The inclusion of Kaduna Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, as one of the key speakers in the forthcoming virtual conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has split lawyers.
While some demanded his exclusion from the list of speakers and even deregistered from the conference, some believed the hullabaloo was unnecessary and uncalled for.
NBA had on May 12 stated that it would hold its 60th Annual General Conference (AGC) virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would run from August 26-29.
According to Paul Usoro (SAN) who was then president of the association, the decision became necessary following a meeting with the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) led by Professor Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN).
Listed speakers for the event include the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike; Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Tanko Mohammed.
Other key speakers include former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Governor El-Rufai; former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami; President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), Brian Speers, and Director of Training at the Judicial Institute for Africa; Dame Linda, Dobbs.
Among the lawyers in the forefront demanding El-Rufai’s exclusion from the list of speakers are former chairman, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, ex chairman, NBA, Ikeja branch and leader of the Radical Agenda Movement in the Nigerian Bar Association (RAMINBA), Mr Adesina Ogunlana, Open Bar Initiative (OBl) led by Mr. Silas Joseph Onu, Mojirayo Ogunlana-N kanga, M. M Obono, among others.
In a series of tweets, yesterday, Dr. Odinkalu listed many alleged sins of El-Rufai and mobilised other lawyers to call for his exclusion.
According to Odinkalu, sins of El-Rufai include his position and utterance on crisis in Southern Kaduna, human rights violations and others.
Besides knocking NBA for organising the conference despite the current situation of things across the world, Ogunlana, queried the invitation of El-Rufai, noting that with antecendent of the governor on human rights violations and current situation in his state, he did not deserve to be among the speakers.
OBl in a statement by it leader, Mr. Onu, urged NBA to discard its idea of making El-Rufai one of the speakers.
However, among the lawyers who discribed the calls and action to stop El-Rufai from participating in the conference as unnecessary were Edo-born activist, Dele Igbinedion, Kabiru Akingbolu and Maduka Onwukeme.
Igbinedion said: “The call for El-Rufai to be removed from the speakers’ list is, with due respects, incompetent and completely shallow. The NBA is not a captive choir to which only favourite preachers are invited to titilate their ears with well worn speeches. Nay, the Bar is an aggregate of opinions on diverse issue. Some people may not like El-Rufai or his expressed opinions on some issues. But we cannot dislike El-Rufai just because someone or some people do not like him. Everyone should remember that it is in our tradition as lawyers to always hear the opposite side of an argument.
Akingbolu said those calling for the exclusion of El-Rufai were the ones who failed in doing what they ought to do in fighting for the right of the masses.
Onwukeme also described the call for exclusion as unnecessary and uncalled for.