The leadership of the South West Lawyers Forum, also known as the Egbe Amofin, which is the umbrella body of lawyers of Yoruba extraction, over the weekend reconciled its difference with its splinter group. The group had sensationally sacked the long standing Egbe leadership, even as the forum failed yet again to adopt a candidate for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential slot zoned to the South West.
At the meeting which held in the premises of the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, Chairman of the Reconciliation Committee informed the forum, that the leaders of both factions had agreed to reconcile.
Presenting the ‘terms of settlement’ hammered out by the Reconciliation Committee, Awomolo said it was also agreed that every effort should be made to formalise the amorphous nature of the forum, citing the Eastern Bar Forum which has an approved Constitution that guides its activities, as a good example.
Awomolo, who was also instrumental to resolving the crises that rocked the NBA and knocked it into coma for years, warned that the forum should transcend merely nominating candidates for NBA Elections to include catering for the welfare of lawyers of Yoruba extraction.
In response to the growing quest by the Midwest Bar Forum to challenge the Egbe in producing the presidential candidate for the forthcoming NBA Elections, the committee advised that “The right of Egbe to produce the next NBA presidential candidate should be defended,” adding that it must not be shared with the Midwest Bar Forum.
Explaining the rationale for the stance, Awomolo noted that the Midwest Bar Forum merely approached the Egbe for a ‘working relationship,’ adding that there was no agreement that the Midwest Bar Forum would take the 2014 presidential slot. He alleged that the crisis was being fomented by an influential senior lawyer and noted that the Egbe was willing to “sit down and agree” with the Midwest BarForum on when it would take its slot.
Awomolo also noted that the Egbe leadership hs agreed to evolve a leadership succession plan that would devolve power to the younger generation.
In his speech, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who is reportedly the “leader” of the splinter group, endorsed the reconciliation efforts, saying: “We are not politicians; it’s they who biker, it’s they who gossip. We are lawyers. There is no Aiku Faction; there is no Olanipekun faction.”
Lending his support to the clamour that the presidential slot must remain within the Egbe ranks, Olanipekun traced the genesis of the zoning arrangement for the NBA presidency to the emergence of Chief O. C. J. Okocha (SAN) as NBA President.
He observed that though erstwhile NBA President J. B. Daudu (SAN) had mooted the idea of infusing the Midwest Bar Forum into the zoning arrangement, the quest was aborted when it became apparent that it would truncate the well-oiled zoning pattern already on ground, as it was difficult to determine the zone that would cede its turn to the Midwest Bar Forum to commence.
Aiku thanked the splinter group for seeing reason to melt into the larger body, adding that the bond within Egbe must be sustained. Following his effusive appreciation of the work of the Awomolo-led Reconciliation Committee, a rapturous standing ovation was given the committee.
While the Awomolo Committee stepped down, having completed their assignment, the meeting reconvened with Aiku as Chairman, appointing former NBA President, Chief Priscilla Kuye alongside all branch chairmen and five elders to meet immediately, screen three presidential candidates and recommend one to the forum for adoption. The candidates are Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) and Chief Dele Adesina (SAN).
After a closed door meeting, Kuye reported that only Adekoya and Adesina addressed the Screening Committee, adding that Akintola declined but advised the committee to study the curriculum vitae and manifestoes submitted by the candidates in arriving at a decision.
Akintola later explained that he was not informed that there would be any screening at the meeting, moreso when he received a text message on the eve of the meeting from the erstwhile Screening Committee saying the screening exercise had been put on hold. He also noted that some of the branch chairmen lacked popular support within their branches and therefore had questionable mandates to vote on behalf of their branches.
Kuye said that Mr. Osas Erhabor, who had at the last meeting in Ibadan indicated interest to contest the NBA presidency under the Egbe platform, “did not submit any CV or manifesto and did not honour us with his presence.” Erhabor was however present at the meeting.
She declared that the Screening Committee would meet on Saturday in Ibadan to “study the CV and manifestoes and recommend one candidate to Egbe,” even as branch chairmen were directed to meet with their branch members with a view to arriving at resolutions on the best candidate for the job.
Aiku then advised other Egbe members interested in contesting for other posts to indicate interest to the secretary within one week.
Though one Dr. Adeniyi Adedoyin of Ikere Branch had attempted to reopen the matter by arguing that since all the 25 branch chairmen were present at the meeting, they should be allowed to recommend a presidential candidate for adoption by Egbe, his strident bid almost turned into a shouting match with Aiku.
Olanipekun calmed frayed nerves when he said: “We appeal to you; Saturday is around the corner. God will preserve all of us. Heavens will not fall. Let us respect and support our leaders.”
The meeting had in attendance many respected members of the profession of from the south region, including Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN), Former Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Chief Kole Abayomi (SAN), Femi Falana SAN, Mr. Jelili Owonikoko, SAN, and Dr. Ajibade, SAN.
By: Theodora Kio-Lawson