ANXIETY, AS ECNBA BEGS DISQUALIFIED ASPIRANTS TO BE PATIENT
BY EMEKA NWADIOKE
• SAYS VOTERS’ REGISTER STALLED HEARING OF APPEALS
• PROMISES TO CONCLUDE PROCESS BY WEEKEND
There is palpable anxiety among aspirants disqualified from contesting the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Elections by the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA), even as the electoral umpire has pleaded for more time to conclude the exercise.
CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report that the electoral umpire is yet to conclude the appeals process, as hearing on some petitions was stalled by the compilation of the voters register. The ECNBA barely beat the deadline prescribed by the NBA Constitution to publish the final list of eligible voters.
Meanwhile, the committee has until mid-next week to publish the final list of candidates for the elections. Paragraph 2.3(b) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution (as amended) provides that “A full list of properly nominated candidates shall be circulated by ECNBA to all Branches and candidates by email as well as displayed on the NBA website at least twenty one (21) days before the date of the election.” The election is scheduled to hold on July 29 and 30, 2020.
While some erstwhile aspirants have been communicated on their appeals, the electoral committee has kept many of the disqualified aspirants in the dark as to the outcome of their appeals, leading to speculations on their fate. This has led to palpable anxiety among the disqualified aspirants and their supporters who are daily seeking feedback on their fate.
It has now emerged that hearing on the appeals was disrupted by compilation of the troubled voters’ register by the ECNBA. Former Ikorodu Branch Chairman and aspirant for the post of First Vice President, Mr. Adedotun Adetunji told CITY LAWYER that ECNBA Secretary, Cordelia Eke has assured all disqualified aspirants that they would know their fate by weekend.
His words: “When I eventually chatted the Secretary of the ECNBA up on WhatsApp today 2nd July, 2020 she told me that – please permit me to quote her verbatim so that I don’t mix up what she said: ‘Good morning. Sorry we’ve been occupied with the voters register. Now that it is out of the way, we will conclude on your Appeal. You will hear from us before this week ends. Just a little more patience please.’” This has laid to rest speculations that all the outstanding disqualified aspirants may have been cleared by the electoral committee.
Aside from Adetunji who was among those disqualified by the electoral committee, others include fiery former NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana; incumbent NBA Second Assistant Secretary, Chinyere Obasi; her counterpart in the publicity department, Mr. Akorede Habeeb Lawal, and influential NBA Ikorodu Branch Bar-man, Mr. S. O. K. Shillings. Others are Messrs Olayinka Sokoya, Gerald Abonyi, Promise Wobo Iwezor and Carol Ibharuneafe.
It was also a gale of disqualifications among the rank of aspirants for the post of Assistant Publicity Secretary, as three of no less than five aspirants kissed the dust. These include Messrs Henry Chibuike Ugwu of Ihiala Branch, Oladotun Hassan of Epe Branch and Charles Ajiboye of Ikeja Branch.
While Ogunlana, Obasi, Shillings, Iwezor and Ibharuneafe have had their fate sealed by a second disqualification letter from the electoral committee following an unsuccessful appeal, the ECNBA has kept mum on the others, fueling speculations on the success or otherwise of their appeals.
This has also led to anxiety in their camps, as their supporters have been thrown into disarray, not knowing whether the disqualified aspirants are still in the race. Some watchers of NBA politics have argued that this may have given undue advantage to opponents of the disqualified aspirants, as their campaigns continue to gather steam.
Among the disqualified aspirants who were yet to hear from the electoral body at press time are Adetunji, Sokoya, Lawal, Abonyi, Hassan and Ajiboye.
In separate interviews with CITY LAWYER, the aspirants expressed worry over their situation, saying the delay has negatively impacted their preparation for the elections. They said they are daily inundated with calls and enquiries by their supporters on their fate.
Some stated that the ECNBA did a shoddy job by disqualifying them, arguing that there was a surfeit of sources that would have made the electoral body to arrive at a different conclusion if it had done a more thorough job.
While Lawal said that it is “natural” for anyone to be anxious under the circumstances, Sokoya said: “The waiting game is affecting me seriously. The anxiety is based on the fact that you do not know whether you are a candidate or not.”
While the ECNBA conferred provisional clearance on 24 aspirants, 19 were disqualified. At least two disqualified aspirants shunned the appeal process, saying they have taken their situations in good faith. They include Messrs Echika Ejido and Ahmed Alhaji.
WHAT THE ASPIRANTS TOLD CITY LAWYER ON THE DELAY:
I HAVE BEEN INUNDATED WITH CALLS AND SMS – OLAYINKA SOKOYA
I must say that I am curious about the outcome of the appeal just like my friends and supporters across the globe. Although I am aware that the ECNBA has enormous and herculean task before it to conduct free and fair election, yet the appeal I lodged ought to have been determined by now. I have been receiving calls and several text messages from concerned people on my appeal and I have assured them that by the grace of God, I will be cleared.
I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DISQUALIFIED – ADEDOTUN ADETUNJI
Saying that I am worried is an understatement. The way my teeming supporters ask me for the outcome of the Appeal is fast becoming an embarrassment to me and indeed to the Legal profession. I wrote a subtle reminder email to the ECNBA via its official email handle on 1st July, 2020 but I got no response.
When I eventually chatted the Secretary of the ECNBA up on WhatsApp today 2nd July, 2020 she told me that – please permit me to quote her verbatim so that I don’t mix up what she said: “Good morning. Sorry we’ve been occupied with the voters register. Now that it is out of the way, we will conclude on your Appeal. You will hear from us before this week ends. Just a little more patience please.”
This is really affecting my preparations for the election which is just 28 days away. Appeals of disqualified aspirants in my category have been treated to my knowledge. My supporters are presently at a crossroad, hence I urge the ECNBA to make a pronouncement on my appeal fast enough.
My disqualification in the first instance is due to no fault of mine, as my seconder that was alleged not to have spent two years in NEC have actually been in NEC for 16 years and we have supplied the evidence in our appeal. Aside from that, it’s a verifiable fact from the secretariat of the NBA. Mr. Kazeem Adekunle Gbadamosi popularly known as KGB of Ibadan Branch is my seconder and he is a household name in NEC. Apart from being the Secretary and Chairman of Ibadan Branch at various times, he is still the current NEC rep of Ibadan Branch. Virtually all NBA presidents from 2004 till date have deemed it fit to co-opt him as NEC member. The status of this erudite lawyer at NEC cannot in anyway be questioned under this circumstance.
I have taken in good faith the response of the ECNBA Secretary and I am consoled by the fact that the weekend is just around the corner. I pray and hope that justice will be meted out to my case as it is so simple and straightforward. I believe I will be cleared to contest and I hereby urge on my supporters.
ECNBA NEED TO APPROACH ELECTION WITH MORE VIGOUR AND EXPERTISE – OLADOTUN HASSAN
It is most likely our electoral process continue to leave behind Bi-Annual monumental tales of frustrations, complaints and inadequacies, considering the modus operandi of the NBA constitutional prerequisites and ECNBA Electoral guidelines.
Based on this premise, my concern is of two sides of the coin: as an aspirant for the Office of the National Assistant Publicity Secretary and the other side as member willing to freely exercise his franchise right of voting under a free, fair and general acceptable atmosphere. Having appealed to the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association and yet to receive final response in view of my disqualification, mostly throw one off balance on what next to do, either way to campaign or await final fate. It is more like awaiting rapture. No specific date and time have rendered one’s hope hanging in the balance.
We are all conscious of the new date of the election slated for 29th July, 2020 just a matter of three weeks from now. Even if I am cleared today it will be difficult to marshal my full campaign strategy and plan of action in a matter of 15 days or less. For it will be an aberration to campaign without being cleared for the election, since the NBA constitution does not specify any proviso on action to be taking pending appeal within seven days, neither does your constitutes (sic) or appeal warrant stay of execution on disqualification, except one use other means to devise awareness to the electorates.
Quite worrisome that I can’t muscle much effort on campaign as at date, except by share of God’s hands of favour and grace, in which I am exclusively hoping on at this time. Moreover, considering the Covid 19 pandemic impediments and other aligning factors, the ECNBA needed to approach the election with more vigour and expertise.
One of the key fundamental way forward panacea is to go 100% Digital by developing a one stop Hi-technology service “Mobile App” that will serve the purpose of E-Voting, as well as automated verification of all qualified members (voters) and updated records of aspirants without going through the horrendous stress of physical expedition of sending individual’s personal contact details: phone, email, BPF and Branch Dues receipts and other Branch bank statement records through the 126 branch chairmen.
IT’S NATURAL TO BE ANXIOUS IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES – GERALD ABONYI
Anxiety is expected in the circumstance. Being worried will always be overcome by faithful and hopeful anticipation.
In the final analysis, my successful Appeal implies that I shall run unopposed for the office and therefore will be returned to serve in the desired office.
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