There is an ongoing and fierce tripodal race to determine who replaces incumbent Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Ikechukwu Uwanna.

The intrigues over who takes home the coveted prize peaked today with disclaimers from several candidates over a purported “Unity List” which surfaced online.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Committee led by Mr. Wale Akoni San has hired a Jacksonville, United States based electronic balloting comapny to deliver ballots to the 1757 eligible voters.

The chairmanship race seems quite unpredictable that many political observers are not willing to stick out their neck on the eventual winner. The candidates for the chairmanship poll are Mr. Adebola Lema, a Managing Partner at Fountain Court Partners; Mr. Mayowa Owolabi, a Partner at Pistis Partners LLP, and Mr. Olabisi Makanjuola, a Partner at Olanihun Ajayi LP.

While Owolabi and Makanjuola are from the “corporate and commercial bloc,” Lema is promoted by his supporters as a “core Bar man.”

Political watchers from the “commercial” bloc believe the race is between Owolabi and Makanjuola, arguing that they have the numbers especially from the big law firms to clinch the prize.

However, there has been a bruising campaign between the two “commercial” camps. This is not unconnected with the fact that the candidates are viewed as being promoted or supported by two major political blocs which are very likely to again square up during the 2024 NBA Elections. These are the former NBA President Olumide Akpata bloc and Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN bloc. It is recalled that both Bar Leaders battled for the presidency of NBA in the 2020 race, with Akpata taking the coveted prize.

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that while Owolabi is sponsored by the Akpata bloc, Makajuola is being promoted by the Ajibade bloc. On his part, Lema has tried to present his pitch as the ‘core Bar man,’ even as he is viewed as aligned with former NBA Lagos Branch Secretary Alex Muoka and some traditional Bar Leaders.

While some political watchers contend that Lema’s campaign has not shown the potency and traction to dislodge the “commercial” bloc, others argue that Makanjuola is a new comer to the branch, adding that his law firm has no track record especially of supporting the branch financially. On the other hand, Owolabi has been pummeled as being propped up by the ‘godfathers’ in the branch particularly through juicy committee appointments. The candidates have denied these claims, each vowing that he is the one to beat at the poll tomorrow.

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that the big law firms will play a crucial role in who wins tomorrow’s election, given that they can turn the tide for any candidate through bloc votes. Mid-size law firms are also being aggressively canvassed by the candidates.

Among the ‘Big Three’ are Aluko and Oyebode, TEMPLARS and Olanihun Ajayi LP. Other big and mid-size law firms that are likely to impact the elections include Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe and Belgore (SOOB); G. Elias & Co.; AELEX Legal; Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun; Babalakin & Co.; Duale Ovia & Alex-Adedipe; Banwo & Ighodalo; Udo Udoma and Belo-Osagie (UUBO); Kenna Partners; Olajide Oyewole LLP; Alliance Law Firm; SimmonsCooper Partners (SCP); Jackson Etti & Edu; Odujinrin & Adefulu; PUNUKA Attorneys and Solicitors; Olisa Agbakoba Legal; Africa Law Practice NG & Company (ALP); Streamsowers & Köhn; Rickey Tarfa & Co; The New Practice (TNP); The Law Practice (TLC), and Perchstone and Graeys.

Their impact will however depend on how many of their staff are members of the branch as well as those that met the five-meetings requirement to qualify them to vote. It will also depend on each firm’s level of commitment to any of the chairmanship candidates.

There are however strong indications that Makanjuola will receive bloc votes from his law firm, Olanihun Ajayi LP which may boast of about 100 eligible voters as well as at another mega law firm, Aluko & Oyebode, given the strong backing from former NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom SAN. Ikwuazom is viewed as a presidential hopeful in the 2024 NBA Elections.

Conversely, Owolabi will receive bloc votes from TEMPLARS where he has a strong support from former NBA President Olumide Akpata. The firm boasts of about 102 eligible voters. He will also receive highly substantial votes at Babalakin & Co., his campaign having been boosted by an endorsement by one of the firm’s influential partners, Mr. Tola Oshobi SAN. The same may be true at The Law Crest (TLC) where he is heavily backed by an Akpata ally and NBA-ICLE Board Chairman, Mr. Tobenna Erojikwe. Erojikwe is also heavily touted as an NBA presidential hopeful come 2024. Owolabi is also bound to take the lion’s share of votes at Ajumogobia & Okeke as well as at Jackson Etti & Edu, being an alumnus of both leading firms.

The two top contenders will then engage in a fire-fight for votes in the other big and mid-size firms in order to take home the prize, even as Lema will be hoping on his core loyalists to make a strong showing.

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that some big law firms may have perfected plans to checkmate the voting pattern especially among their junior lawyers by directing them to vote at the office. This is to ensure that they deliver sizeable number of votes to their preferred candidates.

Following the release of a purported “Unity List” today, CITY LAWYER investigation showed that some of the candidates on the list were not privy to any discussion surrounding the list or its publication. This led to a flurry of disclaimers by the affected candidates via short messaging service (SMS) and social media channels. Unverified claims suggested that the list may have been orchestrated by detractors.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Committee has sent an email alerting eligible voters on the election, saying: “The NBA Lagos elections will begin at 5 AM on Tuesday, 6/27/23. Please watch your email inbox (and SMS sent to xxxxxxxxxxx) for your link to the ballot. You will be able to vote from any PC, tablet or smart phone, connected to the Internet.” LLC is the “election agent” hired by the Electoral Committee for the election. The company has over 25 years of experience conducting web-based elections, and has “assisted hundreds of business and academic professional organizations, HOA’s, non-profit groups, and universities with their balloting needs.”

Aside from the position of Chairman, other posts to be voted for are those of Vice Chairman, Secretary, Publicity Secretary and Social Secretary. Other positions are unopposed.

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