This special conference is about telling our story through thought leadership, and it is on this basis that I welcome you and ask that you immerse yourself in the celebration of 60 years of the NBA Annual General Conferences, 60 years of Nigeria's nationhood, and 60 years of independence of a good number of African countries. This becomes important in this age that #BlackLivesMatter, and it is on that score that I ask that you STEP FORWARD in becoming brilliance; in taking hold of the future of work; and contributing, through this conference, to shaping the work of the future. Work which will sound in bits and not atoms – that is: work that speaks in the currency of data and not fossil fuels. The aim is to heal all that tends to divide us, to bring light into the darkness that pervades us, and reclaim the rule of law that we seem to evade.

The nation that contains the "bar" has also been a story of unfulfilled dreams, and unaccomplished potential; and while the Bar, as an association that promotes refinement has sought to unshackle itself from the Nigerian story that is peddled, the effort has only resulted in the same narrative – but the struggle for a sustainable society based on justice and peace continues by the Bar. Thus, central to the conference theme, step forward, coined by a popular Nigerian Recording Artist, is a strong sense of self-worth and confidence in one's capabilities with complete disregard for any negative opinion. Nigeria and the Bar must also look, each, to its resources, refine its narrative and shape its vision for the future.

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 calls for behaviour change, including conference form. This Conference being one of the largest gatherings of lawyers in the world, presents a step forward into a virtual conference: the first AGC of its kind, with an array of stars and events that are one of a kind. It will mark the virtual rise of the phoenix, from the ashes of COVID-19, reborn with a wisdom and strength and resilience and brilliance and foresight that helps to make you enjoy tomorrow, today. The conference will also thus be a message of hope and opportunity, a story of an illustrious past, which in spite of knocks, still stands on a foundation of immense resources that we must step forward to take. This is about Nigeria stepping forward to take its pride of place in Africa and indeed the world; it is about the NBA stepping forward in the face of decline in governance to live up to its motto; it is a call to other African nations (especially those that won independence about 60 years ago, like Cameroon, Senegal, Togo, Mali, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon and Mauritania), to rise and shine, stepping forward as the next best frontier for life more abundant, livelihood and beyond that, the pursuit of a good living. Good people: gbese, gbe bodi'e!