Jan 15, 2020

NBA Politics, Facebook Polls and Unintended Consequences | Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.

Politics and propaganda have been close friends since the dawn of time. Every NBA election cycle that I have had the privilege of observing had its fair share of propaganda, but it appears that the next elections will have a large serving of propaganda with extra sauce! Interestingly, most of the propagandist attacks so far have been aimed at a particular aspirant – Mr. Olumide Akpata. Why 'The Establishment' and their cronies seem particularly perturbed by this aspirant's unmatched popularity amongst the NBA's electorate leaves me bewildered. But, whatever the reason is, it is certainly not for the collective good of ALL members of the NBA.

In the past month, three interesting propagandist attacks were launched: the first, by a respected Silk on Twitter, was rather sad and clearly demonstrated why only progressive lawyers should lead the Nigerian Bar. Leaving aside the fact that this attack deliberately ignored Mr. Akpata's long history of sponsoring scores of lawyers to NBA and other capacity building events; the attacker conveniently forgot, or did not know, that the event in question was literally a trade fair for young and progressive lawyers! In the modern market for legal services, clients are looking for lawyers with skills in intellectual property, data protection, music and entertainment law, fashion law, amongst others. Outside events of that nature, where else would a young and progressive lawyer meet and network with dozens of key players in the entertainment industry and a horde of young artists looking for the next record deal – contracts which young lawyers can easily draft to supplement the sad salaries they receive from key members of "The Establishment"?

Well, Mr. Akpata's track record within the NBA, the throng of lawyers who are direct and indirect beneficiaries of his numerous sponsorships, and a host of progressive lawyers quickly reduced the potency of this propagandist attack to levels below zero. I think the attack was not really about the sponsorship itself. It was about something much more subtle – a deliberate question on that poster. Something that made the headlines in the last election and which would be the subject of another piece, or even a series!

The second attack, which was painful to read on account of the particularly poor writing skills of the attacker, attempted to use clear provisions of the 2015 NBA Constitution to distort the NBA's political history. Well, we know our history and we know our Constitution. We cannot be deceived.

The third attack which, quite frankly, is the most interesting started on Facebook. As some of you may be aware, the administrator of a Facebook group called "Nigerian Bar Association Members", created a Facebook poll on 12 January 2020 or thereabouts. This poll required members to vote for whom they reckon would become the next NBA President. To the organiser's dismay, the poll had an unintended consequence!

As a preliminary point, I must state that the name of that Facebook group is suspect. The unauthorised use of the NBA's official name as the name of the group creates the false impression of an official affiliation with the NBA. The NBA has several times warned members to desist from the unauthorised use of its name. Efforts must be made to draw the NBA's attention to this group impersonating it.


The organiser of the said poll, who also doubles as an administrator of that Facebook group, is known to prefer a particular  aspirant – Dr Ajibade SAN. I wondered why he would organise such a poll, on a closed group, when he cannot be an unbiased umpire. I treated the poll with scepticism because I knew it was designed to create the manifestly false impression that Dr Ajibade SAN was popular. Sadly, the organiser could not even pretend to be fair. He deployed several clandestine machinations to frustrate Mr. Akpata's chances of success and to guarantee his preferred aspirant's success. For instance, the comments section under the poll was open and there were comments supporting Dr Ajibade SAN. The organiser had no problems with this. There were about sixteen such comments. Shortly after just two comments in support of Mr. Akpata were posted, the organiser turned off the comments section, creating the false impression that the significant majority of commentators preferred Dr Ajibade SAN.

As if that was not enough, only members of the group could vote on the poll. The organiser was very reluctant to approve the join requests of anyone whom he was not sure would vote for Dr Ajibade SAN. There were numerous supporters of Mr Akpata who complained that their join requests were not approved and were automatically prevented from voting. All attempts to publicly call the organiser's attention to this were frustrated since all posts on the group required his approval.

Mr Akpata won the poll notwithstanding these hurdles. In announcing the results, the organiser shamelessly put his bias on display and even used Anthony Joshua's first loss, and subsequent victory, against Andy Ruiz as a metaphor to console himself, Dr Ajibade SAN and his supporters. After that, some of Dr Ajibade SAN's supporters started circulating posts on WhatsApp suggesting that Dr Ajibade SAN outperformed Mr Akpata, and even describing the vote margin as 'paltry'. Well, a winner is a winner and a loser is a loser, irrespective of the margin.

I am reasonably sure that the organiser of that Facebook poll did not intend Mr Akpata to win, but he won. That poll is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but as with all things with a political undertone in this period, it must be put in its proper place of worthlessness.

With the foregoing said, it is very important for these propagandists to note a few things:

the NBA elections will be conducted nationwide, using a universal voting system. To a large extent, it is immune from the kind of bias that plagued this Facebook poll;

a cursory look at this Facebook poll reveals that most of the participants are from the South West (particularly Lagos), a handful from Abuja, one or two from Kano and other branches, and a couple of law students. It cannot even qualify as a microcosm of the NBA as it did not have up to an aggregate of 500 votes. It cannot be relied on as indicative of anything but the popularity of Mr Akpata even within the strongholds of the organiser and his preferred aspirant; and

I concede that the organiser achieved the goal of creating the very false impression that Dr Ajibade SAN was popular and could rank next to Mr Akpata. They are now riding on this to flood social media with false tales of Dr Ajibade SAN's successful campaign. Nothing is further from the truth, and we all know that. Mr Akpata will not only win all such popularity contests, biased or not; he will win the upcoming NBA elections.

As we square up for the NBA elections, I personally expect that Mr. Akpata's detractors will device even more mischievous shenanigans to distract us from the more important issues of merit and competence. However, these propagandist attacks prove only one thing: Mr Akpata is the leading aspirant, by several miles; and his only known "offence" is challenging the status quo which furthers the selfish agenda of The Establishment to the detriment of the larger demography of Nigerian lawyers.
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