(By Sylvester Udemezue)
Ever since I spoke out against the December 14, 2019 adoption by some members of the highly respected Egbe Amofin Yoruba, I have received phone calls, WhatsApp messages and harsh ripostes, with some outrightly attacking me or my personality, in the mistaken belief that by so doing, I could be suppressed into silence. A bosom friend and highly respected senior lawyer (names withheld) called me on phone a week ago to advise me thus: “See dear Udems, some of our people are beginning to take these your comments on adoption as an ethnic affair” Below was my quick, respectful, response to him: “But, sir, how can anyone accuse me of working against the Yoruba when the candidate I support (Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN) is a true and worthy son of Yorubaland, and when I have written and published several commentaries to insist that, based on the provisions of Part 2.1(d) of the 2nd Schedule to the NBA Constitution (as amended), it is the turn of a Yoruba lawyer from the core Southwest States to occupy the office of the NBA President in 2020?
Again, insisting that the Egbe Amofin “adoption” is “an adoption by Yoruba lawyers and not NBA National Officers,” a learned gentleman who happens to be an NBA Branch Chairman in the southwest, has told me pointblank that I have no business discussing the “adoption” as same and all issues surrounding it, are entirely a “Yoruba affair.” Suggesting that my opinion on the issue does not count, he concluded thus: “Udems, ..I am a very deep Yoruba person, I know [them] more than you do; you do not know them well and so you are not entitled to discuss anything relating to them, because when the history of these your articles or chats would be told, you will not be there.” With the greatest respect to the learned friend (a respected NBA Branch Chair), I think he has without knowing it, fallen neck deep into three major logical fallacies, which then render his argument both insupportable and unwarrantable. A brief discussion of these as the present paper/commentary proposes to accomplish) will assist to clear all doubts.
The Genetic Fallacy: By suggesting that my ideas and opinions on the issue must be disregarded on account only of my racial, geographic, or ethnic origin, the senior lawyer has committed a type of logical error known as “The Genetic Fallacy.” Contrary to my friend’s erroneous belief, the mere fact that I am not of Yoruba origin does not detract from my inalienable right to make informed comments on any national issues arising from Yorubaland, and which are also in the public domain. This is why we all feel free to discuss the affairs of the All Progressive Party (APC), the Peoples` Democratic Party (PDP), even when some of us are not members of any of those political parties. Besides, we feel at liberty to discuss developments and issues arising from or pertaining to America, the UK, and other countries even when we are not citizens of those countries, and some of us have never been to those places. In my humble opinion, the December 14, 2019 Egbe Amofin “adoption” affects me directly as a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), because any discussions about that particular adoption are, in truth, discussions about an aspirant to a national office of the Nigerian Bar Association, not of the Egbe Amofin or Yoruba lawyers Association. Further, any statement, development or event pertaining to Yoruba people or race, and which is published on a national newspaper or other news media or otherwise put out in the public domain, has thereby become a subject of public discourse, and no longer an issue to be discussed by only Yoruba people? My learned friend ought to have known this! Do I even need to begin to dwell on my constitutional right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions?
The Patriotic Approach: My learned friend believes that since Egbe Amofin is an association of only Yoruba lawyers, any decision purportedly taken by the group ought to be accepted and supported by all lawyers of Yoruba origin, as well as lawyers from all other regions; he surprisingly maintains this position and even adds that it is disrespectful to the Yoruba race for anyone to oppose or criticize the “adoption,” even after being reminded by me that most Yoruba lawyers find the “adoption” in question (and the processes leading to it) undemocratic, exclusionary, lopsided, untransparent, tyrannical and accordingly not truly representative of the decision or interest of an overwhelming majority of Yoruba lawyers. With due respect to my learned friend, his suggestions are unacceptably fallacious. By arguing that a certain opinion or stance must be taken as true/correct, just to show patriotism, and that anyone who disagrees with such opinion/stance is being unpatriotic, my learned friend has insentiently chosen the Patriotic Approach which is also logically fallacious because such is akin to “draping oneself in the flag,” One question is then thrown up: Is Egbe AMOFIN, omnipresent, omnipotent or omniscient and therefore infallible? Put differently, are members or leaders of that association insusceptible to making mistakes? Such erroneous recourse to the patriotic approach (as is seen in my friend`s case) was the major reason for my earlier commentary titled, “Resistance to Tyranny is not Treachery: a reply to Chief Yomi Aliu (SAN) on Dr Babatunde Ajibade (SAN) & the purported Egbe Amofin adoption” (published on 22 March 2020: www.courtroommail.com). All lovers of truth and objectiveness would also be interested in the write-up titled, “NBA 2020 Presidential Elections: Objection to a Manipulated Adoption Process is Not Disrespectful to the Organizers of the Adoption” (published on 9 April 2020: www.courtroommail.com).
The Red Herring Fallacy (Ignorantio Elenchi): In his deliberate attempt to change the subject of this discussion and divert the argument from the real questions in issue to some side-point having little or nothing to do with the subject of discussion, my respected learned friend says that I “do not know” Yoruba people well; he completely forgot that the present discussion (about adoption) has absolutely nothing to do with the character or disposition of the Yoruba people, but wholly about a development on the NBA (a national issue) which already is in the public domain, and about which I think anyone is entitled to make comments and offer opinions.
At this juncture, and as an aside, may I ask, where were these lawyers who now remind me that I am not a Yoruba man when I wrote the following published commentaries and opinions:
January 19, 2020: “Operation Amotekun & The Attorney-General’s Legal Advice: A Legal Opinion on the Way Out of Nigeria’s Insecurity Logjam?” (see https://thenigerialawyer.com). Is Operation Amotekun not for only the Yorubaland, although a national issue, just as the purported adoption by Egbe Amofin is a national NBA issue.
September 20, 2010: “On the Rape Of The Rule Of Law In Ogun State House Of Assembly” (https://www.inigerian.com/on-the-rape-of-the-rule-of-law-in-ogun-state-house-of-assembly/. Also published on https://www.thenigerianvoice.com/ .
May 19, 2010: “The Unilateral Removal Of Ondo State Local Government Chairmen By Governor Mimiko: Where The High Court Erred”
March 20, 2020: “My Position Has Not Changed; It Is Constitutionally & Reasonably The Turn Of The Southwest To Occupy The NBA Presidency From 2020.”
March 20, 2020: “2020 NBA Presidential Elections: The NBA Constitution Is Made to Be Obeyed & Not To be Disrespected.”
January 12, 2020: “NBA 2020 Elections: How Tribal Adoption Could Ruin Us & How True Rotation of NBA Presidency Would Prosper Us.” (published on https://thenigerialawyer.com/)
And then, there is this publication: “NBA Elections: Law Teacher, lawyers, Bicker Over Rotational Presidency.” (published on https://thenationonlineng.net/).
I respectfully suggest that our colleagues should try in all learned discussions to limit themselves to only things and issues that are relevant, and not go about importing irrelevant and sentimental materials as weapons to try to shut up fellow discussants, especially those opposed to their views. From all available facts and publications on the subject, one must continue to embark on objective, analytical discussions for purposes of demonstrating that the “adoption” that was said to have happened on December 14, 2019 reasonably failed to meet legally established, universally accepted and judicially endorsed standards and procedures for validity, fairness and effectiveness, and such is morally and legally unsupportable. Accordingly, as I shall show very shortly, that particular adoption cannot securely, legally or reasonably be accepted (by true lovers of rule of law, advocates of justice and promoters of all-inclusiveness, among whom I belong) to be representative or truly illustrative of the voice or resolution of the majority of Southwest lawyers. As our brother from Ghana, Ernest Agyemang Yeboa, once said, “the beauty of a society is not just in the laws upon which the society revolves, but in how the society regards, upholds and obeys the laws which set boundaries for a beautiful and harmonious society.” Then, on page 464 of his book, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States: With a Preliminary Review of the Constitutional History of the Colonies and States, Before the Adoption of the Constitution, Volume 1, Justice Joseph Story of the Supreme Court of the USA has this to say: “Without justice being freely, fully, and impartially administered, neither our persons, nor our rights, nor our property, can be protected. And if these, or either of them, are regulated by no certain laws, and are subject to no certain principles, and are held by no certain tenure, and are redressed, when violated, by no certain remedies, society fails of all its value; and men may as well return to a state of savage and barbarous independence.” What is more? In his Commencement Address at Yale University, delivered on June 11 1962 then US President, John F. Kennedy stated thus: “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Finally, as our own Sunday Adelaja observed, “justice suffers when men refuse to stand firm for what is right. If we don’t fight lawlessness, it prevails. If we don’t establish the truth in our nations, truth becomes foreign in the country. God says there is no man when there is nobody who stands for the truth.” Learned gentlemen, I earnestly beg you to stay tuned because resistance to tyranny is service to God Almighty (per James Maddison). I am guided by Thomas Hardy’s advice in Tess of the D’Urbervilles: “if an offense come out of the truth, then better is it that the offense comes than that the truth be concealed.”
Thank you so much.
Long live the NBA!
SYLVESTER UDEMEZUE (udems)