relatability of characters, even pace, and fine prose provide a comforting distraction from the book’s over-description of actions and lack of vibrant moments. Arguably, The yNBA is hardly that fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping read, but it is an important book, one that starts and sustains conversations, informs, inspires the needed righteous indignation, and creates a sense of community – of shared struggles.