A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr. JB Daudu, SAN, has written to the NBA President, Mr. AB Mahmoud SAN regarding what he termed “Allegations of voter fraud, absence of integrity and credibility in the 2018 NBA elections.”
Mr. Daudu who noted that his letter is prompted by the “painful account” by Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN of multiple irregularities and malpractices alleged to have marred the electoral processes urged Mr. Mahmoud SAN not to dismiss the report of the O O Olowokure’s Technical Committee’s preliminary report.
He also copied past Presidents and secretaries of the NBA as well as other stakeholders in the letter.
Whilst I am not claiming ignorance of the events leading to this correspondence, this submission has been triggered by a letter dated the 27th of August 2018, which I received from my learned brother silk and one of the Presidential candidates in the erstwhile or recently conducted NBA elections into National Offices of the Association, Arthur Obi-Okafor SAN, Chartered Arbitrator.
His letter is a painful account of multiple irregularities and malpractices alleged to have marred a correct determination of the electoral process, thereby stripping the entire process of the desired integrity, credibility and legitimacy.
Attached to his letter (a copy of which I believe you have received) are (i) Report on Irregularities observed in the elections signed by O O Olowokure Esq, leader AOOSAN Technical Team together with its annexures, attachments and addendums and the final report of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) which was presented to NBA/NEC for their information only.
Because I fervently believe that in the not too distant future, posterity will ask today’s Bar leaders of the role they played in the face of these disturbing disclosures, whether we acted like Emperor Nero of the old Roman empire, who stood idly by and played on his fiddle, while the great city of Rome was consumed and destroyed by fire or whether by our silence or even adulation of the events described therein we have not abetted or participated in the erosion of the moral authority of the Bar to intervene in like matters when in future they occur in the larger society.
THE SUBSTANCE OF THIS INTERVENTION
Mr President, I wish to premise my intervention on the following assumptions, (i) Those candidates who contested the last NBA elections were rightly adjudged by the ECNBA as qualified and competent to run for the offices they aspired to, in particular, I am very familiar with the 3 Presidential Candidates and regardless of preferences, any of them is eminently qualified to lead the Nigerian Bar; (ii) The election in issue was governed by the NBA Constitution (as amended) and I have relied on the online edition culled from the NBA website and (iii) That the progress made by the NBA is largely as a result of its history and an Association or even a Nation that fails to learn from its history is doomed to fail.
In 1992, flowing from the Port-Harcourt AGC, this exalted Associated went Comatose for at least 6 years before it was revived by the collective will of our members particularly Bar leaders and the Committee of Chairman and Chairmen. One of the lessons learnt from that episode was that leaders of professional associations are not elected by universal suffrage, especially in jurisdictions such as ours where leadership tussles are seen as a ‘do or die’ matter. By some revolution, (which is not the subject matter of this discourse) we have again found ourselves not only saddled with universal suffrage but with an untested contraption called ‘Electronic Voting’. It is a combination of these 2 catalysts that have adversely affected the integrity and credibility of the election in issue.
One point is clear, the Olowokure Technical Report, based as it is on empirical and evaluative evidence cannot and ought not be dismissed with a wave of the hand or swept under the carpet. If not looked into, it will continue to be an inconvenient truth that will haunt the Bar. Mr President, all elections ought to have a safety valve through which candidates can subject the process to scrutiny and where the complains are found genuine and proven, for redress and justice to be served. Incidentally, I have gone through the provisions of the NBA Constitution and it is indisputable, having considered Article or Clause 9-(4) and the entire 2nd schedule, which deals with the powers of the ECNBA that the said Committee has the ultimate say in matters relating to or arising from the conduct of the NBA elections. However, such finality is subject to strict conditions. See para 2.8 of the 2nd schedule to the NBA Constitution, which provides thus: ‘The results of elections shall be announced within twenty-four (24) hours of the conduct of elections upon collation and verification of the votes’. I have read a copy of the ECNBA report attached to the letter under reference and no where did it say that it engaged in a ‘verification of the votes’ as it was enjoined to do after the election especially in the face of a credible petition or complaint challenging a host of votes submitted by O O Olowokure Esq. In my humble view, the verification of votes envisaged by the NBA Constitution is the same as the post-election audit demanded by the Contestants, particularly Obi-Okafor SAN whose letter has triggered this intervention to the President of the NBA. I am of the humble view that post-election audit or verification of votes is a matter of right and not a privilege and that the conduct of that all-important exercise is a condition precedent to the declaration of result. I further take the humble and indeed respectful view that the entire exercise is inconclusive and the declaration of results without the prior conduct of a verification of votes by the ECNBA particularly in the face of strong complaints submitted by the contestants, premature and inchoate.
It is for the foregoing reasons that I have found it difficult to congratulate all the national officers said to have been elected in this exercise. Once the exercise is concluded or I am proven to be wrong in the foregoing analysis, I will offer my hand of cooperation to all who have survived the scrutiny of the ECNBA.
One last point, Mr President, I have taken the liberty to favour all Past Presidents, General Secretaries and stakeholders with copies of this letter. It is important that we allow dispute resolution mechanisms to function properly in the determination of disputes among us in the Bar. Where not done or done haphazardly, we lose the moral authority to intervene when it applies in the larger society.
Joseph Bodunrin Daudu SAN
Past President NBA 2010-2012