BY EMEKA NWADIOKE
At exactly 12:53 am early today, the Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA), Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN declared Tier-One solicitor, Mr. Olumide Akpata as winner of the NBA presidential election held last Wednesday and Thursday. Akpata is billed to be sworn in late August as the 30th NBA President.
The announcement of the official results, monitored by CITY LAWYER, was broadcast live on many social media handles and witnessed by ECNBA members, a broadcast station and some agents of the candidates in the election.
Though a total of 29,636 lawyers were accredited for the election, only 18,256 or 62 per cent of the voters succeeded in casting their ballots.
According to the ECNBA Chairman, Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Mr. Dele Adesina SAN polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with irregularities. The election was held via electionbuddy, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.
Other winners are John Martin who polled 6,010 votes to clinch the post of NBA First Vice President; Adeyemo Kazeem (Second Vice President with 8,794 votes); Joyce Oduah (General Secretary with 8,979 votes); Olukunle Edun (Welfare Secretary with 9001 votes); Rapulu Nduka (Publicity Secretary with 11,964 votes); Uchenna Nwadialo (Assistant Secretary with 7,314 votes) and Naza Afam (Assistant Publicity Secretary with 6,490 votes). Mercy Ijato Agada (Treasurer) and Raphael Anagor (Financial Secretary) polled 16, 487 votes and 15,824 votes as unopposed candidates.
Though Ajibade poked holes in the electoral process, he said in a statement that he had “called Mr. Olumide Akpata and congratulated him on his election as the 30th President of our great association, the Nigerian Bar Association, in the elections held on 29th – 30th July 2020.”
Commending the “level of the debate and the quality of the ideas that were brought forth,” Ajibade however expressed dissatisfaction with the electoral process, saying: “It is unfortunate that the process leading up to and during the election itself have, once again, not been devoid of controversy. It is my fervent hope that we will get over these repeated challenges with conducting objectively free and fair elections into the leadership positions in the association.”
Saying that “we cannot succeed in addressing the challenges confronting our profession unless we unite,” Ajibade added: “I urge the incoming President and his executive to take deliberate and proactive steps to unite the Bar.”
Meanwhile, several Bar Leaders and forums have also congratulated Akpata on his victory.
Influential former NBA President, Mr. Augustine Alegeh SAN, who is believed to be a staunch supporter of Akpata, said: “I most heartily congratulate Olumide Akpata Esq. on his election as the 30th President of the NBA. I also felicitate with the other elected National Officers on their victory at the polls and urge Members of our Association to support the newly elected National Officers as they take steps to deliver on their mandate to lead the Bar for the next 2 years.”
He commended Adesina and Ajibade “for their maturity and candor,” and urged them to “work with the incoming President in his efforts to make Our Association better. This is a time for unity in the best interest of the Association.”
Saying the election would not have been possible due to the coronavirus pandemic save for the introduction of electronic voting, Alegeh stated that “elections are never perfect.” He urged the incoming administration to “improve on the gains recorded in the electronic voting system that guarantees universal suffrage under our Constitution.”
Commending the Usoro Administration “for the successful conduct of the elections and the efforts so far in moving the Bar forward on several fronts,” the erstwhile NBA President whose regime introduced universal suffrage and electronic voting said: “I know that the Incoming-President will be magnanimous in victory and will run an all-inclusive administration geared towards improving the NBA to handle its core mandate of promoting the rule of law, human rights as well as the welfare of its Members.”
The NBA Young Lawyers Forum (NBA-YLF) also congratulated Akpata and other elected National Officers on their victory. In a statement by the Chairman and Secretary of its Governing Council, Tobi Adebowale and Patricia Udeh, it said “The YLF remains unequivocally willing and available to engage with all relevant stakeholders for the benefit of Young Lawyers and all other members of the NBA.”
In a statement by the factional Chairman of Mid-West Bar Forum, Chief Chike Onyemenam SAN, the body congratulated Akpata, Aikpokpo-Martins and Edun on their “resounding and landslide victory,” adding that “by your victory at the polls which was democratic, transparent and clearly demonstrated your acceptance by the entire members of the Nigerian Bar Association devoid of tribal or sectional considerations, you have done the members of the 14 N.B.A. branches of the Mid-West Bar Forum proud and demonstrated to all that in spite of the shortcomings of the political class in our great nation’s efforts at democracy, Nigerian lawyers are still capable of conducting their own affairs in a democratic manner.”
On its part, the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) in a statement by the Chairman, Mr. S. Long Williams, congratulated Akpata and other elected officers. It noted some lapses that bedeviled the poll, but described the election as “free, fair and credible.”
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