by Demola Rewaju
The mistakes of the core Southwest (Egbe Amofin) lawyers in this case is clear: they failed to present a consensus candidate thereby dividing their own votes into three, confusing their loyalists in other zones who would prefer to go for a neutral Alegeh or Erhabor than be caught in the crossfire of Adekoya, Akintola and Adesina.
The principle of zoning in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Nigeria is the most realistic way to ensure that certain minorities are made to feel a sense of belonging in any national project or organisation. This principle although much maligned when applied to entrance examinations into federal unity schools and universities is more a reflection of reality than the idealistic principle of letting the best man emerge from any zone. If one agrees to let the best man emerge for example, what would stop the majority from presenting their own man and giving him full backing to emerge even when he’s not the best?
The basis of zoning must however be clearly defined and entrenched. This was how the zoning principle failed in the NBA elections – the agreement on which the NBA zoning principle is based recognises three zones – North, East and West with the Mid-West bandied into the Western zone which comprises of the Egbe Amofin and the Mid-West Bar Forum. The arrangement had initially produced Rotimi Akeredolu as NBA President from the West, Joseph Daudu from the North and Okey Wali from the East between 2008 and 2014 on a two year tenure each. Rotating once again to the West, the Mid-West presented a candidate (or two) of which Mr. Austin Alegeh of the Benin Branch emerged with a simple majority win of 691 votes and Mr. Justus Erhabor got only 17 votes. Despite being endorsed by the Egbe Amofin of the West, Mr. Dele Adesina got 370 votes, Mrs. Funke Adekoya got 255 votes and Mr. Adeniyi Akintola got 126 votes. Their votes combined would easily have put Alegeh out of the race but their failure to unite has shown clearly that even the principle of zoning requires unity for it to work.
Of course there are a lot of other factors that come into play especially the interest of zones outside the area where the office is zoned to. In 1999 for instance, Chief Olu Falae was the candidate accepted by the Southwest after the nation had silently conceded to zoning the presidency to the zone as compensation for the Abiola fiasco. Olusegun Obasanjo however emerged without the backing of his zone simply because he was accepted by the majority of the other zones so zoning does not necessarily mean that a zone can field whoever it pleases for the position.
With the NBA elections, the influence of the Federal Government/Presidency and the outgoing NBA president has always been a huge factor and so it was this time around. Despite mounting a decent campaign that saw one of the candidates – Funke Adekoya opening a twitter handle and the massive use of text messaging by all the candidates, the winner emerged mostly due to the influence of entrenched and vested interests.
Olisa Agbakoba had protested to the high heavens some days before tuesday’s election that the principle of zoning should be upheld but stakeholders quickly pointed out to him that only three zones are recognised and the Midwest is a part of the Western zone. Agbakoba is a good poster-boy for the zoning principle in the NBA – despite practising most of his years in the West, he was only able to contest by using the Eastern platform but his case was not helped as both the Western and Midwestern zones agreed they both had to share a turn. And so it was that while the Midwest brought one strong candidate, the West brought three heavyweights but threw its backing behind Adesina.
Politics is politics anywhere and political strategy goes beyond blindness to reality while sustaining hope that somehow things will work out as planned. Stratagem is very different from wishfully thinking that against all odds, one would beat the opposition. I mentioned one of my learned friends in this article about arrogant law students and humble lawyers I wrote a while ago and yesterday when we spoke, I told him that the winner would emerge based on who had the backing of the powers-that-be. That was an easy prediction as the trends always tend to play out.
The mistakes of the core Southwest (Egbe Amofin) lawyers in this case is clear: they failed to present a consensus candidate thereby dividing their own votes into three, confusing their loyalists in other zones who would prefer to go for a neutral Alegeh or Erhabor than be caught in the crossfire of Adekoya, Akintola and Adesina. By presenting Adesina, they failed to prevail on Adekoya and Akintola to step down for him. They further failed to play to the interests of the Federal Government and the incumbent NBA president.
The message is clear: zoning is good but it only works if there is unity within the zone, a strong leadership to keep the unity and force others to unite and especially if the zones are clearly delineated. So while we learnt a lot from Nyako’s impeachment yesterday, I also learnt something fundamental from the NBA elections.
Alegeh by the way, is the lawyer who represented Ibori in the controversial judgement of a Delta High Court. I wrote about that in this piece about how Nigeria now imports justice.
It’s a cold morning so try and stay warm all through the day and have a fantastic Thursday.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.