Unity Bar’s Acting Chair, Chioma Onyenucheya-Uko Responds To The Raging Controversy On The NBA Abuja Chairmanship Position
Allegations that the Acting Chairman, Mrs Onyenuchaya-Uko, was refusing to toe this line and was instead, desirous of becoming the substantive Chairman of the branch came to a head, when a statement by a group known as the NBA BODY OF VICE CHAIRMEN kicking against a bye-election to fill the vacant position of the Unity Bar Chairman, surfaced online.
The Acting Chairman/Vice Chairman of the Abuja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA Unity Bar), Mrs Chioma-Onyenucheya-Uko, has made an official statement in response to the recent controversy that has surrounded the vacant position of substantive chairman of the Branch.
Recall that the erstwhile Chairman of the Unity Bar, Dr Hauwa Shekarau passed away in the early hours of Wednesday, the 15th of September, 2021.
Soon after the death of Dr Shekarau, there arose some agitations among some members in the Northern block of the branch, calling for a bye-election to fill the vacant position of the Unity Bar Chairman, as that position had been slated for the North under a rotational arrangement that had assumed the force of tradition in the Unity Bar; and it was upon that rotational arrangement that the late Hauwa Shekarau had secured her position as Unity Bar Chairman.
Allegations that the Acting Chairman, Mrs Onyenuchaya-Uko, was refusing to toe this line and was instead, desirous of becoming the substantive Chairman of the branch came to a head, when a statement by a group known as the NBA BODY OF VICE CHAIRMEN kicking against a bye-election to fill the vacant position of the Unity Bar Chairman, surfaced online. READ HERE.
This statement threw up a furore of online and offline speculations about the intentions of the Acting Chairman, which situation prompted her to make the statement below and shared on the official WhatsApp group of the Unity Bar.
RESPONSE TO THE RAGING CONTROVERSY ON THE NBA ABUJA (UNITY BAR) CHAIRMANSHIP POSITION
It is with great sense of responsibility and candour that I pen this message this midnight. But before I proceed, permit me to register my immense gratitude to every objective and/or empathic colleague who has reached out to me in this most trying period.
May charity and kindness abound to you always.
For the records, at no time did I, nor have I entertained nor nursed any aspiration for the office of Chairman in the NBA. In fact, even the office of Vice Chairman, to which I was elected and still serving, was one I contested after persistent persuasions by persons I hold in esteem.
The reason is simple, and please forgive any offence as I intend none. I did not trust that the NBA was structured in such a way as to encourage our best for leadership nor was I convinced that sincerity of service, drove most of those that the system threw up for leadership. I was not sure I could thrive in such an atmosphere.
When I said yes to presenting myself for the office of Vice Chairman, I never contemplated nor slightly imagined that I could lose my Chairman and be thrust into such a delicate situation. This is nothing I would have ever wished nor planned for.
Upon the demise of my dear departed Chair, it was therefore doubly devastating to read the wickedly contrived article which maliciously and falsely alleged that I was “lobbying” to occupy the office of Chairman. This was just after 2 days of her passage, when I was even too stunned to comprehend the implications of her death nor regain composure of thoughts!
Well, I have submitted those who peddled this falsehood to the God of all justice. Their names shall suffer irredeemable damage.
I have been inundated with counsel, sought and otherwise, for and against, and even positions in between. To everyone I have spoken with, I have reiterated my disinterest for the office of Chairman and my preference for conducting a by-election to elect someone that will serve out the outstanding tenure of late Dr. Hauwa Shekarau.
Sadly and shockingly, the rumor mills continue to mint speculative and opposite news!
For the records, there is indeed such a thing as the Body of Vice Chairmen of NBA Branches. It is the umbrella platform of Vice Chairmen of NBA Branches and has a membership of over 100 colleagues. I only had the privilege of joining the online platform of this august body on 20th July 2021 and didn’t have any opportunity of getting “acquainted” with them until during the AGC in Portharcourt. Yet, without waiting for any complaint nor petition from me, this noble body chose to rise in defence of one of theirs who they barely know!
I take the trouble to state these facts to lend clarity on the situation.
It was only in Portharcourt, after I introduced myself at a forum, that members of this Body came at me, insisting I am under duty to step into the substantive shoes left by the passage of my late Chairman. They cited Obollo Afor, Akure, Aba and a few I can’t readily remember as rightful precedents to guide me in this instance.
They also argued that regardless my personal disposition, upon assuming the office of Vice Chairman, I have waived my personal interests and dispositions, for the collective. Their position was emphatically that any step I take in Abuja (on this subject) may serve as a conflicting precedent that may impact on other Vice Chairmen in their respective branches.
Let me make the following points:
1. At a meeting of the Executive Committee of our Branch, I had overruled a motion to be made a signatory of the Branch account in the interim, to enable us access funds for urgent matters.
Instead, I had directed that a request be made to the Bank, to permit the Secretary and Treasurer (who are both Class B signatories on record), to sign off cheques on our behalf pending the election of a substantive Chairman whose details will then be sent to the bank in replacement of late Dr. Shekarau’s.
I only rescinded this directive after I got superior counsel that the matter of Branch account signatories is statutory and not discretionary.
2. I had opposed a suggestion at an Executive Committee meeting that I needed to be sworn in as the acting Chairman of the Branch.
I took this position because I didn’t want any undue or superfluous ceremony for an office I was not interested in retaining.
3. At the last Executive Committee meeting we held this month of November, I personally proposed the constitution of an Election Committee to conduct a by-election for the post of Chairman for the Branch.
Not only did I do this, but against every practice I know, including that of my late departed Chairman, I called for nominations on the floor of the meeting, including democratically permitting submissions on preference for the position of Chairman of the said Committee!
As I type, I am yet to exercise any veto on that subject.
4. I proposed to convene a Branch General Meeting for Friday 12th November 2021 whereat I would have presented Electoral Committee nominees for ratification. Considering effort to secure a sponsor for the meeting hadn’t yielded, it was advised and ultimately resolved by the Executive Committee that we skip this month in the usual tradition of not holding Branch meetings in an NBA AGC month, but to hold the meeting on the 1st Friday of December 2021.
Yet, none of these has been sufficient to show good faith.
I am still outguessed at every turn and by persons who have not bothered to confront me with their untoward suspicions.
Please forgive my rather lengthy piece, but it is necessary to place on record the true facts of things, so that the innocent observer of events is not led amiss by the falsehood and mischief being spun by some for their apparent ulterior interests. Fortunately for them, the ware which they prize so dearly, and covet to claim at all costs, is one in which this woman harbours no present interest whatsoever!
May I therefore make this humble and sincere appeal to my dearest colleagues of the Body of Vice Chairmen of Branches, and all men and women of goodwill and truth:
1. The NBA Abuja Branch has suffered protracted internal conflicts which has torn at our core and left us lesser than our full potentials.
2. This situation has festered and threatens to triumph over our unity simply because certain persons have consistently clung strongly to personal interests over the greater good.
3. I have always condemned the choice of “cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face” and will never endorse nor partake in anything that has any such appearance.
4. While I deeply appreciate (nay, immensely grateful really) the thoughtful “aluta” disposition, even at the great risk of possible backlash and harassment, especially for someone any of you scarcely knows, I appeal that your rightful swords be kindly sheathed.
5. I fully understand the expressed position that the Abuja situation is beyond the person and disposition of Chioma Onyenucheya-Uko, but thankfully, we currently have the 2021 amendment to our Constitution/bye laws so whatever happens in Abuja on this subject, shall not necessarily and should indeed not serve as a precedent going forward and therefore, unlikely to impact on our Vice Chairmen in their respective branches.
6. While it is not a statutory consideration under the Uniform Bylaws , there exists in the Unity Bar a rotational understanding that has assumed the force of tradition which I personally subscribe to and respect. This is a clear departure from what obtains at the different branches and will therefore not be a factor in such hopefully unlikely situation elsewhere.
7. Further to paragraph 6 above, it is the turn of the North to produce the Chairman of the Abuja branch (for which reason our dear departed Chairman occupied the position until her death). I am not from the North and I do not wish to upset the applecart.
8. Any action, including a Court action, as has been threatened, will unduly exacerbate the still delicate Abuja situation. My dear departed Chairman paid such costly price in redeeming the Branch and restoring measurable confidence of both the members and the public. Please oblige me by not taking any steps that will erode the gains made during her short but immensely impactful leadership.
9. ABOVE ALL, the course I have chosen to take on this subject, remain my personal disposition and should therefore not be hinged on in determining the fate of any other Vice Chairman whensoever or wheresoever.
I hope this soothes all righteously frayed nerves.
I had earlier, this evening, instructed the Branch Secretary, Prince Adetosoye Adebiyi, to notify members of our already activated intentions to constitute an Electoral Committee for the conduct of a by-election.
The said notice has consequently been issued by him.It is my firm believe that the Bar should at all times be bigger than any individual or group interest.
The unity of the Unity Bar, and indeed of the NBA, is worth much more than settling any provocative points.
And as long as the universe and the elements remain, posterity shall judge and reward each as per their roles and intentions in all of this.
As for human beings, I am so thrilled that this situation has afforded me the opportunity to observe people in their true personalities. It is so revealing!
Thankfully, it will soon be June 2022.
Thank you my dearest Body of Vice Chairmen of NBA, honorable elders of the Bar and the Branch, peers and friends, all who has lent me counsel, defense and a shoulder.
I shall never forget.
May God richly bless you.
I spent today at the National Assembly for the Public Hearing that held today, the 15th November 2021.
I deliberately chose to not allow any distraction, even by this subject so I didn’t bother to respond on any platform where this was being discussed, all through the day.
I am currently in bed and under no coercion, inducement, external persuasion nor other forms of human influence.
This is my sincere and resolute disposition.
Kindly find it in your heart to respect it.
Acting Chair, NBA Abuja Branch (Unity Bar).