Nigeria: When Some Lawyers Beat Drums of Disunity


Some young Nigerian Lawyers have been beating drums of disunity, heating up an already overstretched polity. They are unwittingly magnifying the already gaping fault lines afflicting the colonial contraption called Nigeria, a name given to her after “Niger Area” by Miss Flora Louisa Shaw, a young British journalist, in an article she wrote in 1897, in the London Times. She later married Lord Lugard, the Colonial Governor who amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates to found NIGERIA, on 1st January, 1914.

Without mincing words, Mallam El Rufai’s disinvitation to the NBA Conference had nothing to do with his religion or ethnicity, but an angry Bar’s reaction to sustained outcry and outrage by Lawyers and well-meaning Nigerians against his flagrant abuse of democratic ideals, in the administration of Kaduna State. It was in response to widespread protests towards the injustice, in Kaduna State. These Lawyers never raised a finger of protest against these genocidal acts; but are suddenly dripping oceans of lamentation on a mere disinvitation.

One lame argument put forward by the ‘El-Rufai army’, is that disinviting him offended the principles of fair hearing. This is simply being clever by half. El Rufai was not standing trial before any constitutionally recognised court of record (Section 6(5) of the 1999 Constitution), such as to activate Section 36 thereof. The principles of fair hearing, though cardinal, only arise in judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings. The NBA Annual General Conference (AGC) is not a court of record, or a platform for the resolution of legal issues. The NEC was neither debating El Rufai’s culpability or otherwise; but simply believed that, if not quenched early enough, the ruckus over his invitation would distract from the NBA AGC. Section 40 of the Constitution they are brandishing concerning freedom of Association and Assembly, also gave NBA NEC similar freedom not to associate or assemble with El Rufai.

The NBA, as part of its aims, must uphold the rule of law. The power of invitation came with that of disinvitation; as he who can hire, can also fire. The NEC is the highest decision-making organ of the NBA, second only to the NBA AGC. The NEC decision was neither a judgement on El Rufai, nor an assessment of his governance of Kaduna State.
The entire ventilation against El Rufai’s innocuous disinvitation, is tantamount to flogging a dead horse.

Nepotistic and Lopsided Appointments in Nigeria
Now, let us look at the following horrific graph of the composition of the present government (a mere tip of the iceberg). The common denominator is that they are ALL Northerners and MOSTLY Muslims (with the exception of very negligible Northern Christians). Yet, Nigeria has not broken up. No clamour for “New Nigeria”.

The Legislature
The Senate President, Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, who ranks 3rd in the Order of Precedence after the President and Vice President, and the House of Representatives Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, are both Northerners and Muslims. No break up.

The Judiciary
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice (Dr) Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, is a Northerner and a Muslim. By order of precedence, he ranks number 5 in Nigeria. The President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, is a Christian Northerner, as is the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon. Justice John Tsoho. The Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello, is a Muslim Northerner, while the President of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, is a Christian Northerner. Nigeria did not break up.

The Executive
The Executive arm of government is headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim Northerner who ranks 1st in the Order of Precedence. The A-list Ministers (aside Ministers of State) appointed by President Muhammadu woefully failed the Federal Character test, as they control pivotal Ministries in our beleaguered country. Read: Minister of Petroleum Resources (President Buhari himself); Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Salami, SAN; Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi; Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Musa Bello; Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono; Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu; Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Minister of Power, Sale Mamman; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Minister of Communication, Ali Isa Pantami; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Faruk; Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume; Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; Minister of Environment, Muhammad Mahmood; Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi; etc. Nigeria did not break!

The Security Architecture and MDAs
See the security architecture and key national institutions, that drive the country. They are ALL Northerners and MOSTLY Muslims (with the exception of very negligible few Northern Christians): Chief of Army Staff; Chief of Air Force; Accountant-General of the Federation; Inspector-General of Police; Directors-General (DG) of the DSS; DG, NIA; DG, DIA; the Acting Chairman of the EFCC (replacing another Northern Muslim, Mr Ibrahim Magu). Indeed, no Southerner, let alone a Christian, has ever headed the EFCC since its inception by the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.

Let us see more: the National Security Adviser (NSA); Commandant-General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); Controller-General, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS); Controller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS); Controller-General, Nigeria Correctional Service; Controller-General, Fire Services of Nigeria; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Chief of Staff to the President; Personal Physician to the President; Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); GMD, NNPC; DG, NYSC; DG, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); Executive Secretary, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA); Managing Director, Federal Mortgage Bank (FMB); DG, National Directorate of Employment (NDE); Acting DG, National Pension Commission (PENCOM); Secretary, Federal Character Commission; DG, Federal Capital Development Authority; DG, Nigeria Automotive Design and Development Council; DG, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism; DG, National Commission for Museums and Monuments; Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT), Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF); Executive Director (Loans Department, Securities Issuance and Market Development) Federal Mortgage Bank, Hajiya Rahimatu Aliyu; Executive Director (Policy and Strategy Loans Set-Up and Pay Off), Federal Mortgage Bank; Secretary, Nigerian Diaspora Commission; Member Non-Legal Practitioners, Federal Judiciary Service Commission; DG, Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA); Executive Chairman, Communities Development Agency (BDCA); DG and Chief Executive Officer Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC); Managing Director, PPMC; Executive Chairman, Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON); Executive Secretary, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); DG, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC); Executive Chairman, FIRS; Registrar-General, Corporate Affairs Commission; Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. Untrammelled nepotism and sectionalism. Yet, Nigeria did not break.

Federal Character in the Constitution
The last time I checked, we are supposed to be operating a Presidential system of government within a Federal (not unitary) set-up. Section 14(1) of the Constitution provides that the “Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice”. Section 14(3) emphasises that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.” See also Section 15(1) and 15(2).

Is this how to run a country?
The above nepotistic and cronystic line of appointments, is endless. It is visible in EVERY institution. The lingua franca everywhere, is virtually Hausa. Is that how to build a united, indivisible and indissoluble country? These appointments unfortunately make us look like the “Northern Republic of Nigeria”; or “Federal Republic of the North”; or “Republic of Northern Nigeria”; or “Nigerian Republic of the North”; or “Federal Republic of Northern Nigeria”. Yet, the over 370 other Nigerian ethnic groups (according to Prof Onigu Otite, “Ethnic Pluralism and Ethnicity in Nigeria”, 1990) have not requested for breakup, balkanisation, or secession. They lap it all up!!! Are they slaves?
By the way, the same El Rufai, not minding the religious sensibilities of Christians in Kaduna State, ran on a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 2019 Kaduna governorship election with Dr. Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe. The Kaduna Christians did not threaten to break away, or form a “Christian Kaduna State” in the mould of the “aggrieved” Lawyers who want to form a “New NBA”, along “Northern-Muslims” line.

The Lawyers’ threats lack factual basis
In saner climes, threats such as the Lawyers’ would have been dismissed with a wave of the hand, for being obviously ludicrous and unwarranted. But, this is Nigeria, where anything and everything goes; a country where people place ethnic and religious considerations above reason, logic and facts.
I also attended the said NEC meeting. The motion for El Rufai’s disinvitation was raised by Northerners, and mostly propelled by them. Infact, it was Southerners, including respected Pastor, Dr Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN (Chairman, the AGC Technical Committee (TCCP), who had invited El Rufai, and former NBA President, Paul Usoro, SAN, that fiercely argued for El Rufai’s retention. But, they were greatly outnumbered, and were forced to bow to the wishes of the majority. This prevalence of majority opinion, was democracy in action. No iota of religious or ethnic tone howsoever and whatsoever. In any event, over 50 other high profile guest Speakers invited to the NBA conference, including President Buhari, are all Northerners and Muslims. Why no fuss?
By the way, El-Rufai was never invited to the said conference as a Muslim or Northerner, but as Governor of Kaduna State. And, it was in that capacity, as regards his poor style of governance, that he was disinvited by the NBA NEC. NEC merely did this based on concrete evidence of El Rufai’s overwhelming rejection, by an angry Bar. The path of whipping up ethnic and religious sentiments in response to Mallam El Rufai’s disinvitation is therefore, highly divisive, disingenuous and completely diversionary.

Why the threat portends danger
Those few Lawyers (majority will NEVER go with them) that threatened to “form” a “New Nigerian Bar Association”, even merely did “cutting and pasting”. Why not a brand new name? There is such a law known as “passing off”. The African Bar Association (ABA) exists, just as the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU). Some have argued that the “Association of National Accountants of Nigeria” (ANAN), was founded in 1979, inspite of the existence of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), founded since 1965. True enough. But, ANAN’s split with ICAN was simply professional and ideological; not religious or ethnical. That is why both ICAN and ANAN are populated by all Nigerian Accountants, without reference to their religion or ethnicity.

To balkanise the NBA along ethnic and religious lines, will further endanger an already fumbling, wobbling, stumbling and near crumbling country. Other geo-political zones, ethnic Nationalities and professional bodies may follow suit, and begin to demand for South South Nigeria Medical Association; South West Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (SW-COREN); South East Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (SE-ARCON); Middle Belt Nigerian Medical Association (MB-NMA); Southern Nigeria Navy; Northern Nigeria Air Force; Northern Nigeria Police; Southern Nigerian Civil Service; Northern Nigeria Judiciary; Southern Nigeria Inland Water Ways; Northern Nigeria Civil Service; Southern Nigeria Railway Authority; South South Nigeria Ports Authority; North East Nigerian National Assembly; North West Nigeria Power Authority; North Central NYSC; South West Nigeria University Commission; South South Nigeria Ports Authority; Middle Belt Central Bank; Northern Nigeria Labour Union; Southern Nigeria Currency; Northern Nigeria Foreign Affairs; etc, etc. By then, where will Nigeria be? My humble caution and warning sirs/mas.

“The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).