These are not the best of times for the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association as her bi-annual ritual of leadership renewal is heading very fast, towards a fiasco.
In fact, the Tiger branch is on the brink of a precipice, no thanks to the escapist antics of a lazy, dithering and obviously cowardly Committee of Election conductors, which the branch, courtesy of a negatively scheming Niyi Idowu administration has entrusted her future to.
On May 5, 2008, the Tiger branch set up a three man Committee in line with her bye-laws to conduct elections into the Executive Committee of the branch in June 2008 when the present incumbents will vacate office.
The three “wise men” saddled with this great responsibility are Taiwo Adeoluwa (called 1986) Rex Onobrakpreya (called 1985) and Gbenga Akingbehin (called 1988). Unfortunately, events have shown that these gentlemen do not have the requisite capacity to see through their hard but noble task.
By a letter dated 20th May, 2008 but which was only delivered on the 23rd May, 2008 to Niyi Idowu Esq., the chairman of the branch, the Electoral Committee gave indication of its unpreparedness to hold the elections as scheduled for June 2 2008. The Committee proposes instead that either the elections be conducted for every available contestant whether qualified under the branch bye-laws to run or not, or that the elections be postponed while a care-taker committee be set-up to run the branch until when elections are held (Please see cover story Exhibit).
In arriving at these rather shocking and disturbing positions, the Electoral Committee claimed that they were in possession of enough materials to disqualify all the candidates if the bye-laws were to be strictly followed.
According to the Electoral Committee, the records of payments of branch dues and that of the attendance of monthly meetings by members that are crucial to verifying the qualification of aspirants to contest have been so badly manipulated that they are unreliable tools to use.
Said the Electoral Committee:
(a) “should we rely on both the Attendance and Financial Records (knowing fully well that same have been doctored) to sustain or disqualify any candidate? Or
(b) “should we close our eyes to all the discrepancies and allow the candidates to contest, thereby disregarding Section 10 of the Bye-laws which makes provision for qualification.?
We wish to draw attention to Section 10 (1) (a) of our Bye-laws and the requirement of moral capacity and competency of the candidates for election. The activities of most of the contestants, the language employed on their co-contestants during the public sittings of our Committee and even the issue of sworn affidavits in lieu of payment receipts would violate the true intendment of our Bye-laws. There are enough materials to disqualify all the candidates if the bye-laws were to be strictly construed.”
The question is, how valid are the contentions of the Adeoluwa Electoral Committee?
In the sober judgement of this magazine, the Electoral Committee is guilty of exaggerating the problems at hand, so as to avoid the responsibility of doing their work.
Right from the on-set, it can be fairly said that the Committee was not actually fit for the task given to it by the Ikeja Bar.
Even though it was appointed on the 5th May, 2008 to hold elections on June 2, 2008, less than a month away then, the Committee held her first meeting only on the 12th May, 2008 and just for about one hour.
Even at that point, the Squib can authoritatively reveal that the Committee was already feeling intimidated by the arduous prospects of screening candidates for eligibility and conducting elections.
At that first meeting, upon receiving a so called deluge of petitions and with promise of more of such to come, the chairman of the Electoral Committee, Taiwo Adeoluwa was heard voicing his opinion in public at the secretariat of the Ikeja branch that he was uncomfortable and shocked with the tension which the impending political contest had generated in the Ikeja Branch. The solution according to the chairman, in his personal opinion was that all the aspirants whatever qualification defects they might have should be allowed to contest.
This perspective was also shared by Rex Onobrakpeya Esq., the ordinary member of the Electoral Committee, who although the most senior of the three-man Committee curiously elected not to chair the Committee.
Analysts wondered at the expression of shock and disturbance of both Messrs Adeoluwa and Onobrakpeya at the so-called volatile election tension said to have gripped the Ikeja Bar, because such tension is a normal election year occurrence.
On the 14th May, 2008, the Electoral Committee held her second meeting - this time with contestants to consider pending petitions. But, even before the meeting sat, the Chairman, Taiwo Adeoluwa was heard opining freely, too freely in public perhaps that all the parties are guilty of doctoring records.
Expectedly, at the meeting of 14th May, 2008, sparks flew between petitioners and candidates petitioned against. But it was nothing physical or out of hand, but the intensity of the presentation and defence of different contentions and positions by candidates only worked to unnerve the Electoral Committee members more, particularly, the Chairman, Taiwo Adeoluwa and Rex Onobrakpeya.
Observers and activists of the Ikeja Bar view the fearfulness of the Electoral Committee members as a direct result of their superficial relationship with the vigorous Tiger bar. There may be some merit in this position. The most seemingly stable member of the Committee is the Secretary, Gbenga Akingbehin, a University of Lagos lecturer who happens to be, of the trio, the most familiar with the Ikeja Bar.
Rex Onobrakpeya is an on and off attendee and participant of the Ikeja Bar meetings and activites, while the Electoral Committee Chairman, is simply a neophyte bar-man. The day he was nominated into the Electoral committee, he was, to many members, like a visitor from Jupiter. Many members simply wondered who the gentleman was. Neither his face nor name was known to many Tigers, even up till now.
In maintaining a position that the records of the association are so badly tampered with, that they could not be used for verifying the qualification of contestants, analysts contend that the Electoral Committee could not be right.
Although the third meeting of the Electoral Committee of 19th May, 2008, with Beckley Abioye, the General Secretary and Yinka Farounbi, the Financial Secretary who are the record keepers of the meeting attendance and branch due payments of the branch respectively, revealed that there are discrepancies in the records, the discrepancies cannot be said to be so pervasive and thick enough for the records to be un-usable.
There are valid reasons for this contention:
1. Petitions did not lie against all the contestants, who in all, number twenty and are as follows:
1. Dave Ajetomobi
2. Dele Oloke
3. Niyi Akinmola
4. Beckley Abioye
5. Dare Akande
6. Charles Biyi Oguntuga
7. Maimuna Esegine
8. Terry Adeniji Badmus
9. Olufemi O. Dafosta
10. Titilayo Osagie
11. Isa Mohammed Buhari
Assistant General Secretary
12. Gbenga Ajayi
13. Leye Omitola
14. Chinwe Joy Nwadike
15. A. Ahmed
16. S.O. Omodara
17. Lateef Abdusalam
18. E.R.A Otobo
19. Abiola Oketoki
20. S.O Adesina
As at today, all properly submitted pending petitions with the electoral committee are as follows:
Petitioners Vs Respondents Status
Dave Ajetomobi Vs Niyi Akinmola Chairman
Dare Akande Vs Charles Oguntuga 1st V.C.
Charles Oguntuga Vs Dare Akande 1st V.C.
Terry Badmus Adeniji Vs Maimuna Esigene 2nd V.C.
Isa Mohammed Buhari Vs Titilayo Osagie Gen. Sec.
Chinwe Joy Vs A. Ahmed Welfare Sec.
Lateef Abdusalam Vs S.O.Omodara Publicity Sec.
E.R.A. Otobo Vs Abiola Oketoki Social Sec.
Clearly, only about half of the candidates have petitions (even cross petitions too) against each other and only in about six offices.
So, in the light of the above facts why would the Electoral Committee sweepingly and peremptorily hold that they cannot hold elections and that all the candidates are fit for disqualification?
For the purpose of further clarity, it will be shown shortly that for a reasonable and industrious Electoral Committee, there are enough reasons and basis to find candidates who are actually qualified to vie for posts and to hold elections for them.
In the post of chairman, there are four candidates. There is no petition or counter petition against Beckley Abioye and Dele Oloke. Same can be said of Dave Ajetomobi.
According to the Committee, in a chat with the SQUIB on the 23rd May, 2008, even though Abioye has no petition against him, he lacks the moral right to vie for chairman being so heavily involved in the falsification of records of attendance of branch meetings. While this allegation is quite true against Abioye, it is unfair to allege that he falsified records against every contestant and that all his records are manifestly unreliable.
In fact, evidence so far only showed that he added to the attendance marks of certain contestants like Biyi Oguntuga, Biola Oketoki, Maimuna Esegine, especially in the 2006/2007 year but there is no evidence or proof that he reduced the eligibility quotient of any candidate as per attendance of meetings, except possibly of Olufemi Dafosta Osinowo. Even at this, the Committee did not find the time or the trouble to take up the secretary on each of the records he wrote for each candidate.
In fact, at his “trial” before the Electoral Committee on the 19th May, 2008, the Electoral Committee Chairman apparently filled with disgust, impatiently closed the case against the secretary just after only one case of fraud padding of record of meeting attendance with respect to the records of Biyi Oguntuga a 1st Vice - Chairman candidate was established against Beckley Abioye. It was like a case of “since you were fraudulent here, you must be fraudulent elsewhere and everywhere else.” To the Squib, this is an unfair and generalised position to take against Abioye.
Candidate Dele Oloke has no petition against him but the Abioye report indicted him as being in attendance of branch meetings only six times in the 2006/2007 year. Before the Committee, Oloke disagreed with this claim but had not tangible proof that his records were unfavourably altered by Abioye.
Yet, the Committee appeared swayed to his side against the embattled Abioye but yet would not clear Oloke for the election.
As for candidate Niyi Akinmola, the petition against him from Dave Ajetomobi alleged and with concrete proof that his seconder, Biyi Oguntuga was not qualified to second him because of inadequate attendance of branch meetings.
So, at the chairmanship level, the only seemingly qualified candidate is Dave Ajetomobi. This was because as at Friday the 16th May, 2008 which was held by the Electoral Committee to be the last day for submission of petitions, there was no petition against Dave Ajetomobi and so, none was treated by the Electoral Committee on 19th May, 2008. Yet the electoral committee refused to clear him for the election
Curiously, on Wednesday the 21st May, 2008, several days after submission of petitions had lapsed, the chairman of the Electoral Committee received the petition of Niyi Akinmola against Dave Ajetomobi and appeared to be treating the unproven document as valid by its mere belated existence.
At the level of the vice-chairmanship (1st and 2nd), the petitions basically are on just two main issues:
(a) lack of sufficient attendance of bar meetings.
(b) non-payment of branch dues.
Whereas (a) above affect both Charles Oguntuga (1st Vice Chairmanship aspirant), and, Maimuna Esigene (2nd Vice Chairmanship aspirant) with credible and clear proof of the allegations.
(b) above affects Dare Akande Esq. with no proof of same, yet, candidates Terry Adeniji Badmus (2nd Vice-Chairmanship aspirant) and Dare Akande (1st Vice-Chairmanship aspirant) were not cleared to run for the elections.
At the General Secretary level, candidate Isa Mohammed Buhari has no petition against him and the Electoral Committee has not found any fault in him, yet the Committee did not clear him for the election. His only opponent, Titilayo Osagie (Mrs), clearly weighed down by the allegation of inadequate payment of branch dues and who has no constitutionally acceptable proof otherwise ordinarily stands disqualified and so elections ought to be conducted for only Isa Mohammed Buhari in that category. But the electoral committee kept mum on the Osagie’s case when the lady put up her rather spirited defence to explain away her predicament.
In the case of the Social Secretary, there is no petition against candidate Emmanuel Otobo and the Committee has no complaint against him on any ground. Surprisingly, the Adeoluwa Committee says that this candidate is not qualified to run.
Otobo’s only opponent, Abiola Oketoki has qualification challenges against her on the two grounds of non-payment of branch dues and insufficient attendance of branch meetings. While the Committee found out that the lady may have possible defence to the first charge, (non-payment of branch dues), there was no escape route for her in the second charge, as the published attendance list of members at meetings thoroughly exposed her as regularly absent from meetings of the branch for most of the 2006/2007 year. So, a candidate like this should stand disqualified.
As for the Publicity Secretary slot, there is no petition against Lateef Abdusalam and as the Electoral Committee finds no fault with the candidate, it has no reason or right to claim that he is not eligible to contest in the election.
Abdusalam’s opponent, S.O.A Omodara, is tackled by his opponent on the twin issues of non-payment of branch dues. Since the Committee was claiming that the records of the Financial Secretary was tampered with, in this regard, it ought to have determined by whom and for whose benefits. If there were doubts in the matter, such should be resolved in favour of candidate Omodara.
As regards the allegation of insufficient attendance of branch meetings, the Committee ought to have looked into the allegation and if it is found that Secretary Abioye inflated the attendance records of candidate Omodara to enable him to qualify for contest, then he should be disqualified on that score. But if the reverse was found to be true then he should be allow to run.
On the Welfare Secretary’s slot, there are only two candidates - Chinwe Joy Nwadike and A. Ahmed. While Chinwe falls short of the required number of meeting attendance as per the Abioye report and so should be disqualified if the report is found valid (note that candidate Joy Nwadike has not complained against the Abioye report), the allegation against Ahmed (failure to pay adequate practicing fees), has not been looked into by the committee to determined his validity or otherwise.
As for Leye Omitola, the sole candidate for Financial Secretary’s, there is no petition against him and there is no evidence of his violating any qualifying standards yet the electoral committee refused to clear him for the election and this should be cleared by the Committee.
The situation is almost the same for Gbenga Ajayi, the sole candidate for Assistant General Secretary.
The only other solo candidate, S.O.A Adesina in the Treasurer position has no petition against him, but the Abioye Report indicted him for insufficient attendance of branch meetings. If this claim is true, then Adesina should be disqualified but the electoral committee has not even verify the Abioye report on Adesina.
From the foregoing analysis, it is clear that there are candidates that have no qualification problems at all, contrary to the assertion of the Electoral Committee in their letter of 20th May, 2008 to the Chairman of the NBA, Ikeja Branch.
In the humble view of this magazine, the only way forward is for the elections to hold. The Adeoluwa Committee should be made to do its job or resign immediately for incompetence and gross dereliction of duty.
A critical appraisal of the mood and conduct of the Electoral Committee make it reasonable for people to suspect it of mischief and plain bone-laziness. Else how could a committee saddled with such a grave responsibility such as conducting a bar election condemn the entire political players and actors without providing specific data against each candidate but rely heavily on sweeping statements, generalisation, mass condemnation and blackmail. The Adeoluwa Electoral Committee should be told that their job is not a piece of cake and that they should find the courage and grit to do the right thing, instead of looking for scape-goats.
Section 18 (1a-d) of the bye-laws of the Ikeja bar provides for what to do where offices are vacant after elections to the effect that where all the Executive offices are not filled after elections such offices are to be filled by the members of the new Executive Committee intact who choose appointees by themselves from members of the branch.
This is another useful road for the Electoral Committee to steer the NBA Ikeja to, if it finds the courage to conduct the June 2 2008 elections. As amply demonstrated above, there are:
(a) sole candidates in some offices without any qualification blemishes
(b) offices where only one or two in their class have no qualification blemishes
Elections should be conducted for such candidates while those who cannot qualify should be disqualified.
From credible reports reaching the Squib, Niyi Idowu the out-going chairman of the Ikeja Bar is acutely embarrassed by the letter of the Adeoluwa Committee of 20 May 2004. Geckos who were present when the chairman received the letter from Taiwo Adeoluwa Esq. the chairman of the electoral committee told the Squib that upon reading the letter Idowu broke out in cold sweat.
This is understandable. The contents of the letter is a damnation of not only his regime but a potent rubbishing of his political godson Beckley Abioye who he so desperately wanted as his successor, as a political fraudster. Only a few observers of the Tiger branch has much sympathy for Idowu however. He was heavily instrumental in his capacity as the presiding officer of the May 5 2008 meeting of the Tigers to the constitution of the Adeoluwa committee; most of whom are strangers to the Ikeja Bar and have no time or the much needed sacrificial disposition and courage to discharge the onerous burdens of election conduct placed on them and as such could not stand to be counted when it mattered most to do the right thing no matter whose ox was gored.
After heedlessly breaking faith with his political family which made him and now supported by a company of largely inexperienced and minimally influential underlings, which a political commentator has dubbed a “rag-tag army” in his quest to determine who his successor would be, Idowu may well end his tenure on the infamous record of being the first chairman of the Tiger bar who came to the ‘throne’ peacefully, popularly and gloriously but left in shame and in chaos.