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NBA Election: Facts, Intrigues and Everything In Between

Posted: Aug 3, 2016 at 7:27 pm   /   by   /   comments (1)

In this report, STEPHEN UBIMAGO chronicles the events and incidences that combined to produce the electoral outcome in the last Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) voting process, which took place between July 30 and 31 in Abuja…

Moves to clinch the office of president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the election which look place between July 30 and 31 in Abuja may have started as far back as two years ago following the election of Mr. Austin Alegeh (SAN) as president (now outgoing) of the NBA.

The NBA operates an informal zoning arrangement which enables the rotation of “power” between the core regions of North, East and West every two years.

In other words, the office of the president of the umbrella association of Nigerian lawyers is made to be occupied in a two-year tenure rotated between the North, East and West.

For the 2016 round of elections, the office of the president had been zoned to the North; hence it was to be occupied by a candidate from the region for the next two years.

It is against this backdrop that leading candidates for the various offices, particularly for the top job of president, commenced, rather early, concrete moves toward winning the election to the various seats available for grabs in the last election.

As far back as March, at a meeting of elders of the Bar from the North, otherwise the Arewa Elders Committee, Chief Joe Kyari-Gadzama (SAN), a major contender for the office of president, was the first to throw his hat in the ring when, on the occasion, he asked the Arewa Elders to disqualify two nominees of Mallam Abubakar B. Mahmoud (SAN) from the Committee’s membership.

Apparently, not only was he trying to assert his claim ahead the July election, he was also angling to pave way for the emergence of his own men to ensure an easier ride going into the election.

Interestingly, between Gadzama and Mahmoud, the elders had staked a preference for the former’s nominees, and this was contained in a report submitted by the Committee to convey their choice.

But Mahmoud (SAN) was never one to be browbeaten in the chess-game of winning the hearts and minds of his colleagues for his prize.

Quickly, he rejected the recommendation and moved for outright rejection of the panel’s report.

Although Mahmoud’s moves did not go down well with majority of the Arewa members at the meeting, their deliberations were however extended at his instance whereupon it was subsequently resolved that Gadzama and Mahmoud were at liberty to present three members each, and the forum’s executive committee would nominate one person who would double as chairman of the Committee.

Two months later in May, the campaign train of the major contenders of the office had garnered major traction.

In a strategic move, Mahmoud launched his campaign formally in Port Harcourt on Thursday, May 26, which saw him traversing the length and breadth of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State capital, from where he launched farther afield into the rest of the East.

Port Harcourt is a familiar terrain for Mahmoud. He’d actually cut his legal teeth in the oil-rich city while observing his mandatory one-year National Youth Service in the place.

He even began his journey into matrimony there, as he’d providentially met his girl friend, who later became his only wife, at the Ministry of Justice in Port Harcourt.

Apparently, the Rivers State capital was home for Mahmoud, SAN.

It goes without saying that the Eastern forum of lawyers were impressed with the former Attorney General of Kano State; and thus had thrown their weight behind his candidacy in view of his pedigree to which they could warmly relate.

While Mahmoud was busy with his train, never did Kyari-Gadzama go to bed, for he knew the stakes were high; he was also aware that the candidacy of Mahmoud was a very formidable one.

Ostensibly, Gadzama commanded major following among South West lawyers. Hence, when the body of lawyers from the region were inaugurating their formal meeting on May 14 in Ile Ife, Osun State, ahead the July election, he had knowledge of the meeting; hence he was ahead of his opponent in being the first to secure their audience.

Minutes into their deliberations, Chief Gadzama (SAN) walked in with his entourage, which included Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN); Dr. Akin Onigbinde (SAN); Mr Gajam, former Attorney General of  Zamfara, among others.

Candidates for the other positions, who were campaigning under his wings, also came in tow and were each afforded opportunity to address the Forum.

In his speech, Chief Gadzama described himself as a presidential hopeful that could be trusted to pilot the affairs of the NBA, given integrity as his selling point.

Be that as it may, the meeting dispersed without the Forum being able to take a unanimous decision as regards who between Gadzama and Mahmoud would be supported by the Forum for the presidency of the Bar.

Indeed the Forum struggled to dispel rumours that the meeting was an orchestration under the thumb of Gadzama’s South West backers.

One of the delegates to the meeting from Lagos, Mr. Ariyo Odole, had hinted that the rumor-mill had it that the forum was sponsored and convened to adopt Gadzama as its preferred presidential candidate.

He questioned the rationale for inviting only one of the two candidates to address the Forum without extending same invitation to the other candidate.

He lamented that what played out at the meeting lent credence to the rumour.

In a quick rebuttal, however, the Chairman of the occasion Chief Olubunmi Olugbade, spoke vehemently against the allegation, saying that candidate Mahmoud would also be given opportunity to address the Forum in their next meeting then scheduled for June 11 in Abeokuta.

Suddenly, on July 13, a fortnight away from the election, a group of senior lawyers addressed a press briefing where they alerted the public that furtive moves were being made by the NBA leadership to manipulate the election in favour of Mahmoud.

The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, BOSAN, thus directed the NBA President, Mr. Alegeh to convene a meeting of past NBA presidents and Bar leaders to resolve the crisis bedeviling the planned elections.

BOSAN made the call following a resolution by the body at its meeting held at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.

Leader of BOSAN, Chief Wole Olanipkekun (SAN), in a letter dated July 11 and addressed to Alegeh SAN noted the decision of the body, saying, “At the last meeting of the BOSAN held at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos on July 9, 2016, it was resolved that Mr. President should convoke a meeting of past Presidents/Bar Leaders on the same subject, and that a level-playing field be afforded every candidate in the forthcoming elections.”

He added: “We would lose the moral and spiritual right to criticise INEC if the election is compromised in any way.”

Also, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) Campaign organization in a letter to the NBA President dated June 24 accused Alegeh of working to ensure that Mahmoud “emerges by all means.”

It further alleged that “No President in the history of the NBA has openly showed support for any presidential candidate in the manner that Alegeh was doing.”

Regardless of the complaints and the admonitions, the election scheduled for the 30th and 31st of July in Ajuja went on as planned.

Mahmoud (SAN) was elected the new president of the NBA on Sunday, July 31, via electronic voting (e-voting).

He polled 3,055 votes to defeat Chief Kyari-Gadzama (SAN) who polled 2,384 votes.

The positions of first vice president, second vice president and third vice president were respectively, won by Mr. Caleb Dajan; Mr. Monday Ubani; and Benedict Oji.

While announcing the results on Monday, August 1, chairman of the NBA Electoral Committee, Mr. Ken Mozia (SAN) indicated that both the first and second Vice Presidents emerged unopposed.

With 2, 721 votes, Mr. Olagunju Isiaka defeated Yamah Desmond who scored 2,510 votes, to emerge General Secretary.

The election was monitored by the Deputy Director, Legal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mariam Musa.

This is the first election conducted through e-voting by the NBA.

At the end of the voting process, Chairman of the NBA Electoral Committee, Mozia (SAN), announced the result; while the outgoing president of the Association Alegeh (SAN) advised contestants who lost the election to shun acrimony.

Despite Alegeh’s admonition, allegations that the NBA electoral process lacked transparency have yet to abate and the losers have remained inconsolable.

While the respective candidates’ agents saw the votes come in, they were not allowed to see what the individual candidates scored, which was one of the concerns raised by Gadzama, even when the election was ongoing.

However, in his response, the new NBA President, promised that the new executive will hit the ground running once they are sworn in.

He said his goal in office would be to accomplish the following:

  1. Welfare of Lawyers, job and wealth creation for Lawyers
  2. Continuing Legal Education & Skill Acquisition for lawyers
  3. Career development and mentoring programme for young lawyers
  4. Car loan and Mortgage Schemes for Lawyers
  5. Development of Services & Products for members
  6. Insurance, Stamp & Seal, and Bar Card Projects
  7. Establishment of NBA Law Care Trust Fund
  8. Networking and Cooperation-
  9. Maintenance and defense of the integrity of the judiciary, among others.

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