Nigerians from all walks of life mourn the shocking and painful death of Bamidele Aturu, a human rights lawyer and defender of the oppressed, at 49
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 21, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE Nigerian human rights community was thrown into mourning following the announcement of the death of Bamidele Aturu, a lawyer and a human rights activist, on Wednesday, July 9. The famous lawyer on labour laws, was said to have taken ill on the same Wednesday and rushed to the hospital where he died. He was 49 years old.
Since his passage, Nigerians from different walks of life have been paying tribute to the man who came into limelight in 1988, when he refused to take his award or shake hands with Colonel Lawan Gwadabe, the then military governor of Niger State, after he was named the best corps member among the graduating National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, set of that year. His excuse was that the military government had caused great harm to the democratic aspirations of Nigerians.
Olisa Agbakoba, SAN and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, said Aturu’s death was a massive loss. “I am shockingly stunned hearing it. He was a fantastic man. He was one of the guys I had pleasure working with. What I cherish about his attitude was that he was very dispositional on issues people were disagreeing with. If it is true that Bamidele Aturu is dead, it is a massive loss.”
That was the impression of Itse Sagay, a professor of law and SAN, as well, who described the death of the human rights lawyer as a national loss. “It was from my chamber that he set his own. He was a straight forward man of integrity. He was a man of the highest honour. He was a man of God,” Sagay said.
As for Monday Ubani, immediate past chairman of the NBA, Ikeja branch, the passing away of Aturu “is a traumatic and shocking news I have ever heard in my life. We were together in Abuja last week and also we were together when he went to address the newsmen over the de-registration of Fresh Party. He never showed any signs of ailment. He is a genuine Nigerian who never fought because of political office. He was only out to protect the interest of the downtrodden. I can’t understand what kind of death that is.”
It is not only in the bar that Aturu is being appreciated. Deji Elumoye, chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos Council, described the late lawyer as an activist and somebody who had the interest of the country at heart. “It is unfortunate that he died at this particular time. He was somebody that was passionate about the Nigerian project throughout his life time. As a lawyer and activist, he was very close to the people and offered free legal services to people who he believed had been wronged, particularly by the government or law enforcement agencies.
A similar commendation was given by Joe Ajaero, general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, who said the nation had lost one of the best friends of labour movement in the country. “He was a fine gentleman, a straightforward lawyer and a defender of the oppressed. He was, indeed, the people’s lawyer. I am very sad. It is tragic, a sad loss to the labour movement, the civil society community and, indeed, the down trodden in the country. He was our lawyer and we have many cases he was handling for us. I am just short of words.”
On his part, Nted Emmanuel, president-general of Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigerian, MWUN, said he and members of the union were shocked and sad to hear this tragic news of Aturu’s demise. “He was our lawyer, a very intelligent and straightforward lawyer. The whole labour movement in Nigeria will miss him, the Nigerian masses will miss him, and the Nigerian workers will really miss him. He was a defender and a fighter for the oppressed and suffering masses. It is a loss that we are not going to forget in a hurry. He has left a vacuum that will be difficult to fill,” Emmanuel said.
Also saddened by Aturu’s passage is Chibuzor Asomugha, president, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, who said in an interview: “It is a sad news, in fact, a big loss to tertiary institutions in Nigeria, to civil society and to the movement of democracy in Nigeria.”
The late lawyer was one of the founding members of Democratic Alternative, a political group committed to pursuing deep-rooted democratic principles and holding those in power accountable to the governed.
Aturu studied law at the University of Ife, Osun State, and devoted much of his legal practice to representing the marginalised or oppressed individuals and groups.
The late activist was nominated a member of the ongoing national conference, but he rejected his membership based on his conviction that the conference was designed to achieve nothing.