By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
ATTEMPTS to engineer a change in one of the leading social clubs in Lagos, the Eko Club, is causing bad blood and tension amongst members, The Guardian can authoritatively confirm.
The bone of contention is the bid by the outgoing executive to rewrite the constitution and tinker with the mode of electing/appointing new executive members. The current constitution of the club, which was last amended in April 1, 2008, is the fifth edition.
For over five months, there has been raging debate among club members on whether presidents and vice presidents should continue to be elected through democratic systems or by means of selection by a few elders who are trustees and past presidents of the club.
However, the attempt to seek for an alternative arrangement to the election of presidents is presently tearing the family club, established in 1974, apart.
Past Presidents of Eko Club include Chief Rasheed Alaba Williams (1975-1977); late Alhaji G. Akanbi Danmola (1978-1980); Chief A. Fatai Dawodu MFR (1981-1983); late Alhaji Waheed O. Gbajumo (1984-1986); Alhaji A. G. Williams, (1987-1989); and late Alhaji M.A Pampam (1990-1993).
Others are Chief S. Adebodun Williams (1993-1995); Arch W.A. Adebiyi (1995-1997); Engr. Mutiu O. Gbajumo (1997-1999); Alhaji M.M Ashorobi (1999-2001); Omo-Oba Murphy A. Adetoro (2001-2003); and Alhaji S.A Anjorin, (2003-2005) among other prominent Lagosians.
Members of the club
In recent times, election into executive positions of Eko Club, particularly president and vice president, had been raucous. To manage the feeling of animosity among members every election year, the Elders Forum, comprising former presidents of the club and members who had spent over 20 years, came to a political solution of pruning down contestants into the two juicy offices to two.
In any election year, which occurs every two years, once embargo has been lifted for campaigns and there are more than two aspirants for the offices, they are invited to face the Elders Forum, where their credentials and manifestoes would be screened and vetted before arriving at the best two.
The last two standing for both president and vice president are then presented before the general members to decide who wins. This practice, according to an inside source, has been in use for the last 20 years.
There was a growing resentment against this process by some members, who made the claim that it was a subtle attempt by the Elders Forum to install their favourite candidate into office by instigating a stooge to vie for office to contest against their preferred choice, who would in the end lose out or be forced to step down from contesting few days to the election, since the power to select the last two rests with the Elders Forum.
The latest crisis in the club came to a head on Sunday, February 2, when an emergency general meeting convened to adopt the motion for a review of the constitution led to the suspension of 62 members from the club.
Members during accreditation at the last election held in 2012
Information reaching The Guardian revealed that all 62 suspended members voted Nay to the motion for constitution review because they raised a counter-motion and protested that the sitting did not form the required quorum of 50 percent of financial members.
Long-standing members who spoke on condition of anonymity said they are opposed to some vital aspects of the proposed constitution expected to take effect from March 2014.
One of the new proposals bothered on the creation of another body called the Guardian Council, comprising of the first 21 surviving members of the club in order of seniority.
This new body would override the Elders Forum by appointing the president and vice president of the club. The offices will no longer be decided by election. The Guardian Council will also reserve the right to suspend the executive members.
“What this means is that Eko Club will now be run by imposition of leaders. The Guardian Council can appoint the president and his vice, who will no longer have a tenure of office as long as they enjoy the confidence of the council. They can also be suspended anytime the confidence is lost,” a member explained.
Other likely consequences of this new regime of imposition, according to the aggrieved members are: that the president will no longer be accountable to the members; the tendency to implement orders from those who appointed the president, some of which might be detrimental to the interest of the generality of members of the club; and the danger of god-fatherism and cultism.
A member casting his ballot
“Those that are to choose the president will become godfathers and unless you are in their good books, you may never become a president no matter how good you are. Also, the presidency may be up for sale to the highest bidder, even if the highest bidder is a nonentity.”
President of the club, Engr. Owolabi Lawal, who confirmed the ongoing unease among members, said it’s an internal problem that is being tackled before the expiration of his tenure at the end of February.