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Monday, July 25, 2016

OGUNLANA VS NBA (The Retro Law Case)

For some time now, the famous N.B.A Ikeja Branch has been embroiled in a peculiar post election crisis. What is peculiar about the dispute is the active involvement of the national leadership of the NBA in the state of affairs at the Tiger Bar, an unprecedented act in the Bar.

As the centre of the storm is Adesina Ogunlana, the clear cut winner of the 2016 chairmanship of the Ikeja Branch election. While Ogunlana polled 94 votes, his opponents, Bartholomew Aguegbodo and Gloria Nweze, polled 53 and 51 votes respectively.

Prior to his election, the Election Monitoring Group of the Nigerian Bar Association holding a retrospective view of Section 6(3) of the Uniform Bye-Law of Branches of the NBA 2015 had instructed the disqualification of both Adesina Ogunlana and Gloria Nweze from the chairmanship race on the ground that both had run foul of the section which provides as follows: “No member of the Branch shall occupy the same office for more than two (2) years (one term); and any member who has held elective offices as a Branch officer for two (2) terms shall not be eligible to contest for a Branch office until at least five(5) years after his/her last term of office”.

However the Electoral Committee of the Ikeja Branch holding prospective view of Section 6(3) and exclusively saddled with the determination of eligibility of candidates in the election by virtue of Section 15(5) of the Uniform Bye-Law rejected the instruction and cleared both Ogunlana and Nweze to run. Section 15(5) provides as follows: “The Election Committee’s decision as to eligibility of any candidate to stand for election shall be final”.

Ogunlana won the election hands down on 13th June 2016, claiming 48% percentage of the valid votes cast. On the 14th June 2016; he was sworn in with other executives at the Annual General meeting of the Bar.

On the 16th June 2016, the President of the N.B.A sitting as the Chairman of the National Executive Committee, relying on the report of the Dafe Akpedeye Committee report, declared Ogunlana’s election null and appointed Nurudeen Ogbara former chairman of the NBA Ikorodu Branch to conduct election into the office of the Chairman NBA Ikeja within a week from the time of appointment.

Ogunlana kicked against the president’s orders and approached the court on the 20th June in suit no LD/1141GCM/16 Adesina Ogunlana vs The Registered Trustees of Nigerian Bar Association and 4ors seeking the nullification of the president’s directive as well as obtaining restrictive injunction against the Defendants including Nurudeen Ogbara the president’s cats-paw.

Despite being duly served with the various processes in Ogunlana’s suit, Nurudeen Ogbara continued with his work, claiming he was yet to see any restraining order of court against him.

At the hearing of the first application for interim injunction on 22nd June, 2016, the learned trial Judge, A. M. Lawal J of the Lagos High Court, declined the grant, ordering instead that the Claimant put the Defendants on notice. All arguments to persuade the impressively circumspect Judge to grant the interim injunction failed, with the Judge expressing strong disbelief that legal practitioners having notice of pending suit against them would proceed with actions that would offend the Judicial position in cases like Ojukwu and Governor of Lagos State.

The Judge’s position hardened when his Lordship noticed that there was no evidence before the court that Ogbara the pronounced executor of the NBA president’s order had taken any steps at that point in time towards the achievement of his brief. Little wonder then that the Judge in his ruling stated that there was no urgency in the reliefs sought before the court.

On Thursday 23rd June 2016 Ogbara who styled himself 'Election Facilitator into the office of The Chairman of N.B.A Ikeja Branch' rolled out his programme of action. According to the one-man Electoral Committee, nominations would open Friday 24th June 2016 and would close on Monday 27th June 2016. On the same 27th June 2016, screening of candidates would be done and the Elections would subsequently hold on Wednesday 29th June 2016.

On the 27th June 2016, as directed by the honourable court, Ogunlana caused to be served on the defendants, Ogbara (4th Defendants) inclusive, his fresh application for interim injunction upon the failure of the earlier one filed on the 20th. Ogbara was served by Sheriff of court at the Ikeja Bar centre in the midst of screening candidates for the proposed election of 29th  June, 2016.

After the service of the latest processes of Ogunlana (now having exhibits evidencing clear evidence that Ogbara would hold his election on the 29th June, 2016 two days ahead the 1st July return date of the case), on Ogbara as well as the Hearing Notice, pure magic on the side of the “Election Facilitator” took place.

At about 6.30 on the 27th June 2016, the very interesting news via SMS came to members of the Ikeja Bar that one Prince Dele Oloke, a member known for persistent unsuccessful electoral runs in the Branch, since 2002 had been returned unopposed. According to the broadcast authored by Nurudeen Ogbara, seven (unnamed) candidates were screened, while one was disqualified, five of the remaining six, stepped down for Dele Oloke, who Ogbara on the Screening day and not Election Day, declared “returned unopposed.” The announcement ended with the news that Oloke would be sworn in as Chairman on Wednesday 29th June 2016.

The announcement was a clear political move and calculated to be a sucker punch to the solar plexus of the Ogunlana camp; for it meant that the Ogunlana application for interim injunction to restrain the Defendants from conducting elections had been over-taken by events and as such neutralised. If the deadly Ogbara shot had been directed at a lesser camp, it would have served the purpose of a knock-out. However the Ogunlana camp, comprising of bonded intellectual activists and veterans of Bar politics handled the danger smoothly and with aplomb.

Within an hour of the Ogbara news 'bomb,' the progressives fired back and repeatedly on the air-waves denying any Ogunlana complicity or participation in the Kangaroo schemes that produced Oloke as “Chairman elect.”

They also used the Ogbara SMS message as the meat of a further affidavit in support of the Claimant’s application. Composed, sure-footed and graceful under fire, the Ogunlana camp presented a formidable legal team which finally at the eleventh hour on June 28, 2016 persuaded the Judge to grant an order specifically restraining the Defendant from swearing or causing to be sworn in Prince Dele Oloke or any other person. The honourable court also ordered that status quo between the parties be maintained as 20th June 2016 when the claimant filed his Originating Summons.

Despite the clear orders of Court, it soon became well known that the Dele Oloke would very much like to be sworn in on the 29th June, just a few hours away then.

True to type, Oloke and his supporters actually came to the Bar Secretariat for the swearing in at about 10.30am in the morning of 29th June 2016. However that activity did not take place for two major reasons. The first was that Ogbara the “Election Facilitator” upon having notice of Justice Lawal’s orders, stayed away. Second, was that Oloke and his crowd suddenly discovered the secretariat unserviceable that morning. It was not opened on the orders of Ogunlana who later explained the compelling reason for the manouever which was to avoid or minimize violence or physical confrontation amongst members of the Branch and also prevent damage to the Branch properties, a situation most likely to happen should Oloke’s proposed violation of the Court Order happened at the Secretariat and in the public glare.

However there are faint rumors making the rounds of Oloke being dragged to a roadside kiosk ipebi not too far from the Ikeja High Court by a few ardent supporters and sworn-in secretly by a person whose identity is shrouded in mystery till date. At about 1.00pm when it appeared that heat had died down, Ogunlana upon consultation which certain elders of the Branch present caused the secretariat opened.

On Friday 1st July 2016, 1st – 4th Defendants were represented in court “on protest” by some counsel led by Afolabi Fashanu S.A.N. Interestingly enough, the 4th Defendant’s Preliminary Objection to the Claimant’s suit was filed and signed by Dele Oloke! It was on the strength of this P.O that Afolabi Fashanu S.A.N. urged the court to temporize on the matter until his Lordship determined the issue of Jurisdiction. Ademola Adewale for the claimant urged the court not to fold its hands and watch the subject matter of the litigation erode because of the defendants objection to the jurisdiction of court.

In its ruling, the Court agreed with Adewale and renewed its earlier orders directing maintenance of status quo as at 20th June, 2016 and restraining the Defendant from swearing in Dele Oloke, pending the determination of the Preliminary Objection. The matter was adjourned to 21st July 2016. 

Away from the court room wars, Adesina Ogunlana the new chief Tiger has been contending with a largely rebellious cabinet comprised mainly of gentlemen in skirts. Notable opposition bordering on hatred against the chairman is exhibited openly by  Muna Esegine the Secretary, a devotee of Dele Oloke. Five days after the purported nullification of Ogunlana’s election, Esegine obviously believing that Ogunlana has met his irredeemable Waterloo sharply told the chairman on phone “see Mr. Ogunlana, you are not my chairman. Before we left for Benin you were the chairman and I obeyed your instructions but all of us were present at Benin and we all knew what happened. If you tell me you now have a case in court, do you have an injunction? You are not my chairman.” Another open resenter of the chairman is the Treasurer, Thelma Coco-Bassey who ironicaly enough was encouraged into participation in the leadership cadre of the Tiger Bar two years ago in part by Ogunlana.

From all indications, the man in the eye of the storm is unfazed by the hostile environment surrounding his leadership, digging deep into his reservoir of political experience to cope and even excel in the situation. In a meeting he had with the other members of his executive on Wednesday 29th June, 2016 at about 4.00pm, he counselled thus “I am your chairman. Gentlemen we need to accommodate ourselves because we all have to work together for the next two years. I am sure that not all of you voted for me during the election and it is not all of you too that I voted for but here we are together and we need to work together for the good of our people, irrespective of feelings.

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