The elections into offices of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will be held this July. The Eastern Bar Forum, an association that is not recognised by the constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association has been throwing itself about like a severed tail of a wall gecko that will become famished sooner or later from its struggles.

The Association has embarked on a massive misinformation of Lawyers in a desperate bid to gain relevance after the new NBA constitution relegated its powers to the thrash can of NBA politics.

Lately, they have deployed coercion after their messy adoption scheme sank before it sailed to the rocks that were supposed to sink it all the same. This is evident in the latest article released by Azebi Bobobraye a sympathizer and member of EBF titled. “Lawyers must respect Eastern Bar’s Adoption Practice”

It is unfortunate that the Eastern Bar Forum is still holding on to the past.  A past where the Nigerian Bar Association conducts its election by undemocratic system of delegate election where only a chosen few decide who leads Africa’s biggest Bar Association. A past where Presidents emerge by mere adoption by a regional group and everyone falls into line for fear of victimization.  A past that separated lawyers from their affairs. A past that was brutish, archaic, barbaric, nasty, uncivilized and undemocratic. A past no right thinking lawyer will relish except those who benefited from it.  A past where the EBF and their likes had de facto possession of the NBA while other lawyers had de jure interest.

Then in 2015, the New NBA constitution rolled in like a bulldozer and cleared the jungle, making all lawyers stakeholders in their affairs. Lawyers subsequently took both de jure and de facto possession of what rightly belonged to them.  The EBF and its likes lost control and fled.  Fortunately, like a displaced rebel group, they have regrouped. They have been firing shots from exile but unfortunately, their shots have hit no target and will never do.

The Nigerian Bar Association has zoned the 2018 – 2020 presidency to the East which constitutes Abia, Anambra, Akwa ibom, Bayelsa, Cross-river, Enugu, Ebonyi and River state.  The Eastern Bar Forum, in a brazen show of  power, appointed itself an arbiter over who gets elected from the region.  In furtherance of their agenda, they organized a charade in Port Harcourt and adopted a candidate hoping that about a hundred thousand lawyers across Nigeria will comply. It obviously  won’t happen.

The adoption was indeed comical as lawyers began to wonder if this group wanted to stop the election by imposing one person on the generality of lawyers.  The damage could have been easier to control if that was their only voyage but they further delved into a greedy and selfish interpretation of the second schedule 2.2(c) of the NBA constitution.  This is one thing that will become their Achilles heel.

The second schedule 2.2(c) of the NBA constitution provides that the geographical Zone that produces the president of the Association shall produce the Vice President.

It was pursuant to this provision that the current president of the NBA from Kano emerged as president and Caleb Dajan from Plateau emerged from the same zone.

In the case of Eastern Bar Forum, they advanced an argument that since they adopted a candidate from the core east, therefore the Vice should come from the Core East. They took ALL and adopted another candidate from Imo state for the position of Vice President unapologetically excluding the candidate from Akwa Ibom – Cross River who showed interest to run as Vice President.  Many lawyers are of the view that such an action lacked tact.

Yes it lacked tact.  The Cross River/Akwa Ibom part of the East is the only part that is yet to produce an NBA President.  They have made a case for their region but the Eastern Bar Forum has turned their back on them.

One would have thought that the EBF would have been more tactical the way the North did it but lack of tact took a better part of them which is evident in the list of other positons they adopted.  They adopted only Core eastern lawyers for all the positions the constitution of the NBA did not zone to any particular zone which were free for all except for one person who practices in Anambra state.  This is brazen and without due regard to whatever interest other lawyers from other parts of the country may have.  No position was left for horse trading. It was a display of poor knowledge of political arithmetic.  This action has kept other lawyers across the country on alert.  It has also made them apprehensive of what the real plans of EBF are.

At the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held in Ilorin on the 1st of March, 2018, many lawyers across the country expressed their disdain over the selfish adoption and wondered if the EBF wanted to turn the NBA to a Town Union Association.  They were visibly disturbed.

In all these, Paul Usoro, the only candidate from outside the core Eastern state is emerging as a candidate with National appeal. A man every lawyer regardless of region can trust.  At the NEC meeting, many lawyers from Western and Northern Nigeria angry with the selfish adoption of all positions by the EBF openly declared their support for Paul Usoro.  This undoubtedly will add to the Achilles heel of EBF.

Paul Usoro’s declaration of intention to run for the position of the NBA presidency unsettled some of the candidates who declared before him.  His declaration was met with a hostile resistance by the supporters of some of the candidate who started throwing muds at him by misrepresenting and concocting scandalous narratives to stop him but instead of succumbing, Mr. Usoro rose with the tide to the admiration of his opponents who are beginning to loose disciples to him.

Scandals, fake news and misrepresentation of facts are not new in the NBA elections.  In fact, it has become one of the indicators for predicting who the next NBA president will be.

In the 2010 election, news broke out that JB Daudu was anti human right and he partook in the sentencing of Late Saro Wiwa.  It shook his campaign but he won.

In 2012 another scandal bordering on the Federal Government funding Okey Wali’s election trended. Voters were made to believe that even the state government in River State moved funds from the treasury to support the election. The circumstances of his short stint as Attorney General of Rivers State came to focus in an unfriendly manner. Okey Wali won. (That election will remain one of the most expensive elections in the history of the NBA).

In 2014 election, information about Austin Alegeh’s involvement with James Ibori and the rumour that EFCC was investigating him started trending. Austin Alegeh won.

In 2016 election, the Pfizer scandal in Northern Nigeria that happened years ago resurfaced. AB Mahmond won.

The 2018 election has come with its own share of the scandal.  Lawyers are watching as history is set to do the needful.

This will be the 2nd time the new order introduced by the 2015 constitution will be put to test.

In 2016 election, an adopted candidate failed the election for the first since post crises NBA.  The reason is simple. The universal suffrage that came with the constitution killed the potency of adoption.

In this year’s election, the Eastern Bar Forum has adopted a candidate but progressive lawyers across the country are working hard to keep  their ship on troubled waters to maintain the new order; the order of freedom and liberty.

In my view, there is a high likelihood of success in favour of the new order upon which the foundation of the legal profession anchors.

Anthony Atata writes and Documents the NBA

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