AS opposition grows against the inclusion of Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, as a speaker on the panel of the 2020 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) annual conference, some Nigerians have mounted a campaign in defence of the governor, insisting on his appearance at the conference.
The conference themed “Step Forward” is scheduled to hold between August 26 and 29 virtually with El-Rufai listed among nine others including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as speakers.
But some members of the association on Tuesday took to Twitter to vent their reservations about the invitation of the governor to the conference citing his poor handling of the killings in Southern Kaduna.
The lawyers threatened to withdraw their participation from the conference if organisers failed to remove El-Rufai from the panel of speakers.
On Wednesday, the Open Bar Initiative, a pressure group petitioned the NBA against El-Rufai’s invitation to the conference.
The group in a petition signed by Joseph Onu, its convener, and obtained by The ICIR stated that it was important for the NBA under the leadership of the president-elect, Olumide Akpata to remove El-Rufai from people scheduled to speak at the conference, citing the spate of insecurity in Kaduna State among other reasons.
Onu said that the Open Bar Initiative was appealing to the professional conscience of the NBA leaders and that of the organisers of the conference to withdraw the invitation extended to El-Rufai to save the association’s name.
While the organisers were yet to make any official statement on this demand, some other Nigerians on Wednesday mobilised on the internet to gather signatures against the appearance of the governor at the conference.
At the time of reporting on Wednesday, the petition, domiciled on Change.org had attracted over 400 signatures from Nigerians who did not want him at the conference.
However, another group of Nigerians has raised a counter petition, this time around, drumming support for the participation of the embattled Kaduna State governor.
The petition lodged on Change.org and tagged: “To ensure Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai serve as one of the guest speakers at the AGC of NBA” has already garnered over 180 signatures at the time of filing this report.
In the petition created by one Abdulbasit Suleiman, it is stated that the governor has tried to curb the killings in Southern Kaduna and is described as a brilliant statesman, who is ‘vilified’ by the ‘elite whose feeding bottle the governor threw away.’
“In the history of Kaduna, we’ve never had a governor that’s responsive to the plight of Southern Kaduna and committed to ending the age-long crisis in the area than governor Elrufai, who conversely is also the most villified governor especially from the elite whose feeding bottle the governor threw away,” the petition read.
“What come to my mind is the crisis that erupted in southern Kaduna in 2018 when the governor was already airborne. He had to U-turn to Kaduna and spent 48 hours thereafter without sleep, going round the state for assessments and enforcement of curfew and intermittently having security meetings.
“But as usual some people are committed to hating him for what he does because it never favors them.”
Some of those who have signed the petition confirmed their support for El-Rufai, with some submitting that the governor is largely misunderstood.
“I believe it is a good cause. Most of the people castigating him(El-Rufai) are doing so based on uninformed sentiment and hearsay. Nobody can point to a reliable source indicting him of any wrongdoing,” Jamil EsGee said.
Another signatory, Shafiu MUDI saud: “Because he is an intellectual and has an enviable pedigree. He is worthy of invitation.”
Other speakers expected at the conference are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of House of Representatives, Olusegun Obasanjo, former President and Tanko Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria,
Ike Ekweremadu, former Deputy Senate President, Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Brian Speers, President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Linda Dobbs, Director of Training at the Judicial Institute for Africa are also expected to speak at the conference.