By Ola Ajayi
Ahead of the Nigerian Bar Asso-ciation, NBA, forthcoming election in July which is expected to produce new national officers that will take over from Chief Oke Wali, SAN, led executive, it appears all is not well within the ranks of South West Lawyers Forum otherwise known as Egbe Amofin Yoruba following a clash of interest over nomination of a candidate for the position of the NBA president zoned to it.
Already,five candidates namely Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), Chief Austin Alegeh (SAN), Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN) and Mr. Osas Erhabor have indicated interest to vie for the coveted position . Chief Alegeh had been endorsed as the sole candidate of the mid-west Bar forum.
While the Egbe Amofin which always ensures that peace is maintained among lawyers in the zone is trying to put its house in order to prevent repetition of the loss it suffered in 1989 election when all four candidates from the zone lost to another candidate from Benin City, a splinter group emerged and held a meeting at Akure on December 7, 2013 and endorsed Mr. Dele Adesina as its candidate for the election.
This negates the move being made by the executive of the mainstream Egbe Amofin led by Chief Bamidele Aiku (SAN). At it’s meeting which held last Saturday at Afe Babalola Bar centre in Ibadan, the forum, contrary to expectations could not endorse a candidate for the election. The meeting which witnessed a large turn out from the South W2est states and Kwara, at a stage almost became rowdy before Chief Aiku and other members of the executive could pacify the visibly angry lawyers who regarded the activity of the splinter group as retrogressive.
The meeting which was to start at 11am did not start until some minutes past twelve while the music of late Yoruba musician, Hubert Ogunde, titled, “Yoruba Ronu” rented the air . Chief Aiku started by stressing the need for unity within the association.
He hinted that the screening committee earlier set up had been aborted following the resignation of two members of the committee, Lekan Yusuf, SAN and Mr. Duro Adeyele(SAN) and that efforts to replace them proved futile.
According to him, he said Adeyele told him he was blackmailed by some people who claimed he is from Kogi and not a Yoruba man. Chief Aiku further stated that there was no response from the secretary. He then asked the gathering what next to do.
At this juncture, the Chairman of Ibadan branch, Mr. Oluwaseun Abimbola stood up to inform hundreds of lawyers at the venue that he had held a meeting with Chairmen of Osogbo, Iwo, Ilesa, Oyo, Lagos, Ilorin, Ijebu Ode, Akure and others and they had agreed to strengthen the unity of the association.
He said, “We are not unaware of the meeting that held in Akure on December 7 where some of our branches were purportedly represented and the resolutions reached. More disturbing is the repeated publication discrediting leaders of Egbe Amofin. Some branch chairmen came together and decided through a resolution that we dissociate ourselves from the breakaway of those at Akure meeting, reject the nominee endorsed, identify only one Egbe Amofin and call on all leaders of Amofin to close ranks and resolve all lingering disagreement.”
Chief Aiku then called on all branch chairmen in attendance to confirm the resolution. With the exception of the chairmen of Ogbomoso, Ikorodu and Ilesa who were not around, all of them confirmed signing the resolution.
He warned that the splinter group has not committed any sin but they have exercised their own fundamental human rights which they are entitled to. He said, “whether wrongly or rightly, our colleagues at Akure meeting nominated a candidate and we have three other aspirants. What do we do so that the episode of 1989 when all our four aspirants lost to another candidate will not repeat itself”.
Dr. Adeniyi Adedoyin aligned himself with those who want unity in the association. However, he urged the leadership to do self criticism of how they pilot the affairs of Egbe Amofin.
He complained that the leadership of the association starve them of relevant information noting that since those two members of the screening committee resigned last August, they needed explanation. “Egbe should toe the path of honour”, he said.
This did not go down well with some people who forced him to sit down through a thunderous applause. Chief Nathaniel Oke (SAN) urged quick resolution of the logjam so that the issue would not extend to the time of election. He suggested that there should be reconciliation with those who were having another meeting at that time.
After expressing happiness that Adegboyega Awomolo who had stayed away from the meeting for many years was in attendance, Chief Aiku said he should lead the reconciliation committee. Other members of the committee are Chief Oke, and Mrs. C. J Aremu.
Before affirming the membership of a new screening committee which include Mrs. Priscilla Kuye(SAN), Ahmed Raji(SAN),Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, Mobolaji Ojibara, Adebiyi Ogungbesan, Adekunle Babalola, Alex Muoka, Ola Orimoloye, and Seun Ajoba, there were heated arguments on whether they should nominate candidate for the election or not.
Those who viewed the group holding in Lagos as dissidents insisted that their nominees should be appointed. Mr. Yomi Ogunlola said, “I say no to reconciliation. There is a procedure for doing something. As we are here now, another meeting is holding in Lagos. Definitely, one of the meetings did not follow procedure and this is against reconciliation. Don’t let us lay a bad precedent.”
Contributing to this, A. J Owonikoko, SAN said in the pursuit of reconciliation, they should not reward loyalty with punishment, adding that if the house had settled for reconciliation, March would be too far for another meeting. To him, two weeks is okay.
Responding to this, Chief Aiku said reconciliation is a good method of settling disputes but warned that when trying to make peace between two combatants, you do not hold the arms of one and leave the other arms free. You will give him upper hand over his colleague.
One of the aspirants, Chief Akintola complained that he would not appear before the screening committee if things were not done the right way.
After a lengthy debate, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, pleaded with them that since he (Awomolo) had been made the chairman of the reconciliation committee, they should not make things difficult for him by making nomination but should exercise patience until the outcome of the reconciliation.
“I did not envisage this would happen. If we nominate a candidate today, we are not different from those who held the Akure meeting. If you want to give me grass to cut, do not give me the wildest type. Give me two weeks, we will come back here. Everybody has a point. I plead with the leadership to let us have a large heart”, he said.
This was then supported by Lateef Fagbemi(SAN).
It was later moved, seconded and adopted. Terms of reference were spelt out for the committee and one of them is to ensure that the splinter group is returned to the mainstream of Egbe Amofin. Some branch chairmen and elders were asked to join the screening committee after Chief Aiku called their attention to a previous comments that branch chairmen were not involved in decision making. The two committees were mandated to submit their reports within two weeks before another meeting fixed for February 8.