Egbe Amofin O’odua, the once influential umbrella body of lawyers of Yoruba extraction, is set to forge a consensus towards the 2020 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Elections at its meeting today in Ibadan.
A notice of meeting curiously sent out by the Publicity Secretary of NBA Ibadan Branch, Mr. Femi Omotayo stated that the meeting which starts at 11 a. m. would hold at the Aare Afe Babalola Bar Centre, Ibadan, adding: “Your attendance is highly anticipated and necessary as matters affecting our common interests will be placed on the table.”
Omotayo assured that the meeting would be attended by “who is who” among the Yoruba legal elite. On whether the breakaway South West Lawyers Forum (SWLF) would attend the meeting, he described the faction as an “infinitesimal group,” adding that there is no recognition for any such group.
There are strong indications that the forum may however not pose as serious challenge to today’s meeting, as political watchers believe that it had the backing of leading NBA presidential aspirant, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN. Adesina is believed to share similar political sentiments with foremost litigator, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN was the. Both are also in-laws.
The Chairman of Egbe Amofin, Chief Bandele Aiku SAN is now deceased. Olanipekun is the Vice Chairman of the forum, though some Egbe members challenged his position, arguing that his position was never ratified by the forum.
CITY LAWYER gathered that today’s meeting was a product of an earlier meeting convened by Olanipekun on August 28, 2019 on the sidelines of the NBA Annual General Conference. A source who was at the meeting told CITY LAWYER that the only major agreement at the meeting was the resolution that the Egbe should produce a consensus presidential candidate for the forthcoming NBA Elections.
Among those who attended the meeting are former NBA President, Chief (Mrs.) Priscilla Kuye; Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN; Chief M. A. Ajomale, and Mr. Femi Falana SAN among others.
Presently, there are four presidential aspirants who are said to be eyeing the coveted post, including Adesina, Mr. Muyiwa Akinboro SAN, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN and Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, the only aspirant who is not a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Mr. Martin Ogunleye, former Chairman of NBA Lagos Branch told CITY LAWYER that the Lagos meeting “emphasized the urgent need for a rebirth of Egbe,” adding that the breakaway South West Lawyers Forum (SWLF) has “merged back” to the parent Egbe forum.
Ogunleye, who is also the Chairman Egbe Amofin N’ile Eko, said that the meeting would be “co-hosted” by chairmen of NBA branches in the South West, adding that Olanipekun would “most likely” chair the meeting. Asked whether 2020 NBA Elections was an item on today’s agenda, he said: “You cannot rule out politics in human affairs.”
It was unclear at press time whether there is a split within the leadership of Egbe, as its Secretary, Mr. Ranti Ajileti told CITY LAWYER that he would not attend the meeting. His words: “I am not involved in the planning of the meeting. But I am not opposed to convening of the meeting. My not attending is due to circumstances and not by design.” It is recalled that Ajileti was lampooned by some Egbe elements for standing by the Eastern Bar Forum’s (EBF) endorsement of Chief Arthur Obi Okafor for the 2018 NBA presidential race.
A source close to Ajibade told CITY LAWYER that “Dr. Ajibade SAN is attending in full force.” Feelers from the camp of another leading candidate, Mr. Olu Akpata showed that he may not attend the meeting, adding that the forum is for Yoruba lawyers and that “no invitation has been extended to him to attend.”
There are strong indications that forging a consensus among the aspirants may pose the toughest challenge for the resurgent Egbe, as the aspirants are said to belong to disparate ideological divides and cleavages. Today’s meeting is viewed by many watchers of Bar politics as crucial in determining the fate of the Yoruba bloc in NBA politics.
Though there are fears that Olanipekun may desire a rebirth of the Egbe as a launch-pad for Adesina’s presidential ambition, analysts argue that it would be an uphill task, with many saying that he has only “one vote” when the chips are down. They argue that only a transparent process will prevent the Egbe from receding into irrelevance again.
It is recalled that lack of consensus by the Egbe gifted the 2014 presidential race to former NBA President, Mr. Austin Alegeh SAN. A similar disagreement by the South East bloc led to the emergence of current NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN. Analysts believe that today’s meeting is geared towards preventing a recurrence of the 2014 debacle.
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