UNILAG Lecturer Lists Late RCCG Pastor, Barrister Bamidele Aturu’s Achievements
July 18, 2014 – UNILAG Lecturer Lists Late RCCG Pastor, Barrister Bamidele Aturu’s Achievements
I was at the Abuja Airport on my way to Gombe for a matter when a journalist from AIT called to find out whether anything was wrong with Bamidele Aturu as he needed to verify the information he had just received from Abuja that the fire brand lawyer may have passed on. I was too frightened to contemplate my next move as I preferred to see the news as a dream far from possible reality. But I also know that considering the enormous respect I have for the person of Aturu and the personal relationship we had shared, I needed to verify the information quickly especially having assured the journalist that I will get back if I found any useful information concerning this extraordinary Nigerian. I quickly put a call through to my contacts that were in a position to know and the response was not quite helpful. With trembling fingers I summoned courage to call Aturu’s private line to make enquiries about the safety of my friend. The unfamiliar voice on the other end simply informed me that BamideleAturu had been rushed to the hospital and that he was asked by Aturu’s wife to retain the mobile phone pending further developments.
I was left with no other alternative than to wait in prayers that it should turn out that the journalist who earlier called for verification may have been misinformed afterall. My worst fears were confirmed when credible sources later confirmed to me that indeed our own BamideleAturu had passed on. I was devastated, shocked and traumatised by this unpleasant news the reason being that BamideleAturu was one of the finest spirits of my generation. The rest of my journey to Gombe was a disaster as I nursed throughout the journey a very heavy burden in my heart.
Further investigations revealed his last moments. A day previously, BamideleAturu was said to have worked up till 7 p.m. in his chambers putting finishing touches to a Notice of Appeal which he personally drafted. Billed to travel the next day for an assignment at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State he had suddenly complained of body weakness and was promptly rushed to LASUTH for urgent attention. Our Aturu died within 20 minutes of arrival at the hospital. What a life! Very tragic! Very sad!
The sadness occasioned by Aturu’s sudden passing is not however without some consolations and worthy legacies which definitely will endure forever.
Aturu was a man of finest virtues, very unique, genuine and different and indeed a reference point in this clime where a life of commitment to principles, integrity, service delivery quality and professionalism is sadly in short supply. In this climate of corruption, uncertainty and moral degradation, Aturustood out from the crowd like a million stars and was uniquely different in terms of exemplary character and moral rectitude.
Aturu was a visionary who had a mission to fulfill and set out to accomplish same both by a life of personal example and in the manner he organised and structured his legal practice.BamideleAturu& Co, the law firm he founded has as its motto:”Serving the people by promoting justice”.
The vision/mission of the law firm are as follows:
•To serve the Almighty God in all ways but in particular by defending the poor.
•To serve the cause of social justice by effectively and competently using the law inspite of its limitations.
•To defend the under privileged, the dispossessed, the oppressed and the abused against the rich and the powerful.
•To be a leading voice in the struggle against all forms of discrimination and undue privileges.
•To participate in all forms of actions aimed at social reform and change.
Aturu said “In pursuit of this vision/mission, 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”.
Clearly from the foregoing, Aturu was a forthright individual who decided early in life to build his professional practice on altruistic considerations and empathy for the poor and under privileged segment of the society. Not given to materialism, he had set out to embrace pro bono services as an integral part of his practice. This is salutary and a reflection of the degree of humanity and compassion that he had for his fellow human beings and the rest of the society.
Aturu also led a life of personal example worthy of emulation. He was adjudged the best corps member during his NYSC programme in Niger State. However, when it was time to honour him with accolades he bluntly refused to accept the NYSC award at a time when it was not fashionable to dare any military regime in this part of the world. In rejecting the award he wrote:
“I saw the award as an attempt to co-opt me into the bestial capitalist power structure…I cannot feel honoured by this award or any award for that matter due to the general and specific differences between the present government and myself”.
This may have revealed Aturu as a sterling example in moral courage.
I have a personal experience on Aturu to attest to this trait in moral rectitude. I recall a time I was briefed to handle a drug related matter for a client who later approached me for a related segment of the brief that I could not handle for conflict of interests. The client was ready to pay the sum of Two Million Naira and requested me to recommend a good lawyer since I could not handle the brief. I had no difficulty in zeroing in on the choice of BamideleAturu. I called BamideleAturu ahead and informed him that a prospective client was on his way to brief him armed with a princely sum of Two Million Naira. Aturu said he was waiting. However to my shock and utter surprise when Aturu got the details of the brief he turned the brief down together with the sum of Two Million Naira on the ground that his conscience will not permit him to accept the brief in the circumstances. He called to apologize to me while insisting that his decision was final. What a Nigerian!
At his death I was forced to reflect on the significance of the name BamideleAturu and how the meaning of his first name and the interpretation of each of the surname may have defined the life and times of this extraordinary Nigerian. Bamidele simply means ‘Come home with me’ little wonder why this Nigerian threw his doors open to all Nigerians who desire his assistance as a reflection of his innate generosity and empathy. The okada riders in Lagos and Baba Suwe who benefited from Aturu’s generosity would attest to this trait.
On this score as a friend of the poor, Aturu wrote:
“Lagos State should review the way it treats the poor”.
Each of the alphabets in the surname of Aturu is significant.
A: Stands for Amiable/Astuteness/Activism
T: Stands for Trustworthy
U: Stands for untiring
R: Stands for reliability
U: Utility driven.
Aturu combined all of these attributes and more – a factor responsible for his greatness and uniqueness.
Aturu was also a scholar of immense stature. He wrote standard text books on Labour Law and Election Matters which remain reference materials for scholarship. His latest work is on the Law & Practice of Industrial Courts, a work that constitutes imperishable guide to legal practitioners and other users of Industrial Courts nationwide.
Aturu’s scholarship was consistent with his pedigree. He read Physics at the University of Ife graduating with first class honours. In 1996 he graduated on top of his LL.M class at the University of Lagos with distinction, a feat which confirmed Aturu’s rating as a first class brain indeed.
Aturu was also a philosopher in the mould of the philosophical king with power of ideas and power of action. Beyond these, however, was the ability of Aturu to galvanize the elements of ideas and positive action into concrete crusade for policies and laws capable of transforming society. As a result, a fitting tribute to Aturu would be a reelection on the views he expressed on diverse issues affecting the well-being, growth and development of the country and its citizens.
Aturu for example, was vehemently opposed to deregulation of the down-stream sector of the petroleum industry and wrote scathing articles in leading newspapers exposing the evils of deregulation and why our government ought to jettison the policy.
Aturu’s views on politics are also instructive. He wrote:
“The trouble with Nigerian politics contrary to the dominant public view is not the absence of issues – based politics or lack of ideological commitment by the existing political parties but the fact that the dominant political parties are committed to the same ideology or world – view and therefore essentially not different one from the other…all the dominant parties in Nigeria are committed to privatization of public utilities and assert that the state’s only role in the economy is as regulator of the competing interests of the various factions of the ruling class”.
Aturu may have made the point that the existing political parties owing to lack of ideological clarity may have left the Nigerian electorate with little or no choice. The difference between all of them is between 12 and half a dozen. I doubt whether anyone can fault Aturu’s thesis in this regard.
Aturu will be remembered for his dogged pursuit of egalitarian society and his crusade against oppression and marginalisation of Nigerians. He was an activist whose struggle had a strong spiritual foundation. He was a Pastor of the Redeemed Church of God who believed in social justice and equal opportunity for all and sundry because that is the wish of Almighty God. Throughout his life, Aturu fought for democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism, due process, transparency and accountability, free, fair and credible electoral process, zero tolerance for corruption, respect for fundamental rights and good governance. Whenever he granted interviews on print and electronic media, Aturu deployed his creative talents and energy in pursuit of these fundamentals of the democratic tradition.
Aturu was humility personified, Integrity personified, cerebral, Courageous, principled, intellectual, non-materialistic, contented, good natured, caring, kind, supportive, friendly, accessible, business-like, serious-minded, genuine, revolutionary, radical, luminous, passionate, conscientious, selfless, intelligent, brilliant, analytical, current, relevant and deeply spiritual. What a human being!
I must also add that Aturu was controversial and this was in a positive sense. In the words of an American Psychologist:
“Historydoes not record the achievements of any great man of vision and dynamism without some comments of controversy”.Aturu was a great man.
Aturu was also a great advocate. I recall our separate and joint appearances for the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Chairman of the EFCC and EFCC in a case involving the Delta State Government at the Federal High Court Benin at the inception of President Yar’Adua’s Administration. Aturu in his elements was on his feet for nearly two hours marshaling forensic arguments in well thought out English and eloquence to the admiration of all. At the end of the proceedings, I was one of those permanently converted by the sheer advocacy skills of this wonderful Nigerian. We shared this friendship borne out of mutual admiration until he breathed his last.
I recall our last encounter three weeks ago on a flight from Lagos to Abuja and how characteristically Aturu expressed to me his wish for a better Nigeria and how he will not rest until that objective was achieved.
Aturu loved Nigeria and Nigerians. He loved humanity. He was prepared to sacrifice all he had for a better Nigeria. A fitting tribute for this illustrious Nigerian would be for all of us to ensure that his sacrifices and struggles for a better society are not in vain.
Adieu Bamidele Aturu! A rare breed, a pure spirit, a courageous attorney, the hero of Nigerian masses and a real human being.
•Shittu is a lecturer at the Univesity of Lagos.