By Dayo Benson
Ahead of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA, forthcoming election in July which is expected to produce new national officers that will take over from Chief Oke Wali SAN, led executive, South West Lawyers Forum otherwise called Egbe Amofin Yoruba will on Saturday endorse a presidential candidate to fly the forum’s flag.
Already,five candidates namely Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), Chief Austin Alegeh (SAN), Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN) and
Mr. Osas Erhabo have indicated interest to vie for the NBA Presidency, but only four of them are likely to submit themselves for the Egbe Amofin sreening. Chief Alegeh who will not participate in the exercise had been endorsed as the sole candidate of the mid-west lawyer’s forum.
The Saturday meeting is coming against the backdrop of controversies trailing the claimed adoption of one of the aspirants as the candidate of the forum by a splinter group.
Scheduled to hold at the Afe Babalola Bar Centre, Ibadan, the meeting was said to have been initiated by the chairmen of 16 NBA branches in the
South West Zone including Oyo, Ilorin, Offa, Badagry and Ibadan.
The Egbe Amofin scribe Ranti Ajeleti, said that appropriate notices had been dispatched to all members, adding that many members had promised to attend. Speaking further on the meeting , Ajeleti said “Come Saturday and see what will happen.”
He dismissed claims by members of the splinter group that endorsed one of the candidates at Akure last December, saying: “What do you expect them to say?” He said there was no going back on the planned meeting, adding however that “We don’t want a divided house in Egbe Amofin. We welcome everybody; everybody is free to attend.”
Speaking on the planned endorsement of one of the presidential aspirants, Ajeleti said: “They all have equal opportunity like everyone and each and everyone of them is qualified to be president of the Bar. Funke Adekoya (SAN) is good; Dele Adesina (SAN) is good; Niyi Akintola (SAN) is good; Osas Justus Erhabor is fantastic, he is also our own.”
He assured that the exercise would be transparent and objective, adding: “We have a lot of parameters for them; we will screen them, assess them, and take the best of them. We will really go for the best.”
A splinter group had met at Akure on December 7, 2013 and “endorsed” the candidate said to be the convener of the Akure meeting. But Ajeleti said that only 7 of the forum’s 28 branches were present at the Akure meeting, adding that only the allegedly adopted candidate was present and “screened” by the splinter group.
Although the forum had at its meeting at Abeokuta on August 17, 2013 set up a Screening Committee led by Abuja based lawyer, Chief Duro Adeyele (SAN) to assess the candidates and report back to it, the committee was embroiled in crisis following an attempt to replace one of its members who resigned.
While the camp of the allegedly adopted candidate was said to have kicked against the nomination of Mrs. Toyin Bashorun by the forum’s revered leader Chief Bandele Aiku (SAN) to replace the member on the grounds that she was an employee of a leading female contender said to be favoured by most of the branches, Aiku was said to have held his ground as the charge could not be substantiated with any evidence.
This led to a leadership tussle and attempts by the dissenting members to undercut Aiku’s influence. Following the refusal of the splinter group to shift ground, Adeyele threw in the towel in frustration, plunging the committee into more confusion. The ensuing vacuum led to the Akure meeting and the claimed endorsement by the splinter group.
The NBA Presidency has been zoned to the South West. Though the forum had resolved to start early preparations towards the NBA Elections given that most of its members were routed at the 2012 elections, watchers of NBA politics are however worried that history may repeat itself unless the Aiku leadership is able to wield the members together in sorder to forge a common front at the forthcoming polls.