The current difficulties associated with universal suffrage in the Bar Association presents a learning opportunity, and ought not be used as basis to reverse NBA Universal Suffrage By Electronic Voting, which we fought for at great price for many years.
CAUSE OF CURRENT IMPASSE:
It is pertinent to note that the current difficulties associated with the NBA elections are neither because NBA Universal Suffrage By Electronic Voting has failed nor become undesirable but somewhere between underperformance of the electronic platforms and failure of the NBA to have an up to date data base of legal practitioners in Nigeria, which does not require individual verification of lawyers every election cycle.
CHIEF ENDURING LEGACY OF THE AB MAHMOUD ADMINISTRATION:
I therefore join other well-meaning members of the NBA to urge the AB Mahmoud administration to utilize the current electoral impasse to bring forth the Phoenix of a regenerated NBA out of the ashes of current disorganisation; and bequeath an effective database and cutting edge electronic voting infrastructure to the NBA. This may well be the chief enduring legacy of the AB Mahmoud administration. Crisis often comes to make us great.
THE DELEGATES SYSTEM MUST NOT BE RESTORED:
I stress most respectfully that by no means must the current impasse become the basis for future NBA administrations to reverse NBA Universal Suffrage By Electronic Voting and restore the now discredited delegates system. The introduction of the delegates system was necessary at a point in NBA history but gradually became outmoded, anti-democratic and easily corrupted. The delegates system is no longer necessary in the light of technological advances and democratic realities, and must on no account be restored.
PROPOSAL OF A SLIGHT AMENDMENT:
I am however sympathetic to, and therefore propose, an amendment allowing lawyers to produce three years practicing fee and branch dues receipts paid as and when due before they qualify to vote. This will allow lawyers under three years at the bar to sufficiently understudy the Bar before they qualify to vote, and eliminate the temptation to pay one year practice fees and branch dues for would-be junior counsel voters, since paying three years practice fees and branch dues as and when due would be the major electoral requirement.
DON’T THROW AWAY THE BABY WITH THE BATH WATER:
The baby of NBA Universal Suffrage By Electronic Voting must not be thrown away with the bath water of this year’s disorganisation. The difficulties associated with e-voting are not a failing of universal suffrage but a teething problem associated with reintroduction of Universal Suffrage after the long night of delegate elections. It represents a learning opportunity and a wake-up call to continually update the membership database of the NBA, and other necessary electoral infrastructure.
As the entire nation watches this association of the learned grapple with routine electoral processes, we must realise that our success or failure will speak very loudly not only to the future of Nigeria, but the veracity of the NBA Vision, which is to rank among the foremost bar associations in the world.
Written By Ikeazor Akaraiwe, a former Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association