The hope of the South West to produce the next President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) became brighter at weekend as Egbe Amofin ni Eko, the Lagos branch of the Egbe Amofin Oduduwa agreed to comply with decision of the mother group in its choice of Dcn Dele Adesina SAN as its candidate for the presidency of the largest bar in Africa in the 2020 elections.
The chairman of the group, Otunba Martin Ogunleye disclosed this at the meeting of the Egbe on Sunday February 9 in Lagos. “We are true sons and daughters of Oduduwa and we stand on the decision of Egbe made in Ibadan over the endorsement of a single candidate. Another meeting of the Egbe is only 13 days away. Any aggrieved candidate should approach Egbe. But for us, we stand on the decision of the mother group”, Otunba Ogunleye said.
On Saturday December 14, 2019, Egbe Amofin picked Dcn Dele Adesina SAN out of five contestants as its official candidate for the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in 2020.
While other candidates had abided by the decision of the Egbe and stepped down, only on candidate, Mr Babatunde Ajibade SAN has refused to step down, claiming the procedure is not acceptable to him. All entreaties senior Yoruba lawyers to convince him to respect the decision of the group have not yielded much result.
This is as the race of who will succeed the Paul Usoro SAN administration gathers momentum every day.
NBA presidency follows the principles of zoning between the North, West, and East. Edo and Delta States are regarded as part of the West while the South South States of Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Cross Rivers are regarded as part of the Eastern Zone.
In the Zoning formula of the Association, the next president is expected to come from the West. Already many candidates have signified their intention to run. This includes Abuja based lawyer, Chief Muyiwa Akinboro SAN, Mr Awoniyi Alabi based in Osogbo, Lagos based Dr Tunde Ajibade, Olumide Akpata,and Adesina Ogunlana.
However, the Egbe Amofin leadership, fearing the disgraceful loss of it suffered in 2014 decided to be firm and endorse only one candidate for the presidency of the Association.
In 2014, three members of the Egbe namely Dele Adeshina SAN, Funke Adekoya SAN, and Niyi Akintola SAN contested for the position. Because they could not agree amongst themselves, the three lost to Mr Augustine Alegeh SAN from Edo State. The Egbe Amofin regarded the loss as not only shameful but avoidable.
In order to prevent a re occurrence, the Egbe met in August 27, 2019 in Lagos and decided to re invigorate and strengthen the union for the common good of South West lawyers. It was also decided that the Egbe will present only one candidate for the presidency in 2020. Present at the meeting were leaders like Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, Mrs Priscilla Kuye, Chief Tunde Ajomole former Chairman, Body of Benchers, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, Chief Felix Fagboungbe SAN, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe SAN, Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN Attorney General of Lagos State all chairmen and secretaries of the 26 branches of the association in the South West.
The meeting which was chaired by Mrs Kuye, a past president of the association resolved to unite in the interest of all South West lawyers, strengthen the association, and present only one candidate for NBA 2020 presidential elections. The meeting was adjourned thereafter and a new date of October 26, 2019 was slated for another meeting in Ibadan, Oyo State.
At the well attended meeting, a committee was set up to look at all candidates vying for the position and recommend one candidate that the Egbe will support and endorse for the election. The committee was chaired by Chief Akintola and comprised all NBA branch chairmen in the South West. Akintola was himself a contestant in 2014. The meeting then adjourned till December 14, 2019 for the report of the Akintola committee.
Delivering the report of his committee on Saturday at the Afe Babalola Bar Centre, Ibadan, Akintola said that it set up certain yardsticks a candidate must possess to qualify. The yardsticks include that such a candidate must have a good and standard practice, must have leadership skills, must be a person who is receptive to the generality of members, must have experience in general law practice and must be exposed. Such candidate must also have played a significant role in the NBA as a professional body. He must also be a person of integrity without any corruption case against him. He must also have widespread appeal in other zones of the association.
He said having considered all these, the committee then voted. According to him, Adesina came out tops.
He said further that the committee also went into history came up with some facts. His said in history of producing NBA leadership by SouthWest, Lagos-Ogun zone has produced the President of NBA seven times, Ondo-Ekiti zone two times, while Oyo -Osun has produced only once.
He therefore recommended a fresh start of zoning from 2020. Oyo-Osun will produce the president next time zoning favours South West in 2026. While Lagos-Ogun will follow suit. He thereafter said that his committee chose Adesina above other candidates as Egbe Amofin’s sole and official candidate in the 2020 NBA presidential elections.
Chief Olanipekun who chaired the occasion thereafter called on one of the contestants, Aare Muyiwa Akinboro SAN to comment on the proceedings.
Akinboro in his comments said he accepted the decision of the Egbe in good faith. “What is paramount to me is that a Yoruba man must emerge as the next president of the NBA. As a son of the Egbe Amofin, I accept this decision and announce my withdrawal from the NBA presidential race forthwith. My name will never be mentioned in history as a person that prevented the progress of the Yoruba race. I hereby promise my support and loyalty to my brother, Adesina that the Egbe Amofin has chosen”.
The hall exploded in jubilation and a standing ovation was given to Akinboro.
Chief Olanipekun directed all members of the committee who are also Chairmen of all branches in the South West to sign their report. “This report will be forwarded brothers in Eastern Bar Forum, Arewa Forum and and the Midwest as the position of Egbe Amofin”.
At the meeting on Sunday in Lagos, Adesina, in an emotional, and thought provoking speech warn the Yoruba lawyers to learn from the mistakes of the past so that the group does not lose to their brother in the Midwest again. “We lost to them in 1989, and 2014 because we did not put our house in order. Yoruba ronu! Don’t turn yourselves into football for people to kick around. If it means that everyone of us to prostrate for my junior brother, Ajibade, to respect the wishes of the majority over my endorsement, I think we should all do so. The beauty of democracy is that the majority always have the way after minority’s robust say. We should not lose the 2020 opportunity again”, Adesina said.
After this, Otunba Ogunleye said Egbe in Lagos will abide by the decision of the mother group, urging anyone with grievances to lay them before the Egbe at the Ibadan, Oyo State meeting which comes up on February 23, 2020.
If he wins, Adesina is expected to bring his expertise and experience to bear in the affairs of the administration. He was the General Secretary of the NBA between 2002 and 2004, when Chief Olanipekun was President. That era, apart from the Also Aka-Bashorun administration in 1986 was regarded as the golden era of the bar, when NBA influence in the affairs of Nigeria was well respected.
Those present at the Sunday meeting are Chief Abiodun Dabiri, former Chairman of NBA, Lagos branch, Mr Bisi Ade-Ademuwagun, former Chairman, Ikeja branch, Mr Akin Olatunji, a bar leader at Ikeja branch, Mr Babatunde Ajibade SAN, Mr Ade Adegbite, a former National officer, Mr Dele Oloke, Chairman, Ikeja NBA, Mrs Foluke Akinmoladun, Miss Raqeeba Oloto and about 100 lawyers in attendance.