SaharaReporters has learnt that the Goodluck Jonathan administration has fine-tuned plans to meddle in the forthcoming elections of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The elections are scheduled for July 17 during the NBA’s convention in Abuja.
Sources within the administration, the judiciary and the NBA disclosed that the Presidency is determined to sponsor a slate of candidates who are likely to endorse the administration’s policies.
Our investigations revealed that the Jonathan administration has put together a high-powered team charged with scuttling the ambitions of some independent-minded candidates whose loyalty to the administration is considered doubtful. The Presidency’s team is led by Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Mohammed Adoke, and has former Attorney General Michael Aondoaaka as well as the current NBA president, Joseph Daudu, as members.
One of our sources revealed that Mr. Adoke and Mr. Daudu are first cousins as their respective mothers are siblings.
“The government has budgeted N1 billion to ensure the victory of pro-government candidates and the defeat of anybody deemed hostile, or likely to be hostile, to the Jonathan administration,” said a source familiar with the plot. He added, “The government team’s assignment is to frustrate any aspirant who is deemed hard to control, pocket or influence.” Another source added that the government’s N1 billion war chest is being used to induce delegates to endorse the administration’s slate of candidates.
One source in the judiciary disclosed that the government’s plans went into top gear after Mr. Daudu warned the AGF that a progressive wing within the NBA was mobilizing to elect an executive that would both revitalize the organization and restore it to its past glory when it served as an important voice advocating respect for human rights as well as transparency and accountability by various layers of government.
A member of the NBA’s progressive camp told SaharaReporters that his group was aware of the government’s plot. “It’s nothing new,” he said, adding that past administrations, both military and civilian, had meddled in NBA elections in order to enthrone executives that were amenable to political influence. “I won’t even say it’s wrong for any government to sponsor people who are willing to act as stooges. It’s up to our membership to reject such overbearing outside interference,” he said.
SaharaReporters learnt that the Jonathan administration was particularly dead-set against allowing Emeka Ngige (SAN) to emerge as the new president of the NBA. Mr. Ngige’s campaign has hinged on a pledge to fight government control and to strengthen the NBA as a vital voice in democratic and human rights causes.
SaharaReporters gathered that the Federal Government is solidly behind Okey Wali (SAN), a former commissioner of Justice in Rivers State.
A former official of the NBA told SaharaReporters that Mr. Wali has drawn support both from the Jonathan team as well as Kemasuode Wodu, a lawyer who chairs the Eastern Bar Forum and currently serves as a special assistant to Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa. In addition, the incumbent NBA president, Mr. Daudu, is reportedly campaigning for Mr. Wali to succeed him.
Another lawyer said it was counterproductive to decry the fact that the government wants to spend a billion naira to install its favored candidates as NBA executives. “My attitude is, if they give you money, decide whether you want to take it or reject it – but always vote your conscience regardless,” she said.