An Abuja-based Constitutional Lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, has urged members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to allow Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State to speak at its upcoming conference.
Mr Ajulo, a former National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), made the appeal in a statement he made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos.
NAN reports that the 60th Annual NBA Conference is billed for Aug. 26 in Abuja.
Several Nigerian lawyers had protested the inclusion of Mr El-Rufai among the guest speakers at the conference.
” I am of the view that it is pertinent to accord the governor the right of hearing at the conference where an opportunity will be presented to all to prod, question and appraise at close range, the genuineness or otherwise of the man’s democratic credentials, especially as ours is a learned and sophisticated body of people who are expected to be custodians of the law.
“The perceived ‘exodus’ and self-deregistration on the part of some members of the NBA from the upcoming conference, in what appears to be presumptive indignation over the inclusion of El-Rufai as one of the keynote speakers at the annual bar conference, is a matter that stridently calls for concern and intervention.
“In deference to individual idiosyncrasies and perspectives, I am not in the position to cast a stone on the rightfulness or otherwise of Gov. El-Rufai’s attendance at the conference.
“However, having consulted with the leaders of this great institution, I am constrained to dispassionately analyse the issues at hand and weigh it on this burning issue as a concerned member of the bar.
“I must confess to a subjective opposition to the inclusion of some personalities designated as speakers at the conference but I cannot say I was tempted to deregister myself from participating in the conference thereby,” Ajulo said.
He noted that even famed activists and assumed sworn democrats tended to be somewhat changed when they assumed executive offices.
‘One must wonder if there is anything peculiar about those positions that caused such a major shift in a person’s earlier perceived character and disposition.
“One single situation may raise irreconcilable opposing views in different people is an age-old Yoruba wisdom to counsel, caution and to encourage dialogue between contending parties.
“Hear each other out, they say! That is the voice of the ages, the infallible voice of the elders from time immemorial.
“While the issue at hand is not res integra, it will not be out of place to recall a similar scenario which played out not too long ago at the annual conference when the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, was announced as one of the speakers at the conference.
” His attendance generated a lot of synchronised obloquy due to his alleged involvement in the suspension and undue trial of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
” Although he later could not attend the conference as scheduled, I am certain many more colleagues had actually looked forward to his presence as I had scribbled down several questions to satisfy my inquisitiveness concerning the intrigues that attended the suspension of the former CJN.
He appealed to all to give El-Rufai a chance to defend himself and his policies.
Mr Ajulo said that any speaker being revolted against might have something to say which might be worth hearing.
“On Gov Nasir el-Rufai and others like himself, permit me to say, there is no doubt that the distance of power between the ruler and the ruled regularly undermines and re-shapes reality as represented to the ruler.
” We cannot but bring that Yoruba wisdom to mind. Let’s hear him out.
“It is therefore imperative in the circumstance that assuming but without stating that Gov. El-Rufai is guilty of the varying allegations levelled against him, it will be in the overall interest of the people to give him an opportunity to be heard.,” he said.
Mr Ajulo argued that such an opportunity would help to understand the perceptive of the governor and the circumstances in which he found himself.
“If we think there was a sharp departure from our expectations of his earlier presumed democratic tendencies, we need to hear him out rather than give him up to the stakes.
“We cannot forget that we are priests in the temple of justice in which “audi alteram partem” is one of its strongest pillars. To pull that pillar down for one, is to pull it down for all. Again, I say, let’s hear him out,” he said.
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He congratulated the present executives of the NBA, organisers of the conference, and wished the association, fruitful deliberations.
“I will love to conclude my perspective on this issue with the words of the legendry Late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa JSC (as he then was) that: ”When we act in unison, we will achieve the peace that we search, but when we are fighting separately, it is not coordinate and if we don’t accommodate one another, we cannot live together,” he added.
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