SECOND Republic politician and lawyer, Chief Guy Ikokwu, 81, who was called to the bar 56 years ago, in this article, articulates how the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, can conduct credible and rancour-free elections.
IN the last two weeks, I, Chief Guy Ikokwu of NBA Lagos Premier branch and Otu Okiwu have read quite a lot of misgivings by our members on the issue of our so called e-voting which have caused anguish at the NBA national since the fiasco of 2016, which led to a court action in Abuja between our presidential candidates Mahmoud (SAN) and Gadzama (SAN).My take is that when our so-called honourable institution cannot organize a free and credible election among its members, how can our association be entrusted as one of the watchdogs for a free and fair election in our nation’s polity of more than 250 ethnic groups and diverse cultural and religious interests?
This is why a lot of us have been angling for a restructured polity from our present so-called unitary federalism as we had this same imbroglio during the regime of Military President Ibrahim Babangida and our own son, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, as the chairman of the electoral body was directed to supervise a free and fair election nationwide. Professor Humphrey Nwosu, thereafter, used the Option A4 where voters publicly queued in front of their chosen candidate’s portrait and cast their votes, which were counted publicly in the voters’ presence and thereafter certified at the polling unit by election officers and each copy of the result given to the candidates’ agents and the law enforcement officers present.
The agents will immediately transmit the result at the polling station to the campaign headquarters of the candidate while the electoral officers transmit the result to their collation centres for the final results to be announced thereafter.As an emeritus chairman of a major political party at that time, I ensured in the East, at Enugu, that the process was not faulted.By midnight of the election day our candidate, M.K.O Abiola and M. Tofa of the other party, despite the fact that both candidates were Muslims and our candidate M.K.O Abiola and his running mate, Kingibe, were also Muslims, the actual result had been transmitted electronically to our headquarters in Lagos and the winner of the election was known the next morning without any challenges in the jurisdiction of the real arbitrators.
It took the military almost 20 years to date for the Buhari new administration to acknowledge publicly the facts of the June 12 election result, this year. It is the non-actualisation of the freest method for a credible election that has hindered our progress nationwide, as our elections have not been free and credible whether at the state or national level. We can see the effect of this as fresh elections are being held in the states and federal elections will be held in February 2019.I have personally, after seeing the dilemma in the e-voting system of the verification of the members of our profession in all the branches nationwide, dispatched my suggestion for justice to be done to all members of our profession for both verification and the voting process.
All branches, as required, are to send the certified list of their members, who are eligible to vote to the National Secretariat of the NBA.The NBA National Secretariat should thereafter appoint its own returning officers to supervise the elections on the prescribed day and venue with the appropriate branch officers and candidates’ representatives present at the secret ballot voting the result of which shall be certified and transmitted electronically in both soft copy and hard copy to the NBA electoral body for announcement.
It should be noted that the branches,particularly the premier Lagos branch, have been using this method of election for more than eight years without any challenge as the result is seen by all participants as free and fair in all circumstances.The premier branch and Otu Okiwu should formulate the necessary constitutional resolution for the actualisation of this methodology in the interest of our highly regarded profession, which will become a credible sign post for others in our present polity. If the present NBA national executive cannot complete the exercise credibly the Body of Benchers should set-up a committee to do the needful for our profession.As an 81-year- old lawyer with 56 years experience at the bar, and a former National Officer of the NBA and President Emeritus of Otu Okiwu, I have the benefit of some experience in these matters, which I wish earnestly to transmit to my respectful legal associates without any blemish.