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Monday, February 23, 2015

NBA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 2014: HOW THE DIE IS CAST?

Vol. 14 No.14 (14th July, 2014)


Nigerian Bar Association historians cannot recall any presidential election of the association before 2014 where contestants number up to five. The highest number previously was four and that was I 2004. The presidential aspirants then were- Bayo Ojo SAN, A. B. Mahmod SAN, J. B. Daoudu SAN and Phillips Umeh Esq.

In the 2014 contest, the contestants are: Justy Erhabor Esq, Dele Adesina SAN, Funke Adekoya SAN, Niyi AKintola SAN and Austin Alegeh SAN.

Yet another peculiarity of the 2014 presidential election is that it is the first time since the ‘birth’ of the controversial and unofficial zoning system in the Association in 2002 that the zone of privilege (this time the West) failed to present a preferred single candidate to the larger electorate.

In 2002, the zone of privilege then, being the West presented Wole Olanipekun, Esq SAN as its presidential choice over Segun Onakoya. Olanipekun won. In 2004, North the zone of privilege presented its choice – A. B. Mahmoud SAN J. B. Daodu SAN and Bayo Ojo SAN, Mahmoud lost. In 2006, the East, the zone of privilege presented Olisa Agbakoba SAN, over Chris Uche SAN, Agbakoba won. In 2008, the West presented Rotimi Akeredolu SAN and suppressed his rival Dele Adesina’s ambition. Akeredolu thus ran unopposed. He won because he couldn’t have lost. In 2010, the North presented J.B Daodu over J. k. Gadzama as its choice, Daodu won. In 2012, the East the zone of privilege present Okechukwu Wali over Emeka Ngige as its choice. Wali won.

In 2014, West the zone of privilege “failed, neglected or utterly refused” to present a choice out of the four candidates coming from its axis, to wit Funke Adekoya, Niyi Akintola, Dele Adesina and Justy Erhabor. None of these candidates is in the race with any special western caucus anointing.

The inability of the Western Forum locally called Egbe Amofin Yoruba (Association or Society of Yoruba Lawyers) is a sure reflection of the extremely poor quality of leadership it has. Led since about 2000 by Bandele Aiku, Esq S.A.N. the Egbe’s leadership is a bullying and overbearing gerontocracy as well as a capricious oligarchy.

Drawing heavily on the cultural mode of the Yoruba to give uncritical even near slavish obedience to elders on account of seniority, the cabalistic Aiku leadership which used to include prominent Yoruba lawyers like Wole Olanipekun, SAN and Chief Aluko-Olokun SAN ruled and reigned in the Egbe Amofin from 2002-2010, imposing candidates on their subjects (read executives of the branches of the NBA in the Bar) at will and turning the chairmen and secretaries of the branches of the NBA in the West into mere rubber stamp parliament.

The height of the success of the Aiku leadership was the presentation of the NBA presidency to Rotimi Akeredolu in 2008 on a platter of gold. The cabal had by a tincture of blackmail, cajolement and false assurances bundled Dele Adesina SAN from the presidential contest. In 2008, it was only Akeredolu and Dele Adesina that were in the race.

The Aiku cabal had eased Adesina out of the race with the blandishment of an automatic presidential ticket come 2014 (six years away then) if he would withdraw from Akeredolu.

Adesina who was 51 years old in 2008 and who had just attained the silk the same year was told to shun over-ambition and go to the proverbial patient dog who ate the fattest bone to learn wisdom.

Adesina believed the cabal and pulled out of the race to the shock and embarrassment of many of his admirers.

Tick, tock, soon 2014 came. That was when the promise of automatic presidential ticket to Adesina by the Aiku led Egbe Amofin turned hollow.

The leader of the Aiku cabal, was not prepared to anoint Dele Adesina as the presidential candidate of the Egbe Amofin. Interestinly his deputy Wole Olanipekun was keen on making good the 2008 promise to Adesina-the inevitable result was crisis as the two main opponents of Adesina from the West to wit Niyi Akintola and Mrs. Funke Adekoya were not prepared to withdraw from the race.

Even when it became apparent that Adesina was the most popular of the candidates coming from the West, the Aiku faction of the now dis-united Egbe Amofin was adamant in opposition to the Adesina candidacy. The Aiku faction preferred choice was Funke Adekoya. Adesina’s tactic of rebellion soon turned into efforts at reconciliation with Aiku but it proved all in vain.

With Justy Erhabor incumbent 1st Vice-President now fully thrown into the race ostensibly running also on the platform on the West, even though ethnically a Mid-Westerner, it became an all-comers affair.

All the political dis-order and stress is one very big reason why none of the contenders from the West (Akintola, Adesina, Adekoya and Erhabor) may clinch the presidency.

The presidency may very well go the way of Austin Alegeh. Initially considered a light weight and a mere stroller in the political park, Alegeh (from Benin) and running on the platform of the Mid-West Forum has become a potent force.

While the Westerners were squabbling amongst and dissipating energy and goodwill Alegeh prospered, campaigning quietly but effectively, selling himself to the larger electorate of the East and North as the least rancorous of the presidential candidates. His push for acceptability is also based on the need to consider that either as an independent forum or part of a larger West, it is only fair and equitable that the Mid-West be allowed to produce another presidential for the NBA. The last time the president came from the Midwest was 1998 in the person of Chief James Okpoko SAN.

Tall and sizeable and blessed with a gentle and benign mien, Alegeh’s campaign backed with a huge war chest, probably the biggest of all the contenders has simply caught fire with the electorate, outside of the West.

However his candidacy suffered two main set-backs, the first is his relative inexperience in the NBA vis a vis the other candidates.

Before 2010, very little was known or heard of Austin Alegeh in the NBA especially at the national level. His political bio-date consequently is slender compared to the much fatter ones of his rivals, particularly Dele Adesina, Funke Adekoya and Justy Erhabor.

There is serious concerns whether Alegeh has the necessary cognate experience to lead the Bar well at the national level having not paid quality dues before.

The second drag on the Alegeh’s candidacy is his perceived closeness to the outgoing president of the NBA, Mr. Okeychukwu Wali SAN.

Wali at best is a controversial president and presented by many, despite his amiability and gentle outlook for running the association “oppressively”. Criticised for not allowing robust debates on issues at NEC meetings and regularly shutting out perceived contrary opinions, Wali is nick-named rather infamously as President “Approve? Approve!” for his penchant for hurriedly declaring at NEC meetings that his administration’s policies or perspectives have been approved by NEC once put to them.

Wali himself in 2012 was harmed in the 2012 elections with his perceived closeness to his predecessor, J. B. Daodu SAN who was certainly an iron glove president.

The peculiarity of the Alegeh’s candidacy is that he stands a good chance of winning the presidency but also stands robust chances of losing miserably. Where the Eagles from the West (Adesina, Adekoya and Akintola) squabbled to the very last. Alegeh will most likely make it especially if, Adesina, the biggest Western Eagle has his ‘kill’ stolen away in parts by his rivals.

As for Adesina, he ordinarily has the brightest chance of all to become the next president of the NBA. His credentials as a Bar Man at all levels are not in doubt. His experience in the affairs of the Nigerian bar is deep and his contacts in the Bar are wide. Also apart from being a hardly and very mobile campaigner, he has a lot of political goodwill and sympathy going for him for it is public knowledge that he withdrew his candidacy in 2008 for Rotimi Akeredolu to become NBA president. Many believe that if he had run in 2008 he would have won the race.

The main threat to Adesina’s success is from his back yard, the West. The implacable oppostition of Mrs. Funke Adekoya and Niyi Akintola to his supremacy will certainly eat into Adesina’s votes, leaving him vulnerable to become a ‘first runner up”. This is because why both Adekoya and Akintola ordinarily should not equal or surpass Adesina’s votes, the quantum they will take away may very well bring him below Austin Alegeh’s votes in the end.

Analysts are finding it hard to predict victory for either Mrs. Funke Adekoya and Niyi Akintola. Inspite of their best efforts, the persistent image of them before many of the voters is that of “also rans” and “spoilers”.

Intelligent, professionally versatile, decent and experienced, Adekoya is yet a hard-sell to the majority of the electorate for the persistent image of her as “strict stiff and narrow”. An image borne over the years. Even female folks, the image are present. In the West, the only notable support for is from the Lagos Bar and Badagry. Some older lawyers may vote for her but whereas the Bar does not appear to mind to be led by a woman it is very doubtful  whether it is the Funke Adekoya type that they want. There are fears in certain quarters that it is dangerous to hand over the tyranny prove presidency of the NBA to a strong willed and emotive woman like Adekoya.

Niyi Akintola perhaps the most exuberant and most verbally announced of all the candidates may yet win the NBA presidency but almost certainly not in 2014.

In the West where he hails from, his candidacy has not impressed most people. A successful lawyer no doubt and perhaps the candidate with the most natural common touch, yet Akintola’s boastful assertiveness and garrulous bluntness lower his attractiveness despite his easy generosity and open nature. His candour often laced with self-praise repels rather attract and many people believe he is lacking in adequate gravitas and poise to lead the Bar.

The last and the least of the candidates, except a huge Gemany 7 Brazil 1 miracle happens, is Justy Erhabor. The main problems of Erhabor’s candidacy are that he lacks the profile to present the change in the NBA politics that he purports to represent.

Is the NBA ready to have once again after almost two decades a non-silk as president? The answer is ‘well, and may be?’ The next question is “Is Justy Erhabor the type of non-silk the Bar wants as president now? The answer is no.

Having served successively in the controversial presidencies of J. B. Daodu (2010-2012) and Okey Wali (2012–2014) as 2nd Vice President and 1st Vice President, Erhabor is seen more of a journey man and an opportunistic careerist in many quarters.

To make matters worse, candidate Erhabor has no political base. His ethnic constituency (Mid-West Forum) is not for him while in his practice base (Egbe Amofin) he is considered a joke. With a very slender purse to pursue his presidential ambition, Erhabor is just beating the air. In the estimate of this magazine an Erhabor win in the July 15 election is the most unlikely scenario.

SUMMARY OF PREDICTIONS:

Dele Adesina - Most likely to win or drop to 2nd place

Alegeh - Next mostly likely to win but may drop to 3rd place at the worst

Adekoya - At best ends up 3rd place, at worst 4th

Akintola – At best ends up 3rd place, at worst 4th

Erhabor – First from the bottom of the ladder, or rise up to 4th place.

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