By Our Correspondent
As the curtains are gradually drawn on the hotly contested Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections, there are strong indications that some crucial factors may determine the outcome of the poll.
Aside from the hiccups that had necessitated several shifts in the election timelines, controversies have also trailed the election, not least alleged attempts by some persons to rig the process. CITY LAWYER investigations show that some may have attempted to compromise the electoral process through identity theft. Several accounts of hijacked personal profiles abound.
Although the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) had initially attempted to ward of identity theft through a stringent verification process, this was torpedoed when the model threatened to disenfranchise many eligible voters, leading to a more pliable model. Arising from this, there are strong indications that hackers may have hijacked the profiles of some voters, moreso as significant personal information such as the enrollment number through which detailed information on each voter could be gleaned was in full glare. CITY LAWYER was however unable to determine at press time the extent to which the hackers were able to compromise the electoral process.
Meanwhile, following the contentious disqualification of former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Afam Osigwe who was adjudged to wield a major political influence among young lawyers, the battle for the NBA Presidency became a tripodal face-off between Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN and Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN.
The battle for the control of the secretariat is between Messrs Mas’ud Alabelewe, Bolaji Ojibara, Rafiu Balogun and Jonathan Taidi. Meanwhile, the full list of combatants have been uploaded by the ECNBA in its Election Magazine.
While the election has been coloured by the controversies surrounding the disqualification and adoption or otherwise of some candidates, and lately the choice of ICT partners for the election, there are strong indications that only candidates who work the hardest will coast home to victory. While the regional and voting blocs are seemingly intact, it is left to be seen how they will impact the elections in light of the amorphous electronic voting model which affords near total anonymity for voters.
However, aside from endorsements from influencers which ignited the political landscape afresh in the twilight of the campaigns, the branches remain veritable battle grounds for the mining of votes. CITY LAWYER analysis showed that while some branches with dominant voting populations may sway the elections, others are so negligible that they may be conveniently ignored by the combatants in the exacting heat of the campaigns.
The ECNBA had in a statement dated August 16, 2018 announced that of the total 32,228 eligible voters submitted by the branches, 3,571 participated in the controversial verification exercise conducted by CRENET Techlabs between July 31 and August 2, 2018 while 13,254 voters were verified between August 8 and August 11, 2018. This brought the total number of eligible voters on the voters’ register to 16,825.
CITY LAWYER analysis shows that while Lagos remains the branch with the highest number of eligible voters totaling 2476, at least two branches – Ikot Ekpene and Ilaro – have no eligible voters on the final verified list of voters. Lagos branch is trailed by Port Harcourt Branch (1184), Abuja Branch (1158), and the emergent Ikole-Ekiti Branch (917 voters) which sensationally upstaged the usually boisterous Ikeja Branch at 850 voters. Aside from these five branches, the only other branch with 500+ registered voters is Benin Branch (548).
In the 400-plus bracket are Ibadan (427) and Ilorin branches (403), the latter being the home and adopted branches of three of the gladiators for the post of General Secretary. Six branches have 300 or more eligible voters on the final verified list. These include Jos (352), Asaba (330), Uyo (324), Kaduna (314) and Makurdi (300).
The 200-plus category comprises of Calabar (263), Owerri (256), Maiduguri (222), Warri (218), Awka (216), Enugu (215) and Lokoja (202).
Split among the three zones recognized by Section 9(3) of the 2015 NBA Constitution, the Western Zone has the dominant 3290 voters, followed closely by the Northern Zone at 2951 and the Eastern Zone at 2458 voters. Given that especially all the presidential aspirants are from the Eastern Zone, there are strong indications that both the Northern and Western zones will be battle grounds for all the candidates. Aside from seemingly having an upper hand in their home branches, the ‘diaspora factor’ may also come into play in supposedly giving the presidential candidates an edge in their respective ‘adopted’ branches.
Among the fringe branches with 100-plus voters are Yenagoa (197), Akure (180), Barnawa (179), Damaturu (169), Ughelli (168), Ungogo (165), and Onitsha (168). Others include Lafia (145), Minna (143), Effurun (140), Bauchi (130), Ikorodu (124), Yola (120), Abeokuta (119), Kano (119), Bwari (104), Orlu (104) and Uromi (103) branches.
It is left to be seen how this will impact the outcome of the elections. All said, this is perhaps one of the fiercest elections in the history of the NBA. While litigations by Osigwe and Chief Jor Kyari Gadzama SAN relating to the 2016 NBA presidential election still however like a Frankenstein monster over the fate of the elections, there is no gainsaying that those who emerge victorious from the energy-sapping elections aggressively fought both through leg-work and the social media will pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
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