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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There is palpable excitement among members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch as the first-ever branch elections via electronic voting climaxed with the election of leading corporate lawyer, Mr. Yemi Akangbe as the new branch Chairman. Akangbe, a partner at the law firm of Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe & Belgore, polled 440 (56.8%) of the 774 votes to beat his closest rival, Mr. Adebola Lema who garnered 311 votes or 40.2%. Bolatumi Animashaun came a distant third with 23 votes or 3%.

In the traditional show of sportsmanship that the branch has become accustomed to, some candidates have been calling to congratulate their opponents who won. The branch elections have often been rancour-free over the years.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that Vote-now.com, LLC, the Jacksonville, USA based ICT Partner for the elections may receive about $2300 or N703,000 for their efforts. Mr. Richard Akintunde SAN, Chairman of the Election Committee told CITY LAWYER in an interview that “The service provider will be paid at the conclusion of the election, depending on the total number of voters registered. Their fees are estimated at about $2300 but we will have a final figure at the conclusion of the election.”

It has also been encomiums galore for the Akintunde-led committee which once again delivered rancour-free polls. Akintunde had during an interview http://citylawyermag.com/2019/06/25/we-will-deliver-rancour-free-elections-nba-lagos-cte-chair-tells-city-lawyer/ with CITY LAWYER said: “I want to assure members of the NBA Lagos Branch, candidates, eligible voters and stakeholders that with their cooperation and support, the 2019 election by e-voting will be seamless. At the end of it all, we will all congratulate ourselves.” He has been involved in branch election management since 2009, three times as Secretary to the Election Committee. He is piloting the elections as Chairman for the second consecutive term.

Some members have taunted the national body, saying the NBA National Officers Elections should henceforth be conducted by the Akintunde-led committee. While Ngozi Onwuka said that “The voting process is so easy and stress free, unlike the national election,” Queeneth Hogan said: “I must say, the convenience of this process should be emulated by our National body. Very transparent process. Kudos to the Electoral Committee. Very well done.”

Another Bar Leader, Chukwuma Ezeala said: “May I use this opportunity to congratulate the Premier Bar for their commitment to excellence. I salute in particular our Chairman, Chukwuka Ikwuazom for visionary leadership, our Electoral Committee for their hard work. The contestants were great, our friend Lema and others with laudable projects who would not serve us now. To our Chairman Elect Yemi and other officers Elect congratulations and put on your seatbelts as you must surpass where our current Chairman has taken us to. The Premier Bar must lead and others follow. Finally I say bravo to our President, Paul Usoro SAN for his leadership at the National level and request him to recommend our system to other Branches to reduce the rancorous system in most Branches.”

Okey Ilofulunwa garnered 295 or 39.6 votes to become the Vice Chairman-elect, while Chuks Nwana polled 246 or 33.0 votes and Bode Omoboriowo brought the rear with 204 or 27.4% votes. Incumbent Publicity Secretary, Mr. Moshood Abiola polled 470 or 63.7% to clinch the coveted post of Secretary, beating Tochukwu Chukwumerije and Obinna Okereke who got 208 (28.2%) and 60 (8.1%) votes.

The post of Social Secretary went to Ngozi Egeonu with 406 or 54.7% votes while her opponent Adefowoke Ayo-Ponle polled 336 or 45.3% votes. Harry Ukaejiofor got 331 or 45.8% votes to beat his closest rival, Ben Ihesiulo who polled 245 or 33.9%. Dumgbara Torbari trailed the duo with 147 or 20.3% votes. Ifeoma Ben fought a hard battle to dust two of her rivals, polling 367 or 49.5%. Elo Adhekpukoli and Hammed Bakare got 260 or 35% and 115 or 15.5% votes respectively.

Other candidates whose nominations were not opposed were returned elected. These include Foluke Akinmoladun, Treasurer; Chinenye Oragwu, Financial Secretary; Anthonia Enitan Eke, Welfare Secretary; James Sonde, Publicity Secretary and Florence Chijioke-Duru, Provost.

Both Lema and Animashuan have congratulated Akangbe on his victory. Some other candidates have also congratulated their victorious opponents. In a whatsapp post barely an hour after close of polls, Lema wrote: “Good evening learned Seniors and Colleagues. Permit me to inform you that the result of the NBA, Lagos Branch 2019 Election has just been released by the Election Committee. The result showed Mr. Yemi Akangbe scored 440 votes as against Mr. Adebola Olarotimi LEMA who scored 311 votes. Mr. Yemi Akangbe has therefore been returned Chairman-elect of the Branch and l have called to congratulate him on his victory. I thank all members of our great Branch for your time, effort, energy, commitment and support. God bless NBA Lagos Branch. Adebola Olarotimi Lema.”

On her part, Animashaun wrote: “Congratulations to you, my brother, Yemi Akangbe! I wish you a successful tenure. Well done to our Electoral Committee for a job well done. Thank you all for your cooperation.”

A similar gesture was extended to Ilofulunwa when his opponent, Chuks Nwana wrote: “Well done to the electoral committee, it was a seamless process. To the winners Congratulations. Okey my brother special congratulations to you. It’s our Bar. Long live the Premier Branch.” On his part, defeated Assiatant Secretary candidate, Elo Adhekpukoli wrote: “I just called Ifeoma Ben to congratulate her.”

Members have commended the Election Committee for organizing a seamless and transparent exercise. Other members of the committee are HRM Chief E. A. Otokhina, Mrs. Sola Adegbonmire, Mr. Geff Eze and Mrs. Obosa Akpata, Secretary of the Committee.

At least one Bar Leader has commended the losing candidates for their show of sportsmanship. In a post seen by CITY LAWYER, former NBA presidential candidate and Chairman of the Council of Legal Education (CLE), Chief Emeka Ngige SAN gave Lema a pat on the back, saying: “Well done, Lema! A gallant fighter and true sportsman! It is well!”

On his part, senior lawyer, Chief Adewale Adeniji said: “Congratulations, Yemi. I am sure you will reach out to your co-contestants, if you’ve not done so already. I wish you well in your task of following a class Act that Chairman Chukwuka has been.”

Members have also commended the foresight of the Chukwuka Ikwuazom-led Executive Committee in initiating the electronic voting system in the branch. Fiery Bar commentator, Gerty Ben-Iloegbunam wrote: “I’m most grateful to God for the Spirit that entered and controlled Chukwuka Ikwuazom to appoint this Electoral Committee headed by the Learned Silk! His uncommon integrity has brought joy and acceptance of the outcome of this just concluded election. I’m most grateful to Almighty God. Thanks once more to the outgoing Exco, while I sincerely pray and hope that the New Exco will surpass in their duty. Congratulations all.”

Senior Partner at Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), Victor Nwakasi added his voice to the encomiums when he said: “Chukwuka Ikwuazom! Character and strength are better proven. Thanks for being a great leader, truly proven by this process.”

Many branch members contend that Ikwuazom has raised the stakes in Bar governance, adding that the incoming regime has a tough task of taking the branch a notch higher.

Congratulating the winners on their victories, Ikwuazom wrote: “I congratulate Mr. Yemi Akangbe on his emergence as Chairman Elect of the great Premier Bar. I congratulate all the successful candidates in the election. To those who did not realize their ambitions in this election, I congratulate you as well for the good fight you all fought. To my dear brother Lema, I congratulate you for being such a good sport. You are a good man and an astute bar man. On behalf of the branch, I want to thank the Chairman and members of the Electoral Committee. I know the amount of work that you put in to give us a flawless election. God bless you all. We have demonstrated by this election that we are the Premier Bar and chart the course for other branches to follow. Long live the Premier Bar! Long live the NBA.”

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