By Emmanuel Ado
That Alade Rotimi-John, in his unpersuasive 14th September 2020 article “NBA, El-Rufai and burgeoning inanity” published in The Guardian newspaper, finds the instantaneous solidarity with Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, by extremely angry Nigerians deeply hurt by the politically motivated disinvite of El-Rufai by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) during its last conference exasperating, is confounding, and calls into question the legal credentials of a supposed minister of justice, clearly lacking in regard for his sacred duty to the dispensation of justice, unfortunately the reason for his deep contempt for the very foundation of law- the constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing, on which the twin pillars of natural justice – “listen to the other side” and “no one is judge in his own case”, both of which are enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to avoid anarchy and to convey the seriousness of the right to fair hearing,are founded.
It’s certainly a tragedy of monumental proportions that Rotimi-John, a senior member of the bar, came to very rather unfortunate conclusions and worrying trivialization of such a weighty matter. For Rotimi-John to describe the vexatious action of the NBA as “withdrawal of a mere invitation”, which El-Rufai and his legion of supporters should have unquestioningly accepted and gladly moved on, is a scandal, that partly explains his deductions that “El- Rufai and his coterie of friends and untiring orchestra of cheerleaders” over reacted essentially to nothing. It’s a profound shame that Rotimi-John decided for whatever motivations to close his eyes to the truth, and so rather than blame the NBA over its failure to hear from El-Rufai, before it took thereckless decision it took, based on a frivolous petition that had scant regards for facts, obviously sponsored by forces that were “well mobilized”, that believes El-Rufai is an obstacle to the fading presidential ambition of their benefactor, chose to blame an innocent man, a victim of a conspiracy, that spectacularly failed to embarrass El-Rufai, but has rather weakened the bar, in spite of the pretense of the likes of Rotimi-John.
Rotimi-John evidently lacks the knowledge of the issues at stake in the Southern Kaduna crisis, nor the role of agent provocateurs who latched on the disinvite to further execute their devilish agenda of demonizing El-Rufai, the real tragedy is his refusal to understand the issues, before pontificating with magisterial authority on it. The education of Rotimi-John , is compelling urgent, and critically important and the obvious starting point is for him to admit that the NBA shot itself in the foot, by its several unforced errors and thus responsible for the predicament it has found itself, which no matter attempts at papering, the fragmentation can’t be disputed, which if the leadership doesn’t climb down from its high horse, and reach out to aggrieved members of the bar, the general public, the bar will lead to break up of the bar like it happened in the early 1990s, because the issuesare fundamentally about the assault on the very foundation of law, that presumes everyone innocent, that rigidly demands the right to fair hearing, contrary to the thinking that it’s about El-Rufai.
If only Rotimi-John, had paid attention to the implication of the NBA decision, i.e. the perception that the NBA had unfortunately taken sides with with the Christians of the Southern Kaduna in a crisis in which all sides are victims, by acting on a petition that only acknowledged the killings of Christians, but closed its eyes to the killings of Muslim – Hausa/Fulanis communities of Southern Kaduna, in spite of the overwhelming evidence, including the recent confession by the various communities of Atyap Chiefdom during their peace summit that they have all killed each other, a confession that has gone a long way in restoring peace to the Chiefdom, he wouldn’t have been at sea as to why the reckless decision attracted such widespread condemnation. He will also understand that more painful, is the utter disregard for the lives of the people of Birnin Gwari, Giwa and Igabilocal government areas, whose situation is more terrible than that of the people of Southern Kaduna- both Christians and Muslims, largely because they are Hausa-Fulanis and Muslims, by an association, whose hallmark is justice and equity. The unambiguous message, being that all lives should matter, and not some.
But the likes of Alade Rotimi – John in blissful ignorance, but more of out of mischief continue to hold El-Rufai responsible for the killings, in spite of his best efforts to resolve the age long crisis. Under El-Rufai a military base, a mobile police force squad were established,what previous governments couldn’t do in the last 40 years. But like the governor has consistently argued, the military -booths on the ground- cannot guarantee peace and that the only guarantee of peace, is the willingness of the people to live together, to accept that everyone is a citizen of kaduna State, precisely what the people of Atyap Chiefdom have signed off to.
It’s heartening that the various communities of the Atyap Chiefdom, without any push voted for peaceful coexistence, following realization that their common security lies more in their own hands and in so doing eloquently vindicated El-Rufai. Rotimi-John should endeavour to read the 14 point communique that addressed the fundamental issues at stake in the crisis, i.e. the right of every Nigerian to settle anywhere, the rejection of killings and counter killings to settle disputes and the resolve to enforce law and order, a development that merchants of war have continued to ignore, because it denies them weapon to harass El-Rufai, their nemesis.
Again the consternation of Rotimi-John, is understandable considering his alarming ignorance about the 2017 NBA fact finding mission to Southern Kaduna, where to the surprise of the NBA it found that the issue had been exaggerated for political ends. It definitely beats imagination, how a body which between the 16th and 17thJanuary 2017 embarked on a fact-finding mission to the troubled region, led by its then President Abubakar Mahmoud couldn’t take into consideration its own report in reaching such a far decision, relying rather on a petition by aggrieved persons known to have legal issues with El-Rufai. The members of the public, the bar are justifiable in their disgust and anger, which for obvious mischief Alade Rotimi- John pretends not to comprehend,would rather go fishing about El-Rufai being a political associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, as if being one is a high crime.
Without doubt, had the immediate past president of the NBA paid the required attention to the NBA Fact Finding Report, the NEC would have been well guided against descending into the arena, which is what the ill-advised and rash resolution of August 20, 2020, was and the reason why the disinvite has been consequential, as evidenced by the rebuke of Nigerians. It obviously goes without saying, that the former NBA president utterly failed himself, the bar that entrusted him with leadership and Nigerians who expected so much from the bar, an epitome of justice.
To justify his untenable justification he continued on his wild voyage, racking up long settled issues about the Goodluck Jonathan years to wipe up cheap sentiments against El-Rufai , and in the process making fallacious statements, that “El-Rufai has thrown himself too heavily into the self-serving advocacy of the “proper” persons to rule Nigeria”. For the benefit of Rotimi-John, El-Rufai’s position that the next president in 2023 should come from the South is unequivocal, just as his decision on the candidate he would most likely not back, which is within his right.
Rotimi-John, is clearly a bad workman that quarrels with his tools, an unrepentant pessimist, who clearly lacked faith in the capacity of the conference to make any impact, and someone who can’t be persuaded by superior facts, the reason why the former president didn’t escape lashing for daring to apologize to El-Rufai, when he realized that he goofed big time.
The fact must be stated that El-Rufai didn’t lobby the NBA to be invited, so for Rotimi-John to say that he was “misguidedly invited”, when in fact the conference organizers aware of his solid reputation, continuously harassed him until out of respect for some senior members of the bar he succumbed to the pressure, the clincher being the topic “Who is a Nigerian ? A Debate on National Identity”, an issue dear to him. So contrary to the position of Rotimi-John the conference was not an escape for him, rather an opportunity to engage on the way forward for Nigeria,which 60 years after independence, some Nigerians are still derogatorily referred to as settlers.
Nigerians, definitely lost not hearing El-Rufai, a nationalist with commissioners from Bauchi, Ogun states, special advisers from Delta, Kwara, Anambra states and a director-general from Adamawa state, due to unsubstantiated allegations that an irresponsible NBA gave hearing to and in process muffled free speech,and denied an accused the right to fair hearing, what is tantamount to a legal sacrilege.
Ado writes from Kaduna