By Fatiullah Tiamiyu
As the Nigerian Bar Association is rounding off its first virtual Annual General Conference, it is apposite to examine the controversies surrounding Nasir El-Rufai’s invitation, dis-invitation and calls for re-invitation amidst incongruous and dissenting voices.
We must acknowledge the fact that Nigerian Bar Association has been in tumult and her activities tumultuous in recent times, the worst twin monsters of ethnicity and religion having found their ways into the association’s fabric and sadly, one of those pettiness and parochialism influenced the recently conducted controversy laden national officers’ election.
As it is customary in bar administration, Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) is the statutory organ saddled with the duties of inviting speakers to Lawyers’ Annual Confab. Pursuant to the performance of such duties in 2020, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was invited as a speaker. Notable personalities like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Tony Blair were also invited.
In a dramatic twist and turn of events, on 21st day of August, 2020, the Nigerian Bar Association through her second highest decision making body, National Executive Committee, withdrew the invitation to El-Rufai, emphasising that such decision does not amount to weighing the veracity or otherwise of weighty allegations levelled against the governor.
Curious minds may ask,will ask,and shall ask,what are those allegations? They are not only legion but weighty. It all started with the petition wrote by foremost bar reformist group, Open Bar Initiative, advancing, inter-alia, ‘’killings in Southern Kaduna and declaration of kaduna by Civil Media Lab to be the ‘’most dangerous state in Nigeria’’ as reasons for pushing for El-Rufai’s disinvitation to the NBA Conference.
As if the above were not enough, the group raised gross human violations, lack of respect for rule of law, intolerance of dissenting voices, disrespect to court orders and judgments are reasons to disinvite El-Rufai. Till date, the Governor has not denied the allegations.
As it is expected, there are various voices within the NBA itself, pro-El-Rufai and anti-El-Rufai. It appears the latter was in the majority, hence the dis-invitation to speak at the largest gathering of lawyers in Africa. To sum it up in the group’s word ‘’As Governor, Mallam El-Rufai has shown no regard for the rule of law, for human rights or for human beings. He has been reckless in his utterances, hubristic with power. Offering him the platform of the NBA AGC 2020 is reward for misrule’’.
Muslim Lawyers Association, another informal body within the NBA has queried the Governor’s dis-invitation. The query needs not come from MULAN, but to all objective and fair minded observers. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was a speaker at the confab, he, like El-Rufai has a weighty record of disobedience of court orders, human rights violations, and to add the worst, the electoral malfeasance of the Maurice Iwu years in INEC are all testaments to see to his dis-invitation to the prestigious forum.
On the international scene, Tony Blair also a speaker at the confab, was indicted by ‘’The Report of the Iraq Inquiry’’ in which he was said to have ‘’deliberately exacerbated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein when there was no imminent threat’’. Tony was reportedly ‘’did that to justify his joining the USA in attacking and killing millions of innocent people’’.
Flowing from the above, it was MULAN’s postulation that El-Rufai, Obasanjo and Tony Blair should be dis-invited and such ‘’would do a great deal of damage control and show the whole world watching the ensuing drama that in the NBA, the rule of law and Human Rights are colour blind and know no class, tribe or religious affiliation’’.
A point that needs to be emphasised is that a Governor was invited and a Governor was disinvited on the basis that the said Governor ‘’represents the very antithesis of what we profess to defend’’, said the Open Bar Initiative.
While I align myself with the position taken by MULAN, we must pin-point the lessons from El-Rufai’s story. That in the transience of power, the privileges and paraphernalias attached to it are much more transient. No human with a modicum of humanity will not feel the pains of killings in Southern kaduna and which at a point in time, the Governor, in a meeting with the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna on August, 17, dismissed the pogrom as a ‘’media hype’’, the threat by the El-Rufai of this world on the eve of 2019 General Elections that should foreign observers report what he or his party did, they would ‘’go back in body bags’’ was one of the flippant but far reaching incriminating statements credited to the El-Rufai.
On the whole, by dis-inviting El-Rufai, the NBA has not allowed desecration of the noblest platform and has once again, lived up to its expectations only that in in NBA’s Animal Farm, some animals are more equal than the others hence, the turning of deaf ears to calls of MULAN in general and Justice Concerned Lawyers’ Forum (JCL).
*Fatiullah Tiamiyu Esq writes in his personal capacity through firstname.lastname@example.org