ELECTION DEBATES: ECNBA MAY HAMMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE
There are strong indications that the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) is viewing with serious concern the campaign practices of candidates for the 2020 NBA Elections.

A source who is familiar with the operations of the electoral committee told CITY LAWYER that the electoral umpire is concerned that most of its warnings on campaigning have been observed in breach.

Making reference to a presidential debate billed for tomorrow and organized by The Platform Nigeria, a popular public speaking programme with Pastor Poju Oyemade of Covenant Christian Centre as Convener/Visionary, the source told CITY LAWYER that the committee has decided to deal decisively with the matter, saying: “The committee will take a step to stop the recurrence of these issues. The committee is already working on something.

“The (ECNBA) Statement was very clear. Debates for purposes of Campaign are not allowed. I believe the candidates know the rules, even if organisers feign ignorance.”

Reminded that tomorrow’s event is billed as an “interactive session” and not a debate, the source queried: “But it is Presidential? For candidates in the election!”

Indications have however emerged that at least one presidential candidate may not participate in the debate. A ranking official in the candidate’s campaign organisation told CITY LAWYER that “this is due to the ECNBA Statement on the subject. The statement is clear enough. While I have not spoken to my candidate on his participation, I think the options are clear – get the ECNBA to rescind its statement or stay away.”

It is recalled that The Platform Nigeria has scheduled for tomorrow a virtual programme tagged “Interactive sessions with the Presidential Candidates of the NBA 2020 Elections on their vision and plans for the Nigerian Bar Association.” 

YLF_DEBATE

While the interactive session with Mr. Dele Adesina SAN is scheduled to kick off at 3 pm tomorrow, Mr. Olu Akpata will mount the podium at 5 pm. On his part, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN is billed for the 7 pm slot. Prospective participants are billed to register for the programme.

The electoral committee had in its ECNBA Statement No. 014 warned the candidates against infringing the electoral guidelines, saying: “The Committee frowns at activities that detract from the objectives of an inclusive free, fair, and credible poll for our Association. The Constitution has prescribed the manner of and mode for campaigns for the elections; as such, any electioneering campaign activity outside of this is unacceptable to the Committee. The candidates, their supporters, as well as NBA Branches, are advised to take down all help desks, debate platforms (virtual or physical), and or voting desks set up for the purpose of the elections and which are capable of compromising the integrity of the process. The Committee will not hesitate to sanction any candidate who deliberately flouts the provisions of the Constitution and the ECNBA Guidelines for the elections.” 

Though the NBA Young Lawyers Forum (NBA-YLF) had scheduled a Presidential Debate to hold today, the event was abruptly shelved in deference to the ECNBA’s latest position. CITY LAWYER gathered that efforts to make the electoral committee shift its position have so far proved abortive.

A notice by the NBA-YLF Chairman, Mr. Tobi Adebowale announcing suspension of the presidential debate read: “The motivation behind the debate was and remains our belief that Young Lawyers constitute a large proportion of the prospective voters at the NBA Elections and their concerns have invariably dominated the conversations around the elections. As such, the YLF decided upon hosting a live TV debate with feedback via social media to provide an opportunity for a robust conversation with the candidates for the OPNBA.

“As you are aware, the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (“ECNBA”) recently issued a statement to the effect that ‘candidates, their supporters, as well as NBA Branches, are advised to take down all help desks, debate platforms (virtual or physical), and or voting desks set up for the purpose of the elections and which are capable of compromising the integrity of the process.’
“Further to the above, the YLF has come to a decision to put the Debate earlier scheduled for 6:15pm today, July 18, 2020 on hold. We have communicated the above decision to the NBA Presidential Candidates and our partners, Plus TV Africa. We will continue to engage the ECNBA and other stakeholders for the benefit of Young Lawyers and the Bar at large.”

Meanwhile, some Bar Leaders have berated the presidential candidates for allegedly agreeing to participate in tomorrow’s debate. Uploading the programme’s banner on “State of the Bar,” a WhatsApp group populated by Nigeria’s legal elite, a commentator said: “Ok so i just stumbled on this and I’m like what!!!??? Is this appropriate? What really is happening? We go from Channels to TVC to CNN to ITV to AiT and now Platform? How selfless is service in the NBA really?”

This led another prominent lawyer to state: “I am worried too. Can’t the NBA organise a debate for our candidates? Why should it be 3rd parties doing that? It is becoming to look like this is a governorship election rather than an NBA election.”

The NBA Election is scheduled to hold on July 29 and 30, 2020.

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