The Next NBA Elections

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)

The votes should not only be counted, they must count, writes Eric Ibe

As the 2020 NBA General Elections draw closer and tensions mount to near fever-pitch, the various contestants are expected to put finishing touches to their campaign plans. At the Presidential level, the race is down to a contest between the old school and the new school. This struggle is best captured by the now famous epistle of the learned silk, Asiwaju A. Awomolo SAN, to the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN).
In the gospel according to Chief Awomolo, Chapter 1, Verse 20- permit me to paraphrase- the Presidency of the Nigerian Bar Association is the exclusive preserve of the Inner Bar, and under no circumstances should a member of the outer Bar be allowed- nay- permitted to be President. This monologue displays a shocking degree of cognitive dissonance on the part of a leading Yoruba lawyer.

Among the Igbo, the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. The Yorubas have a saying “A witch cried in the night and a baby died in the morning, need we ask who killed the baby?” Before you begin to bind and cast all the witches into hell fire, please consider that the NBA Presidency has, over the past 20 years, been manned by an exclusive club of gentlemen SANs who have largely catered to the interests of the inner bar, leaving those of us in the outer bar rudderless and unaccounted for. Perhaps this is why we know the number of members of the inner bar but have no idea of the actual demographics for the remaining 99.9% of the association. Let’s see if you can solve this riddle: how is it that a profession populated by more women than men cannot in 20 years produce a female president? Food for thought, although many lawyers cannot afford food for real, but that is a story for another day. Today’s focus is on the evils of rigging.

It was recently reported that the EFCC preferred charges against some staff of the NBA in connection with the alleged rigging of the 2018 Elections. The caricature of an election supervised by the A.B. Mahmoud SAN and Olagunju administration is an open sore in the annals of elections. The main gist of the rigging in that election stemmed from the manipulation of the voters register by which many eligible voters could not vote.

When the 2020 ECNBA assured us that this election will be all inclusive, we didn’t know all the details. But that is not the type of inclusiveness we need at this time. The Chairman of the ECNBA, a man of strong character, promised that our votes will count in this election. The issue now is how to translate this promise to reality in the light of the current circumstances. The entire election is shrouded in secrecy. As I write, nobody knows what the platform or the procedure will be adopted. We can’t blame the ECNBA, after all, na who pay the drummer go choose the song. The fault lies with the managers of the Secretariat who do not know how many lawyers exist at home and in diaspora.

Actions have consequences. The Good Book tells us that the Wages of Sin is Death. As Africans, our religious belief system recognizes the balance and interrelationship between the physical and the spiritual world. Yet the fact that the latter has a greater impact on the former has not stopped some bad actors from doing bad and blaming it on the devil. News flash! The Devil does not rig elections- human beings do.

I am aware that many SANs and non-SANs have disclaimed the entire gospel of Chief Awomolo. At this juncture however, it is not enough to disclaim the gospel, we must also oppose the disciples of this dangerous doctrine who go about in the middle of the night sowing tares and spreading petty rumors in the minds of good thinking members of the Association.

In the final analysis, The NBA does not belong to any person, it belongs to us all. The issue for determination is not whether our votes should count, but rather that our votes MUST count. A people deserve the leaders they have and going by the past two administrations, lawyers should be confident to choose the best candidate for the job. We are all responsible for the sorry state of the bar; this indictment includes those who have been at the helm of affairs for so long and those who choose to sit on the fence. The time has come to get off the fence and ask the important questions. We all have a duty to defend our votes. In the words of the late Amos Tutuola “We had sold our death to somebody at the door for the sum of £70:18:6d and lent our fear to somebody at the door as well on interest of £3:10:0d per month, so we did not care about death and we did not fear again.”
According to Newton’s third Law of Motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” My final message to those who will go to any length to impose one leader or the other on the rest of us is this: rig this election and contact leprosy for life. Leprosy has been a fitting punishment for bad behavior in the Bible and in traditional African society. We are watching. Any candidate who engages in vote manipulation or rigging shall enjoy both legal and physical leprosy.

–Ibe, is the Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch