By Eric Elezuo
Two lawyers, on Friday, spearheaded a mutiny that culminated into the breaking away of some lawyers from the northern parts of Nigeria to form what they termed New Nigeria Bar Association. The two lawyers, Nuhu Ibrahim (Convener 1) and Abdulbasit Suleiman (Convener 2), explained that the formation of the ‘New NBA’ was aimed at protecting their interests as enshrined under Section 40 of the constitution.
What looks like the climax of a series of events that preceded the 2020 NBA Conference, may have unconsciously triggered the disintegration of the entity called Nigeria as the breakaway was motivated on religious and ethnic grounds.
The so called ‘New NBA,’ cited the controversy over the withdrawal of the invite to the governor as a major reason they seek to breakaway, saying, “What has been happening recently has exposed the inability of the NBA to manage and contain the heterogeneity of its members, as well as their various interests. Its penal powers have been deployed discriminately on the basis of ethnicity and regionalism.
“As a body of lawyers, who have undergone training towards ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights and liberties, the NBA is supposed to live above sentiments, regionalism and discrimination on any basis and of any kind.
“Therefore, the NBA cannot afford to be seen not to be upholding the rights and freedom of its own members, if at all it should be seen to be practising what it preaches. As the Hausa saying goes, ‘Idan Kura tana maganin zaho, ta yi ma kanta (If a hyena has a cure for diarrhoea, let her use it for herself).’”
It would be recalled that National Executive Committee of the NBA had on August 20, 2020, following a petition signed over 3400 lawyers, withdrawn the invitation extended to Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, as a speaker at the conference. The withdrawal was as a result of El-Rufai’s poor human rights record as well as the incessant killings ongoing in Southern Kaduna, according to sponsors of the petition. The invitation was therefore withdrawn by popular demand.
But this did not go down well with some lawyers from the north, who heeded the call by the Muslim Rights Commission (MURIC) to boycott the conference, and went a step further to pull out of the national body and form a new one.
Expressing his disgust, Constitutional Lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome hinted the dangers inherent in the path the lawyers of northern extraction are taking, saying “…when you begin to create a different Bar, calling it, for example, Northern Bar or new Bar, then people, very soon, are going to start calling for Southern Nigerian Army, Southern Nigerian Navy, Western Nigerian Air Force, Eastern Nigeria Tax Authority etc; where are we heading to? That is nothing but balkanisation of Nigeria and God forbid.”
Chief Ozekhome may have expressed his point in passing, but the fact remains that the northern lawyers in their not well thought out stance, has created a precedence that will surely preempt the breaking away from many other things and institutions that holds the country together.
While the new President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata will have an uphill task unifying the lawyers, it is important to note that a wrong seed has been sown. A seed that may bring about a restructuring of the country, or in the worse case scenario totally disintegrate the country.
A seed will always germinate except of course if it is pulled out on time and crushed.