By Romanus Okoye
Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud was yesterday declared winner of the presidency of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) after he polled 3,055 votes to defeat Gadzama who got 2,384 votes.
The following officers were returned unopposed; Mr. Caleb Gal Dajan, First Vice President; Mr. Monday Ubani, Second Vice President and Mr. Benedict Oji, Third Vice President.
Other winners are Ugbuji Cecilia Ngede, Second Assistant Secretary; Ado Aisha Abdullahi, Treasurer; Adesina Adegbite, Welfare Secretary; Ngozi Udodi, Financial Secretary; Dorcas Ngwu, Assistant Financial Secretary; Chuwuemeka Mbamala, Assistant Publicity Secretary, and Oyeyemi Rafiu Balogun, Legal Adviser.
They would be sworn in officially later this month.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Lawyer, a law magazine reported that supporters of Gadzama and Mahmoud engaged in a war of words over allegations of plans to rig the elections.
Opening the can of worms, a key supporter of Gadzama, Mr. T. T. Hyundu wrote: “Gentlemen, it has been discovered that the NBA EXCO fraudulently created a portal for A. B. Mahmoud where the result was collated separately from the original portal.”
Not done, Hyundu, who is also the Assistant Secretary of Arewa Lawyers Forum (ALF) said: “Furthermore, there are additional names added to the branches, for instance, 200 names were added to Abuja branch just to enable them have their way. I now understand the basis of our opponents (sic) boastfulness. This is, indeed, ‘promoting the rule of law’.”
But the Mahmoud camp quickly fired back through Mr. Jibrin Sam Okutepa (SAN), who said: “Mr. Hyundu, I don’t think, giving (sic) your propensity to make wild and unsubstantiated allegations, I will be bothered about what you posted. But having invited me, and the fact that I am a stakeholder in this project of the Bar, I am forced to react thus: That your allegation of manipulation of voters register with over 200 members to favour one candidate against your preferred candidate must be proved by you, and you need to supply sufficient particulars.
“Two, your assertion that NBA president allowed presidential candidates and, indeed, other candidates to have experts represent them at the secretariat, which I confirmed to be correct, is in sharp contrast with the allegation in litigations sponsored by your preferred candidate that the president did (sic) allow experts to represent candidates.
“For me, giving (sic) the level of your propensity to make allegations and requesting your audience to investigate, I wouldn’t be carried away to attach any credibility to this one as the allegations are coming from person whose interest in this election is not strictly overall interest of the Bar, but personal interest. For me, you are a senior member of the Bar of post call of 26 years that needs to be sure of what you post on this forum. I don’t believe you and even the conference you intend to hold, on behalf of your sponsor, is intended to discredit the process as alibi to create confusion to be instigated by your sponsor. After all, whatever a fowl cannot eat, it has got the power to scatter and destroy it. But, I plead with you to think twice before spreading (sic) your allegations which may be counter productive like litigations that were promoted and sponsored by your sponsors.”
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, monitored the NBA Elections. The National Democratic Institute and Microsoft Corporation were also involved in the election.
In a protest letter delivered by the J-K Gadzama Campaign Organisation to the Electoral Committee Chairman, Mr. Kenneth Mozia (SAN), the group recalled its earlier letters on the election “expressing grave concerns about the NBA national elections. “We are constrained to write again in view of the fact that some of these concerns were either completely ignored or inadequately addressed.
“We refer, specifically, to our previous letters of June 24, July 15 and July 20, 2016. All these letters and their various attachments were received by the Nigerian Bar Association as shown by their endorsements. Please find copies of these letters attached for ease of reference.
“We wish to now draw your attention to some very important concerns. Our agents have been in the NBA National Secretariat for the past 40 hours. All they have monitored is nothing more than the names of those voting and the branches from which they voted. We do not think this is meaningful at all,” the letter read.
The campaign organisation further said: “The whole point of a voting process is the outcome. It is of utmost importance, therefore, that the process leading to that outcome is seen by all to be clear and credible. A situation where our agents cannot see the results accruing to candidates as they come is simply wrong. Secret collation has never been healthy for any true democratic process. Yet, secret collation is apparently what is going on.”
Another concern of the group was “it was only around midnight yesterday that our agents were informed, for the very first time, of the total number of accredited voters. This is in spite of the fact that the accreditation had been on for several days – yet, no information was given until last night.
“We wish to place on record that regardless of whatever arguments about protecting the security of the electoral body or preventing political maneuvering, it is not right that results are collated secretly, and agents prevented from seeing the scores of their candidates as votes are returned. This has defeated the very essence of having an agent to monitor the process.”
It also bemoaned “what appears to be wholesale disenfranchisement of branches”. “We trust that you will ensure that obvious gaps created by the secret collation, as well as the late announcement of total votes cast and total number of accredited voters are not exploited. We also hope that you will ensure that the integrity of the entire process is not compromised as a result of the failure to resolve issues around accreditation of updated lawyers.”
The campaign outfit then demanded “that the system be opened up to enable the agents of all candidates in this election (including ours) to view and monitor the votes scored by each of the candidates as they come in since this is the final collation.”
Hiccups were experienced by eligible voters in the process of updating their profiles and accreditation to vote. Among those who had issues with the electoral process were Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN); Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN); Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN) and Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), even as some lawyers threatened to sue the NBA if disenfranchised.
The Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) had set up a Situation Room to monitor the elections. The ECNBA also invited the candidates to send in their agents to monitor the elections, but some candidates complained that they were not given full access to monitor the process.