Bamidele Aturu’s Death, A Devastating Loss To Nigeria’s Civil Society, Says TMG

By TMG-Media Centre
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With deep sorrow and a very heavy heart, the Chairman, Board and entire members of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) mourn the passing of a titan of Nigeria's human rights community, Bamidele Aturu.Aturu was an uncompromising and a dogged defender of the rights of the common man in Nigeria. His enduring creed of his activism was built around the ideal of the supremacy of the voices of the ordinary people.

Aturu was a scourge of the military establishment, which was on the verge of running Nigeria aground in the years of the mercenary generals who ran Nigeria, not for the benefit of the people, but for their own personal aggrandizement, especially in the 1990s. With a powerful dose of courage and conviction, Aturu joined forces with like minds in the civil society to rally the Nigerian people to resist all forms of irresponsible governance.

TMG recalls with admiration and nostalgia, Aturu's sterling contributions to the defence of the inalienable rights, as well as the social welfare of millions of impoverished Nigerians. We cannot forget the roles played by Aturu and all the other heroes of Nigeria's democracy to the restoration of democratic governance. Particularly, the principled and unwavering commitment demonstrated by Bamidele Aturu in the struggle for the de-annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, which was won by the late Chief MKO Abiola, would remain indelible in the annals of Nigerian history.

It is pertinent to note that in his exertions for a just and egalitarian society for all, Aturu made far reaching sacrifices at the expense of his personal comfort. At a time many would have cowered and succumbed to the gun totting machinations of the military, Aturu stood his grounds by constantly reaffirming the primacy of the voices of the Nigerian people in the process of governance. Aturu followed in the tradition of strident, irreverent, unflinching, selfless and uncompromising activism that had been established by late Senior Advocate of the Nigerian Masses, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Like Gani, Aturu was a thorn in the flesh of the military establishment, which he relentlessly shocked with the courage of his convictions.

He engraved his name in gold in 1988 when he showed how repulsive military rule had become to Nigerians in 1988 when he refused to shake hands with the then Military Administrator of Ondo State, Colonel Lawan Gwadabe during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) passing out parade. Aturu's reason for this unprecedented step of courage was that the military oligarchs were stifling the democratic aspirations of all Nigerians by their refusal to end their disastrous adventure into the nation's political space. This nonviolent, but powerful salvo in affirming the absolute right of the Nigerian people to choose those who lead them, raised the consciousness of the nation. But Aturu had to live with the repercussions of his courageous and patriotic action. The military which would brook no opposition to its stranglehold on the nation seized Aturu's NYSC certificate with the intention of hurting his chances of advancing in life.

But Aturu did not allow this adversity to weigh him down; he went on to study law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, where he distinguished himself as a committed student's leader who ethos was about the welfare of his colleagues. Unlike in current times when student's unionism has become an avenue for unbridled philistinism, the student activism of Aturu's time was grounded in ideology and the ideals revolving around the efficacy of defending the oppressed and the downtrodden in society.

Even after the advent of Nigeria's democratic dispensation in 1999, Aturu constantly stood on the side of the Nigerian people. His interventions in the polity were premised on the need to use the instrumentality of his calling to crusade for good governance. For instance, during the impasse in the presidency due to the incapacitation of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in 2010, Aturu was one of those who used his legal activism to stabilize the Nigerian polity by going to court to compel the National Assembly to swear in then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President. He was one lawyer who relentlessly used his profession to push for the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. In 2012, he secured the first major FoI based disclosure against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Aturu was never tired of using this legislation to fight all forms of concealment by dishonest governments and their agents. Aturu showed the possibilities in redressing the problems of governance in the country, if those are at the vanguard of speaking up for the common man, show a little more commitment to the cause.

We at TMG are so rudely shocked by Aturu's exit at the age of 49, and we conclude that his demise is a devastating loss for Nigeria's human rights and civil society community. His death dwindles a tribe of committed defenders of the ordinary Nigerian.

Born on October 16, 1964, Aturu studied law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Even in his legal practice, Aturu made it clear that the 'fundamental principle underpinning our success is our unshakeable conviction that the practice of law is a privilege that carries with it responsibilities, including the need to serve the Almighty God in all ways but in particular by defending the poor.'

Aturu was someone who would let anyone that cares to listen know that he was motivated in his exertions by the push to serve the cause of social justice by effectively and competently using the law in spite of its limitations to defend the underprivileged, the dispossessed, the oppressed and the abused against the rich and the powerful. In a society brimming with decadence and other forms of irresponsible governance, the brunt which the people inevitably had to bear, Aturu sought to be a leading voice in the struggle against all forms of discrimination and undue privileges.

As stated in the vision and mission underlining his legal practice; 'we will not accept a brief simply on account that it is lucrative or reject a poor prospective client simply on account of inability to pay if we are convinced that he or she is truly unable to pay our fee.' In 2003, Aturu joined the political fray in the hope of bringing good governance by contesting the governorship of Lagos State as the candidate of the defunct Democratic Alternative. Aturu also showed that the quest for social change was not incompatible with a belief in the Supreme Being, God almighty; he was an ordained pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. He would have been 50 on October 16.

We mourn and condole with his family, and other members of the civil society in this difficult time, while praying to the almighty to grant them the fortitude to bear this huge loss. We also note that in the way he lived his life, he put the rest of humanity before himself. This is a trait of greatness, which if displayed by all Nigerians, will take our nation out of the woods.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Comrade Zik Ibrahim Chief Eddy Ezurike
Chairman, Publicity Secretary
Transition Monitoring Group
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