No religion condones injustice as the Holy Scriptures abhor oppressors and condemn injustice. Check your Holy Book for guidance.” – Bamidele Aturu
That was a direct quotation from the late anti-corruption, anti-impunity and a honest human rights advocate, Barrister Bamidele Aturu while responding to my initial disposition to leaving oppressors to the judgement of Almighty God. To him, powerful elements in the society would rather wish to be taken to the courtyard of God than be sued in the court of law because of their arrogance and power intoxication.
As a legal practitioner who was familiar with Sharia legal system, even though a Christian and pastor at that, Aturu quoted copiously from the Holy Quran, and some sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), known as Hadith to convince me to go to Court since I am a Muslim.
In his attempt to persuade me to take the right course, he offered to defend my case free of charge in prosecuting a legal battle against my powerful opponents (individual and institutions) who would later hire Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to defend them in the case.
He personally took responsibility for his flight tickets, accommodation and transportation and occasionally that of lawyers that he assigned to attend to my case in Abuja, before he later assigned a dedicated young lawyer to pursue the case on his behalf. Despite his tight schedule, he always took time to call and give me updates on the case.
It is undeniable the fact that impunity and injustice trigger corrupt practices, nepotism, terrorism, robbery, kidnapping and other criminalities. Those who encourage such negative vices and oppressions should face the legal consequences of their actions which will be lessons in humility and justice.
The satisfaction of going to the court afterward was indeed an eye-opener. It exposed the hypocrisy in the civil service and mediocrity in the public office. In fact from documents tendered and other revelations since made, I now know that those who should protect your interest are the very ones who always work against you. In that process some leaders that should be adequately advised are unconscionably misled to take irrational decisions based on frivolous innuendoes and accusations. There are many stories for another day.
As one of the beneficiaries of his philanthropic legal service, the death of Bamidel Aturu came to me as a rude shock. Few days before his demise, the gentleman informed me that my case had been further adjourned to October 2014. There was never a premonition he would die soon. The last time we met in his Abuja hotel room, he was so vibrant, energetic and always eloquent in his delivery. A leading authority on labour laws in Nigeria and author of five law books, we discussed media and publishing venture which we were both passionate about. In fact while going through my recent initiatives in the publication of Spokesperson’s Digest and Emergency Digest magazines, we mooted the idea of publishing the Lawyer’s Digest focusing on activities of legal practitioners.
Before his legal representation on my case, I had had memorable encounters with him at several workshops/conferences towards promulgation of laws on transparency and accountability in government, especially those organised by CISLAC as well as Right Agenda. At such fora, he provided legal insight towards the establishment of some institutions like NEITI, BPP and FOI.
Since his death on July 9, 2014, many tributes have been written eulogising his uncanny humility, courageous posture, fearless mien, exemplary conducts and above all his excessive generosity as the voice for the voiceless and defender of defenceless across the Niger.
Born in October 1964, Bamidele Francis Aturu was reported to have abandoned a career in the military to train as a scientist before he became a lawyer. A lawyer and a pastor, he was also former students leader and prisoner of conscience.
As a brilliant student, he came out in flying colours in all his academic pursuits, carting awards at every stage as best graduating student. He did same at University of Ife and Nigerian Law School.
During his mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme, Aturu’s his contributions to his host community as an exemplary youth leader, the management of the NYSC adjudged him as the best corps member of the NYSC 1987/88 batch. Surprisingly rather than shaking the hand of military administrator of Niger State, Lawan Gwadabe, he declined as protest against military rule. He was later to become one of the fearless leaders that mounted campaign against military dictator, Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and General Sani Abacha.
Under the banners of human right groups he was actively involved the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Constitutional Rights Project (CRP), United Action for Democracy (UAD) and the Campaign for Democracy (CD). During the military era he was harassed and arrested for anti-military campaigns.
A son of policeman who was regularly transferred around the country, Aturu understood the complexity of Nigeria and Nigerians and therefore, developed a better understanding of various cultures, tribes and religion of the people. Beneficiaries of his benevolence can be found among Nigerians of different backgrounds, religions and tribes.
It may be surprising for many Nigerians to realise that in a country where eye-service, lips-service and excessive love of money are the order of the day, there are still individuals who will stand by you, fight for you and never expect a dime from such efforts. Their only reward is the smiles and happiness returned to the faces and hearts of fellow human beings in place of despair and despondency. They are determined to ensure equity and justice in our fatherland.
Bamidele Aturu’s intervention in my life and that of numerous others who suffered immense injustice in a clime beclouded by vainglory through pro bono legal services was a sure sign of a brighter future for Nigeria because no matter how long it takes, the element of goodness will eventually overpower those of darkness.
It is a sad commentary that a man who devoted his life to fighting for the oppressed in the society did not get a reciprocal gesture in time of need. A public hospital to which he was rushed during a health crisis rejected him because once again, medical doctors had proceeded on another of their never ending strikes.