Expectedly the post of chairman of the Premier Branch, being the highest of all, is the most hotly contested. When the race started about six weeks ago, there were four contestants namely-Taiwo O. Taiwo, Dayo Onakoya, Chijioke Okoli and Gboyega Kolade.
Now two weeks to the D-Day, all the four are still in the race. However as the goal-post gets nearer by the day and the contest gets hotter and tighter, “water, (as a Nigerian parlance goes) is finding its level”.
Rated, about a month ago by this magazine, as the candidate with the least chances of electoral success in the election, Dayo Onakoya esq in the estimate of this-magazine has not had an upswing in his fortunes. Despite his good personal credentials, what still attends his identity is the question “Who is he?”
His political viability has not been helped by the news that circulated round within the Lagos Bar, last week, that Onakoya at a meeting called by some Yoruba caucuses had heeded the counsel of certain Yoruba elders to step out of the contest.
Those who persuaded Onakoya to withdraw from the race wanted to prevent a situation where the three Yoruba in the race will cancel themselves out, to the benefit of Chijioke Okoli, the only non-Yoruba in the race.
The Squib gathered that Onakoya was persuaded to step down, because it appeared to the “defenders of Yoruba” interests that he had the lowest chances of the trio, to clinch the chairmanship post.
A twist has entered the story though as Dayo Onakoya who had appeared agreeable to the idea of withdrawing from the race, suddenly after a lull of about three days, jerked his campaign machinery back to life, with text messages to various persons asking for their votes again.
The inconsistency has surely hurt his already lean chances even the more, as some of his backers have reportedly vowed not to have anything to do with him again. Reportedly said one of them-“How can you give your word to people that you are withdrawing from an elections and after that, come back to say you are running again?”
One sign that Onakoya is not a major contender for the post of chair, is the visible absence of a team of contestants, running under his umbrella. That honour is shared in the main by Adegboyega Kolade and Taiwo O. Taiwo who are now clearly the front runners.
Chijioke Okoli, the fourth contender in the race, is, the Squib can authoritatively disclose, having a ragged time in the race. He has dropped in the ratings as a leading contender, as the more politically experienced and connected Gboyega Kolade and Taiwo O. Taiwo, have, through their network of friends and patch work of alliances eaten deep into his support base in the “Otu oka Iwu” association of Igbo lawyers while he remains basically unattractive to the Yoruba groups and votes. It would appear that Okoli political sin is, running for the highest post in the Premier, too early in his political-career, considering his relative greenness in leadership circles in the Premier Bar.
He too is now more or less like Dayo Onakoya-a ‘solo runner’ without any or much “shadow cabinet”. Of all the aspirants in other categories of contest, only Rose Agbo (1st Vice chairmanship aspirant) is known with Okoli as being in his camp. That alliance cannot give him much mileage as Rose Agbo does not have the influence to attract a great number of votes to Okoli, since in her own category, she is no way a hot favourite for the post of 1st Vice-Chairman.
As at today, the two-main rivals in the contest are Taiwo O. Taiwo and Adegboyega Kolade. In the view of some analysts, both contestants are running “neck and neck”. Kolade and Taiwo are not new to each other when it comes to electoral contest.
Two years ago, both vied for the same office-1st Vice-Chairman. The winner by some 30 votes margin, of that contest was Gboyega Kolade. The question now is, will Gboyega Kolade, this year again defeat his rival Taiwo O. Taiwo for the post of chairman?
Chances are that, Kolade may repeat the feat, but if it happens, it is certainly not going to be an easy thing. This is because, Taiwo enjoys some strengths, that Kolade may find very hard to over-power.
The first is that, some of the main planks of the very structure that ensured Kolade’s triumph over Taiwo in 2007, such as Erasmus Baderinwa (out going chairman) and Kunle Uthman (who postures as a god-father of some sorts) are now backing Taiwo.
This is a formidable support indeed. Baderinwa’s support is crucial being the incumbent chairman and ordinarily should tilt towards his immediate surbodinate in office-Gboyega Kolade, the 1st Vice-Chairman.
It can be revealed that Baderinwa’s withdrawal of support for Kolade caught Kolade off-guard, because he thought that the chairman whom he has been very loyal to, including saving his neck from the axe of impeachment at a point, would reward him with his support in this election. Nobody should blame Baderinwa too much though: in politics there are no permanent friends.
As for Kunle Uthman, who is a socio-political ‘circulator’ in the Lagos Bar and as such well known in all the main sub-groups of the Lagos Bar, his support too will be quite helpful to Taiwo. The combination of Baderinwa and Uthman at this point is very interesting and shows their strong intention to install into power, their own men into office and as such remain relevant in the post-Baderinwa years.
Only three months ago, Uthman could not bear to hear Baderinwa’s name in his presence, so much was the level of his detestation of the chairman who he lavishly used to describe as an ingrate who marginalised his political benefactors like himself, and wedded himself overnight politically to a political parvenu, Mrs. Funmi Oluyede, an ex-officio member of the Baderinwa cabinet.
The second fact is that Taiwo himself is well known and presented as a political moderate, finds acceptability among older lawyers who consider him possessed of enough gravitas and respectable enough to lead the Premier Branch.
Like the heavy-weight that he is unlike Onakoya and Okoli who are running either solo or near solo, Taiwo has attracted under his platform a clutch of contestants in other offices. For example, Mike Idowu running for 1st Vice-Chairman is rooting for him, while another contestant for 1st vice-chairman, John Duru may also be for him. Funmi Oluyede running for the office of 2nd Vice-Chairman is also with him, likewise Opara (Mrs.) for the post of Secretary and Geraldine Wey for Treasurer.
Naturally all these other contestants will ask their own supporters to look the way of Taiwo Taiwo in the election, since the election is now taking the shape of a group contest more than an individual acceptability test.
However in spite of all the afore-mentioned, Kolade and not Taiwo, remains the man to beat in the election. What has continued to stand him in good was his long preparation for the contest, as well as the fact that he is neither a Johnny-Just-Come like Okoli, or an off and on presence like Dayo Onakoya and even more importantly, does not have any credibility problem, in all the offices he has held in the NBA, dating back to 1995/1996.
A dogged, active, spunky and easily accessible character, Kolade finds easy and wide-ranging-acceptance among the younger lawyers, the very type, a bar politician can count on to turn up and in large numbers too, at the polling booths to cast their votes.
Behind Kolade and in his team, are some contestants in other posts. With him is Seth Amafule (2nd vice-chairman aspirant and incumbent secretary) Prince Abimbola (Treasurer aspirant) Joyce Oduah (already returned unopposed as Social Secretary over Labake Adebimpe of the Taiwo Taiwo team, who was disqualified from the race by the Electoral Committee for lack of adequate attendance of branch meetings despite forged entries in the attendance register to the contrary).
None of Kolade’s team is anonymous politically and that would-certainly be of big help to the Kolade bid, especially in the non Yoruba votes. Kolade will also benefit from the desultoriness of the Dayo Onakoya campaign. Seeing the way the voting trend appears to be going decisively against their man, certain strong backers of Onakoya, who are a crop of past chairmen of the branch, resolutely opposed to the emergence of Taiwo as the next leader of the branch, are already throwing their weight behind Kolade, whom they considered a lesser evil to Taiwo.
All though a week, as it is said, is too long in politics, there is no doubting this reality-the race is now squarely between Gboyega Kolade and Taiwo Taiwo, with Okoli a rather distant third and Onakoya just taking a stroll in the political garden
Taiwo has improved considerably in the ratings and is largely responsible for the demotion of Okoli to the 3rd position and the reduction of the lead of Kolade over him from mid April to mid June.
But can he close the gap, and eventually overtake Kolade? Or, will history repeat itself?
We have to wait for June 14 2009 for the answer.