Q: The NBA will elect a new set of officers in July this year to pilot its affairs for the next two years. It is the turn of the Southwest, and consequently, Egbe Amofin under your new leadership has met to adopt Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN) as its Presidential candidate. The process leading to his adoption has been criticised by some, while your pledge to donate the seed money for the construction of the permanent headquarters of Egbe Amofin at Ibadan has been described by someone as a Greek gift. What are your reactions to these?
In the course of this interview, you instigated me to mention some things that we have done in the past few years by God’s grace, I have reminded you of two lawyers who came to appreciate me in Ilorin for benefitting from the cars procured by their leaders through my assistance nine years ago, is this a Greek gift? The Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Scheme has been on since 1996, is it a Greek gift? I have just read on the internet that the little fund I gave to the Ilorin Branch of the NBA on 19th March, 2020 has again been used to buy two cars for two young lawyers, whose photographs with the vehicle are now trending on the internet.
I don’t know any of the two lawyers. Is that also a Greek gift? For the past 15 years or so, I have steadily rendered quality assistance to the Lagos Branch of the NBA and successive Chairmen of the branch can attest to this. Perhaps, the sponsored write will also be described as a Greek gift.
My track record is in the public domain. I don’t want to join issues with anybody, but I know where that sponsored piece came from, a lecturer in the Nigerian Law School, who does not hail from any of the states in the South-West.
As a lecturer, one would have expected him to do a proper research before jumping to the fray. As for the criticism of Egbe, in respect of the adoption of Dele Adesina (SAN), this has been unfair and most uncharitable.
Q. Why do you say this?
Ans:” At no time in the history of Egbe Amofin has the election of a consensus flagbearer been as democratic and painstaking as this one. This has been the only time that all the Branch Chairmen of all NBA Branches in the South West, all of them, without any exception were constituted into a committee to interface with, interview and pick a consensus candidate for the Egbe.
Between August, 2019 and February, 2020, four meetings were held by the Egbe, one in Lagos on 27/8/19, and three at Ibadan on 26/10/19, 9/11/19/ and 22/2/20. At the Lagos meeting, the unanimous resolution was that on no account would the Egbe sponsor two candidates, because of our experience of 2014.
At the Ibadan meeting of 26/10/19, Muyiwa Akinboro, SAN, Dele Adesina, SAN, Tunde Ajibade, SAN, and Awoniyi Alabi, all signified their intentions to contest the NBA presidency under the banner of the Egbe, with each of them solemnly pledging in the presence of all attendees numbering about 500 that he would abide by the decision of the Egbe. Muyiwa Akinboro is a former Chairman of the Abuja Branch and former National Secretary of the NBA. Dele Adesina is a former Chairman of Ikeja Branch and former National Secretary of the NBA.
Awoniyi is a former Chairman of Osogbo Branch and former Legal Adviser of the NBA. Both Akinboro and Adesina are life members of the NBA NEC. The meeting of 26/10/19 unanimously nominated Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN to co-ordinate the meetings and deliberations of the committee set up by the Egbe for the selection of a sole candidate.
In turn, each of the candidates stood up to express his satisfaction with the composition of the committee and the choice of Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN as the coordinator. The committee submitted its report at the meeting of 9/11/19, showing that over 80 percent of the Branches/Branch Chairmen endorsed the nomination of Dele Adesina, SAN, as the sole candidate.
The meeting of 9/11/19 would have been held a week earlier, but for the passionate plea of Tunde Ajibade, SAN who said that that date would not be convenient for him and we shifted the date of the meeting to 9/11/19, because of him. He did not attend the meeting of 9/11/19, but the report of the selection committee was ratified and adopted.
It was then decided that all the Branch Chairmen and the leaders should sign the adoption document for record purposes, and all the Chairmen signed, apart from the Chairman of Lagos who is neither supporting Dele Adesina nor Tunde Ajibade.
The elders, including Chief M.A Ajomole, former Chairman of the Body of Benchers, who will be 90 years later this year, Chief Mrs. Priscilla Kuye, former President of the NBA, Chief Emmanuel Abiodun, former Chairman of Ibadan Branch, Chief Gboyega Awomolo, SAN, former Chairman of the Committee of Chairmen and Secretaries of the NBA, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, SAN, Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN and myself signed. It was also the decision of the meeting that all the other fora in the country be informed of the choice of Dele Adesina, SAN as the consensus candidate of the Egbe.
Q: What is the grouse of those criticising the adoption process?
Ans: I cannot honestly diagnose their grouse. I was one of the leading lawyers of the South-West who founded the Egbe in 1999 – the others were late Chief Debo Akande, SAN, late Chief Idowu Shofola, SAN, late Chief Dele Aiku, SAN, late Chief Adigun Ogunseyitan, and Chief Gboyega Awomolo, SAN. The Egbe adopted me as its candidate in 2002 and Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, in 2008.
I can say with all sense of responsibility that the process put in place leading to the adoption of Dele Adesina, SAN has been more elaborate, democratic and painstaking. I understand that my beloved brother, Tunde Ajibade, SAN complained that the criteria used by the committee were not known to him, but I can recollect that at the meeting of 9/11/19, the committee was mandated to formulate its own criteria, taking cognisance of the criteria which had always been used by the Egbe, including experience, acceptability, national reach, positions earlier held within the NBA, etc.
Any candidate who had further ideas on the criteria to be adopted by the committee was advised to pass same to the committee. With respect to my beloved colleague and younger brother, Tunde Ajibade, SAN, his criticism of the Egbe is very hypocritical and also amounts to double talk.
The fact still remains that he wants to contest the presidency of the NBA simply because it is now the turn of the Southwest to produce the next President, based on a zoning arrangement initiated by the leaders of the Southwest and Southeast in 2000.
Or why did he not show interest in 2018 when it was the turn of the Southeast? Can he or any other person then be taking advantage of the turn of the Southwest and at the same time be pointing accusing fingers at the Egbe under which auspices he wants to contest? Now, was he taken into confidence before the President of the NBA, Mr. Paul Usoro constituted the membership of the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) under the chairmanship of Mr. Tawo Tawo (SAN)? Did the ECNBA seek his consent before the choice of the ICT firm that will conduct the election? Did the NBA President discuss with him, or seek his consent before setting up the e- voting portal? Yet he wants to contest the election.
My appeal to him is that NBA elections must never be taken as a do-or-die affair as it happens out there in all the political parties in Nigeria. For example, I voluntarily stepped down for OCJ Okocha (SAN) in the year 2000, and I became the President of the NBA at God’s appointed time in 2002.
Some people are of the view that the Regional Fora are no longer relevant in the Bar because of the universal voting dispensation now at the Bar, what is your view on this?
Those who are peddling this suggestion should be reminded that it is a dangerous one which can be likened to a bizarre suggestion that the states and the six zones in Nigeria should be abolished. The different fora, through their branches gave birth to the NBA at the National level, and not the other way round.
On no account should any forum or the NBA generally disregard the decision of another forum, especially with regards to the choice of candidates particularly under a situation where all the Branch Chairmen in the South West, have signed and sealed the resolution that this is the choice of the South West.
It is the Southwest today, next time it will go to Arewa in the North and before you know it, it will be the turn of the South East; etc.
Being excerpt from the interview granted by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN and published by the Nation Newspapers on the 26 May, 2020.