LAWYERS4CHANGE

Friday, June 4, 2010

THE BATTLE OF TEAMS: WHO WILL WIN?




The administration of the Dave Akinyemi Ajetomobi-led Executive Committee of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, which began 30th June 2008, will all other things being equal, wind up on June 7 2010.

The big question agitating the minds of members of the most dynamic and best known branch of the NBA is: who are those that will replace the out-going executives?

The Executive Committee of the Tiger Bar comprises 14 persons, including 3 ex-officio members. Presently three posts have been filled with qualified and unopposed candidates. These are Mrs. Gloria Nweze (2nd Vice –Chairman), Mr. S. Omodara (Publicity Secretary) and Mr. Oluwaseyi Olawunmi (Social Secretary). Nobody is vying for Auditor, while the sole candidate for the post of Assistant General Secretary Aladekomo Esq. has been disqualified from the race by the Electoral Committee and declared ineligible to contest.


The posts open for contest are Chairman, 1st Vice-Chairman, General Secretary, Welfare Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer.
For the office of chairman, there are three contestants: Dele Oloke, Niyi Akinmola and Adegbamigbe Omole. For the 1st Vice-Chairman post, there are also three contestants: Biyi Oguntuga, Terry Badmus Adeniji and Yinka Farounbi.


The contest for General Secretary involves three persons: Titi Osagie, Emmanuel Otobo and Adesina Ogunlana. For the post of Welfare Secretary, there are two contestants, Abdulhamid Ahmed and Abdullateef Abdulsalam. For Financial Secretary, Adesina Adegbite will slug it out with Maimuna Esegine.

A proper understanding of the contests show that, it is less of individual duels and more of group conflict. It is an open secret that none of the contestants is seeking office on an independent or personal platform, rather they are in three groups.

The first group which is also the oldest has the highest number of eight candidates, to wit Adegbamigbe Omole (Chairman), Yinka Farounbi (1st Vice-Chairman), Gloria Nweze (2nd Vice-Chairman), Adesina Ogunlana (General Secretary), Adesina Adegbite (Financial Secretary), Abdulsalam Abdullateef (Welfare Secretary), Carol Ibeh (Treasurer), Seyi Olawunmi (Social Secretary).

The second group is the youngest and has the lowest number of candidates – Niyi Akinmola (Chairman), Terry Adeniyi (1st Vice-Chairman), Emmanuel Otobo (General Secretary), Leye Omitola (Treasurer).
The third group has the second highest number of candidates, to wit Dele Oloke (Chairman), Biyi Oguntuga (1st Vice-Chairman), Titi Osagie (General Secretary), Maimuna Esegine (Financial Secretary), and Samson Omodara (P.R.O).
Even before the formal opening of the campaign, members of each of the teams have been meeting and spreading the political gospel of their various groups.

TEAM DELE OLOKE
A reading of the political tussle so far shows that the Dele Oloke Team will be lucky to have more than one member in the new government.
The greatest weakness of this group appears to be the adoption of Dele Oloke as its front-runner candidate. The choice of Oloke as its ‘chairmanship’ candidate is ironic and even strange.
This is because Oloke has been a political victim and prey of Niyi Idowu, the actual leader of the group, twice in the past. In 2004, Idowu roundly defeated Oloke to become the 1st Vice-Chairman of the Ikeja Bar and in 2006, again thoroughly humiliated Oloke at the polls to become the Chairman of the branch.

When he was repeatedly flogged by his now new found political ally and by implication godfather, Oloke cried blue murder and alleged that he lost the elections due to rigging. Idowu then was one of those Oloke dismissed as unsuccessful legal practitioners given to infantile radicalism and who survive by feeding off the bar. It would appear that the Niyi Idowu forces turned to Oloke and adopted him as their chairmanship candidate as there was nobody original to the group to present. Pundits had thought that Asade Abioye Beckley whom the group presented in 2008 for the chairmanship post would be re-presented. However this was not to be because of the reasonable apprehension of the group that the Beckley candidature would not fly this year too.

Yet the Niyi Idowu Group did not want to yield the chairmanship race to their rivals without contest because such a surrender would lower the political status of the group.

It is yet to be seen how the adoption of Oloke as the chairmanship candidate by the Niyi Idowu group can be of much help to Oloke.
First the adoption deals a blow to the vaunted claim of Oloke that he is a principled and consistent Bar politician, since he is now in political wedlock with the very people, (Niyi Idowu, Biyi Oguntuga and Beckley Abioye) that he had asserted most strenuously in the past, were part of a gallery of rogues who routinely rig Ikeja Bar elections and “eat” NBA Ikeja funds.
The question now for Oloke to answer is why a self-professed and principled man of integrity like him is in partnership with devils and rogues in the quest for power?

Secondly, the pillar of his new found support, Niyi Idowu and his deputy Beckley Abioye do not appear to have the clout to dislodge the influence of the behemoths of Team Omole or even match the capacity of Team Akinmola. When the duo was in power, they could not win elections for their group, so where have they now found the power to do otherwise?
Equally troubling is that, there is no certain stalwart in Dele Oloke’s subordinate standard bearers.

Take Biyi Oguntuga his 1st Vice-Chairman candidate. He is probably the least known in his category. An amiable, quiet but politically dour fellow, Oguntuga’s fame, if any shivers on the steeds of near anonymity.
As for Oloke’s preferred choice for General Secretary, Titi Osagie, the lady is largely another unknown and her candidacy does not appear to have added any appreciable bounce to Oloke’s chances. Observers believe that Osagie’s case fits that of the proverbial seed sown on a rocky place or cast among thorns. It would appear that her political directors love casting her in the role of a modern David who will take on Goliaths and vanquish them.

In 2008 she a then first timer, was pitted against a pillar of the political establishment of the Ikeja Bar, Isa Buhari for the post of General Secretary and deservedly lost. Now in 2010 she is pitted against an even bigger behemoth, Adesina Ogunlana.

The rest of the Oloke team to wit Maimuna Esegine, Abdulhamid Ahmed and Samson Omodara can only contribute so much to Oloke’s fortune.
In fact for Maimuna Esegine and Ahmed, the strength of opposition to their bids to become Financial Secretary and Welfare Secretary respectively is reflected not only in the quality of their political adversaries, Adesina Adegbite and Abdullateef Abdulsalam respectively, but also in the fact that both are from the formidable Omole team which has the real capacity of ensuring band wagon effect on the voting pattern. Possible help however may come to the duo of Esegine and Ahmed from Team Akinmola which is not fielding candidates for Financial Secretary and Welfare Secretary positions.

Thirdly and probably the most important factor is the Dele Oloke personae itself. In 2002, the personae did not sell in the Ikeja polls when he contested against Osahon Ihenyen for 1st Vice-Chairman and lost by one vote.

In 2004, against Niyi Idowu for 1st Vice-Chairman it did not fly. In 2006, against Niyi Idowu again for Chairman, it sank under water. In 2008, it couldn’t get a spot unlike Archimedes to stand as he was disqualified from the race for chairman. In 2010, can it take muster and catch fire?

Most pundits answer this question largely in the negative because the known Oloke political personae is not attractive and has not changed in any significant way from the past, which is projected to the public as temperamental, proud (boastful of wealth, influence, exposure and alleged malevolent metaphysical powers) and being extremely uncharitable to political opponents whom he haughtily dismisses as “jobless boys,” “unsuccessful legal practitioners,” and “election riggers.”
However Dele Oloke and his co-travellers are hoping for a reversal of fortunes for him this time around. This year he has put in much more mileage in his campaign than ever before and his supporters believe that sympathy votes may give him the crown.

TEAM AKINMOLA
Another team in contention is the Niyi Akinmola group. This group shares some characteristics with the Dele Oloke group. One, it is led by a break-away member of the mainstream progressive-political caucus of the Tiger Bar, in the person of Niyi Akinmola himself.

Just like Niyi Idowu the leader of the Dele Oloke group, he broke away in February 2008, after unresolved disagreement in the mainstream caucus over who should be its chairmanship candidate in the June 2008 elections.
Secondly, just like Team Oloke himself, Team Akinmola sees nothing good in the outgoing Dave Ajetomobi administration which it condemns as corrupt and non-performing.

The major political strategy of the Niyi Akinmola group in seeking power is (a) waging a campaign of calumny against the outgoing Dave Ajetomobi administration, labeling it as corrupt and with no achievement (b) introducing an ethnic agenda and demonizing the political establishment of the Ikeja Bar as anti non-Yoruba people, particularly Igbos and Mid-Westerners.

In prosecuting the first agenda, Niyi Akinmola, Terry Adeniji and Emmanuel Otobo are very active. A vicious and widespread whispering propaganda, high on speculations and abysmally low in substance spearheaded by the trio, has it that fantastic amounts of money (sometimes said to be 20 million naira, sometimes 30 million naira) have accrued to the Ikeja Bar from various sources and have been “chopped” by the incumbent chairman, Dave Ajetomobi and his cronies, all who now allegedly have acquired expensive jeeps and wear bow-ties as a display of their new found wealth.

This incredulous story is a reflection of not only the low political sagacity of the group but a mark of its desperation. If sheer desperation is enough to win political office, this group will come out tops.

Fortunately, this is not the case, more so since the desperation is not matched with effective vote-winning machinery which includes presenting credible and strong candidates and formulating attractive and plausible political programmes.
One huge problem of the Akinmola group is that it is a hastily scrambled up group of strange bed-fellows.

It appears that it was the stark reality that he could not reasonably go it alone, the way he attempted in 2008 to become chairman of the Ikeja Bar that apparently forced Akinmola into his late evening alliance with the trio of Emmanuel Otobo, Terry Adeniji and Leye Omitola; the first two who are particular malcontents in the out-going regime of Dave Ajetomobi and specially blessed with the talent for inventing tales, spreading baseless rumours and marketing poisonous political gossip against opponents.-

The snag is that these practitioners of TENUBOLE (amebo) politics and their leader Niyi Akinmola have no concrete proofs to back their claims of corruption and non-performance against the Dave Ajetomobi administration. This failure has diluted the potency of their smear campaigns and lowered their prestige and appeal considerably since lawyers are swayed by proofs and not by statement of claims.
The second aspect of the political maneuver is to attack the sponsors of the Omole Team as a political caucus that does not care much for members of the Ikeja Bar who are non-Yoruba and and exclude them from leadership participation in the Ikeja Bar.

However the group has no effective proofs to back this. To start with, it was the caucus of the Omole team, that provided the political muscle which ensured that Emmanuel, Otobo (Igbo) himself in 2008 did not have to face Miss Biola Oketoki (Yoruba) at the polls for Social Secretary position by ensuring her proper disqualification from the race.

Two, the Dave Ajetomobi administration sponsored by the same mainstream caucus sponsoring team Omole does not discriminate against any ethnic group or person. It is on record that the incumbent Treasurer Mrs. Gloria Nweze,a n Easterner was appointed into that post by the mainstream caucus, likewise Mr. Monday Ubani (another Easterner) was appointed the chairman of the prestigious Law Week Committee, while Mr. Kingsley Essien, Easterner, became the co-chairman of the Disciplinary Committee. Same goes for Okey Ogbu, Chairman of the Sports Committee.

Even now, it is the Omole Team that has more than one slot for non Yorubas in the Executive Committee. While Team Oloke only has Maimuna Esegine (Mid-Westerner) for Financial Secretary and Team Akinmola has Emmanuel Otobo (Igbo) for General Secretary. Team Omole is fielding the duo of Gloria Nweze (Igbo) (2nd Vice-Chairman and Carol Ibeh (Igbo) (Treasurer).

Another challenge for the Akinmola team is the credibility of their arrow-head. Akinmola professes to be a courageous and progressive bar man, with high level of integrity, but his past as an officer of the branch does not support this claim.

For example in 2005, whilst serving as the Financial Secretary, he was staunchly against the Ikeja Bar stand of boycotting and picketing the court of Magistrate Aje-Afunwa who had subjected Rotimi Komolafe, a legal practitioner, to the indignity of cutting grass because the lawyer’s phone rang out in court. When Akinmola’s secret lobby for “mercy” for his magistrate friend Aje-Afunwa failed, he prophesied loudly and wrongly too that “the Ikeja Bar would be disgraced at the end of the day for insisting on the discipline of this magistrate.”
Two years later when the Ikeja Bar sent a delegation led by Dare Akande to enquire from Chief Magistrate Adedayo why his honour was insisting that scores of ladies charged before her court for all sorts of simple offences should pay N20, 000.00 as bail bond security before the perfection of their bail, a panicky and troubled Niyi Akinmola called Akande aside to advise that “when we see the magistrate don’t let us raise the issue of payment of money o!”
The advice left Akande aghast. “But what were we sent to do then if we do not talk about the money?” was Akande’s query. As 2nd Vice-Chairman in the Niyi Idowu administration (2006 – 2008), Akinmola was given the responsibility of purchasing a functional generator for the branch. The eventual discharge of the task became a scandal since the supposedly brand new generator allegedly bought for the sum of one hundred and sixty thousand naira, started developing faults after barely two weeks of purchase.

At the end of the day, a probe panel was set up on Niyi Akinmola by the Executive Committee. The Committee found among other things from the dealer that Akinmola had insisted on having refurbished and re-assembled parts for the generator even when he was advised against it.
It may interest readers to know that the chairman of the panel that found Akinmola wanting was no other person than Mr. Terry Adeniji who is now running as Akinmola’s 1st Vice-Chairman and is fond of attacking other people’s integrity but who is now dumb and blind to Akinmola’s past transgression.
The generator in question packed up ingloriously and completely barely a year after installation, despite gulping a lot of money for fruitless repairs. This shameful situation earned Akinmola the sobriquet “Generator Officer” or “Mr. Generator.”
Akinmola’s preferred candidate for 1st Vice-Chairman Terry Adeniji may have agood showing but will find it hard to prevail over his rival in the Omole Team, to wit, Yinka Farounbi who is expected to benefit not only from his own influence but also the extensive network of his mainstream group.
As for Akinmola’s preferred choice for General Secretary, his chances of success at the polls appears even slimmer than that of his co-Goebbelist Terry Adeniji, since one of his two rivals is Adesina Ogunlana, whose electoral appeal seems very wide and appears to cut across all the three groups. In contrast, Otobo is so obscure that even Titi Osagie, the most junior of the trio at the Bar, is expected to do better than him.
If the Akinmola group will have any member in the new government, that luck could most probably go to Leye Omitola, the group’s preferred choice for Treasurer. The reason may lie in the fact that his singular opponent, Carol Ibeh is not too prominent, while he personally does not carry the general stain of his group of being mud rackers, bearers of false tales and touters of wild speculations against political opponents.
However the danger to his success at the polls are real. For one, his opponent is not Yoruba and so can benefit from the ethnic card politics, Omitola’s group is pushing.
Secondly Ibeh is a lady lawyer thus the Beijing Conference spirit may come to her aid at the polls – the “we should give women a chance to also lead” syndrome.
Thirdly, she is a proper Lagos girl and so is very much at home with the Yoruba whose language she fluently speaks unaccented and so can rake in votes from that ethnic majority.
Finally she is a member of the mainstream group, whose network influence will certainly provide succor for her.

TEAM OMOLE
From all indications, the team to beat in the 2010 election, is the Omole group, led by Oludare Akande, a.k.a Leader. Comprised of inveterate political thinkers, planners and fighters, the fulcrum of the group has produced in direct succession three administrations for the Ikeja Bar, the last being the outgoing Dave Ajetomobi administration (2008 – 2010).

The striking political sagacity of the group in winning elections is the careful choice and presentation of candidates to the electorate. The easy switch of Adebamigbe Omole as their eventual flag bearer for Chairman in place of the political supremo, Dare Akande their initial choice, while typical of the group’s sophistication and organizational discipline, caught the opposition unawares and left them floundering. The reason: Omole unlike his rivals, Niyi Akinmola and Oloke, is not in bed with any controversy and has a very clean political image. Yet Omole is not a green horn in Ikeja Bar politics. He was in year 2000, the Assistant General Secretary of the Ikeja Bar and between 2004 and 2006, he was the General Secretary in the acclaimed administration of Adekunle Ojo. Even his rivals concede that he is a gentleman and would have preferred to meet Dare Akande, the hardy political strongman in the field of engagement than the gentle, disarming Omole. So perplexed by the emergence of Omole as the chairmanship candidate of the Mainstream Group was the Akinmola’s “we-are-the-only-honest-joes-all-others-are-bad-coins” group that it resorted to claiming that Omole was brought up to do a cover-up job for the Dave Ajetomobi administration’s alleged embezzlement spree!

In deploying Adesina Ogunlana, perhaps its best known member to the influential but subordinate position of General Secretary, the mainstream group again showed class in political strategy. Many had expected Ogunlana to vie for Chairman, the most prime position in Tiger land but by going to the lower league of Secretaryship, his candidacy simply becomes overwhelming. He is there like a bull in a pen of goats and rams. The deployment of the publisher of the famous Squib magazine Secretaryship leaves the mainstream group in the best possible position to retain the crucial post in the family as their wont since 2004.