Paul Usoro SAN has emerged as the President of the Nigerian Bar association and the majority of lawyers across the country are excited about it.
A Paul Usoro presidency will mean a stop to business as usual and that is why a negligible few in the legal profession are desperately staging pockets of resistance to the outcome of the election. The reason behind it is easy to understand. They have worked hard with hopes of juicy appointments and beneficial involvement in the activities of the NBA. Unfortunately, that will not happen.
This group indeed worked hard but they worked hard in the wrong direction. They worked hard in disqualifying another Presidential candidate in the race(this was the major cause of their misfortune), they worked hard in maligning Paul Usoro all through the campaign(they popularised Usoro instead),they worked hard in playing tribal cards, they worked hard in adopting a candidates in a small meeting in Portharcourt, they worked hard in manipulating the election by verifying their supporters with fake emails and numbers(they will later discover the mistake they have made just during the election) in all these hard work, they forgot to do the most important thing which was, campaigning for votes and promoting their manifesto. While they were doing all these, Paul Usoro was busy giving lawyers all the good reasons why they should vote for him. In the morning of 20th of August 2018, his campaign paid off and his victory woke the supporters of his opponents from slumber. It was already too late.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
A seamless verification was conducted by a company named CHAMS in line with the election schedule. After the verification, one of the presidential candidates (who lost in the election) was adviced by his key supporters that many of his supporters exhibited apathy during the verification and there were chances that he may not win the election with twelve thousand lawyers that verified. He was adviced to do anything possible to push for the extension of the verification or seek cancellation. A lobby to extend the verification failed and they were left with only one choice, to sink the ship. This began a period of chaotic and excruciatingly painful electoral process lawyers will go through in the countdown to the election.
Paul Usoro SAN is a non executive director with Accessbank ,Mrs Awosika is an Independent director with Accessbank and she happens to be the Chairman of CHAMS. This ordinarily does not constitute a conflict of interest as many corporate lawyers will admit.This was all Paul Usoro’s opponents needed to seek cancellation of the election. In a desperate bid to cancel the verification,they went to the press and claimed that Paul Usoro was trying to rig the election with CHAMS. Paul Usoro kept calm and continued with his campaign. CHAMS found itself in the middle of the cross fire,it became the grass where two elephants were at loggerheads. It took unfair accusations and blows that greatly battered its reputation. The supporters of this candidate did not care about the damage they were doing to the brand. That was petty and wicked but they succeeded in spreading the narrative across the country that made the President of the NBA Mr AB Mahmoud to summon a meeting of all the candidates, the Election committee of the NBA(ECNBA) and service providers.Victory was in sight for them.
One thing happened at the meeting that showed the real intention of the people who began the chaos. Mr Paul Usoro and Prof Ernest Ojukwu,two presidential candidates in the election expressed that they had no issue with CHAMS but Arthur Obi-Okafor insisted that the verification should be cancelled. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the verification will be cancelled and repeated by another company but CHAMS will conduct the election. For the supporters of Arthur Obi-Okafor,they have become victorious.However , one important question was left unanswered.
If indeed Arthur’s supporters believed that CHAMS wanted to compromise the election, why did they agree that CHAMS should conduct the election but another company should deliver the verification? Why didn’t they reject CHAMS entirely because if the election was to be compromised, it can be compromised at any stage so why the emphasis on verification alone.The reason for their agitation became apparent and a company called CRENET Techlab was hurriedly hired to clean the database and begin the verification all over gain.At this time,Arthurs supporters started jubilation at their success. unknowing of the harm they were about to do to themselves.
CRENET and the ECNBA were subsequently put under pressure by this new development. They worked day and night to meet deadlines,they struggled and received bashing from lawyers who did not at the time understand what they were going through. A new timetable was set and twice the timetable was amended .At the end of the exercise, more than 16,000 lawyers made it into the verification list but another problem was to follow.
During the second and third verification,Paul Usoro’s supporters raised an alarm that the supporters of Arthur were being given priority service in dealing with their complaints during the verification, no one paid attention to them even the presidential candidates who erroneously believed that they were cruising to victory. Who now are advancing arguments in favour of fairness. Paul Usoro’s supports also got wind of the fact that the campaign group of one of the candidates was verifying for lawyers using fake email address and without their consent. They raised the alarm but the perpetrators continued with their act. Most of the victims whose identities were stolen were Paul Usoro’s supporters. The perpetrators bragged about it with a jargon “if they won’t vote for us, they won’t vote at all” this had been the same desperate attitude all through the campaign. They succeeded. More than a thousand lawyers especially from the Lagos branch of the NBA (Paul Usoro’s branch) had their identities hijacked and many of them could not resolve the problem until the results were announced.
Of course, the hurried nature of the process after CRENET took over the election made it impossible for them to conduct a perfect election .That is not unsusual.No election is perfect.
To the disappointment of those who tried unsuccessfully to manipulate the election in their favour, they lost .The emails they manipulated became a substantial requirement for voting and the fake emails they used could not help them. What followed showed that the supporters of one of the candidates who lost the election probably lost their mind too . They began to change the narratives in their usual manner to cause trouble. That will not work as they have continued to lose their popularity among right thinking lawyers.
The height of the desperation is evident in a statement they have issued and shared on social media where they impersonated a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and signed off with his name. In the statement, they said among other things that a post election audit was to be held after the election before announcing the result. That is the height of desperation. An election will be held, and then a post election audit held for many days before results are released. That sounds ridiculous and desperate.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS LAWYERS SHOULD ASK:
- Why did Arthur Obi-Okafor agree that another company should conduct the verification but CHAMS should conduct the election in the meeting held in July at the NBA House.If he was really concerned about manipulations, he would have opposed it in Toto
- Why did he continue with the election if he honestly believed that the process was skewed against him?
- Why did he keep quiet when Paul Usoro’s supporters first raised the alarm that some of them were unduly excluded?
- Why did he wait until after the election to issue a backdated statement of withdrawal?
- If he wants us to accept his letter of withdrawal as duly communicated, what right does he have to pursue “justice” in an election he purportedly abandoned?
- All the presidential candidates had a representative and an ICT expert who supervised the process.Why didn’t Arthur’s representatives point out all these claims?
Lawyers are already asking these questions and until they are answered,the desperate claim of fraud by those who tried to defraud lawyers will continue to be watery. And for now,let us continue to keep in mind that he who goes to equity goes with clean hands.