NBA 2020 ELECTIONS: MY JOURNEY TOWARDS DISQUALIFICATION – AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL

Akorede Habeeb Lawal

Dear Friends

To all the distinguished members of the NBA, I thank you for your goodwill and support. For the remainder of my present term as your Assistant Publicity Secretary, I committ to continue to serve you with the usual passion and required vigour.

Yesterday night, 4/7/2020, the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) communicated to me its decision to disqualify me from running as National Publicity Secretary of the NBA. I have in my statement this morning communicated to esteemed friends and supporters my acceptance of the decision of the ECNBA. The acceptance is wholehearted and in good faith. Afterall, God alone enthrones and dethrones and He does these in His own time. 

Presently, I am serving as your Assistant Publicity Secretary and what a pleasure and privilege this has been. In attempting to run as Publicity Secretary, all I wanted to offer was more service, and if for any reason(s), I am not availed the opportunity to offer the said service, I am left with no option than to take it in good stride.

It is however not enough for me to thank you for your genuine support, time, energy and friendship, you deserve to know these reasons. This is the least I could do in the circumstance, even as it is important that I set the records straight for the sake of posterity and to clear whatever assumptions there may be as to the reasons for my disqualification.

I had a peculiar situation of being given two different notices of disqualification with two different reasons at two different times.

First Notice of Disqualification

On 12/6/2020, the ECNBA sent me a Notice of Disqualification. The reason therein is that my Seconder has not had sufficient membership of NEC. My Seconder was GAI Mowah, a former Chairman of my great Asaba Branch (2014 -2016) and NEC Representative of the same Branch (2016 – 2018).

On 18/6/2020, I responded to the ECNBA by way of appeal, detailing the above facts with annexed NEC minutes evidencing my Seconder’s membership and requisite attendance at NEC meeting and I urged the Committee to reconsider its decision.

7 days after the first notice and hours after I had entered my appeal on 18/6/2020, I received in response to my appeal, another mail from the ECNBA stating that there was a “slight errror” in the earlier notice I had responded to and that I should find attached another Notice of Disqualification.

Second Notice of Disqualification

This Second Notice is dated 18/6/2020 and the new reason stated therein for my disqualification is that I have not established sufficient membership of NEC by virtue of the NBA Constitution. In essence, the new reason ECNBA gave is that I have not been a NEC member for two years. The basis of this reason is Article 8 (3) (c) (ii) which states that aspirant for the office of Publicity Secretary must have been AT NEC for not less than two years prior to his nomination.

I gave a very elaborate and elucidated appeal. For want of space, the gravamen of my appeal, the content of which I am proud of is as follows:

i. The requirement of Article 8 (3) (C) (ii) is MEMBERSHIP AT NEC for not less than two years and not membership OF NEC as stated in the reason for my disqualification.

ii. Membership AT NEC is a condition premised on attendance AT NEC and as one who became a national officer in August, 2018, I have been at NEC for three years – 2018, 2019 and 2020. I annexed minutes of NEC meetings in 2018, 2019 and 2020 (with my name as No.14 on the attendance list) establishing my membership at NEC.

iii. The ECNBA has demonstrated commendable tendency to follow precedent set by previous ECNBA and the 2018 ECNBA deemed as eligible and qualified, 2018 candidates (some of whom are presently National officers) in the same situation as I am. A member of the 2018 ECNBA is also in this present ECNBA.

iv. The NBA and ECNBA have established a convention of deeming as one year the first year of starting a process (owing to the computation of year of call). The ECNBA is therefore persuaded to deem my membership at NEC in 2018 as one year and if the counting and reckoning continue in that order, I will be three (3) years at NEC in 2020.

v. The intention of the drafters of the NBA Constitution in Article 8 (3) (C) (ii) is to ensure that whoever occupies the office of Publicity Secretary understands and is experienced in the workings of NEC and I am vastly so experienced.

vi. It is not the intendment of the drafters of the NBA Constitution to make ineligible or hinder in any manner whatsoever a first time NEC member/national officer from contesting for another elective office before the end of his/her term or holding another elective office immediately after his/her last term.

vii. Since I was elected for a two year term as Assistant Publicity Secretary (the position which makes me a NEC Member), equity presumes that I have been a NEC member for two years.

Notwithstanding the above reasons, the ECNBA decided otherwise and disqualified solely for the reason that I have insufficient membership of NEC (Even though the provision of the Constitution is MEMBERSHIP AT NEC).

I am aware that there may be underlying reasons for the manner in which ECNBA chose to interpret the provision of the Constitution, I choose not to give them a second thought. 

Conclusion

I looked at the manifesto form I filled in 2018, and I see that God in His infinite mercies have availed me the unusual privilege of virtually achieving all the “little things” that I promised to do in my role as an Assistant Publicity Secretary and I’m not done. The bigger of this modest credit is to the NBA President, Paul Usoro, SAN and my boss – Kunle Edun, Esq.

To all my friends, supporters and well wishers, I have you in debt for your time, energy and resources towards this cause. We didn’t fail. We simply never participated. And with or without NBA office, I, Akorede Habeeb Lawal will remain your trusted friend and ally. Rest assured, you have me on your side at any time.

To members of my great Asaba Branch, I do hope I have been a credible ambassador and my chair is still well reserved at our local Branch meetings. I hope to see you more regularly as we make our Branch the envy of others.

To all the distinguished members of the NBA, I thank you for your goodwill and support. For the remainder of my present term as your Assistant Publicity Secretary, I committ to continue to serve you with the required vigour and usual passion.

To all the ‘young lawyers’ jostling to succeed me in my present role, I am proud that inspite of the 2019 constitutional amendments that scrapped some national offices, the office of Assistant Publicity Secretary is still available for contest. It’s a legacy I’m proud to bequeath and one that I hope you will keep, even as I pray that my eventual successor surpasses my humble feats.

Thank you.

Akorede Habeeb Lawal
Assistant National Publicity Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association

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