Mr. Mela Audu Nunghe, a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Abuja branch, has been appointed chairman of the Board of the International Trade Fair Complex, Lagos. In this interview with Legal Editor JOHN AUSTIN UNACHUKWU, he bares his mind on the forthcoming NBA elections, the crisis in Abuja branch, the resurrection of the Trade Fair Complex and sundry national issues.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will elect new officers in July. What are your expectations?
My advice to the Bar is that they must avoid any pitfall that will lead us to any crisis. There should be no godfatherism in professional associations, like that of the NBA. Anybody who feels that he is qualified to lead the association should present himself. They should not use religion or any form of divisive tactics to divide the association. Merit should be the yardstick. The Bar association has no religion, no tribe. The Bar association is a collection of lawyers who are bound together by that calling of being lawyers. That is one of the reasons why I like the military. When an officer is due for promotion, even if he is from the same house with the last general, he will be promoted accordingly because he deserves it. That should be the practice within the NBA and we should also remember that as a democracy, other people are watching us . We must be very careful because we are being watched by other associations to set the pace. So, I wish the Eastern Bar Forum who are supposed to produce the next NBA President and all the aspirants the best of luck.
Why is the Abuja branch of the NBA still divided?
The Elders Committee of the Bar have tried and they have not come out of this situation. I think that there has to be one drastic and if possible an action that should bar all those who are causing this crises in Abuja branch. They should be suspended until we attain stability, so if I have been in the centre of the crises, for God’s sake, for the sake of the association, I should be barred at least for two years or more until we have a stable association. Then they should be careful on who they appoint to conduct elections because some of them have their own candidates and when they come to conduct elections, they do everything possible to put their candidates in office. Why then do you think the scale of justice Ibi Jus ibi remedium does not have a head or where it has one, the face is covered? It is because the law does not know anybody’s face. Law must operate for the existence of good society, so when you bring somebody who has interest in Mr. X and everything he does is tilted towards wanting Mr. X to win it wont work because the moment other contestants see that there is no transparency, they will revolt.
What do you make of Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) lawsuit over last election?
The matter is in court. It is a matter of common knowledge, some people are blaming why the other candidate should go to court. But it is his right, that is the most civilised way to seek redress. I do not see why anybody will begin to blame him for going to court to ventilate his grievances. It is the most civilised way to seek redress. Do you expect him to mobilise some young men, give them money and let them be causing commotion every time the NBA is meeting? It shouldn’t be, so we should commend his courage for taking legal steps to challenge whatever he thinks is wrong. At the end of the day, whatever the court says, even he himself will be bound whether he likes it or not.
You ran for the House of Representatives under the Congress for Progressive Change ( CPC). What is your next political move?
Well, once you start a race, you will like to complete it at any time in your life. The developments in the system since then have been great because from CPC, we have APC which is the ruling party. There are so many things that one has to be very careful in looking at but I do really want to represent my people at any given point. I can’t say with certainty what is going to happen, everything lies with God. If I am contesting for a position and I see a more credible candidate than myself, not because of ego, I will support him. If I trust you so much and you have such credibility that I believe that you can deliver more than me, I will give way for you. It is not life’s struggle that you must be there, after all you gain power only if God wills. No matter what you think about yourself, unless God wills, you cannot get into any position.
How have your representatives fared?
I desire to represent my people and I believe that I will give them better representation than all the members of the House of Representatives that have come from my place. I know that none of them talks. None of them has either moved a motion or led a debate on any issue because of their backgrounds and because they were not supposed to be there. But, for one reason or the other, they are there. Most of those who came to represent Bilri Balanga, Gombe State, if you count them, you will find out that none of them except the late Idris Abubakar who was in the Senate and late Tawari Umbis Wada who incidentally were both lawyers, we never had such robust representation from any of our people in the House of Representatives. They were the ones who made us proud and gave our people robust representation in the National Assembly. Because they were articulate, they understood the issues, they understood what the responsibilities and the duties of legislation entailed and they did it with all their might unfortunately, they were not able to live longer than the day they left.
You chair the Lagos International Trade Fair complex board. How do you feel?
I thank God for the appointment and I will like to use this opportunity to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for finding me worthy among millions of Nigerians to be appointed to this position. I didn’t expect it but I know that somebody somewhere know that I deserve it, that is why I give God all the glory, because God uses people. It came to me as a surprise and when I find myself in situations like that, I brace up to the responsibility. So, one of the first things I did when I saw the appointment was to pull out the Act to understand the enormity of the responsibility before I started getting feelers and information about what the Lagos International Trade Fair is all about. I saw that it is a place that is needing attention. I said whatever it is, I trust God to help me to make a mark and do something that will stand the test of time.
Have you visited the complex?
We were inaugurated on March 1. Before I visited the Trade Fair complex, I thought that it was wise to consult with the relevant government agencies. I thank the Ministers of Trade and Investment for giving me audience. I consulted with them. I had the privilege of consulting with the Director-General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises ( BPE), the Solicitor General of the Federation and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. I consulted them and other agencies, so we can put our heads together to carry out the mandate. Having done that, I visited the complex. The purpose was to have the inaugural meeting of the board, which to took place on April 13. Along with other members of the board we took a tour of the complex. It is such a sad story. You will be excited coming to that place but you will leave that place very sad.
Because it is wealth lying fallow. It is a gold mine that is abandoned untapped. Some people call it a dead cow, others call it a monumental waste. How to move from there to restore life to that place is what no one person can do. Not even the board alone can do it, so it has to take the collective efforts of the management, the board, the relevant Ministries and agencies to see that this place is transformed to a national pride. I do appreciate the enormity of the other agencies like the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), the National Theatre and so on but since this is my own area, let me concentrate on that and see how collectively together we can fall in to make it a viable project for the Federal Government. I do know that there is a National Council on Privitasitaion which is the body that is saddled with the responsibility to concession or privatise most of these government agencies. We would work closely with them and the BPE to see how the Trade Fair Complex is revived without necessarily falling into the same trap that happened the last time an attempt was made to concession it. We are ready to support government policies, steps and initiatives to seeing that the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex is once more in the limelight, and becomes a national and international center that will attract the cream of business globally for commercial activities.