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Monday, July 16, 2012

'TWINS' IN POWER IN IKEJA BAR; BUT WILL IT LAST?

At exactly 4.30pm on Thursday 28th June 2012, by a superb motion moved by Mr. Dele Adesina S.A.N and seconded, the very eventful and successful regime of Adebamigbe Omole, Esq of the Nigerian Bar Association Ikeja, came to an end.

          After the dissolution of the Omole led executive, the next stage was the swearing-in into office of the successor administration led by Monday Onyekachi Ubani as Chairman. The other officers are Adesina Ogunlana – 1st Vice Chairman, Carolyn Ibeh – 2nd Vice-Chairman, Adesina Adegbite – General Secretary, Carolyn Ibharuneafe – Treasurer (returned unopposed) Segun Fatoki – Financial Secretary (returned unopposed) Samson Omodara – Welfare Secretary (returned unopposed) Meimuna Esegime – Publicity Secretary, Titi Osagie – Social Secretary, Nelly Silver Ajalaye – Auditor.

          This seemingly simple task- suddenly became sticky, difficult and clamorous. The problem was deciding who would conduct the swearing in ceremony for the officers – the Electoral Committee or the Branch Chairman.

          When the out-going or rather out-gone Chairman declared that he was ready to do the swearing in ceremony, there was an uproar in the meeting place as supporters of both the in-coming chairman, Monday Ubani and the Electoral Committee which had become exposed as involved in the partisan struggle for power in the Ikeja Bar began loud, even tumultuous agitation for the Electoral Committee to conduct the inauguration.

          The tumult did not move Adebamigbe Omole, one inch. He proved on this occasion perhaps more than at any other time in his chairmanship that he indeed is an Omole (TOUGH CHILD).

          He insisted that the Electoral Committee, having refused to participate in the amicable settlement of suit no: ID/345M/2012 Yinka Farounbi v Dosu Ogunniyi and 8 ORS brought by Yinka Farounbi the 1st runner-up in the chairmanship election against the Electoral Committee and all the winners of the Election and that the Committee not being a signatory to the terms of settlement before the court (see cover story exhibit) as well as being under the restraint of court by way of a still subsisting injunction, can not swear in all those elected in the 9th May 2012 elections conducted by her pending the determination of the Motion on Notice (which is yet to be moved). According to an unyielding Omole the Electoral Committee cannot take advantage of Section 19 of the Bye Law and standing Orders of the Branch which provides thus “The chairman or any member of the Electoral member of the Electoral Committee or the out-going Branch Chairman shall swear-in all newly elected officers by administering the Oath of office contained in the first schedule to this Bye-Law immediately after the dissolution of the Branch Executive Council at the conclusion of the Annual General meeting”.

          While the Ubani Group were shouting and clamouring for the EC to conduct the inauguration, the committee members were in disarray. While the Secretary of the Committee Mrs. Funmi Falana the de-facto ruler of the EC sat perched near Femi Falana her husband and counsel in court on the second row, Mr. Dosu Ogunniyi the de-jure leader of the Committee maintained a lonely, needle-in-the-haystack existence at the back of the hall while Mr. Reginald Ugwuadu the 3rd member and the Houdini act of the EC was simply lost in the crowd.

          All entreaties to Omole from elders of the Branch like Olalekan Yusuf and Dele Adesina S.A.N to persuade Omole to allow the Electoral Committee to conduct the Swearing-in ceremony or at least have the honour of calling out the in-coming Executive Committee members, for the Swearing-in to be conducted by Omole himself, fell on deaf ears.

          “I will not allow it. I will not allow it. We have to follow the Bye-Law or there is no swearing-in. The Electoral Committee will not do the Swearing in. Any one who is interested in being sworn had better come out now” insisted Omole emphatically while waving the Bye Law in the air.

          In the face of an un-budging chairman, the ball was played squarely into the Ubani camp: either follow the Electoral Committee and not get sworn-in or ditch the Electoral Committee and get sworn in.

          After a while, the tension lessened and the clamour went down. Constitutionalism, though standing virtually alone, but upheld by a steely, unwavering resolve had prevailed.

The winners of the 9th May 2012 election (expecting Meimuna Esegine who was absent at the AGM) as well the officers returned unopposed stepped out and were inaugurated by Adebamigbe  Omole Esq in line with the Bye-Law and Standing Order.

Thus the Monday Onyekachi Ubani led administration started its life. The new leader of the Branch, Ubani gave an acceptance speech for himself and on behalf of his co-leaders. It was a short and reconciliatory speech, in the expected “no victor, no vanquished” mode but he did not forget to thank the umpire of the hugely controversial election for “a job well done”.

Though on the surface all seems well now with the Ikeja Bar, with the existence of a new administration, keen observers however are adopting a wait and see attitude to know whether the rendering crisis engendered by the circumstances of the 9th May 2012 elections have been truly and finally settled.

          The first fact of interest to observers is the continuous existence of suit no ID/345M/2012. As had earlier noted not all the parties to the suit participates in the Terms of Settlement.

          The bone of contention still remains:- whether or not the Electoral Committee 1st Defendant in the suit acted in accordance with the provisions of the Branch Law to prevent otherwise qualified voters from voting in the said election for failure to pay practising fees for the year 2012 or failure to pay same on or before 31st March 2012?

          The Farounbi suit a.k.a the Practising Fee case is now before Honourable Justice Idowu of the Ikeja High Court who is the third judge in less than two months to handle the matter.

          The first trial judge, Honourable Justice Toyin Taiwo presided over the matter twice. At her first sitting the judge granted Farounbi’s prayer for interim injunction restraining the winners of the election from parading themselves as such while also restraining the Electoral Committee and the 2nd defendant (the out-going chairman as at then) from swearing in the winners of the election until the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

          Till date, the motion on notice is yet to be taken while the order of injunction is yet to be discharged. For no officially stated reason, Honourable Justice Taiwo withdrew from the matter, which was transferred to Justice Opeyemi Oke for determination. Geckos however inform the Squib reliable that the Honourable Judge withdrew from the case to stop the insinuation that she was taken side with the claimant in the matter whom the Ubani group claimed had the support of Mr. Taiwo Taiwo the chairman of NBA Lagos and Husband of the trial judge.

          Oke J. was about to hear and determine the plethora of preliminary objections in the matter from the 1st, 3rd, 7th and 8th defendants, when the 3rd defendants fired a petition via the chambers of Messers Okey Ogbu and Co to Philip J. the new Honourable Chief Judge of Lagos State, accusing the learned trial judge of bias and working to the end of ensuring that the 3rd defendant was not sworn in into office on the 4th of June 2012.

          The petition however failed as the Chief Judge saw no merit in it but Justice Oke who felt grossly insulted by the murky content of the petition, returned the file back to the Chief Judge for assignment to another judge. Thus on the 27th June 2012 when the matter was to come up before Justice Oke and the parties and counsel reported to the court, they were confronted with a shocker.

          The judge announced his lordship’s withdrawal from the case “to let all of you know why I have withdrawn from the matter since I am not sure the petitioner (the 3rd Defendant) made available to other parties copies of his petition against me to the Chief Judge” Further said the judge – “I do not expect any lawyer to be a liar and to suppress material facts. A person who complies a record of proceedings in this matter and yet did not include the order of Justice Taiwo which states that her order of interim injunction remains effective until the determination of interlocutory injunction in his petition to the Chief Judge can only be up to mischief.

          It’s only a desperate person who can do such and a desperate person can do anything. However Lagos has the most populous number of legal practitioners and in that huge number there will be the type of the third defendant.

          I have handed him over to my own advocate, the almighty God, to judge. I am withdrawing from this case so that the 3rd defendant, should he lose in this case, will not be able to claim that he lost because the judge was already biased against him.”

          Thus it was only before Honourable Justice Yetunde Idowu, whom the Chief Judge transferred the matter to from Justice Oke that the Terms of Settlement between the claimant and the 2nd – 9th defendants was entered.

          The Squib reports that even getting the terms signed by the claimant (Yinka Farounbi) and the 3rd defendant (Monday Ubani) was problematic. Initially meant to be an all inclusive settlement, the 3rd defendant in the morning of 27th June 2012 stated that he would execute the document, if only the 1st defendant (Electoral Committee) signed. Incidentally, the 1st Defendant (Dosu Ogunniyi) was not prepared to sign the document as it was. As for the claimant, he was simply no where to be seen in the morning of 27th June 2012. Not only that he was in communicado even to leading members of his political group, the Progressives. Even long after the terms were amended to exclude the Electoral Committee as party to the Terms of Settlement, Farounbi was still out of reach. While the leaders of the Progressive group were simply embarrassed at Farounbi’s absence, the Ubani group firmly believed that the progressives were hatching another plot against their interest.

          Eventually at about 2.00pm the claimant “surfaced” and the Terms were eventually signed by the claimant and the 3rd Defendant after some drama about who would sign first.

          The pendency of the practising fee case is a real threat to the Ubani administration, for in the view of some legal experts, the claimant’s case challenging the validity of the May 9 2012 election is a strong and credible one, with the strong possibility of a legal triumph in the court of law.

          The second consideration for “worry” about the future of the Ubani administration is the nature of its composition, split as it were unevenly into two parts. The first part comprises of the Chairman himself, the Publicity Secretary and the Social Secretary, all who are either in the same camp or are strong allies.

          The second group comprises the 1st Vice-Chairman, the 2nd Vice Chairman, the General Secretary, the Treasurer, the Financial Secretary, the Welfare Secretary and the Auditor, all who are of the Progressive Group.

          Quite an interesting political situation, this is. According to observers because the apex control of the Ikeja Bar belongs to a member of the minority group which has only three portfolios, to its counter-part’s seven and which group controls the very crucial portfolios of the Secretariat and the entirety of the Financial Department.

          This clearly rather delicate situation which would test the political and administrative sagacity of the new regime is made much more acute by the quality of the personalities of the two most senior members of the team-Chairman Monday Ubani and 1st Vice Chairman Adesina Ogunlana.

          Whether by mere sheer coincidence or a certain mystical arrangement, both leaders are born in the same date, day, month and year (Monday 27 July 1964) and as such according to the ‘science’ of astrology are Leos. The 1st Vice Chairman had claimed rather dubiously however, that while he was born 12.00am in the morning, the Chairman was born late in the evening at about 10.00pm.

          Both share some similar character traits of being hardy, colourful, expressive, tempestuous, daring, assertive, gregarious, organized and engaging.

          It would be seen in a few weeks how the combination will work out. If the duo jells, the Ikeja Bar surely would be in for dizzying times of achievement, but if they fall out, all the troubles of the past few weeks could be a child’s play.

          Time, will surely tell.

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