The social media has been awash since yesterday’s resolution of the NBA National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting which withdrew the invitation extended to HE Mallam Nasir El-Rufai as a speaker in the NBA-AGC scheduled for 26th to 29th of August, 2020. It is evident from the way the petition was received, debated and resolved that there is more to the whole saga than meet the eyes.
As a preliminary point, it is on record that the present leadership of the NBA has never investigated and/ or interrogated the issues involved in the Southern Kaduna crisis either through its four branches in Kaduna State or by its National Executive Committee.
In 2017, the Past President of the same NBA, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN led a fact finding mission to Southern Kaduna and published it’s report to the world . It would appear that the NBA either lost memory of its past activities, do not keep record or has allowed itself to be manipulated by mischievous and extraneous elements.
The NBA -AGC is usually an opportunity for lawyers to network, reflect, get further education and most importantly discuss critical issues of National and international imperatives . And it is the tradition of the Association to invite people with divergent persuasions and views .
This is the very object of what the Nigerian Bar Association stands for: rule of law, equality, equity and justice. Thus it is not new, as we have seen in previous NBA Annual Conferences that the Association has allowed critical and perceived strong views to be aired using the AGC platform .
Thus when I heard that Governor Nasir El Rufai was invited as a Speaker for the 2020 AGC, I was looking forward to hearing him speak. I already started jotting down some critical questions to ask.
I was shocked when some sponsored lawyers started mounting pressure on the NBA Conference Organizers to withdraw El-Rufai’s invitation. The same so called human rights activists who are advocating for free speech and criticising the Nigerian broadcasting code are now using the NBA leadership which has credibility deficit to muscle free speech.
Who is afraid of Governor El-Rufai’s perception on the topical question of who is a Nigerian ?
It was widely reported that in a resolution at the NBA NEC meeting , that the Association has withdrawn its earlier invitation to His Excellency and resolved that the decision would be communicated to Governor El-Rufai.
It is unfortunate and sad that the NBA has allowed itself to be used for mischievous and political ends. By that singular resolution, the current NBA leadership has not only damaged the credibility of NBA, but it has also done an incalculable harm to the image and brand of NBA.
In a terse statement, the NBA said;
“The National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association at its ongoing meeting resolves that the invitation to the Kaduna State Governor, H.E. Nasir El-Rufai by the 2020 Annual General Conference Planning committee be withdrawn and decision communicated to the Governor.”
I have spoken to my friends who are NEC members and I was informed that it appears that the whole process was stage- managed to allow external, parochial interests to hijack the soul of the NBA.
Governor El-Rufai was among the guest speakers slated to participate in a session entitled ‘Who is a Nigerian?… A Debate on National Identity.’ Others also billed to speak at the session are Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State; Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State and vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party at the 2019 election; Tunde Bakare, a cleric and chairman, African Advisory Council of the Royal Commonwealth Society; Oby Ezekwesili, an activist and former federal minister; and Salamatu Suleiman, the immediate past ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security.
Those billed to speak at the conference include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and Tanko Muhammad, the Chief Justice of Nigeria; Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, among others.
The 60th NBA annual general conference, its first-ever virtual event, is themed ‘Step Forward.’ Thus the fact that it’s virtual and free would have been a golden opportunity for lawyers worldwide to ask critical questions as it relates to the crisis in Southern Kaduna.
I have equally taken out time to list other invited speakers. Can anyone say objectively without fear or favour that all those listed have a clean record on human rights and obedience of Court orders. Some of the invited speakers have equally been accused of similar allegations of human rights breaches but the sponsored agents turned a blind eye to their alleged wrongdoings.Why the double standard?
I condemn in the strongest terms the ill motivated NBA NEC resolution, and urge members with conscience to reconsider their participation in the forth coming 2020 NBA-AGC .
Emeka Uche Edu,Esq.