By Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, Notary Public
With the inauguration of Electoral Commiittee of Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) on the 24th January 2022 by Mr. Olumide Akapata, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, the ball seems to have been set rolling for this year election of the National Officers of the Association. The ECNBA this time around is to be Chaired by Chief Ayotunde Akintude (SAN), a man that has been tested and trusted in the affairs of conducting credible elections, the exercise which he has severally carried out in the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association.
I am happy that I have again been justified and proved right. Proved right in the sense that writers are like soothsayers, whose words or predictions often come into reality. Shortly before the inauguration of Akintunde’s ECNBA 2022, there was this poser: “ECNBA: CAN AKINTUNDE FIX NBA’S TROUBLED ELECTIONS? https://citylawyermag.com/2022/01/24/can-akintunde-fix-nbas-troubled-elections/. I promised to write a remark on this which is one of the reasons that prompted this write-up.
When Chief Akintunde was first appointed as the Chairman of the NBA Electoral Reform and Audit Commiitee by Mr. Olumide Akpata on being sworn-in as the President of the Association in 2020, I was of the view that Mr. Akpata had made the right choice picking Chief Akintunde for that great assignment. I equally submitted a memorandum to that committee suggesting the removal of those provisions that were discriminatory in the Constitution of the NBA.
I had written as far back as 2019 after the conclusion of the NBA Lagos Branch election of that year conducted during the regime of Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom (now SAN) under the chairmanship of Chief Ayotude Akintunde (SAN) as follows:
“… The Electoral Committee headed by Chief Akintunde again did a wonderful job which it has been doing for many years now. Chief Akintunde is a person I can recommend for any electoral assignment whether nationally or internationally. We have a personality in our branch that the NBA at national level can look up to, to deliver a free and fair election in the nearest future. Chief Ayodele Akintunde (SAN) is a person that will not compromise as he is a principled man. I congratulate him and all members of his Committee for making history again.”
The NBA Lagos Branch Election of 2019 was not the first to be credibly conducted by him as he had successively conducted some of the previous ones in which the Lagos branch had keenly contested elections and at the end the candidates whether won or lose accepted the verdict of election conducted by Chief Akintunde in the spirit of sportmanship.
I have not seen any election conducted by him where the candidates that lose threaten court action to challenge the outcome of election.Since the commencement of e-voting in the NBA, the Association will be having for the first time the ECNBA that will be truly independent in the sense that the ECNBA will be allowed to do things by itself and that is to say the Committee will be free to engage the service provider of its choice.This is different from the past where the NBA presidency would have to do that on behalf of the ECNBA that would at the end of the day resulted into various kind of controversies.
With the various amendments that have been suggested and approved by the Annual General Meeting at the 2021 Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association,the Chairmen of the various branches have been stripped of being the sole giver of letter of good standing to any member wishing to contest for any National Office. The principle in George Orwell’s Animal Farm’s that “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than the other” has also to some extent become thing of the past.
I was once a victim of that unfair and unjust principle. Now unlike before a member of the NBA does not need to be a NEC member to be eligible to contest for any National Office except the offices of President, First Vice President and the Secreatary General. By the recent ammendement, the NBA politics is now becoming more democratic than what it used to be. I absolutely agree with the Mr. Akpata when inaugurating the ECNBA 2022 under the Chairmanship of Chief Akintunde that :
“Human society has always acknowledged the need for a good leadership in order to guide the affairs of mankind and direct the society to its goals and aspirations. The means by which that leadership is arrived at in a democratic setting, has always been through free, fair and credible election”
It is this burden of free, fair and credible election in the NBA that Chief Akintunde and his colleagues in the ECNBA 2022 are being called upon to carry and one hopes they will positively discharge this responsibility to justify the confidence repose in them. We have been saying it for a while that the way lawyers play politics in NBA should be a model or precedent for other associations as well as the nation at large.The entire society needs to be learning good things from lawyers in the way things are positively being done as if it is otherwise, how do we expect those who look onto us to trust or have confidence in us?
The politics at all levels should be about the interest of the people and not about selfishness of those elected to be the leaders.Nigeria is what it is today because the right people are not getting to the right places. The leaders are more concerned about themselves and their relatives rather than the people that elected them.
Hitherto, many lawyers have lost interest in the NBA and its politics but with the new development in the NBA Constitution where discriminatory provisions are being removed those lawyers may change their minds.In NBA politics, it is not always difficult to identify lawyers who intend to aspire for positions in NBA even when the ban on campaign is not lifted. By the time you see a lawyer continuously sending goodwill and farewell messages and greetings to lawyers and branches, note that that is the usual rituals on the way to the NBA political offices. Despite the provision in the Constitution that says: “The publication, printing or distribution of any campaign material, gifts and any form of souvenir whatsoever by a candidiate or his supporter(s) is hereby prohibited and any candidate who contravene this provision shall be disqualified from being voted for.” This provision has become subject of debate among lawyers. Some lawyers have argued that an aspirant that goes about prior to the lifting of ban on campaign by ECNBA to seek support from lawyers to make his aspiration a reality is not campaigning but only doing consultation while another school of thought is of the view that such action amount to campaign before election.
There was a dispute on this sometime last year in one of the NBA branches where an aspirant called for the disqualification of his opponent on the ground that the opponent was contravening the provision. I am of the view that this is one of the issues which Chief Ayotunde Akintunde (SAN) as the new Chairman of ECNBA 2022 needs to educate the aspirants on on the real interpretation of the above provision. This is an additional burden to the task before the committee.
It is not only getting elected to an elective positions that one can contribute significantly to the developing of an association or the nation at large.Since will live in a society that prefers mediocrity to brilliance or competence, we all now own the association and the nation at large the duty to educate the people on how to identify and elect those who mean well for the association and the country.This is the reason why I have been saying that NBA electoral system must be a good precedent.
There is no doubt that the way politics had been played in NBA in the past was very deceptive when you go back into history, the time is now reaped for a positive revolution that will blow good wind to everyone. This year 2022 the NBA is going to poll to elect new National officers of the Association and the Nigeria as a nation is preparing for another General Election next year 2023. What we need most in the two elections are leaders that will be patrotic and have the interest of the people at hearts and not those leaders that will be selfish.We need to be prayerful to make the right choice this time around that will fit into the description once postulated by the late Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ), a former action of Governor of Lagos State that :
“We need in this country as President competent manager, a believer in the policy of full employment , an experience organiser of men and materials, and above all, a courageous man of proven integrity . With such a man at the helm of our national affairs, the darkness that now threatens our national economy will give to a new dispensation of plenty, comfort and happiness for every citizen of our blessed country.”
We have a country that is well blessed with abundant natural resources but unfortunately with the leaders that can not transform that to the advantage of the Nigerian people.We only have politicians at the helms of affairs who are only interested in power but do not know how to use it positively to make impact in the lives of the people. Lawyers’ participation in politics whether within the Association or in the nation’s politic must be exemplary.I have said somewhere else before that:
“When it comes to the issue of national development the NBA must not be found wanting. The Nigerian Bar must be pro-active and progressive. The dynamism of the Bar must not be unnecessarily compromised and its leadership must live up to expectation and the people’s yarning and aspiration as proclaimed by the first Nigerian lawyer in person of Sapara Williams that the profession must live: “For the direction of the people and the advancement of the country”. The Bar in all its activities and internal democracy or politics must be exemplary and transparent for every lawyers and non-lawyers alike to see. Aspiring for the Bar leadership must be premised on the service to humanity rather than self-seeking and opportunism.”
Since the return of democracy in 1999, the People Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) have been tested with the political power without much positive things happening to this country than pain and sorrow. As thing stands today, there is no credible alternative on the ground to wrestle power from the two political parties that have been ruling for the past 23 years.
If the Nigerian Bar Association truly believes in the Sapara William’s philosophy of lawyers must live for the direction of the people and the advancement of the country, it ought to have been in the forefront of other professional organisations or associations to champion the formation of an alternative truly people’s political party to wrestle power from the ruling party. If this is done it will be the duty of every patriotic Nigerian in collaboration with professional groups to embark on the grassroot political education of the people on the need to ask themselves what they have benefited from those money bag politicians who have been giving them money and all sorts of foodstuff to buy their votes.
They must ask the people what value have those politicians added to their lives and those of their children. Except this kind of things is done, the money bag politicians will continue to have the field day in the Nigerian politics. In the other part of the world, the likes of Bill Clinton of America, Margaret Thatcher of Britain and Nelson Mandela of South Africa to mention but few who were lawyers had at one time or the other ruled their countries and made meaningful impact in the lives of their people.
As the NBA prepares for another election for its new leadership this year, one hopes the various aspirants will display high level of maturity and sportsmanship during and after the elections. All eyes are now on the ECNBA under the chairmanship Chief Ayotunde Akintunde (SAN) to give the Association credible, free and fair elections that will stand the test of time. How the ECNBA discharges this heavy burden is now a matter of time, as one wishes the committee the best.
NOTE: Anyone is at liberty to disagree with my above submissions as I will surely appreciate a balanced, fair and objective rebuttal.
30th January 2022