Former Yenagoa Branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lord Azebi Bobobraye Anthony writes on why the Eastern Bar Forum( EBF) decisions must be complied with.
Some years before the formation of the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), lawyers of the region attended an NBA general election in Ibadan.
At the end of the election, all the candidates and contestants from the defunct Eastern Region who vied for various national offices all lost. We returned home licking our wounds in pains and regrets.
Prominent and distinguished learned legal practitioners from the defunct Eastern Region like late Philip Umeadi (SAN), Sir Clement Akpamgbo ( SAN), Professor Ernest Ojukwu ( SAN) alias Teacher, O. C. J. Okocha (SAN), Prof. Ikpeze Ogugua and others came together and reasoned that if states in the defunct Eastern Region could form an alliance and come together as brothers, they could go all out and win any election. That was how EBF was formed.
At the time EBF was formed, it had no written constitution and we operated on what we call the core values and traditions of the EBF, prominent among which was the principle of adoption of candidates for national elections.
Since there was no written Constitution, there was no tenure for the leader of the EBF. Incidentally, Prof. Ojukwu was made the first chairman of EBF governing council sometime in 2002.
From that time onwards, at each election year, giving the previous woeful outing in Ibadan, members would meet at a designated venue under the leadership of Prof. Ojukwu and adopt members of the Forum for any upcoming election of NBA into various offices.
And once such persons were adopted by EBF, all members of the forum who lost in the adoption exercise must collapse their interest and support into that of the EBF adopted candidates, which really and irrepressibly worked. However, refusal to abide by the decision of EBF attract sanctions such as suspension or expulsion.
In 2006, EBF adopted Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and others, but Chief Chris Uche (SAN) who was also running for the office of President refused to abide by the decision. He was expelled from EBF under the chairmanship of Prof. Ojukwu at the time.
Again, in 2010, in the build up to another NBA general elections, EBF gathered in Owerri, Imo State to adopt candidates. One of our distinguished learned colleagues, N. H. Nwankwo of NBA Owerri Branch lost out at the stage of the EBF adoption. Nwankwo vowed not to respect EBF’s decision. The leadership of EBF still under Prof. Ojukwu suspended Nwankwo.
Before we went to Ibadan for the NBA general elections in 2010, another EBF quarterly meeting was convened at the Nigerian Law School, Enugu Campus, situated at Agbani, where Prof. Ojukwu was the Deputy Director-General.
S. Damabide my boss, was the Chairman while I was the Secretary of NBA Yenagoa Branch. Before the meeting could commence, Prof. Ojukwu sighted Nwankwo.
Prof. Ojukwu immediately asked Nwankwo to excuse us, but Nwankwo refused.
Prof. Ojukwu ordered a staff of Techno Crime to bundle out Nwankwo. Members protested and resolved that it was not dignifying to treat a lawyer in that manner. Nwankwo was then escorted out of the meeting.
EBF resolved that Nwankwo be expelled. At the close of the meeting at Agbani, we retired to the residence of Prof. Ojukwu for dinner and he treated us to some live gun shots which, according to him, was a way of chasing away the enemy.
Nwankwo subsequently took Prof. Ojukwu and the EBF to court but lost.
In 2012, EBF gathered again to adopt their members for the 2012 NBA election. Okey Wali (SAN) was adopted but Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) refused to abide by the decision. He was suspended by EBF alongside Mr. Blessing Ukiri of NBA Port Harcourt Branch.
Thus, Prof. Ojukwu led EBF for close to 10 years before an EBF constitution was written and adopted.
Article 11 of the EBF constitution is solely about adoption, which the 2015 NBA Constitution also recognises in Section 9(3) and Section 2.2 (a -e) of the Second Schedule.
Based on the NBA Constitution, EBF equally recognises the fact that in the East we have the Southeast and Southsouth geo-political zones. So, whenever the NBA Presidency that is rotational gets to the East, EBF zones it to either the Southsouth or Southeast.
In 2006, when the NBA Presidency was zoned to the east, EBF without any acrimony and in total compliance with established procedures, zoned it to the Southeast. Agbakoba (Anambra) got it.
In 2012, when the NBA Presidency was again zoned to the east, EBF zoned it to Southsouth. Wali (Rivers) got it.
In 2018, the NBA Presidency has again been zoned to the East and it is the turn of the Southeast to have it. EBF according to its tradition and Constitution particularly Article 11 has adopted Chief Arthur Obi Okafor (SAN) and others to carry the flag of EBF.
Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who is from the Southsouth is expected to relax and wait till 2024 when it will be the turn of the Southsouth and Akwa-Cross to produce the next NBA President.
As for the other candidates, whoever among them that contests the election against the EBF adoption principle, will be given the usual EBF treatment.
If we as distinguished learned members of the legal profession choose to trample on or ignore the sacred facts of our history, chances are that we may repeat the mistakes of history.
Lord is a Yenagoa lawyer
Culled from TheNation