Those who sermonize about others
In a juddering underestimation of the sensibilities of Nigerian lawyers, the Paul Usoro –led exco of the Nigeria Bar Association, now in its twilight, extended an invitation to beleaguered Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai to address the 60th Annual General Conference of Nigeria`s preeminent professional association. The protests were quick and cutting. A few deceptively tiny drops swiftly distilled a deluge of denunciation for the NBA and El-Rufai.
Soaked to its skin and terrified of the storm threatening to tear its ship apart, the NBA beat a hasty retreat to withdraw the invitation in a bid to soothe the jangled nerves of Nigerian lawyers. As Kaduna state, especially its southern part, has boiled and burnt in kinesis of killings and destruction of property that now threatens the entire country, the outcry against El-rufai has been as great as the biblical outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah. The governor, who surged into the national consciousness as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory –and one of the brightest stars of the Obasanjo administration (1999-2007) – has always cut a cerebral but controversial and divisive figure.
Never one to conceal his opinions, his admirers adore him for the courage he showed in implementing the Abuja Master Plan against mammoth odds. They say that a similar profile in courage is emerging in Kaduna state. One would also remember his effort to rid Kaduna of unqualified teachers during the early days of his administration, one which kindled a tinderbox of controversy across the country.
His detractors however describe him as opinionated, divisive, and highly intolerant of dissent. They point to his many running battles with those who have been critical of his governance of Kaduna state. But what has irked both detractors and neutrals alike is the bloody fate that has befallen the people of southern Kaduna under his administration.
The predominantly Christian area has never muffled its criticism of the governor and his style of governance. In response, El-Rufai went against the traditional political convention of picking a Christian to be his deputy during his ultimately successful re-election bid. In a state known for its harsh religious sensibilities, El rufai`s defiant action was sure to let loose a raft of ripple effects. The problem is that they have been unaccountable.
As rampaging criminals have ramped up their attacks, using the people of southern Kaduna as target practices in the deadly archery of killing, the flaks directed at El-Rufai and the Federal Government, but mostly at El-rufai, have been formidable So far, the governor has maintained a convenient silence about the killings. In response to the withdrawal of the invitation, the governor expressed regret that Nigeria`s foremost professional body would jettison the rules of fairness to endorse a one-sided narrative on issues of profound national importance.
The Nigerian lawyers who are so stridently opposed to the idea of El-Rufai addressing them have held up a laundry list of sundry allegations against the governor. Particularly irksome to them is the governor`s seeming intolerance for dissent. This has been particularly grating given that this intolerance has previously grazed some of the members of the Nigeria Bar Association in Kaduna state. The saga playing out between Nigeria`s most critical professional association and El-Rufai unmistakably indicates that there is an increasing awareness over the responsibility public offices place on public officers in Nigeria. Because so far El-Rufai has preferred the convenience of pregnant silence, he now cannot possibly have anything to tell the elite gathering of Nigerian lawyers.
Now, he must go back home. He must go back home to the good people of Southern Kaduna who feel betrayed and abandoned by his silence. At home, let his choice words and necessary action comfort all those whose lands have become the playgrounds of ruthless killers for silence when pregnant for too long inevitably births the stillborn of chaos. The governor must, first of all, situate his dais among the good people of Southern Kaduna. Being shorn of the moral robes with which to address an audience, which though is imperfect as they come, would have listening rapt some of the most indefatigable defenders of the Nigerian people, he cannot be heard. He must hurry home for his house is on fire. To chase after rats under such inauspicious circumstances would be rampant folly.
Obiezu, wrote from Abuja.
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