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
Read Alhaji Nurudeen Ogbara’s Account here
Mrs. Gloria Odibei-Cassius
My name is Gloria Odibei-Cassius. I was called to bar in 2006. I started practicing in Ikorodu bar since 2007. I became a member of Ikorodu Bar in 2007 and in 2015 I was the welfare Secretary of the branch. Dotun Adetunji was the Chairman. while I was the Welfare Secretary, we were all friends. I don’t want to believe there are factions. We are all members of the Nigerian Bar Association. We only have some men who do not want to let others be. In 2016 there was need for me to contest again, so I picked the form for Social Secretary and picked Adebanjo Kazeem and SOK Shillings both past Chairmen of the branch to sponsor me. I filled my form and submitted to the Electoral Committee. When they called us for screening I was screened out. Before then, people like Ogbara boasted that I cannot contest for election in 2016. I remember then that Ezekiel Ogbaide was my family friend. He may deny it now but he accompanied me to Ogbara’s office to beg him to forgive whatever I have done to him because at some point, people, including Ogbaide were asking me to go and ask him what I did to him. Ogbaide waited for me outside his office. When I got there, he told me that he has given his support to one Jegede Oduayo and that I will have to pay for what I have done. That as an adult I must take responsibility for my action. I begged for his forgiveness for whatever thing he said I did to him and his people and he refused to back out. I left his office crying.
The next day I went to Kazeem Adebanjo’s office and told him all that happened and he encouraged me to keep at my conviction. He told me that it is just minus one vote and that I should campaign to other people, and I did. But I never knew he had gone to ask the Electoral Committee to disqualify me by all means. Ogbara is an indigene, they almost own Ikorodu. So, truly, the Committee disqualified me. They said that I had irregularity with my 2016 branch dues receipt and one of my sponsors is not qualified. I became scared, I said I am always paying my dues, where is this coming from? Probing further they said I altered the date that I paid my branch dues receipt and they did not give me chance to defend myself. They also said SOK Shillings one of my sponsors was not known to them that he was not a lawyer. Now what happened was that SOK Shillings who was a former Chairman of the branch was formerly SOK Owoshile. At his 50th birthday, he changed his surname from Owoshile to Shillings and did newspaper publication. He came to the branch meeting and hosted us and informed us of his name change. It was a shock to me for them to have said they do not know him. I immediately went to his office, he was embittered. He gave me the newspaper publication to go and meet the Chairman of the Electoral Committee. He also called the Electoral Committee Chairman, Mr. M.O Ishola. The Electoral Committee gave me 7 days to regularize my document. Which I did. I took my receipt to them and explained everything to them. They refused my explanation and said my chances has been foreclosed. I became so embittered.
Petition to National Body
I wrote to the National immediately. Myself and one Mr. Ojedokun who Dotun Adetunji swore in my presence that he can never become the Chairman of the branch. After we submitted our petition, the National body told us that in seven days they are coming to Ikorodu branch. When they came, they called me first to state my case, when I finished stating my case, the National was embittered. They berated the Electoral Committee Chairman that he was not dependent and they left. Less than three days, they brought out their findings and they copied me personally.
In their report, they stated among other things that “Mrs. Gloria Cassius who is disqualified from contesting election is qualified to contest the election and the reason for her disqualification is not tenable”. That was the recommendation from the National body where all of us belong. In that report too, the national body told Dotun Adetunji who was our Chairman then to bring the names of members that he feels can conduct the election because they disbanded the Electoral Committee that disqualified me. Unfortunately, National did not know that it was Dotun Adetunji working in conjunction with Alhaji Nurudeen Ogbara and Kazeem Adebanjo that have sworn that I will not become an Exco because I left their camp. And, I left their camp because I don’t like seeing black and calling it white. I wasn’t brought up that way. And I am a lawyer. You cannot teach me how to leave my life as an adult.
Disobedient to National and Court Action
So, the names that Dotun Adetunji gave the National was the same names of the people troubling us because they are in the same caucus. All the same, they formed the new Electoral Committee and gave them 10 days to conduct the election. They put it on notice that Gloria Cassius is qualified to run for the election. To my greatest shock, I got to that place and they disqualified me again and before I could say anything, they had fixed a date for election. On the day of the election we came to protest their disobedient to the National’s directives and they arrested me and some other members and we were kept at the police station. Before we came back, they said they had finished the election and enthroned Levi Adikwaone as the Chairman. Me and Ojedokun went to Court. Filed our action and was following up with all seriousness to see that justice was done but they refused to file anything. That same National delegation upon hearing about this, came to meet us in the branch. Among them is the former General Secretary, Olagunju. And I remembered that Olagunju personally got up and came to where I was sitting and patted my back and begged me that for the sake of the unity of the bar, we should withdraw the case. He said to me that 2018 is almost here. We would have opportunity to contest again. We accepted Olagunju’s plea and Ojedokun and myself withdrew the case. We all became one.
Trouble with Ogbaide
Shortly after that the reconciliation, they started having problem with Levi Adikwaone who they imposed on us even when he was not qualified. They fell out with him and he came back to us. When he came we accepted him and the bar continued. One day they wanted to impeach him and we stood against it. We told them that you cannot to say you are the one that put anyone there and you are the one to remove them all the time. We are all lawyers and it is Nigerian Bar Association and not Ikorodu Bar Association. God being so kind 2018 came again and knowing that I was now qualified to contest for even the chairmanship I picked form again to contest for Vice Chairmanship and Ogbaide picked the form for Secretary. Remember, I told you that Ogbaide was my family friend and we were close, so I went to meet him the day I picked my form and informed him. He had already started campaigning for the position of Secretary on the platforms. But these people needed someone to fight me. So, Ogbaide became their tool. They were able to cajole Ogbaide to drop his Secretary form and pick up Vice Chairmanship form to contest against me and he did. I didn’t do anything. I also started my campaign.
The 2018 Branch Electoral Committee
The Electoral Committee was set up and it was headed by Mr. Olu Otayomi who is about 30 years at the bar. Immediately, they wrote to Otayomi that they should disqualify me on the ground that my 2016 branch dues receipt was forged. Otayemi’s committee put me on notice to prepare for my defence on the petition while coming for my screening. The petition was written by Dotun Adetunji and Ezekiel Ogbaide. I attended the screening with all my document including the receipt. At the directives of the Otayomi Committee, I went to the then Treasurer Mrs. Charity Fagade who mutilated the receipt to counter-sign on the receipt and depose to an affidavit to that effect and she did. So, based on the affidavit and based on my explanation, I was cleared to contest by the Olu Otayomi Electoral Committee and Ezekiel Ogbaide was also cleared. They were aggrieved. Again Dotun Adetunji, Ezekiel Ogabaide Ogbara Nurudeen and Kazeem Adebanjo all wrote petition against me to the National. 4 petition against only me. There only grouse was why I was cleared to contest. They started the forged receipt allegation again because they wanted Ogbaide to be returned unopposed. There was pandemonium everywhere.
The Story Behind the 2016 Branch Dues Receipt
In 2016, my mother was sick and I wanted to travel to the village to go and bring her to Lagos. I wanted to pay my branch dues before travelling because it was in March, I was then the Welfare Secretary. My friend was the Publicity Secretary while Charity Fagade was the Treasurer, Osoba was the Financial Secretary. So, what I did was to call Osoba because then we used to pay cash. I told him I wanted to pay my branch dues to him because I was travelling. He said I should bring the money to his office. When I got to his office, Islamiyat Adesola was also there to pay her branch dues. Osoba said I should drop the money that he will call Charity to collect the money and issue the receipt. This was on the 24th of March, 2016. From the story I later heard, sent Islamiyat to give both my money and hers to the Treasurer and the Treasurer only received the money on April 4th which was the branch meeting and issued the receipt to reflect April 4th. When I saw the receipt, as an Exco member, I knew the implication of that and because I paid my money to the Financial Secretary on 24th March, I went to her and explained that I took this money to the financial secretary to pay on 24th March and he ordinarily ought to have given me receipt but he said you will give me. That you cannot write this date for me. Charity insisted that I should call Osoba to confirm this, and we did and he confirmed and Charity used her biro and corrected the date on the receipt. That was the forgery that they are accusing me of. Charity Fagade is alive and I need you to speak with her and ask her.
The Branch Electoral Monitoring Committee
This same issue became such a big crisis and a caretaker committee was appointed to conduct the Ikorodu branch election. When they came, they requested for our papers that they wanted to clear us. While they were clearing me, Dotun Adetunji who was not a candidate but was there, immediately stood up and told the committee that they don’t have the right to check my papers because they have disqualified me. The Chairman chided him. They checked my papers and cleared me and brought out my name for election on the 23rd of July 2018 and gave us just one day to go and campaign and we all did.
On 25th of July which was the Election Day, we were all at the election venue as early as 8am and they started screening around 10 am. At around 11 the Caretaker Committee Chairman called me and handed a letter to me. The letter said I was disqualified. I screamed. On Election Day? While election was already going on? I became livid. I was not going to accept that. My supporters began to revolt. But again senior lawyers there started begging me to allow the election to proceed. That I should write to the branch to deal with the issue after the election. I cried for the persistent injustice on me. But at the end of the day, I allowed the election to go on. That was the election that brought in Bayo Akinlade and the remaining others. Ogbaide was returned unopposed on that day.
The Appeal for another Election
After the election, I immediately put up a petition against my disqualification. I narrated all the story and when Bayo Akinlade read out the story, everybody was annoyed. The house voted 23 against 2 that we should go back to have election. The two persons that voted against another election were Ogbaide, Dotun Adetunji. It was based on that, that Ogbaide wrote another petition against me. But unfortunately, as he was writing the petition, Olagunju’s tenure had elapsed. All the new petitions were now before Folake Dada but I didn’t even know. The four of them again wrote petitions as concerned members of NBA Ikorodu branch.
When Foluke Dada saw all the petitions, she personally called me. I don’t know her and we had never spoken. She said to me, Gloria Cassius I have before me, 5 petitions against you on my table and I have not seen your response. Can you respond to the petitions? I did and forwarded them to her. Both email and hard copy. You can also speak with her.
She requested that a meeting should be convened and she will be around. She began to ask questions. As at then, the Treasurer who issued my receipt was there, Islamiyat who was given the money to give to her was there and Mr. Osoba who gave the money was there. They all confirmed what had been said. She came to the branch and after investigation she wrote her report. Her recommendation has been on the President’s table since September. I called the 2nd Vice President and she told me to tell Bayo Akinlade to go ahead with the election and report to the forthcoming NEC.
After waiting, we decided to do the election. 8 months out of my two years stolen. At the branch meeting it was resolved that an election should be held. Ogbaide was at the meeting. Electoral Committee was set up and the election was to be on 25th. I didn’t know anything about anybody directing us to halt any election. I got to know in the morning of the election The Chairman got the letter and discussed with his Exco and they said the election should go on. I won again of course and I was given another certificate of return again as Vice Chairman.