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Monday, May 26, 2008

ILLEGALITY OR LEGALITY: WHICH WAY WILL THE TIGERS GO IN THE JUNE 2008 ELECTIONS?


It is no longer news that the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association is preparing to elect new hands to man her leadership. The incumbent Niyi Idowu administration will expire came June 2 2008.

But who will be the new leaders of the Tiger branch? The answer to that question lies not only with the electorate, but also on the conductors of the election.
For this year’s election, a three – man electoral committee to wit, Taiwo Adeoluwa Esq. Rex Onobrakpeya and Akin Akingbehin a.k.a idea’ was constituted amidst a lot of furore at the meeting of the Tigers of 4th May 2008.
Since her stormy and unavoidably political birth, the Electoral Committee has had no rest. Because of the sensitive nature of the assignment on her hands, every move, act or declaration of the Committee has been subject of all manners of speculation, and criticisms.
For example the very first decision of the E.C to wit to make Taiwo Adeoluwa Esq. (called to the bar in 1986) the chairman of the E.C ahead of Rex Onobrakpeya Esq. (called to the bar in 1985) raised serious suspicions in some quarters-that the ascendancy of Adeoluwa to the post of chairman above his senior colleague – Onobrakpeya was to give Adeoluwa a sure –foot hold to bend the electoral rules for the candidates supported by Niyi Idowu Esq. the incumbent chairman of the NBA.
Such quarters refused to believe that Adeoluwa, a financial supporter of the Niyi Idowu administration but who hardly participate otherwise in Ikeja bar affairs was not summoned by the chairman to help the fortunes of Beckley Abioye, whom he (Idowu) was sponsoring to succeed him as chairman.
Clearly the E.C has a huge task in her hands to conduct a credible election. As at press time, according to Mr. Akingbehin, the Secretary of the E.C. there was no less than ten petitions by and against various candidates in the election pending before her.
This is an unprecedented development. At least in the past twelve years of the Tiger branch, there was never such a wide rash of petitions before any E.C. Incidentally there had never been a time too that four persons would be contesting the chairmanship of the branch.
Squib’s investigation reveal that the most important question before the E.C and which may even tear the body apart is “whether or not to allow ALL contestants who have submitted nomination papers to contest regardless whether they qualify to so contest under the electoral guidelines of the bye – laws of the branch?
Of the four chairmanship contestants, only one, to wit Dele Oloke, appears to be clamoring for blanket clearance of all contestants irrespective of whether they meet the eligibility requirements of the bye-laws as candidates or not. Dele Oloke, who is bearing the cross of a negative eligibility report, is of the opinion that the rules be ignored. At a meeting the E.C held with all aspirants on Monday 12th May 2008, Oloke ingeniously submitted that “our bye laws is dead and as such should not be followed”. Curiously however in his further arguments Oloke was heard relying on sections of the bye-laws which moments ago he had declared dead.!
At the said meeting of 12th May, some of the contestants levied accusation against their opponents and some members of the outgoing executive committee, particularly Mr. Beckley Abioye, the incumbent General Secretary and Mr. Yinka Farounbi the Financial Secretary.
For example Mrs. Titi Osagie whose opponent Isa Mohammed Buhari alleged to have under paid her branch dues for year 2006-2007, claimed in her defence that it was Farounbi the Financial Secretary, who was her Principal in Chambers in 2006 who “deliberately under paid for me so that at a time like this, it can be used against me”. The lady went on to add that:
“But when I discovered this, I went and paid up the balance (N500:00) and collected the receipt. Unfortunately as I was going home, robbers attacked me in the bus and went away with my purse which contained the receipt”
While Mrs. Osagie was at her story, a gecko perching by the door was heard asking another gecko whether the lady ever studied creative writing at the University!
It appears that many of the petitions pertaining to the issue of attendance of the branch meetings up to the required level, challenges the veracity of the report of the incumbent General Secretary on the matter.
It would be recalled that in the last edition of the Squib, the Abioye report was thoroughly exposed as a document that told many lies in many parts.
At the meeting of the 12th May, Abioye himself in his capacity as a chairmanship candidate was present. In his brief defence of himself Abioye told the committee that they should not rely on the attendance lists which his office published and attached to minutes of the monthly meetings of the branch and circulated to members but rather should rely on the attendance notebooks which was in his care but now submitted to the committee.
When Abioye gave this advice, many people wondered whether the published attendance lists were not prepared from the attendance notebooks he was asking the E.C to rely on
According to geckos, the hero of the meeting was no other person than S.O.A Adesina Esq, the solo candidate for treasurer.
Unlike so many other candidates who were declared by the Abioye report as having fallen short of the minimum of 7 meeting attendance requirement, and were rooting for blanket eligibility for all candidates, Adesina declared that if the Electoral Committee finds out that he did not make the minimum requirement on attendance of branch meetings as stated by the Abioye report, he should be disqualified! A loud, widespread applause greeted this noble declaration.
At the end if the meeting, the E.C declared that it would investigate all petitions before it and that in that wise it would be meeting with both the General Secretary and Financial Secretary of the branch to clear themselves of the various allegations of falsification of records made against them.
Discreet investigations by the Squib reveals that the E.C., except care is taken, may split up. While the chairman, Taiwo Adeoluwa has expressed “my personal opinion” to all the contestants at the meeting of 12th May 2008 that it is best to allow everybody to contest because “there are too many petitions and too much tension” the secretary, Akin Akingbehin is of the mind that the proper thing to do is to follow the electoral guidelines.
However it appears that the chairman has expanded his view on the conduct of the election. Said Adeoluwa to the Squib on Friday 16th May 2008, “Our mission is to hold a credible election. We shall not close our eyes to the bye-laws. We are lawyers but at the same time we shall not close our eyes to the realities on the ground. The reality on the ground is that two (power) blocks are ‘fighting’. It appears one block has tampered with the records of attendance, while the other has tampered with the records of payment of dues. We shall look into all these allegations thoroughly.
I want to assure everybody that I am not in the E.C to do my one’s bidding. And anybody who is nursing any such hopes has failed”.
Mr. Rex Onobrakpeya, the third member of the committee spoke in like vein too. Speaking to the Squib on Saturday the 17th May 2008, Onobrakpeya said: “I chose not to be chairman of the Electoral Committee on personal grounds, even though Mr. Adeoluwa wanted me to be. I have no interest in anybody becoming anything. My own concern is that the Tiger Bar should not go into limbo and lose its Tiger identity.
I do not believe in speculations. People should wait for the outcome of our investigation. As at today, the out-going executive is accused of doctoring records. We shall investigate the claims dispassionately and then decide”
In his own view, Akin Akingbehin the E.C secretary strongly believes in the propriety of following the bye-laws in conducting the elections. According to Akingbehin in his chat with the Squib on Saturday 17th May 2008 “My own position is that our bye-laws should be followed. Our committee was set up to conduct elections and assess the eligibility of candidates and that we shall do. If we have a report from the Exco concerning eligibility of candidates, we must give it a presumption of regularity. But where there is a challenge to the report, we have to look at the challenge. If it is unmeritorious, we throw it out. But if it has merit, we uphold it. There is no big deal in disqualifying ineligible candidates from the elections. That is the law and it has been done before. In the 2006 elections some candidates were disqualified because they were found not to have satisfied the requirements governing the contest, I think particularly on the issue of attendance of monthly meetings. The disqualified candidates were ladies and their supporters even carried placards in protest, but nobody minded them because you can’t fight the law with sentiments.
I didn’t believe we, as Electoral Committee, have power on our own to discard the bye-laws of the branch. If the matter is referred to the-whole house and they say we should abandon the bye-laws in conducting the elections, then we can do it.
But if my colleagues in the E.C say that on our own, we should ignore the bye-laws to conduct the election I will honourably tender my resignation letter. I will not participate in such a thing”.

SQUIB’S POSITION:
There ought to be no debate about the conduct of the elections being in line with the bye-laws of the branch. That position should be taken for granted because it is the right and correct position to take. A professional body such as the NBA sets a very bad example to the society if she indicates that it is acceptable to distance itself from legality in the conduct of her own affairs.
Secondly the intendment of the makers of the bye-laws, was to ensure that only-committed members of the branch occupy her leadership cadre. Such a noble idea (the requirement of regular attendance of branch meetings and payment of branch dues not only for election candidates but also their nominators and seconders could only be to screen out diffident or irregular spectator-type, or nominal members from leadership cadre of the branch) would be defeated however if the eligibility rules are discarded in the conduct of the branch election. In such an eventuality, the greater the chance of the branch having on its leadership unsuitable characters lacking in knowledge and experience of bar activities and conduct becomes very high.
Thirdly where the E.C puts her feet down on the side of legality, a strong and clear message is sent to all members that only those who can sacrifice their time and money for the branch (by attending meetings regularly and supporting the branch financially) will be allowed in the corridor of the branch’s power. Thus adventurers and such unstable characters are shut out from gaining control of the branch and ruin it.

After all said and done, which path will the Taiwo Adeoluwa Electoral Committee toe in discharging her duties? Is it the path of legality or will it go the way of illegality?
The whole world is watching and waiting.

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