The political fortunes of Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN in the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Elections received a major boost at the weekend with over 30 senior advocates throwing their illustrious weights behind his quest to lead Africa’s largest Bar. The NBA National Elections is scheduled to hold on 24th and 25th July, 2020 via electronic voting.

As at this weekend, no less than 31 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) have pitched their tent with Ajibade. Leading the pack of the first set of endorsements is eminent lawyer and former Attorney General of Lagos State, Prof. A. B. Kasunmu, SAN who described Ajibade as “someone who has a passion for both the law and the profession; a lawyer with integrity and a gentleman, who subtly but effectively upholds the true ethos of the profession.”

On his part, renowned lawyer, Mr. Ebun Sofunde SAN said of the NBA presidential aspirant: “In these trying times for the bar and bench, I see Dr. Ajibade as a person who will do his utmost to restore pride and dignity to the bar and bench by ensuring that such virtues as (a) integrity (b) diligence and (c) merit are enthroned at all times. I also see him as a person who will fight for the welfare of the bar and bench and promote a smooth relationship between the bar and bench.”

Said Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, NBA former 1st Vice-President and former presidential: “I find Dr. Ajibade to be courteous and with the personal attributes that describe a gentleman. He is known in both international and domestic legal circles and is an acknowledged leader in both. Within Nigeria he is an active member of committees of both the NBA Section on Legal Practice as well as Section on Business Law. He is a past President of the Capital Markets Solicitors Association. In the international arena he is a member of the ICC’s Africa Commission, and the IBA’s African Regional Forum Advisory Board. I support his candidacy because in my opinion he is the best bridge between the younger and older members of the profession.”

Perhaps the icing on the cake was an endorsement by Ajibade’s peers comprising a group of 14 senior advocates who were his 1989 classmates at the Nigerian Law School. In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, the senior lawyers said they have known Ajibade “for over 30 years and can confidently attest to his character, integrity, humility, experience, brilliance and hard work in the legal profession, which led him to achieve the honour of being the first person to be elevated to the rank of SAN from the 1989 NLS Class.”

According to them, aside from the fact that he has over the years “been highly involved in Continuing Legal Education and other programmes that provide mentorship for young lawyers,” his wealth of experience in leadership “will help reposition the NBA as an effective and efficient world-class Association for the benefit of the different intra professional groups of lawyers under its membership and the growth and development of our great country, Nigeria.”

Aside from Kasunmu who took silk in 1979, other lawyers who endorsed Ajibade include Mr. Ebun Sofunde SAN, Mr. Kayode Sofola SAN, Prof. Gabriel A. Olawoyin SAN, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, Mr. Bambo Adesanya SAN, Mr. Dolapo Akinrele SAN, Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN, Prof. Andrew Chukwuemerie SAN, Mrs. Titi Akinlawon SAN, Mr. Folu Oguntade SAN, Mr. Oluwemimo Ogunde SAN, Mr. Abiodun Jelili Owonikoko SAN, Mr. Segun Ajibola SAN and Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN.

Others are Mr. Teslim Olatunde Busari SAN, Dr. Adewale Olawoyin SAN, Dr. Kayode Olatoke SAN, Mr. Olatunde Adejuyigbe SAN, Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN, Dr. Muiz Banire SAN, Mr. Emeka Etiaba SAN, Mr. Olasheni Ibiwoye SAN, Mr. A. U. Mustapha SAN, Mr. Emeka Okpoko SAN, Mr. Adeyemi Kamaldeen Ajibade SAN, Mr. Olayode Delano SAN, Mr. Olumide Aju SAN, Mr. Olukayode Enitan SAN, Mr. Essien Andrew SAN, and Mr. Oladipo Olasope SAN.

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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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