The recent leadership tussle in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikorodu Branch took a turn for the worst with the suspension of the Chairman of the Branch Mr. Bayo Akinlade by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NBA at its quarterly meeting held in Abuja on Thursday, 28th March, 2019.
Many have argued for and against the suspension of Mr. Akinlade by the NEC while many have remained confused about the real story behind the crisis. DNL Legal and Style brings you the account of the leadership crisis straight from the role players.
What they have said will not only assist lawyers in understanding the genesis of the crisis but would help stakeholders in making informed decisions.
We encourage our readers to read the various sides of the stories as told by Mr. Akinlade, (Chairman of the Branch), Alhaji Nurudeen Ogbara, (Past Chairman of the branch), Mr. Ezekiel Ogbaide (Vice Chairman of the branch), Mrs. Gloria Odibei-Cassius (Newly elected Vice Chairman of the branch) and Mrs. Charity Fagade (Past Treasurer of the branch)
Read Mr. Bayo Akinlade’s Account here
Alhaji Nurudeen Ogbara Chairman NBA Ikorodu Branch, (2006 – 2008)
The Genesis of the Crisis
Let’s begin with when elections hold. Elections are held when the tenure of the incumbent expires. When the tenure of the immediate past Chairman Levi Adikwaone expired there was supposed to be an election. But before his tenure expired, there was a disagreement, he was in office and couldn’t do AGM and some of us inquired why he would not hold AGM which is a constitutional requirement that every branch must conduct an AGM. We later realized that he was having problem with his Excos, because they couldn’t reconcile their account and he was afraid that if it went to the AGM that this things will be exposed and he would be thoroughly criticized, so for that reason he couldn’t. We sought to mediate between him and his Excos by calling a meeting to look at what the problem was and at the end of the day, when he and his Excos had spoken, we realized that he was at fault. He was rather too dictatorial, he was accused of being highhanded. We advised him that as Chairman, he must carry all members along, not only the Excos. We advised him on this line of leadership and asked him to apologize to his Excos and he refused. Some of us felt we had done our best and decided that it must go to the monthly General meeting.
I moved a motion that our AGM must hold in December and the house unanimously agreed to the AGM. The idea was that perhaps if he realized that there was going to be AGM he would be forced to go back to his Exco and apologize. Behold, he didn’t, so the meeting came and a lot of things were exposed. Auditors report showing that the Chairman was reckless and whatever, so, what he now did was to accuse some of us that we wanted to impeach him and he now went to meet with the opposition to save him. The important thing to us was that at that meeting, a fact finding committee was set up because the auditors have raised some issues and we needed to cross check them to be sure of exactly what was going on. I was the one who moved the motion that a fact finding committee must be set up comprising of Igbo like the Chairman who must be the Chairman of the committee, one person from our side and one person from the other side. The committee was further enlarged by bringing someone who had idea with accounting. So they invited him, and he was further thoroughly exposed.
One of the things he did was that they budgeted N20,000 each for the mosque and church during the law week , he purported to have spent over N50,000 in each places and people said that was wrong and he only said when they were asking for money he was giving money. We said no, the branch only budgeted N20,000, so, if you are spending more than that, it would be your own personal money. You cannot claim you gave on behalf of the branch. During the dinner someone sent N100k and I gave to him immediately and I told him to announce and he reluctantly announced and the person who gave the money was very happy, if I wasn’t there, the Chairman may even say I didn’t give it to him who will I call for witness. That money he said he spent it to collect extra chair during our lecture. We said no we held our lecture two days before the dinner, the money was given to you at the dinner, so, you couldn’t have collected extra chair with the money for an event that took place before. He couldn’t account for the money. During the law week he also went to Trade Fair alone taking the bus with him to buy drinks two times. All these, I never went before the committee to testify but they brought the report to the meeting and he didn’t allow the meeting to discuss the report. He said they wanted to impeach him and started accusing some of us and then they caused a lot of crises and the meeting couldn’t go on as scheduled and that was when the impeachment came up and we did all that during the election time.
How the Electoral Crisis Began
In setting up election committee he populated the committee with young lawyers who have never had the experience in conduct of election. Their own determination is to make sure that Levi is not probed. It was under that circumstances that a lot of things happened. But at the end of the day, a lot of people were wrongfully disqualified including Dotun Adetunji who was the past Chairman of the branch and NEC Rep. they said he had been NEC rep for so long and he cannot go for second term, which is not what the constitution said and we told them. Of course everybody that was affected wrote petition and National saw sense in it and set up a committee. The same Committee dealt with Ikeja, Badagry, and Warri and so on and that committee found out that some people were rightfully disqualified while some were wrongly disqualified. So they recommended that those who were wrongfully disqualified should be qualified including Dotun, Ogbaide and two others. Those who were rightfully qualified remained qualified. Gloria (Mrs. Gloria Odibei-Cassius) was also disqualified. They sent that recommendation to the National secretariat. National Secretariat sat over it, approved it and sent to the chairman of the branch Levi who did not make it available to the members. It was later that National sent it to us and we saw it. So, that committee was to conduct election. They refused to allow it conduct election unless Gloria was qualified and so at the end of the day, the National had to set up a caretaker committee. So they came down, Levi and co said they won’t handover to them but later we were called that they have handed over to them. We said ok, if they have handed over to you, do your job, so they called all the contestants. It was when the contestants got there that we discovered that those people had not handed over to them and they were tired so they devised a means of lying. So, when we got that one, I felt bad and I fought with them that they shouldn’t have deceived us. But their plea is that look, Ogbara it is you that everybody knows, all these people they don’t know them. If the branch has further problem it is you everybody will be calling, that how long is two years that we should just leave this guy be. So, I talked to my people that look, just leave them. At the end of the day, Bayo won the election by 3 votes. We said ok, go ahead and I gave a speech after the election on behalf of all past Chairmen which was well received. And I left him and I said look electioneering is gone, now its governance, you better find how you will unite the branch, you didn’t go to university or law school to become Chairman or unionist it is just extracurricular, just unite the branch and let’s move on. Unfortunately, immediately he started, he declared the seat of the Vice Chairman vacant.
One the Intervention by the 2nd Vice President
The day he declared the seat vacant only about 20 of his supporters where there and by the time it was full meeting we were about 90. So, how can you say the meeting attended by over 90 people only a few people said a seat should be vacant? The Secretary should be able to bring out the minutes of that day to see the attendance and see the resolution. When I got there, I was told, I said it is not possible. Why would you say you are declaring the seat of another person vacant when all of you were elected together? We can also declare your sit vacant. On the basis of that, petitions were written and sent to the National Secretariat and the 2nd Vice President was asked to come over. She came, she didn’t come to see me, but she went to see all the others and I didn’t complain and she called for a consultative meeting and I was there and she apologized that she didn’t come to me but she has visited all the people. I said well she is a leader and whatever wisdom God has given her she should use it. I have no complain. She now said that everybody mentioned my name. I said yes I am a former leader and I brought everybody together but I don’t support illegality, I don’t support falsehood. She condemned the declaration of the vice chairman’s sit vacant and said it was wrong. And the last meeting she attended, she saw the way and manner the Chairman was conducting the meeting and she criticized him. That as the former Chairman of Ado Ekiti she wasn’t conducting meetings like this. That, you don’t talk to your senior the way you do. As chairman you say you won’t recognize a former chairman because of what. And you are talking anyhow and the juniors are looking at you, you just have two years after two years you will leave that place and what you are doing now, other people will do worse to you. That it was natural law.
On the Bye Election
By the time the 2nd Vice President finished with him, he concluded that the 2nd Vice President is also an opponent and abused her thoroughly. In fact he said he lost confidence in her. However, all of a sudden the 2nd Vice President wrote a report, she never gave me a copy, I didn’t know anything. I just heard that they got to NEC and saw the report where she supported the conduct of a bye election. And I said well that is human being for you, they will say one thing today and tomorrow they say another thing. It was that report, and then there were other meeting at Epe and other place where they met and decided what to do. It was this same Bayo that said they met and decided to go ahead with the election. The report has been given to NEC, NEC has not taken a decision, so why don’t you wait for NEC. He said no it was too long that it is taking too much that he wants the election now. And of course the person concerned wrote petition to National, and National responded and said, that election you want to do, don’t do it, we have a petition from the incumbent Vice Chair, respond to it in the next 7 days and don’t do anything until we decide. He said no he was going ahead. And when we saw the letter, most of us didn’t go to vote. Our membership in Ikorodu is over 90. They said 33 people came to vote. Does it make sense?
On Disobeying the NBA National Directives
If National has sent someone to intervene in a crisis, that person is answerable to National. In this situation the 2nd Vice President becomes answerable to the National Exco, National Exco is answerable to NEC. So at NEC that report will be submitted and NEC will now decide. It is only after NEC decides that it becomes the position. All we are asking for is let this position be presented to NEC and let NEC take a decision before any step is taking. It is as simple as that. And then the National President intervened and said, this thing is happening and NEC has not taking a decision, wait until we take decision and then he decided to ignore that. That is an act of insubordination. You don’t take law into your own hands.
He is saying it is not his power to stop the election. That is bullshit. National decides and tell the Chairman what is going to take place. He was not the one who decided who should be paying practicing fee. It was NEC who decided stamp and seal not him and not the branch. It was this same NEC that set up caretaker committee that conducted election that brought him in. so when NEC say do this you do it and if you cannot do it, you tell them you can’t but with reason. You don’t challenge NEC. Because the alternative is that we could have mobilized our members to go there to go and attack them and you know what that means. It would be in the paper that two factions are fighting. So, as lawyers we restrained ourselves knowing that all he is doing is an illegality.
On the Way Forward
The truth is that a lot is happening in the branch. The financial malpractice is still going on because in the last two years we didn’t do AGM. Another AGM is supposed to come up in July and part of the things he wants to do is to make sure that there are crises so that the AGM will not come and financial issue will not be tabled. That is the politics he is doing that many people didn’t know. The bye law says don’t spend a kobo of the branch without the approval of the house, since he became chairman he has never done that he has never obtained the approval of the house to spend money and he has spent over 5 million naira. Lagos state government gives each branch N5million, they have used N200k as PR. As if I haven’t been a chairman before. As if Lagos, Epe, Ikeja and Badagry branches don’t have chairmen. And none of these branches spend anything on PR to obtain their cheque from Lagos State government. So, those are the things you have not heard of which you will soon hear when the time comes. He wants to generate crisis so that people will not know that one. But some of us are smarter. We allow him to do whatever he wants until when the time comes.
So, the way forward is for him to follow the rule of law and due process. The Bye law is there to guide on how to handle finances and crisis. The decision of the National is final on all issues. Whenever you don’t follow due process violence will come in. once you follow due process nobody can fault you.