Afam, Tobenna, Chukwuka: How they stand in 2024 NBA poll, by Kelvin Kunle Ola


From the standpoint of demography and geography in determining the next helmsman of the Nigerian Bar Association, all three candidates are from Nnewi, a commercial and industrial city in Anambra State; all three candidates graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where they studied Law

As the march to the polls commences fiercely following the lifting of the campaign ban by the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA-ECNBA) on June 10, 2024, the Oluseun Abimbola SAN-led ECNBA has promised to deliver a rancor-free and fair election to Nigerian lawyers this year.

This announcement came after it was revealed that a total of 72,071 lawyers have been verified to participate in the upcoming elections.

The campaign period effectively commenced on June 10, 2024, and will run until midnight on July 18, 2024.

With the Yakubu Maikyau SAN-led NBA wrapping up in the coming days, the roles of the different committees need to be assessed, especially those held and led by the possible replacements for Yakubu Maikyau, SAN.

Mazi Afam Josiah Osigwe SAN, presently heads the Remuneration Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association.

The Continuing Legal Education Committee is led by Tobenna Erojikwe, the only non-Senior Advocate of Nigeria contesting the polls, while Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom SAN currently heads the Security Agencies Relations Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association.

Evidence of transformation in the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) by Tobenna Erojikwe is apparent, as he has consistently fulfilled the mandate of an erstwhile dormant committee.

Tobenna Erojikwe, managing partner of the Law Crest Firm and chairman of the NBA CLE, has seen tremendous growth and has impacted numerous lawyers across Nigeria with law courses facilitated online, bridging the knowledge gap within the legal profession.

This has been achieved through partnerships and collaborations with top lawyers and institutions both in Nigeria and abroad.

Among Tobenna’s numerous achievements with the NBA-CLE, he recently facilitated a partnership with Olaniwun Ajayi LP, a top law firm in Nigeria, which led to the creation of the NBA-CLE virtual library.

On the other hand, Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN, a former chairman of Unity Bar and former NBA general secretary who manages Law Forte Attorneys in  Abuja, heads the NBA Remuneration Committee following the passage into law of the Legal Practitioners Remuneration Order 2023.

Through his consistent and rapid sensitization of Nigerian lawyers on the need to practice the new remuneration order, Mazi Osigwe SAN has always advocated the importance of adhering to the stipulated guidelines to ensure fair and equitable compensation within the legal profession.

He has frequented almost all the states of the federation, serving as either keynote speaker or panelist in discussions on this issue.

However, another candidate in the trio, Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom SAN, who heads the taxation department of Aluko and Oyebode and was formerly the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in  Lagos, currently leads the NBA Security Agencies Relations Committee (NBA-SARC).

Mr. Ikwuazom’s activities with the NBA-SARC have seen stunted growth—existing but not growing rapidly.

Recently, following the advocacy for Mr. Pius Awoke, Esq., a Nigerian lawyer detained by the Department of State Security since July 21, 2021, there has been questioning about the deafening silence of the NBA-SARC.

However, they finally issued a report on June 13, 2024 almost three years after the said detention.

In the statement, Mr. Ikwuazom stated that the committee learned about Mr. Awoke’s ongoing detention on 23 May 2024 through a WhatsApp group of lawyers called The Law Centre.

The NBA Abakaliki Branch had previously written to the then NBA President in 2022, requesting intervention for Mr. Awoke’s release.

Upon learning of the situation, the NBA-SARC Chairman contacted the NBA President, who assured him that the issue was being addressed and had been taken up with the DSS leadership.

The committee decided to further investigate the matter to gather all the facts.

The Director of Legal of the DSS, who is also a member of the NBA-SARC, informed the committee that Mr. Awoke has been arraigned in court in Minna, Niger State, and is being held upon the court’s remand.

The NBA-SARC and the Director of Legal will be meeting later today in  Abuja for a fuller briefing on the matter.

The NBA-SARC acknowledges the outrage expressed by members of the Bar regarding this matter and shares in this sentiment.

The committee believes that it is important to thoroughly investigate the matter and gather all the facts before taking steps to assist their colleague.

The NBA-SARC has promised to provide a further update and a concrete action plan to ensure that justice is served in this matter as soon as possible.

From the standpoint of demography and geography in determining the next helmsman of the Nigerian Bar Association, all three candidates are from Nnewi, a commercial and industrial city in Anambra State; all three candidates graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where they studied Law.

However, while Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN practices in  Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, Tobenna practices in both  Lagos State, Nigeria, and the UK, and Ikwuazom practices in  Lagos State, Nigeria. Hence, Enugu and Nnewi remain appendages to all of them but not strongholds.

It is contested that Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN will earn a large bulk of the votes from the north, following his engagement with Northern lawyers and his practice in  Abuja. With a Master’s Degree from the University of Jos and having started his legal practice under Chief Bayo Aluko-Olokun SAN (of blessed memory) in Kaduna, Mazi Afam Osigwe has remained synonymous with Northern affairs in NBA-related activities.

However, because of his work with the NBA-CLE, Tobenna Erojikwe is expected to get a fraction of the northern vote during the upcoming elections from the North too.

Abuja remains a mystery in the next NBA elections, with almost all branches supporting Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN, following his antecedents as a bar-man and the leadership roles he has undertaken there.

However, there is a high tendency that Afam will lose some votes from Unity Bar and Garki Bar, which form the largest part of the  Abuja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, due to the crisis within the unit and allegations that Mazi Afam Osigwe played a role in it.

Afam also enjoys followership in several parts of Nigeria, especially in the North West and North East. It is predicted that he will get substantial votes in key states like  Kano.

Tobenna is expected to chip off minimum number of Afam’s votes in  Kano.

Afam will likely perform better than Tobenna and Chukwuka in the North Central, which may help him offset some deficits acquired in the  Lagos.

For the western part of Nigeria, the vote is expected to be divided among the three candidates.

However,  Lagos State, which houses the largest number of lawyers in Nigeria, will be a stronghold for both Chukwuka Ikwuazom and Tobenna Erojikwe.

Recall that Ikwuazom was previously chairman of the Lagos Branch from 2017-2019, while Tobenna enjoys support from followers of former NBA President Olumide Akpata in Lagos. Mazi Osigwe will get a substantial number of votes from other states like Osun, Ekiti, Ogun, and Kwara to make up for the Lagos votes.

Ikwuazom might likely enjoy some benevolence from Joyce Oduah, who asked her supporters to vote for him after she was disqualified.

However, lawyers from  Lagos have said people will not vote based on endorsements, since all three candidates are distinguished among themselves.

The South Eastern part of the country remains controversial, as Tobenna and Chukwuka are likely to get some votes from the region.

Afam, on the other hand, being a home boy, will get a greater chunk of votes from the South East and South-South, the traditional enclave of the Eastern Bar.

The South East offers a unique advantage since all presidential candidates come from there.

However, Afam Osigwe will need to shop for support since he was asked to step down for Arthur Obi-Okafor SAN in the 2018 NBA elections, which he declined.

During the 2018 NBA elections, Paul Usoro SAN, Afam Osigwe, Arthur Obi-Okafor SAN, and Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN contested the presidential position of the Nigerian Bar.

Therefore, it is anticipated that Afam Osigwe will enjoy a larger piece of the pie from the South East, while his opponents, Ikwuazom and Tobenna, will also get a fraction of the votes because Afam has been a member of the Eastern Bar and has a support group stronger than the other candidates in the past.

However, the region remains unpredictable since all three candidates are from the region.

In the South-South, it is expected that Mazi Osigwe and Tobenna Erojikwe will share the votes, while Ikwuazom will get his share from Port Harcourt.

However, in anticipation of Osigwe’s victory from these regions, there’s anxiety that the supporters of Obi-Okafor, might see this poll as a pay back time, as against what happened in 2018.

For every contest, there is only one winner. As the elections approach, fingers remain crossed as the turn of events unfolds, ushering in a new dimension for the Nigerian Bar Association.

Kelvin Kunle Ola, a US-based Nigerian lawyer, writes from Dallas.

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