This write-up is an attempt to answer the question. The effort included speaking to various and diverse informed sources in the Lagos bar and the Candidates themselves (except Dayo Onakoya Esq, who on for different occasions did not pick up our calls on Saturday 6th June 2009).
As at press time it would appear, that the least acceptable candidate to electors is Dayo Onakoya. This has nothing to do with his credibility as a competent hand or the fact at his integrity (paradoxically he seems the one with the highest integrity quotient).
The problem with Onakoya’s candidacy is a striking lack of visibility on the field – most Lagos lawyers especially the younger ones (10 years and below post call) did not know him.
The reason for the lack of visibility stems
(a) from the personality profile of the Candidate, a strong willed but quiet, self effacing I-mind-my-own-business type of individual
(b) from the fact that Onakoya’s intention to run for chairmanship was fairly recent, limiting the fuller extension of necessary contacts.
Nonetheless, Onakoya has one formidable asset, he is the candidate of an established Yoruba caucus of conservative leaders and elders of the branch which include some former Chairmen of the branch like Akin Akinbote and Foluso Fayokun.
This caucus is well known and influential especially among the older members of the branch, who if they rev their political engine well may give Onakoya a powerful upward swing into the post of chairman.
As elections go, Taiwo Taiwo a former Secretary and 2nd Vice Chairman of the Lagos Bar ordinarily should have more than a fair chance of success in the contest.
For one, he is well known in the Lagos Bar, and quite an amiable gentleman who distributes salutations to people with ease. Tall, dark almost always dapper in appearance, Taiwo had always nursed the ambition of becoming the Chairman of his branch, for some time now and so created no doubt at all in that direction.
There are a number of factors however working against Taiwo’s success in the election. The first is that, the sheer fact of being married to a Judge of the Lagos State High Court, who is a former Chief Registrar of the Court, has rather unfairly cast Taiwo in the mould of a “pro-authority” person who would compromise the interests of the Bar with the Bench if he becomes the chairman on the altar of matrimony.
The second point is the lack of a strong political caucus to stand on. The Akinbote/Fayokun caucus (“Afenifere”) are not in favour of Taiwo’s bid and he has no good hope in the direction of the “Mixed Ethnic Caucus, (mainly Igbo & Yoruba practitioners) comprising of Lagos Bar figures like Kunle Uthman, Seth Amafuli who, also like the Afenifere would not want to trust Taiwo with power, constantly alleging him of incompetence when he was Secretary of the Lagos under Akinbote some four years ago. However the Squib has it on good authority that Baderinwa the incumbent chairman has thrown his support, albeit secretly for Taiwo Taiwo and that certainly is a big boost. The out-going chairman is building a new caucus round himself different from the caucus that brought him to power. It is reasonable in the circumstances then that the voting strategies that helped Baderinwa would be deployed in favour of Taiwo. Since generally the power and influence of incumbency is weighty, it may be rash to completely rule Taiwo out from contention – more so as his naturally amiable disposition will be of help in garnering votes to him and help douse the suspicion of him becoming a sell-out to the judicial authorities once in power.
If anybody in the race has the greatest capacity of swinging a surprise win in the elections it will be Chijioke Okoli. Derided by opponents as a political upstart who is just getting known in the Lagos Bar, the self confident, intellectually aware Okoli, has perhaps, the most unique quality of the contestants- he is a masked radical with the potential of bringing fresh vision into the governance of NBA Lagos branch. Yet this quality is the light of the stolid conservatism of the Lagos Bar, may be a disadvantage-will the Lagos Bar readily vote for a social activist as their apex leader?
Okoli’s central political view is to turn the Lagos Bar from more inward and internal concerns to weighty issues and matters affecting the public.
Okoli’s ethnicity must be a factor in this election. The Lagos bar is a multi-ethnic branch with Yoruba and Igbos and other old Eastern Nigerians dominating. The Yorubas are not in a too large a majority.
In this circumstances, Okoli, the only non-Yoruba in the four-man race, stands at an advantage, if ethnicity becomes a consideration, more so it is now quite some while that a non Yoruba had attained the chairmanship of the branch. Yet this advantage is already turning into a disadvantage as some electors who are Yorubas have made up their minds not to vote for Okoli simply because according to them, he represents an Igbo agenda.
Another possible weakness of this candidate is that his record of service in the Lagos bar is not as lengthy like is opponents, particularly Gboyega Kolade and Taiwo O. Taiwo making him open to accusation of being inexperienced.
The last but certainly not the least of the candidates is Adegboyega Kolade. He is in fact from our findings, as at press time the one candidate likeliest to become the next chairman of the branch. Of all the contestants, he arguably has had the longest stint of service in the Lagos bar, having been in the past 1st Assistant Secretary, Assistant Financial Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer and is presently the out-going 1st Vice-Chairman of the branch.
It is significant that in all the offices he has held, particularly in the two most sensitive, Financial Secretary and Treasurer, Kolade did not suffer any indictment.
The long years in office has given two advantages over most of his opponents-presence and visibility and secondly, the political knowledge of planning to winning elections.
If any of the contestants is guilty of dithering to run, that person is certainly not Kolade. He is facing the current campaign with the attitude of marathoner and not of a sprinter, unlike some of the other candidates.
This preparedness meant that he is the candidate who has campaigned the longest than the others and who has at the earliest opportunity taken the advantage of press publicity before the use of same was forbidden by the electoral committee of the Premier Bar.
From all indications Kolade’s programme of action (similar to Taiwo Taiwo’s) is essentially welfaristic in nature-increasing members attendance and participation in bat meetings and functions, improvement on the remunerations of younger legal practitioners, commitment to the building and completion of Lawyers Estate Project, achievement of a cordial bar and bench relationship and building of a bar centre etc.
Inspite of his long campaigns and network and visibility Kolade has no sure-fine guarranty of winning the election. He is not accepted in some quarters on account of a perception of him as relatively rustic, too strong-minded and out-spoken compared to the other candidates. Also in a bar with strong gerontocratic tendencies, Kolade’s eighteen years at the bar and coupled with the fact that he is merely in his mid-forties, may work against him in some other quarters, who may consider him too young to lead the Premier bar.
Thirdly whether like or not he will suffer vote-sharing with Dayo Onakoya and Taiwo O. Taiwo on account of their common Yoruba ethnicity and similarity in programmes of action. If the vote-sharing is on an even keel and Okoli can attain a comfortable majority of “Non-Yoruba votes” coupled with some Afenifere votes, he and not Kolade may well become the next chairman of the branch.
Our reading of the political ground suggests that the two leading candidates are either Kolade and Okoli or Kolade and Taiwo Taiwo, with Okoli always posing a big threat. As for Onakoya the fourth candidate who got on the nomination ticket at the very last minute, due to lack of ready sponsors, he must dramatically improve on his visibility and in good time too for him to have any real chance of winning the election.