By Tunji Olalekan Sanni
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2020 election is already gathering momentum. The next President will be produced by the West. The west in the NBA constitution includes all the states in the South West Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria and Edo State.
The last time the slot came to the West, it was taken by Mr Austin Alegeh SAN from Edo State and this time around, there is a strong desire that someone from a western state take the slot. The Yorubas are all in agreement that a Yoruba person should emerge as the NBA President, many other interests across the country agree with them and are waiting for their signal on the way to go.
Yes, the Lawyers from the Western Region are majorly in sync that the next President of the NBA will come from the West but are deeply divided on the issue of who to support. This doesn’t smell nice at all because among the candidates, someone from the Midwest has his hat in the ring. So if they fail to get their act together, they will have to wait for another six years to give the post a shot. That will be in 2026, eighteen years after the last President from the west became President. This is troubling to many interested Yoruba Lawyers.
A lawyer has been adopted by a few lawyers and many other lawyers are kicking against it. The popular narrative has it that the few elderly lawyers who handed the adoption to him did that in furtherance of a 2008 promise. Some other lawyers have argued that he has been settled, having tried his luck in 2014 and was massively supported though he did not win. For them, he was a good president of 2014 who is eminently qualified to run but taking into consideration the circumstances of the coming election, he may not be the best foot forward; times have changed.
The introduction of the NBA Constitution of 2015 disrupted a lot of things in how lawyers conduct their elections. It gave all lawyers the right to vote as against the delegate system of government. The Promise to Dele Adesina was made at the time the delegate type of election was in vogue, when regional bodies had a strong hold on the outcome of NBA Elections. Since the introduction of the universal suffrage election, the influence of these regional bodies waned so much to almost nonexistent. The evidence to this is that since the introduction of the universal suffrage, no presidential candidate adopted by any of these groups has ever emerged as the NBA President. This is exactly what worries many Yourba Lawyers in this election. There is a real threat at the moment that the Presidency may be snatched away the second time, though hope is in the horizon that as time goes by, this will change, especially the way one of the candidates is gaining momentum in his popularity. This is the real crux of the matter.
Many Lawyers from the South West believe that if they must take the Presidency, they must do it without sentiment. This opinion which is gaining ground is a big threat to the Egbe. They believe that the West should support someone who is capable of winning considering the type of threat and the generation of lawyers who will decide the vote. Running out of patience with the Egbe, many of them are beginning to pitch their tent with one of the candidates who they consider the best foot forward for the Yoruba people. This is because of a growing desire to clinch the Presidency which of course is a fair desire. According to them, the candidate will be acceptable to the whole country and possess all the description of a modern Lawyer. Already, many Lawyers are taking a bold step in favour of Ajibade whom they see as the most likely to compete and win in the 2020 election. There are signs that many other lawyers will throw their weight in his favour out of the desire to make sure that in line with the NBA Constitution, the Presidency stays in the West.
Egbe’s meeting of last Saturday 25th of January 2020 was postponed. Many lawyers of western origin were ready to make a case to the Egbe to keep sentiments aside and do the needful. They were also particular about not using the word adoption but were desirous of making a case for the South West to queue behind Ajibade and lead the whole country in the choice of the next NBA President, especially now that the sentiment is in the favour of the South West from many lawyers across the country. Dr Ajibade opted out from the adoption process but many lawyers uniting behind him now said that they are not doing it for him but out of a desire or perhaps out of the fear of waiting in limbo for 18 years to have the Presidency since Rotimi Akeredolu became the President in 2008.
Dr Ajibade is no longer a force anyone should ignore, he is a likely winner of the election if the election is held today. If we must win the Presidency, we must set aside sentiments and take deliberate and dispassionate steps to lead the whole country to the right direction. I have a strong feeling that if we mobilize around Dr Ajibade, whose profile and personality resonates across the country, the South West will be home and dry by August 2020.
Tunji Olalekan Sanni