Monday, July 25, 2016


Election years in the Nigerian Bar Association are always interesting. Usually the period of the election is filled with the tension of vigorous power plays, slippery maneuvers, alignments, re-alignments and all manners of permutations all towards the end of winning elections or gaining office.

2016 is an election year, as general elections are billed to hold on July 31 2016. However 2016 has a unique and peculiar feature, it is the very first time in about twenty-five years that feasibility of the elections holding at all comes into question.

Underscoring this point, is the suit filed in Abuja against the NBA, its leadership and the two presidential candidates, Joe-Kyari Gadzama S.A.N and A. B. Mahmoud S.A.N by one John Unachukwu a past national officer (assistant publicity secretary). Unachukwu’s apparent grouse appears to be the on the system of the elections, dubbed “Internet voting” as against the “electronic voting” provided in the constitution.

As at press time no one is sure which side, the judicial swing will go. Another significance of the Unachukwu suit is that it reflects a discernment as well a credibility question on the coming elections among the mass of the electorate.


The situation is from the point of political policy a self induced challenge or “criticality.” First, is that the out-going Alegeh administration is replacing the 18 year-old delegate system of voting with direct and universal sufferage while at the same time routing the voting the electronic or internet way. That route, is seen rightly or wrongly by a vast majority of voters as a contrivance to rig the election in favour of A.B Mahmoud, the presidential candidate, seen again rightly or wrongly, as the preferred choice of Augustine Alegeh, the NBA president, organizer of the General elections.

The e-voting being novel and not test run, carries a huge mystery can and the general impression is that it is an unverifiable process, thus lacking credibility. The electoral process as understood by the Squib is so tainted that the only way the election if held, would be held credible is if Joe-Kyari Gadzama is declared the winner of the presidential race.

It would be recalled that the perceived partisanship of Austin Alegeh had inspired a petition against him by Gadzama to the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Gadzama in the petition called for the intervention of the Body, bitterly complaining about the favouring of Mahmoud in the race by the out-going president.

As things stand today, it is difficult to predict an out-right win for either Mahmoud or Gadzama. This is because both candidates are claiming majority support in all the three geo-political zones of the association. Furthermore the universality of the sufferage takes the game of influence more away from the political lords of the delegate system thus making the determination of the success of the candidates at the polls more at the mercies of the 'masses' who at best only know the 'shadows' 'echoes' and mere 'nuances' of the gladiators and nothing qualitative enough to make informed choices - a major if rather silent but unsettling factor which also affects the outcome of the voting process. Our interactions with many potential voters reveal that they may not vote in the coming elections largely due to apathy and ignorance. The fixture of the voting days for the weekend (Saturday & Sunday) is perhaps an unwitting platform for voters indolence and apathy.

Traditionally, weekends are reserved for rest and socials in Nigeria, thus save for the concerned, public spirited members of the Bar, most others are not likely to take any special interest or pain to perform their civic duty of voting on “days of relaxation.”


The situation will be aggravated by the fact that no less than eighty percent of the voters, even in cosmopolitan Branches like Lagos, Ikeja, Port-Harcourt, Abuja are not internet savvy or inclined, being steeped still in the old analogue and manual methods.

Personality types and traits and the political tendencies, in and out of the Bar, of the two presidential candidates will influence the choice of informed voters, should the election hold.

Called to the Bar (outer) in 1980 A. B. Mahmoud is the older of the two contestants. Habitually wearing a sober, reflective pose, he is being branded by his supporters as a focused, disciplined and sound legal practitioner, who would bring “much needed” sanity into the Bar.

Joe-Kyari Gadzama, younger at 55 years and called to the outer Bar in 1986, is presented as a self made man of action and ideas, a well travelled go-getter, capable of freeing the N.B.A from the grasp of a particular cabal who have been running affairs of the Association oppressively and selfishly, since the exit of Rotimi Akeredolu S.A.N as NBA President in 2010.


Interestingly both men have once tasted electoral defeat each in their quest for the NBA presidency. In 2004, Mahmoud was beaten to the third place in a four-man race involving Bayo Ojo S.A.N. (the winner) Joseph Daudu S.A.N (1st runner-up) and Phillip Umeh.
In 2010, it was Joe-Kyari Gadzama’s turn to fail at the polls, as Joseph Daudu defeated him by a rather wide margin to become president.
Now it is 2016 and both former losers are now slugging it out. Who wins? Who deserves to win?
As said earlier, these are difficult questions to answer but one thing is clear; the popular perception is that  A.B. Mahmoud is the candidate of the ESTABLISHMENT, whose present face is Austin Alegeh, a man who inherited a cohesive bar, started well, even brilliantly but is leaving the Bar substantially in disarray and in turmoil.
Gadzama, the Sardauna of the Uba emirate, Borno seeming to be more likely candidate to reverse the last minute mis-governance of President Alegeh, may just swing it but then the old guards don’t die easy.




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