The 2018 elections of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was perhaps one of the most controversial elections in the history of Africa’s biggest Bar Association.
In line with a zoning understanding enshrined in the Association’s constitution,the presidency went to the East which is made up of Abia,Anambra, Akwa Ibom,Bayelsa,Cross River,Ebonyi,Enugu, Rivers and lmo States. That year, Four candidates threw their hats in the ring. Initially,three showed interest namely Arthur Obi Okafor,Afam Osigwe and Prof Ernest Ojukwu. Later,Paul Usoro showed his interest to run and it was at that point that the whole process took a new turn which threatened the unity of the Bar. The members of the Eastern Bar Forum had argued that the slot had been given to the Igbo speaking part of the zone so Paul Usoro an Anang man was not qualified to run.
As the campaign continued with the supporters of all the candidates doing all they could to garner support for their candidates, Five exceptional writers among others were on the frontline influencing lawyers with their pen.These lawyers were fierce and bold in their writings in support of their candidates that the profession will not forget them in a long time. Afam Osigwe was later disqualified from running.
As Covid-19 makes it impracticable for the candidates in the forthcoming NBA elections to move from one place to the other to canvass for votes, chances are that with the uncertainty that hovers around covid- 19,the remaining campaign will be finished in the media . The Grundnorm taking you back to 2018 admits that many lawyers wrote different articles that impacted the elections but will remember the six most influential writers who controlled the narratives
Dr Chidi Odinkalu– Dr Odinkalu was the Director General of the National Human Rights commission who is believed to have supported Prof Ernest Ojukwu a former head of the Nigerian Law School in Enugu. Most of the things he wrote during the campaign and even after were directed at the candidacy of Paul Usoro. Severally he called for Paul Usoro to step down from the race as a result of some allegations made against him. Many lawyers believed that those allegations were malicious but some of the supporters of the other candidates found it politically expedient to use them. Dr Odinkalu was bold in his demands and pursuit to get Paul Usoro out of the race. His writings reverberated the length and breadth of the Legal profession and seriously put Paul Usoro’s candidacy hanging in the balance. Not much was read from him against other candidates. The supporters of other candidates most times used his write ups against Paul Usoro to fight Paul Usoro from their own base. It is believed that Paul Usoro was a common enemy for the three other candidates. Dr Odinkalu’s missiles through his writings shook the Paul Usoro’s campaign though it wasn’t enough to stop Paul Usoro from emerging as the President of the Bar. He had huge following. Prof Ernest Ojukwu did not win.
Anthony Atata– Mr Atata was fiercely loyal to the Paul Usoro cause and found himself in the middle of the cross fire defending from all fronts. He was the Vice Chair of International Bar Association,African Forum at the time and currently serves as the co-Chair. He founded Courtroom Mail an influential online publication among lawyers in Nigeria. He is believed to have strong ties with many influential online publications in Nigeria cutting across law and politics. Mr Atata has a good knowledge of the political history of the NBA which he presumably gathered as the editor of Courtroom Mail. This manifested in his writings which showed a lot of references to dates,times,names and events of the past in the NBA. Through his writings,he successfully attacked and discredited adoption of candidates during that election that some candidates stopped using their adoption as a political point. His writings in defence of Paul Usoro’s candidacy brought him on a collision cause with the Eastern Bar Forum which he described as an association with no authority and no recognition by the NBA constitution . He was the one who sold the narrative that the East was made up of four sub units old Cross River,Old Imo,Old Rivers and Old Anambra and argued that the Old Cross River was the only group that was yet to serve in a Presidential capacity in the NBA. That argument unsettled the EBF . Mr Atata’s articles seriously disrupted the election and influenced voters. Paul Usoro won the election.
So Long Williams: So long Williams served as the Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association,Port harcourt branch. He is a staunch member of the Eastern Bar Forum. He currently serves as the Governor of the association which is the designation for the leader. He supported Arthur Obi-Okafor in the election in line with the decision of Easter Bar Forum. He wrote a lot of influential articles that advanced the interest of the group and the candidacy of Mr Arthur. His writings showed his total rejection of Paul Usoro’s candidacy and most times were responses to Mr Atata’s narratives. His writings swayed many lawyers to the side of the EBF as he continued to preach the traditions of the association like a gospel persuading lawyers to honour them in the elections. Arthur Obi Okafor did not win in the elections.
Felix Ashimole popularly known as Ché Oyinatumba served as the Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association,Bwari. He is the publisher of Kubwa express and Periscope.He has a controversial personality and so were the views he held during the elections. He was a top critic of Afam Osigwe. He predicted the disqualification of Mr Osigwe and when that eventually happened,he turned his tank towards Paul Usoro whose popularity was rising and posing a threat to that of his candidate Arthur Obi- Okafor . He took advantage of the writings of Dr Odinkalu against Paul Usoro,he also went after the candidacy of Prof Ernest Ojukwu many times. He went personal many times against the supporters of other candidates. However,his writings and opinions remained very influential in the course of the election.
Sani Ammani : Sani Ammani was believed to have been an Afam Osigwe’s supporter before he started writing in favour of Arthur Obi-Okafor’s candidacy. Whatever transpired between him and Afam is still unknown to many but his writings during the election greatly influenced the election among young lawyers.
Steve Sun in 2018 was a staunch supporter of the Arthur Obi- Okafor’s candidacy. He was very vocal against the Paul Usoro’s candidacy and made several write ups in blogs and social media that influenced the elections.
He controlled the social media turf where he doled out ruthless blows against the opponents of his candidate through his posts and writings.