RUMPUS AT ISLAND CLUB
These days, it seems as if the falcon can no longer hear the falconer at the famous Island Club, Lagos, as leadership crisis rocks the nation's foremost association. Two opposing groups currently battle each other over who controls the club and are ready for a total showdown.
The hitherto cold war in the club reached a crescendo last October 29, which was the exact day the club clocked 67 years, and also a day the club held its half yearly general meeting. The event became chaotic as each faction claimed constitutional power over the elitists' club.
Some contemporary members of the club include the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN); a foremost industrialist and chairman, CFAO Group, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas; former minister of finance, Chief Abayomi Akintola; a lawyer and son of the former ace broadcaster, Sam Iyamu, Oluwole Iyamu; former managing editor of Daily Times, Mr. Ben Lawrence and former chairman of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Chief Michael Olumuyiwa.
The club was founded on October 29, 1943, by 50 Nigerians and non-Nigerian distinguished gentlemen in the home of Mr. Ladipupo Odunsi, now deceased. Sir Adeyemo Alakija was the first chairman of the club, which now has its secretariat at 3, Island Club Road, Onikan.
The club shares boundary with the Onikan Stadium and popular institutions such as the National Museum, MUSON Centre, City Mall and Yoruba Tennis Club. It is reputed for the robust social standing of its members who are mostly movers and shakers in the society. Members believe so much in their dignity and towering status that they made peacock the club's emblem.
What is the bone of contention? In this report, Daily Sun x-rays the imbroglio and brings you comments of some key players in each of the two camps, including Okoya-Thomas, Adeniyi-Williams, Iyamu and Governor Fashola among others.
Beginning of the crisis
The leadership crisis, Daily Sun learnt, started early last year following the disqualification of some members from contesting election into top positions in the club. One of the sanctioned members, Prince Jide Sikuade, reportedly instituted a suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos to challenge the club's alleged resolve to disqualify him from contesting the post of vice chairman because he was suspended some years back by the club. He was said to have been pardoned but the pardon was purportedly withdrawn later.
When Sikuade was disallowed to contest, Daily Sun gathered, another member, who was also suspended twice but pardoned, was permitted to contest. Sikuade was said to have regarded the action as double standard.
Delivering judgment on the case on June 7, 2010, Justice Muhammed Baba Idris of the Federal High Court disqualified Sikuade and one time vice-chairman, Prince Ademola Dada, from contesting whenever election would hold in the club.
The court also restrained the then chairman, Olufemi Adeniyi-Williams; the secretary, Oluwole Iyamu; Electoral Committee members, Olumuyiwa Aduroja and Lawrence Erabor from allowing Dada to contest the election.
The court cited sections 16 (3) and 28 of the Constitution of the Island Club that forbids any member who had been suspended or faced disciplinary action from contesting any election until 10 years after.
Struggle to amend club's constitution
Following the Federal High Court judgment, affected members wished that aspects of the constitution relating to pardons and withdrawal of disciplinary action be expunged. But some members stood against the amendment with definite stand that the status quo be maintained.
Fragile peace was said to have pervaded the affairs of the club between June when the judgment was delivered and October 29, 2010, when the controversial half yearly general meeting of the club burst the bubble. Since then, things have fallen apart and the centre of the club cannot hold.
It was during the meeting that Adeniyi-Williams was alleged to have walked out on members when there were crucial issues on the agenda for serious deliberation. Daily Sun gathered that the issues for discussion before he allegedly abandoned the meeting, bordered on amendment of the club's constitution.
But Adeniyi-Williams had since maintained that he presided over the half yearly meeting of the club held last October 29 and the meeting was duly closed before he left the venue.
Fallouts of the half-yearly general meeting
One of the factions alleged that the then chairman, Chief Olufemi Adeniyi-Williams, embarrassed members of the club when he purportedly walked out on the meeting. Four motions duly listed by the management committee of the club, they noted, were to be taken before the turn of event.
Some of the chairman's supporters were also alleged to have tried to disrupt the proceedings when the Vice Chairman, Mr. Hakeem Awe, took over deliberations.
It was further learnt that eminent members of the club such as Chief Abayomi Akintola, Chief Michael Olumuyiwa, Pioneer Editor of The Punch newspaper and former head of the public affairs department of the National Sports Commission, Chief Ajibade Fasina-Thomas were unhappy with the chairman's action.
Based on this, they allegedly schemed to slam a suspension order on the chairman for walking out on the meeting. The group opposing the chairman reportedly summoned an extra-ordinary general meeting to ask for the suspension of Adeniyi-Williams and the meeting was fixed for Friday, November 12, 2010.
Daily Sun source said: 'Before November 12, scores more flocked into the club to back the motion when the chairman removed the club's notice board where it was pasted by the general secretary, Oluwole Iyamu.'
A leading trade unionist in the 1960s and former social secretary of the club, Alhaji Tajudeen Ipaye, reportedly said; 'I was at the club at 11:00a.m to sign after reading of it in The Punch. The chairman came in and removed the notice board to nowhere. I was amazed at his action. Engineer Adegbayi was there.'
A veteran journalist and an elder in the club, Mr. Ben Lawrence, asserted that such an action like removing the notice board would be unbecoming of the high office of the chairman.
His words: 'The general secretary is the chief executive of the club. The chairman's function, according to the rules of the club, is to preside at management.
'You see, these rules were drafted and adopted by some of the best minds in Nigeria then who understood democracy. You know lawyers like Mr. E.J. Alex-Taylor, leader of the Nigerian Bar Association then and father of renowned Justice John Idowu Comrad Taylor, Justice Louis Mbanefo, Chief Ladipupo Odunsi and many others worked on the rules.
'Remember that Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Sir Louis Patrick Odumegwu Ojukwu, Justice Arthur Prest, Sir Kofo Abayomi, Chief M.A. Ogun, Chief J.K. Randle, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mr. Ernest Sessi Ikoli were among the founding members, including J.N. Zarpas, K. Chellarams, A.G Leventis and others.'
In a telephone chat, the embattled chairman simply referred Daily Sun to a paid advertorial in a national daily. He explained that all he had to say were contained in the advertorial.
In the publication, Adeniyi-Williams described the motion for the extraordinary general meeting slated for November 12 as a 'desperate attempt to deliberately destroy the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction for the purpose of election.'
He averred that no extra-ordinary general meeting of the club was scheduled for Friday, insisting that 'none shall hold.'
'The publication titled: 'Island Club Notice of Extra-ordinary General Meeting,' was neither authorized nor paid for by the Island Club and should therefore be discarded completely as if it never existed by members of the Island Club and the general public,' he said.
Adeniyi-Williams stated that a notice of extra-ordinary general meeting of the club, published in a national daily on Wednesday November 3, 2010 was a complete falsehood made consequent to illegal conducts with the principal aim of making the club conduct an election isolating a binding Federal High Court judgment.
He also dismissed as flawed the extract of resolution from the club's half-yearly general meeting held on Friday October 29 last year as contained in the said November 3, 2010, publication.
'It was not authorized by the Island Club and the signatures listed therein from the fictitious nature of the document could have been copies of any or joined various registers of the club.
'The only half-yearly general meeting of the Island Club held at the Peacock Hall on Friday October 29, 2010 was presided over by me. It commenced at 6:23p.m and was properly closed by me at 9:10p.m after motion for adjournment was moved by Mr. Mustapha Dokunmu and seconded by Otunba Leke Kilo,' he stated.
Adeniyi-Williams, thereafter, resigned as the chairman of the club and handed over to the Board of Trustees led by Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas. The latter, as gathered, dissolved the management committee of the club and put in a place a caretaker committee headed by retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Pius Aderemi.
Factional extraordinary general meeting
Members of the club who were further miffed with the dissolution of the management committee held an extraordinary general meeting on Monday, November 22, 2010, at the club secretariat. The meeting was earlier fixed for November 12, but could not hold.
At the meeting, more than 70 members passed votes of no-confidence on Adeniyi-Williams and the treasurer, Thomas Adegbite Adu on account of misconduct and thereafter unanimously removed them from their offices. The meeting was presided over by the general secretary, Oluwole Iyamu.
Adeniyi-Williams was said to have resigned as chairman of the club on November 15 before the November 22 meeting where he was allegedly removed from office. Members of the faction claimed that they had to take the action because Adeniyi-Williams did not address his resignation letter to the appropriate quarters.
The meeting, however, appointed the vice chairman, Hakeem Gbolahan Awe as the Acting Chairman. It also constituted a five-man ad-hoc committee headed by Mr. Bunmi Sowande, a foremost Chartered Accountant, to look into the alleged irregularities and discrepancies in the club's account.
Former General Secretary of the club, Mr. Adeyinka Shogunle, a lawyer, described the trend in the club as a battle for constitutionalism. He accused members of the other faction of locking up the two halls where extraordinary general meeting was always held. The meeting was eventually held at Bar II within the secretariat, insisting that the meeting was in accordance with the club's constitution.
'The resolutions were read by the secretary of the club, Wole Iyamu, Esq, who was appointed by members of the management committee in attendance to preside over this meeting in the absence of the chairman and the vice chairman, and he presided well over the meeting,' he said.
Shogunle stressed that the power that belonged to the management committee in accordance with the club's constitution had been allegedly violated by the Board of Trustees. He revealed that the board had on Monday November 15, 2010 dissolved the management committee and appointed a caretaker committee to take over the running of affairs of the club, adding that the resolutions reached at the meeting were in line with the constitution of the club.
But Adeniyi-Williams told Daily Sun that the meeting held by the other faction was illegal and a ruse. He confirmed that he had tendered his resignation letter to the Board of Trustees before the purported vote of no confidence and removal.
Christmas eve/Ileya dance
The two factions continued to battle each other till December 24, 2010, when Christmas Eve/Ileya dance of the club was held. The juju maestro, King Sunny Ade (KSA) entertained members of the club on the occasion.
Prior to the day, one of the factions wrote a letter to the chairman of KSA Organisation, at Ikorodu Road, Jibowu, Lagos, stating that the management committee of the club never authorized any invitation to King Sunny Ade's band. He was subsequently advised to tell his boss to ignore the invitation.
'Besides, with the increased tension everywhere in the club, the safety of your instruments and your band boys cannot be guaranteed. Lastly for your information, because the Management Committee is yet to decide when the club should have the Ileya/Xmas Dance, the Patron of the club, His Excellency, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the governor of Lagos State will not be visiting the club on Xmas eve until invited by the committee,' the letter read in part.
The other group, however, held the party and the artiste for the day, King Sunny Ade had to tarry for long before doing what he knows how to do best. But some members who attended the event first deliberated on the crisis threatening the unity of the club.
Chief Okoya-Thomas, who is also the Asoju Oba of Lagos, shed more light on the crisis rocking the club in his opening remarks. He said: 'A few months ago, we noticed that we were starting to have chaos.
For some time, I have tried very much to keep myself out of running this club. I only intervened when it is necessary.'?
He stated that the trustees had to step in when crisis broke out in the club in order to broker peace and find a last solution to the imbroglio, adding that he was at the club three times to speak to members but the efforts to reconcile the warring groups proved abortive.
Okoya-Thomas continued: 'I thought I had good audience. They listened to me, although one of them tried to destabilize me. Two members had been expelled before. The two of them came and prostrated to me.
But 10 minutes after, they started to lambast the chairman again and called him names.'?
He revealed that the trustees put the Interim Caretaker Committee in place when the situation went out of control. He asserted that a member and patron of the club, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State had once invited the two parties to his residence where he urged them to allow peace to reign. Okoya-Thomas lamented that the discord got worse thereafter.
Our position - Oluwole Iyamu
The club's general secretary, Oluwole Iyamu, said in a paid advertorial that the Island Club has been in a virtual state of limbo since or around May last year as a result of the judgment in a suit instituted before a Federal High Court in Lagos by Prince Jide Sikuade against the Island Club and four others.
'The crisis resulted in inability to conduct our elections earlier scheduled for May 28, 2010, and has had the unintended consequence of perpetuating the regime of Chief Adeniyi Williams in office for over seven months after he should have vacated office.
'At the reconvened Annual General Meeting of the club held in September 2010, members of the club directed the Management Committee to fulfil its leadership role by providing a road map out of the stalemate which then afflicted the club. At the subsequent Management Committee meeting held on Wednesday 13th October, 2010, a decision was reached to put forward a resolution designed to remove all impediments in our constitution, militating against the expression of the choice of the members of the Island Club in a fair and all inclusive election.'
Iyamu maintained that the basis for the resolution was drawn from the same judgment delivered by Justice Idris of the Federal High Court in the Sikuade suit. The court, according to him, found, held and declared that the power to decide what happens to any member of the club on suspension resides with members of the club at their general meeting.
He stated further: 'The chairman, Chief Adeniyi Williams was a part of and in fact presided over the said Management Committee meeting which prepared this resolution and in his Chairman statement to the half-yearly general meeting on the day in question he stated as follows: 'However, the sticky issue at the present time is the judgment of 7th June, 2010, against the club and the subsequent appeal. I sincerely pray that it can be resolved as soon as possible. My experience since the end of May, 2010, has been to say the least, most harrowing. I put it all down to the experience of life.'
Iyamu declared that at the management committee meeting held last October 13, there was a suggestion that a solution to the impasse was to move a motion put forward by the management committee for the general house to adopt. This, he explained, would authorize that all suspensions be withdrawn and any and every qualified member be allowed to contest elections into the various positions of the club management committee. This, he said, was passed by majority of the members and they agreed to present the resolution for ratification at the last half-yearly annual general meeting.
'In the course of the half-yearly general meeting on 29th October, 2010, serious issues and queries arose as to the audited accounts presented at the said meeting. The chairman clearly and openly abused and insulted his distinguished predecessor in office, Bashorun Abayomi Akintola, GCOP, and it took the intervention of another distinguished past chairman, Chief Olu Falomo, GCOP, for a semblance of peace and decorum to be restored to the meeting.
'Among other distinguished members who were awe-struck during this altercation were Professor John Godwin (A Trustee of the club), Chief Folarin Coker (Baba Eto of Lagos), Alhaji Ayo Quadri, Engineer Adegbaibi, Alhaji M.M. Bada and Chief Tunji Abodunrin to mention but a few. The contentious accounts were never passed.
'When proceedings now reached the stage of the consideration of the five motions and resolutions slated for discussion at the meeting, Chief Femi Adeniyi-Williams walked out on the meeting without any vote or decision being taken on any proposal for adjournment.
'The law as to the fate of any person or even a presiding officer who unceremoniously abandons a meeting shall continue and that the person who leaves shall be taken to be bound by any decision taken in his absence.'
Iyamu dismissed the submission of Adeniyi-Williams that he duly closed the half-yearly general meeting held last October 29. He alleged Adeniyi-Williams to have supplanted his opinion for that of the entire membership of the club in an undemocratic manner in a publication last November.
'Contrary to the assertion of Chief Adeniyi-Williams, the meeting did continue after he walked out as can be attested to by numerous distinguished members of the Island Club such as Bashorun Abayomi Akintola, Mr. Bunmi Sowande, Prince Goke Ademiluyi, Dr. Oladimeji Alo, Chief A.A. Odunsi, Chief Willy Akinlude, Chief Edward Taylor, T.K. Keshinro, Chief Wale Taiwo, Hon Waze Uthman, Chief Fashina Thomas, Chris A. Badejo, M.K. Adebakin, Hon Phillip Shaibu, Alh Y.O. Jimoh, Osarodion Ogie Esq., Abiodun Okesanjo, Chief Tony Adenubi, Alh R.O. Taiwo, Engr. R.A. Shittu and others making a total of 90 members.
'Perhaps it would also interest the chairman to note that the entire proceedings at the meeting were recorded on video and audio precisely to avoid the selective amnesia which now seems to afflict some persons. Perhaps the chairman could also enlighten us as to the identities of those persons whose signatures he claimed were forged in respect of the proceedings.'
Daily Sun reliably gathered that the elected management committee purportedly dissolved by the Board of Trustees has taken over full control of the club. Hakeem Gholahan Awe, the erstwhile vice chairman and the current Acting Chairman installed by a faction was said to have been giving orders to staff of the club in recent time.
Our position - Board of Trustees
Daily Sun met with Chief Okoya-Thomas and the former chairman, Adeniyi-Williams on the way forward at the Island Club. Okoya-Thomas, who spoke on behalf of the duo said: 'My son, there is no crisis at the Island Club. Nothing is shaking the Island Club. I'm the chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chief Olufemi Adeniyi-Williams, who is sitting there is the former chairman of the Island Club.
'A certain young man decides to bring chaos to our great club that was founded by our forefathers. I can only say that I sympathise with them. When there is crisis in a place like that and there are established two factions, we are not members of the factions.
'The right thing to do is for the current elders, most especially the Board of Trustees, to move in and make sure that things are put in better situations. That is all that the Board of Trustees has done. If some people come to you and want to tell you stories, tell them that the former chairman and myself, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, are not prepared to discuss Island Club issues publicly because there are great issues going on in our great country today.
'Political parties are having their primaries. There will be elections in the state. There will be a national election. Is it now that we should bring this in? I think there are very important things going on in this country today.
'So, all I want to say to you is that if anybody comes to me as you (the reporter) have done, I will tell them to pray to God for our great nation. What is happening at the Island Club is being cared for.
'Certain people decided to abuse me, to abuse the former chairman by way of sending e-mails and text messages and I kept on saying that I don't recognize such messages and those that have been sent, I forgive those people that have sent them.
'We have nothing to say. We are praying to God to please give us an election or elections that we'll be proud of and we are observing what is happening in our country today; it is not to start talking about the Island Club on the pages of newspapers. I am not going to do it. Thank you.'
Governor Fashola's comment
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State is a member and the patron of the club. He personally attended the recent Christmas Eve/Ileya Dance of the club. In his remarks on the occasion, he recalled the way their forebears successfully ran the club and warned that no one should destroy the legacy they all inherited. He averred that he was a proud member of the club as he underscored how to evolve a better society in the country. He urged people to allow mutual respect, restraint, compromise and sacrifice to reign.
He assured members that he would not shirk his responsibility as the patron and he would perform the role with a lot of concern, saying, 'I am, by nature, an optimist, not an alarmist.
unacceptable the state of affairs in this club. I offer to lead from the forefront to reposition the club to its pre-eminence as the leading Nigerian social club. It is the only way we can regain our moral authority as the club of the peacock.'