Stella Dimoko NBA And The Dis-Invitation Of Governor. Nasir El-Rufai - Must Read


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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

NBA And The Dis-Invitation Of Governor. Nasir El-Rufai - Must Read

I admire Nasir el-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State for his intellectual abilities and what he has been able to achieve within the public space, but I am not his fan.

He has had a brilliant public career, and he is one of our brightest, but his public persona is that he is completely undiplomatic. There is nobody he cannot abuse. There is no harsh phrase that he cannot utter. His critics insist that he respects nobody, fears nobody, and yet everyone wonders what feeds his ego. 

I have had two rather disturbing encounters with him. The first I would overlook because at the time, I thought he spoke out of plain honesty. But there was a second encounter that I have never been able to get out of my mind. Sometime in 2013, I had taken permission from President Goodluck Jonathan to stay back in London for a few days to sort out some personal matters.

 The request was granted. The Presidential delegation returned to Abuja without me. A few days later on my way back home, aboard British Airways, guess who I ran into as I tried to settle down: Nasir el-Rufai. I was so excited to see him. He had just then published his impressive memoir: The Accidental Public Servant (Safari Books, 2013, 627pp.) I rushed to meet him and enthusiastically told him that I had read his book and that I was impressed. I congratulated him. He was busy putting his hand luggage in the overhead compartment. As soon as he was done with that, he turned towards me and bellowed:

“Abati, you are calling us yesterday’s men eh? Very soon, you too will be a yesterday man. When we become today’s people, we will show you what it means to be a yesterday man!”.

He didn’t respond to my compliments about his book. The scowl on his face was enough to frighten a lion. I was so confounded, I simply walked back to my seat. I kept to my lane throughout the trip. I was Nigeria’s Presidential spokesman at the time. Indeed, I had written a piece titled “The Hypocrisy of Yesterday’s Men” (February 3, 2013). I wrote in defence of my boss: “A loosely bound group of yesterday’s men and women seems to be on the offensive against the Jonathan administration. They pick issues with virtually every effort of the administration, pretending to do so in the public interest; positing that they alone, know it all. Arrogantly, they claim to be better and smarter than everyone else in the current government. 

They are ever so censorious, contrarian and supercilious. They have no original claim to their pretensions other than that they were privileged to have been in the corridors of power once upon a time in their lives. They obviously got so engrossed with their own sense of importance they began to imagine themselves indispensable to Nigeria. It is dangerous to have such a navel-gazing, narcissistic group inflict themselves with so much ferocity on an otherwise impressionable public. We are in reality dealing with a bunch of hypocrites.”

I went further: “With exceptions so few, they really don’t care about Nigeria as a sovereign but the political spoils that accrue from it. And so they will stop at nothing to discredit those they think are not as deserving as they imagine themselves to be. President Jonathan has unfairly become the target of their pitiable frustrations. They mask self-interest motives as public causes and manipulate the public’s desire for improvements in their daily struggles as opportunity for power grab…” I didn’t mention anyone directly. But I recall Femi Fani-Kayode, my friend, brother and associate, long before the Jonathan years, was the only other person who attacked me around the period. I had made another comment and Fani-Kayode promptly retorted that Reuben Abati could only have said whatever he said because he was the product of a same-sex marriage.

The same Femi Fani-Kayode would later realize his own hypocrisy. He eventually abandoned the company of hypocrites and aligned with the Jonathan government. He in fact led Presidential Jonathan’s second-term campaign as strategist and campaign spokesperson. Nasir el-Rufai was one of those who never took the Road to Damascus. 

In my 2013 essay, I did not mention his name. I gave examples including that of some Quantity Surveyors who needed to return to their professions and desist from turning Nigeria, after a spell in public office, into a meal ticket. Nasir el-Rufai is a Quantity Surveyor. He obviously assumed that the innuendo was directed at him. He took it personal. But on the spur of the moment, I couldn’t think up a justification for his attitude towards me. His arrogance. His malicious conduct. I have a big ego myself. But Nasir el-Rufai’s ego is taller than the tallest building in the world.

 He has had a brilliant public career, and he is one of our brightest, but his public persona is that he is completely undiplomatic. There is nobody he cannot abuse. There is no harsh phrase that he cannot utter. His critics insist that he respects nobody, fears nobody, and yet everyone wonders what feeds his ego. 

What is it based on? In his days as Minister of the Federal Territory, he demolished people’s houses at will. He fought the National Assembly. I will rate him as the best Minster of the FCT so far though, even if he went about his job in a very tactless manner.

As Governor of Kaduna State, he has also shown the same lack of tact and diplomacy. We are dealing with hubris it seems. In his public career since President Olusegun Obasanjo discovered him in 1999 and brought him aboard Nigeria’s big stage, Nasir el-Rufai has consistently acquired a public persona as an intolerant public servant, and a perpetual accident. 

In Kaduna state which he presides over, anybody that criticizes him in any way, is most likely to be slammed with a legal suit and detained. He has fought Shiites. He has abused the leaders of Southern Kaduna. He is said to be above the courts of the land because he does not respect their orders. One Bishop had the temerity to prophesy that he, El-Rufai will never be President of Nigeria, the Bishop is now in court to respond to charges of criminal defamation for daring to prophesy that the Almighty Nasir El-Rufai will never be “President of Nigeria”.

This piece is titled “NBA vs Nasir el-Rufai”. My simple point in that regard which is the main thrust of this piece is that Nasir el-Rufai is in part, the victim of his own hubris. He has lessons to learn from his current travails and I hope that he will soon be on the Road to Damascus. But at the same time, I think the joke is on the NBA, not el-Rufai. Paul Usoro, the outgoing President of the Nigerian Bar Association has handled the el-Rufai matter in a most embarrassing, cowardly and disgraceful manner. Nasir el-Rufai was invited by the Technical Conference Planning Committee (TCCP) of the NBA as a keynote Speaker at the Annual General Conference of the NBA 2020.

 The theme is “STEPPING FORWARD” and the question is: “Who is a Nigerian? A Debate on National Identity” (26 -29 August 2020) with a special session focusing on the topic: “Am I a Nigerian – A Debate on National Identity, The Indigeneship-Citizenship Conundrum”. It is a virtual conference, the first in the history of the NBA, in other words, a COVID-19 determined and compliant conference of the NBA, and the 60th Annual General Conference of the body.

When the Technical Committee for Conference Planning (TCCP) of the NBA decided to invite Nasir el-Rufai as a keynote speaker at this particular session, they must have thought of the fact that more than any other Governor in Nigeria at the moment, he is one Governor who has had to deal with the issue of identity crisis, especially in the Southern part of the state that he governs. Besides, he has the intellectual heft, the analytic skills and the knowledge of the national question being addressed. His ability in these regards is beyond question and he has the confidence to articulate his views in any forum locally and internationally. 

The Presidential Conference Planning Committee could not have made a better choice. You may not like el-Rufai’s attitude and his lack of tact, but you cannot question his ability as a diligent and first-rate intellect. By uninviting him to the 60th NBA 60th General Conference, the NBA submitted itself to the will of an aggressive and vocal minority in a manner that could affect the future of the NBA negatively. Most of the people who signed the petition against Nasir el-Rufai come across like persons who nurse personal grudges against him and who failed to look at the big picture. The NBA as A.U. Mustapha, SAN has argued convincingly, should not be politicized. It must not be personalized. 

It must not be used to settle political, ethnic or personal scores. The decision to uninvite Nasir el-Rufai to this year’s NBA conference which commences tomorrow is a major low in the history of the NBA. Targeting one man out of a long list of other persons who have been identified by the Radical Agenda Movement led by Ogunlana Esq. as not necessarily saintly amounts to partiality and institutional malice.

Paul Usoro, the outgoing NBA President has also not handled the matter with wisdom. He has presided over the NBA in one of its lowest moments in the last 60 years. The decision to open up the NBA Annual Conference to non-lawyers and stakeholder communities is one of the major achievements of the last few years, but in a last moment act of indiscretion, Usoro’s NBA has blown that up. The scapegoating of el-Rufai by a group that has had more despicable persons on its list of invitees over the years is an indication of unfairness, injustice and malice by the same persons who claim to defend the rule of law.

 The NBA should be an open forum for all ideas to contend and for all persons to enjoy the benefit of fair hearing. With the NBA vs el-Rufai saga, may be the NBA is better off in the future inviting only persons who will tell members what they would like to hear. Even worse and this should be condemned, is the spineless, cheap and pathetic letters of apology written to the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum by Paul Usoro, the NBA President. 

These were self-serving letters in which Usoro tried to disown the NBA NEC. What kind of cowardly conduct is that? His silly apologies have brought the Usoro Presidency to an ugly end. Coming shortly after he presided over a most controversial NBA Presidential election and a lackluster tenure, Usoro by August 27 will be handing over a divided and troubled NBA. Nasir el-Rufai is not the problem of the NBA. The NBA, turned into a rent-seeking vehicle, is its own problem, and it is sad to see a once dynamic and progressive NBA, reduced to a beggarly body. Was it not under Usoro’s watch that a Chief Justice was disgraced out of office and judges were humiliated? The association faces a leadership crisis that it must resolve and address, especially now that there is a simmering battle between the inner and outer Bar for its soul.

It is not too late to reverse the dis-invitation of Nasir el-Rufai to the 60th NBA AGC. But he can take sufficient solace in the fact that he is not the problem. His travail with the NBA is only an indication of a problem within the NBA itself. 

Olumide Akpata’s emergence as NBA President is seen as the triumph of the young Turks within the NBA, that is the Outer Bar. Nasir el-Rufai is just a convenient pawn in an existing conflict. We should, therefore, look farther into the future. Olumide Akpata who by next week would have assumed office, has his job cut out for him. He has to unite a divided House. He must also restore confidence in the Bar. He will either take charge or cede control to a vocal, aluta continua group within the NBA that has shown its hands rather early with the objection to Nasir el-Rufai. The radical elements within the NBA must focus on larger issues beyond the politics of malice and personality. 

The NBA is in urgent need of reform.
By Reuben Abati


  1. “Abati, you are calling us yesterday’s men eh? Very soon, you too will be a yesterday man. When we become today’s people, we will show you what it means to be a yesterday man!”.

    The above is exactly what fuel's El Rufai's vehicle; vendetta against perceived enemies and revenge. That in itself is the crux of the problem of Southern Kaduna.

    My only question: Mr Nasir, why so bitter? How do you sleep at night? Are you happy with the legacy you've passed on to your sons?

    1. Eh???? Mrs E, are you worried about Hellrufai's sons??? They are already lost causes and may turn out to be more intolerant, divisive and dangerous that their dad. Please don't waste a moment of your precious time worrying about them, that train left the station teh teh oooo!!!!

    2. Why should a man that doesn’t not listen to other people’s opinion, make them voiceless and doesn’t not respect the law of the land be given a forum? Wait to hear what side of his opinion? The law is the law, we have one constitution. That is why I was disappointed with SLS for saying he should be heard. This man doesn’t let others be heard. He murders them indiscriminately enmasse.
      Btw, contrary to people’s view elRufai is not very sharp neither is he smart. He has a handful of “brain. Box” type people that show him the way and help him strategize. They are a couple of men, one is a current san minister, a now practicing female lawyer, Yoruba woman, and a hand full of others usually southerners and Christians who are smart. He then uses it against the few Christians left in his state. He has wiped majority out. Ordinarily he is not a deep thinker himself. He does not have any personality either. He is just a greedy, very evil being with downright deeply evil plans. Not all that meets the eye. That is why he angers so quickly. He has nothing really to his own credit.
      Abati, a civil servant that was entrusted with managing an hens pen but ended up eating almost all the eggs in the pen can not be the best pen manager. That person is nothing more than a good old fashioned thief and embezzler.

  2. I don't agree with you Sir..Someone who does not respect the rule of law should not be a speaker for the NBA conference..If it is minority views so be it..Is that why MULA was created? Why should religion and tribe take the centre stage when it comes to issues and conflicts..No hope for the common man as the judiciary is heavily compromised..Abeg 2nd base jare..

  3. I read it to the end, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Reuben Abati is such a prolific writer.

  4. Mr Abati, you said he doesn't obey the rule of war, then why should he be reinvited?

    What you should advocate is for NBA to uninvite any speaker that has a record of disobeying the rule of law.

    This will send a message across to all and sundary, then maybe, others will realize and stop all the lip service paid to the rule of law

    1. Exactly. The concluding part of the write up is contradictory

  5. Its amazing that a mere dis-invitation has created so much fuss in the country. This has shown how badly divided we are as a nation.
    The Nigerian Bar Association is the umbrella body of legal practitioners in the country. It will be a great disservice to democracy as well as human rights if a character like El-Rufai is invited as a guest speaker!

    Under his watch, there has been a systematic genocide in Southern Kaduna, and nothing is being done about it. Any hint of criticism by any person, is met with brute force by his gestapo styled police.

    The motto of the NBA is "Promoting the Rule of Law". El-rufai and the rule of law shouldn't be used in the same sentence.

    My only pain in all of this is the fact that several learned friends from the Northern part of the country have turned it into a religious issue.

    If lawyers can reason like this, then we really have a long way to go in this country.

    1. Then he should not have been invited in the first place. Which one is 'first invite' then 'dis-invite'???? The NBA should have debated this thoroughly in-house first of all, and then taken a decision they can stand by no matter what.

  6. Nice piece I disagree with some parts though. The reversal of Gov. Rufai's invitation to speak at the NBA is laudable. There might be issues within but with the right leadership, which hopefully they now have, things would only get better.
    It's high time non-performing politicians are made to feel the disapproval of citizens.

  7. The #bodybag Governor should remain uninvited as a deterrent to others. Nigeria must move forward

  8. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion and in this, I disagree with you, Dr Abati. Fact that other regimes of NBA invited folks that disregarded court rules and judgements does not mean that members of the PCPC in charge of who to invite must allow his invitation by Usoro to go on. What of if the so called minority that did not want him have woken up to correct the mistakes of the past?

    El Rufai is very vindictive and would do same as the minorities if reverse was the case. Any lawyer from Southern Kaduna that put his/her signature in support of El Rufai giving the speech should be banned from his/her community. The disregard for court's pronouncements by the current regime in Kaduna is mind troubling.

    I don't know what to make of this right up by Dr Abati of El Rufai. Is he trying to beg for friendship? Making a case for him to be re invited? What for? If DR Abati has no topic to write on he should write about dangers of re opening schools in this Covid 19 times.

  9. Reuben Abati was the Femi Adesina of his time. Okupe was the Liar Mohammed of his time. Don't twist the fact. Reuben is a sell out. He lacks the morak standing to talk ill about El Rufai--they are two parts of the same coin. Reuben is an impostor, a deceitful Neanderthal whose job was to lie and cover the inadequacies of his drunken master. What's the difference between El Rufai and Ruben? One ended up being a governor while the other is trying to creep back into the public space like a Chameleon. If it were in China, both men would have been publicly executed. But we tolerate nonsense in Nigeria which is why Reuben will turn atound to pretend to be a saint. I guess life in Aso Rock doesn't last forever. He is realizing it too late after tainting his stint in Guardian

  10. I stopped reading when I got to the part where he faulted the NBA's decision to uninvite El-rufai. 🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡

    1. Then you did yourself a great disservice.

  11. I know, it must be Reuben Abati 😅

  12. Please why are we still on this topic. Even Maurice Iwu was uninvited because of the sham election he did. Hellrufai should retrieve his steps. Maybe he is missing it

  13. Abati is the rent seeker by this gibberish he just wrote.

    I’m sure he’s not a member of the bar and can’t question the judgment of those who took the decision to withdraw an invitation going by their own rules.

    If he wants to suck El Rufai’s balls,the road to kaduna is open if he doesn’t get killed before he fulfills his fantasy.

    Targeting usoro for insults is an indication of his prejudice and cowardice.

    Indeed Abati goofed with this puerile write-up.


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