by Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi
I was salivating as Sam Omatseye dished out his disinvitation of Elrufai, in a rich buffet of literary spice and diction that would definitely awe every fan of English prose. For starters, he likened Elrufai to a Napolean, as he criss-crossed from citing historic figures, to quoting novelists like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Isabel Wilkerson, and Victor Hugo of Les Miserables. He waxed biblically with St. Paul, quoting Romans 6: 1-2 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” He latched onto the Tower of Babel narrative in Genesis 11: 1-9, which explains why the world’s people speak in different languages – and that for Elrufai, Southern Kaduna means Fulani territory. At the beginning, he declared that it wasn’t the time to hold grudges against Elrufai, but eventually, his diction and thought, though masterfully crafted and rich in literature, inadvertently betrayed him and vomited his true feelings about Elrufai. He relayed the deeply swirling fury he has had for the public servant, right from his days as FCT minister. A brilliant guy like Elrufai is bound to draw antagonism from different quarters, especially in a rapidly evolving, technologically driven 21st century. EIrufai is rated as the most intelligent governor and his urbanisation projects in Kaduna are simply phenomenal. Anyway, I was almost swept away from the issue at hand, by Sam and his assembly of novelists and biblical quotes – but eventually I recognised that in an attempt to blur my opinion of Elrufai, Sam put Elrufai on higher pedestal by conjuring all that literature, just to vilify the public servant.
Another writer, Wole Olaoye, on Premium Times, said, “The Babbanriga of incompetence will not fit Nasir Elrufai easily, but that of an irascible disposition just might.” He agrees that it’s “about time this albatross hanging on the neck of Kaduna is finally laid to rest.” He says that Elrufai, given his antecedents; has the competence to put the jigsaw of peace together and etch his name in gold, as the governor who banished mass killings from Kaduna. In Hakeem Baba Ahmed’s article titled, ‘NBA’s faux pas’, he said he knew that only a few people at the NBA would rue the saga between Elrufai and the body, as there appears to be mountains of muck from accumulated ethno-partisan-regional divisions in the association. So there goes the story of the NBA saga and do indulge me to tell you more.
What many of us do not know, is how deeply involved the NBA has been with the Southern Kaduna crisis. The National Executive Committee of the NBA, organised an intervention on the Southern Kaduna crisis on the 16th and 17th of January, 2017; and the NBA president at the time, A B Mahmoud OON, SAN, led a delegation to Kaduna state. He was accompanied by the National Vice President and General Secretary of the NBA, along with dozens of senior lawyers from all over the country. They tried to explore avenues for ending the violence in Southern Kaduna and bringing back peace in the area. The report of the committee set up for this noble endeavor recognised the deeply emotive narratives from the polarisation of two main groups. One of a strong christian identity and the other of hausa/fulani identity. This dates back to perhaps pre-colonial times. Article (3) of the conclusion section of their report, noted that there were indeed ‘Entrepreneurs of Violence’, stating that there was a strong dimension of partisan politics in the Southern Kaduna crises. On one hand, there were politicians with the stake of fanning violence in the area, and on the other, the adventure of reprisal or revenge. Fake news and spread of rumors was also one of the major problems in tackling the scourge.
The committee indicted some key members of the Kaduna NBA chapter as being partisan in the conflict. An outreach Committee from outside the state was to be set up, to re-orient the Kaduna members, so that they see themselves as voices of moderation and facilitators of dialogue. Since it was clear to the NBA that the ordinary person from Southern Kaduna was keen on restoring peace, the group would commission a balanced study of the conflict to counter the barrage of one-sided narratives that are poisoning the minds of Nigerians on the issue. The committee recommended improving security infrastructure, more dialogue with stakeholders, and engaging with the youths as mostly, the consultations were held with the elders only.
Lustitia preaches and upholds ‘audi alteram partem’ (listen to the other side), and it is the principle that nobody should be judged without a fair hearing. If Lady Justice were to listen to only one voice, then she need not be blindfolded right? The NBA failed lady justice by their act, and the ‘disinvitation’ celebrated by Sam Omatseye was in bad taste. Better still, the NBA skid off the tracks of morality, if it was a tactical drift to embarrass Elrufai – afterall it said the NEC meeting had debated the matter. Was the NBA blindfolded from seeing the backlash of their action if they had contemplated the idea? Is the NBA living up to the narrative that it is lop-sided and partisan in its processes and activities? Has it now become a political gavel and issues sentences against a certain political group?
For some time now, the NBA has been on a rebellious and perilous path to what it stood for and has been shaking off the noble standards it is supposed to uphold. The NBA chair is facing money laundering charges, and ofcourse innocent until proven guilty, but isn’t he supposed to step aside till after the investigations? Several other chairs of different NBA chapters across the country have been arrested or arraigned over professional impropriety. The newly elected NBA chair was also spotted in a political campaign trip in Edo state and that is certainly another partisan swagger of the NBA as a group, as personified by its members’ activities and engagements.
Chapters across Northern states withdrew from the first virtual conference of the NBA, in protest to Elrufai’s disinvitation. And infact we now have a ‘New Nigerian Bar Association’ as a reflux of their actions. The NBA has driven itself into an existential quandary as it chose to drive a biased narrative – and it is suddenly engaged in a reverse gear, leaving its gearbox in disarray, and its vehicle in huge disrepair. For all intents and purposes, we do not want a divided NBA, nor can we continue to be misguided by an unjust and unfair NBA. Other speakers should have also been disinvited if the principles applied to Elrufai’s case, were used across board. NBA’s moral standards as custodians of the law, should be above that of other professional bodies. We ought to learn from ‘learned colleagues’, and not become witnesses to their ‘unlearning’ – as in the end, they have aroused even more ethnic divisions, and riled up religious and tribal sentiments in favor of Elrufai. They have unwittingly given him a bigger platform and a national podium.