Lagos Motor Boat Club, the elitist and exclusive club of the nouveau riche in Lagos is in crisis that is threatening to tear it apart, if care is not taken.
What started as regular election of the officers of the club has gone awry to the extent that two senior members, Senator Olatokunbo Ogunbanjo, and Mr Babajide Coker have been suspended indefinitely.
On their own part, the two, believing the suspension is wrong and illegal, have briefed a lawyer to sue the club, and those behind their suspension, to uphold their rights as bona fide members.
The Lagos Motor Boat Club is one of the legacies of the British colonial government, handed down to the Nigerian elites before Independence. It is an incorporated Association founded in January, 1950 but registered on the 12th of May, 1950 with registration number 271 with the following as its aims and objectives. It is also duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Trouble started in October 2020 when Mr Coker signified his intention to run as an executive member of the club. His decision to run was premised on the service he rendered to the club in 2019, which all members of the club claimed to be very successful.
However, before he could place his nomination, the Commodore, Dapo Majekodunmi, upon instructions of the club trustee, Prince Francis Awogboro, instructed Coker not to run. Coker, seeing no reasonable reason not to contest, went ahead, got two members, Senator Ogunbanjo, and Lanre Towry-Coker, to signe his nomination form..
Now, the rule of the club states that once nomination is placed on the club’s board, no one is permitted to remove or deface it. But Prince Awogboro, seeing the name of Coker on the board, allegedly got angry and canceled the names and that of the nominees.
Not satisfied, the trustee caused a query to be written to Coker by the Secretary of the club, Babajide Balogun, demanding an explanation for going against the verbal instruction that he should not run.
The query stated: “You will recall the communication made to you verbally by the Commodore on the direction issued by the Trustee, Prince Awogboro that as a consequence of the disorder and tension ongoing in the club, you refrain from participating in the upcoming club elections. It is now noted that your name now appears in the nomination’s board. Kindly provide an explanation why you have seemingly chosen to disregard the said directive”.
Coker was given four days, October 20, 2020 to reply to the query. His reply was found to be unsatisfactory and subsequently, he was expelled from the club.
Coker’s expulsion did not go down well with Ogunbajo and Towry-Coker. At the Annual General Meeting(AGM) of the club on November 5, 2020, Sen Ogunbanjo raised serious objection to the expulsion in what another member called “in eerie silence from all members of the club”.
Again, this objection did not go down well with Prince Awogboro and Ogunbanjo was prevailed upon to apologize to the elderly trustee.
Unsatisfied with the apology, Prince Awogboro wrote a petition to the Secretary. The petition was dated November 10, 2020.
He stated: ” I wish to draw your attention to night of the AGM on the 5th of November, 2020.whereby Senator Tokunbo Ogunbanjo in a speech unprecedented at the AGM insulted and disparaged me and the office of a Trustee in view of members, management, and the staff. I must confess heard(sic) defies believe;
As a Yoruba man and an elder, to hear a Yoruba man young enough to be my son uttering a proverb that amounts to disrobing me of my dignity and disgracing me publicly. He assaulted the foundation of my person, my culture, and my role in the club as a trustee. I was only restrained by the Almighty God in His wisdom from intemperate action;
His allegations and comments on the office of the trustee are grave and undermine our club as an institution, as well as bring the affairs of the club to disrepute;
I must state that as the custodian of this great club I must defend it and protect it to the best of my ability. I presume the meeting was recorded and the details of his speech can therefore be recalled. I hereby respectfully request an immediate investigation of this incident, and that a hearing be conducted by the committee”.
Flowing from the trustee’s petition, a query was issued to Senator Ogunbanjo to explain why disciplinary actions should not be taken against him over his conduct at the AGM. The senator replied, asking for the records of the meeting. He was directed to contact the office for the video recording of the meeting. He did and replied to the query.
The committee, not satisfied with his reply, asked him for further explanations, and to appear before the committee. Ogunbanjo obliged.
On December 8, 2020, the club in a letter signed by the Honorary Secretary, Babasola Alokolaro suspended Sen Ogunbanjo indefinitely.
The letter reads: “We further reviewed your response to Prince F.O Awogboro’s petition dated 10th November, 2020. We have also considered the information you provided to us at our meeting with you this evening;
On the preponderance of the evidence put before us, we find your conduct at 2020 Annual General Meeting, and complain by Prince F.O Awogboro has put the club into disrepute and prejudicial to the common purpose of the club. Accordingly, in line with the provisions of rule 8 of our club rules, the committee has decided to suspend you indefinitely from the Lagos Motor Club, with immediate effect.
Since the suspension, things have not been the same in the club. It has pitched members in different opposites. A member told thegavel.com.ng “Letters are just flying up and down. It’s getting more interesting, to say the least.
Of interest is the fact that legal practitioners in the club seems to be in midst of the crisis, pitting themselves in opposing camps. This include Demola Akinrele SAN, Eyimofe Atake SAN, Ogunbanjo, Yinka Akinkugbe, and a host of others.
Thegavel.com.ng investigations revealed that the parties may soon be heading for the courts in resolution of the crisis. Already, a party may have written a petition to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to intimate the regulatory body on the crisis within the club.
The long knives is drawn and only time will tell if the members will sheath their swords and safe the elitist club.