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NBA, El-Rufai and burgeoning inanity

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It is strange that Governor Nasir El-Rufai, his coterie of friends and the untiring orchestra of cheerleaders will be exasperated by a mere withdrawal of an invitation to speak at a talk-shop. As Governor of troubled Kaduna State, as APC’s foremost gadfly and as President Muhammadu Buhari’s alter ego, El-Rufai’s plate is full. He has innumerable opportunities or platforms for airing his views on any matter particularly matters a propos our recurrent existential anxieties and troubles. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had misguidedly invited Governor El-Rufai to be one of the key speakers at its just-concluded 2020 Annual General Conference. Some lawyers however insightfully identified him as not fit or proper to address such an elegant gathering. They expressed their dis-avowal of his nomination to address the august audience. The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the body re-thought its resolution and endorsed the canvassed position namely, that El-Rufai had “on several occasions abused the rights of Nigerians” and had been “disdainful of courts and their orders”. NEC communicated its decision to El-Rufai who sulkily returned to his desk to face the crisis in his State from which he had hoped to get a breather at the conference sessions.

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These times call for the patriotic sourcing of conscientious guardians or sincere advocates of the people’s welfare, security and the general good governance of the polity than we have found. We all are entitled to protest our indignation regarding the smug, arrogant and slovenly manner in which issues of our existence and of the continuance of this federation have been treated by many of those inauthority. El-Rufai has overtime become controversial to the extreme; many people are aghast or horrified as he makes comments or offers opinion on matters touching our collective concerns for peace, unity and continuance. In 2012, El-Rufai impudently warned of the eternal consequences of “wronging” the Fulani. Said he to a bewildered nation, “…We will write this for all to read. Any one, soldier or not, that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day, no matter how long it takes”.

In 2014, El-Rufai took President Jonathan to the cleaners over the killings and abductions of the time. Today, President Buhari is in a far worse situation than Jonathan even as whole-scale insuperable banditry, kidnappings, armed robbery and un-abating insurgency have enveloped the entire landscape. But now, El-Rufai is in search of excuses and scapegoats for the killings even in his Kaduna State. He is un-justifiably mute about the orgy of mindless kidnappings and banditry in Zamfara, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Kogi, etc. He has not been heard to say to Buhari a hundredth of what he said to Jonathan. On the 26th of May, 2014 El-Rufai berated Jonathan and his team in a tweet in which he sharply censured Jonathan. Quipped he, “…no one else other than Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is the president of Nigeria… Our collective security is his primary responsibility”. El-Rufai self-gratifyingly demanded that Jonathan recuse himself quickly “so more capable hands can do the job in his stead”.

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It is however a moot point whether Buhari or indeed members of his team as governors, ministers and aides are the “more capable hands” foreshadowed in El-Rufai’s condemnation of Jonathan. El-Rufai’s denigration of Jonathan’s handling of the security crisis of that time was in effect an all-round denunciation of that regime regarding its public services. El-Rufai has thrown himself too heavily into the self-serving advocacy of the “proper” persons to rule Nigeria. For some time now, many people have been uneasy about him. Smallish, pocket-size but with vituperations the size of a bull, El-Rufai is a stormy petrel.

He is erratic too. Dour-faced and un-restrained in speech, El-Rufai has a general reputation for verbosity or cheap talk where terse or brief expression will do. He can be offensively abusive, to wit. A situation in which someone who is only tangentially related to a deceased person is weeping more than the bereaved siblings of the dead is evinced in the embarrassing reaction of Professor Ishaq Akintola and his Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) regarding the saga of the NBA members’ rejection of El-Rufai’s presence at their conference. A body ostensibly set up to protect the rights and values of Muslims has vaingloriously dabbled into a matter that is not only beyond its ken but that is outside of its avowed jurisdiction or purview. Akintola’s self-appointed mandate for the defence of the rights of Muslims of Nigeria has been compromised on the altar of desultoriness or of a needless meddlesomeness. MURIC had in a futile move directed all lawyers from the North to shun the conference.

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An injury to El-Rufai, MURIC had illogically concluded, is an injury to all lawyers from the North even as El-Rufai is not a member of the noble profession. Unfortunately, MURIC’s drivel or nonsense talk found favour with some branches of the NBA in Jigawa, Bauchi, Kaduna and Yobe. They said they had resolved not to attend the conference but thankfully without linking their position to MURIC’s errant interference. MURIC has laughably referred to the withdrawal of the NBA invitation to El-Rufai as a declaration of war. Shall we say Akintola was seeking relevance or simply wanted “to belong” using the platform of his NGO and a solicitous promotion of a non-issue to project himself? Concerning his relevance in this matter, little is known about him except that his primary constituency of Ile-Ife in Osun State is hundreds of kilometres away from the North which lawyers he sought to arouse to grumble or murmur. The meaning of extra-territoriality has no entry in Prof. Akintola’s thesaurus.

More unforgivable however, is the un-solicited explanation of Mr. Paul Usoro, the outgoing president of the Bar Association, on the withdrawal of the invitation letter to el-Rufai. Perhaps he was trying to please some powerful elements whothe withdrawal letter may have ruffled or agitated. “Those who spoke in favour of his attendance including me, were in the minority. I was personally placed in a very difficult and problematic position…” was the un-diplomatic balm of Usoro for assuaging the taut nerves of his opposers. Further, we may wonder when it has become fashionable to disclose or divulge how corporate decisions were arrived at in the inner recesses of chambers.

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When a division is called for deciding a crucial matter, the important or necessary information thereafter is the result of the division. Once the matter is carried, it is ill in the mouth of the presiding officer to inform a startled public how the votes were cast. That Usoro could openly disclose that he was not part of a popular decision at which he presided is gauche or tactless. One of the ethics of a democratic setting is that all are bound by popular decisions even if one was opposed to their advocacy originally. All are enjoined to work for the effective execution of decisions representing the will or preferences of the general public irrespective of their initial position on the matter. Usoro did not play the corporate game properly or professionally. What interests was he serving by repudiating the strategic action of the body he chaired? He should express an unreserved apology to the entire body of NBA for subsuming the interests of the body to the whims and caprices of some un-known or yet-to-be identified patrons. Even though the NBA is essentially a professional body, its leadership is more often composed of persons who may be fittingly described as “NBA politicians”.

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These ones bear the imprint or share of the foibles of professional politicians many of who are adept in the art and practice of double-talk, lie-telling, vengefulness, vindictiveness, or of indulgence in cheap or un-tenable compromises, etc. The emergence of a new leadership of the NBA in the mould of a generational and ranking paradigm shift is evidence of a long-standing yearning to break away from the bugbear of an un-amusing paradox of a watchdog that has turned coat and is now complicit concerning its charge or respecting matters for which it has an inflexible mandate to interrogate or inveigh.

The Association must not allow itself to be embroiled in unnecessary controversies that will make it irritating to its public or divert it from its avowed course. A frontline professional group, the NBA must not wittingly or otherwise kow-towto the ploys of its detractors whosedevices or stratagems run contrary to decency, good conscience and good government. The future of progressive professional groups stands impaired in the event of the failure or of coming to grief of Nigeria’s flagship professional body- the Nigerian Bar Association. It must be noted that the powers of the NBA are only restrained by the improper exercise of the consciences of its members, the flagrant abuse of the checks and balances of its different Sections and a self-complacent indifference to the stipulation, recognised in theory or if capable in practiceof being deferred, for periodic elections.
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, wrote from Lagos.

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Nasir El-RufaiNBA
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