Egbe Amofin O’odua, the umbrella body of lawyers of Yoruba extraction, was thrown into another crisis at the weekend when some members of its Screening Committee were accused of having compromised their offices.
Unimpeachable sources close to the meeting said that executive members of at least four branches – Ikorodu, Badagry, Ogbomosho and Okitipupa – had written complaint letters to the committee dissociating themselves from the positions taken by their chairmen and insisting that the chairmen did not have requisite mandates to represent their branches.
It was also gathered that the tenures of some chairmen had lapsed, even as the chairmen opted to adopt a sit-tight attitude. Fingers were specifically pointed at the Otta Branch chairman.
But the affected chairmen sought to discredit the complaint letters, arguing that they were not written on the branch letter headed papers. They urged the committee to discountenance the letters, arguing that they could only be sanctioned by their respective members and not the committee.
It is recalled that the Egbe Amofin had at its meeting in Lagos reconciled with its splinter group and constituted yet another Screening Committee led by former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Mrs. Priscilla Kuye and comprising all branch chairmen and five elders. The committee was to meet in Ibadan at the weekend and recommend one presidential candidate to the forum for adoption. The NBA presidency is zoned to the South West for the forthcoming NBA Elections, while the presidential aspirants are Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) and Chief Dele Adesina (SAN).
Based on the allegations of compromise, Adekoya and Akintola wrote to the Screening Committee stating that they would no longer submit themselves for screening. They argued that the committee had been discredited.
Confusion also trailed the continued membership of the committee by former Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Chief Kole Abayomi (SAN), as he was said to have resigned, citing the inability of the committee to draw up a clear-cut roadmap and criteria for the screening exercise, though he was said to have sent in an “apology” for his inability to attend the meeting.
When the letters from Adekoya and Akintola were read, all hell was again let loose. While the pro-Adesina camp urged the committee to disregard the letters, arguing that the two aspirants were at liberty to withdraw from being screened by the committee, others countered. They gave instances in the past when the screening exercise was aborted or put on hold due to a petition against Adesina and because of moves to reconcile the splinter group backing Adesina with the Egbe respectively, adding that it would amount to double standards should the committee discountenance the objections of the two leading aspirants.
At this juncture, one of the elders urged the committee to thread softly, noting that the whole essence of the screening exercise was to build consensus. He warned that proceeding to nominate a candidate under the circumstances could create sharp divisions within the Egbe, adding that there could also be a backlash from members against recalcitrant chairmen, given that they do not constitute the entire delegates for the general election.
Kuye then announced that the screening exercise had been aborted and that the committee would make a report to the Egbe to determine the next line of action.
Sources close to the meeting said though there were suggestions that the committee of the whole house should elect a presidential candidate for the Egbe, serious doubts were raised on the practicability of such exercise, given that the Egbe does not have a membership list and the exercise could be hijacked by impostors.
They stated that it has become crystal clear that given the sharp divisions within the Egbe ranks, the only viable option is to abandon the adoption exercise and allow the three candidates to test their popularity at the polls. They argued that there is a litany of precedents in this regard, adding that virtually all the three zones had been unsuccessful in using the “adoption option.”