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Bauchi NUJ: The Supremacy of Rule of Law — Africa Daily News

By Mu'azu Hassan Jahun 

It was on Tuesday the 20th day  of June, 2023 that Journalists in Bauchi State woke up to an interesting news that the Bauchi State High Court of Justice had issued an order restraining a Credentials Committee inaugurated by the State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists on the 31st May, 2023 from conducting the impending elections for the Council which are slated to hold on the 24th June, 2023 pending hearing and determination of a substantive suit with the No: BA/140/2023, filed by three plaintiffs who call themselves Concerned Members of the Union in the State.

The suit has the immediate past Chairman of the Council, Umar Sa'idu who had ceased to be a legitimate member of the Union since September, 2022 but sits tight as CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL and eight others as DEFENDANTS.

It is apparent that the Bauchi State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) is in a state of a deliberately created confusion and imminent power tussle that are underlain by the expiration of the tenure of the sit-tight immediate past Chairman, Umar Sa'idu led State Working Committee(SWC).

The three year tenure of the Umar Sa'idu led SWC had elapsed on the 13th of June, 2023 even before then Sa'idu had constitutionally ceased to be the Chairman having lost his membership of the Union but the National Secretariat of the Union turns it eyes the other way because of the relationship between Sa'idu and the national Secretary, Shuaibu Leman despite agitations by members.

It is an understatement to say that journalists in Bauchi State are without legitimate or constitutional leadership. Perhaps, more disturbing is the fact that the Chairman of the Council had retired from the Civil Service and exhausted his constitutional respite to superintend the affairs of the Union as its Chairman.

Reliable Sources reveal that concerned members of the Union  in Bauchi State are disappointed that the National Secretariat of the NUJ can condon illegalities and even abet it to the chagrain of its loyal and obediant members. It is never thought by any responsible member of the Union that the National Secretariat will allow the State Council to be rudderless even for a second but it is today almost two weeks without legitimate leadership. 

However, record shows that it was the same National Secretariat that immediately acted when the tenure of a former Chairman of the Council, Ibrahim Malam Goje expired. The National body resorted to a doctrine of necessity and constituted a caretaker committed which was chaired by one Nasiru Kobi just to avoid leadership lacuna.

The partinent question agitating the minds of the concerned members of the Union is obviously: "What stops the National Secretariat of the NUJ from intervening  as it during the time of former Chairman, Malam Goje knowing fully well that the tenure of Umar Saidu led SWC would end on the 13th of June 2023."

 The National Secretariat also remain adamant even and refused to interven when concerned members drew its attention to the situation. It it instead directed the illegitimate SWC to go ahead to constitute a credentials committee in preparation for the conduct of elections for the Council.

Now that some concerned members of Union had secured a court injunction to restrain the National Secretariat and the State Council of the Union following refusal of the National Secretariat to entertain their complaints, it would definitely dawn on the leadership of the Union particularly at the national level that nobody is above the law.

Many people attribute the action taken by the concerned members to stop the planned elections and demand adherence to provisions of the Union's constitution to refusal of the national Secretariat to wade in the constitunal issues rocking the Bauchi State Council. Observers also hail the concerned members for resorting court to seek justice instead of employing violent measures.

With intervention of the Court, it is expected that the National Secretariat will demonstrate the Rule of Law by treading the path of justice, fairness and equity. It will succumb to the supremacy of its constitution by adhering to its dictates irrespective of whose cow gored and take necessary steps to do the right things and forget about personal relationships with some individuals. It is hope that it will eschew all forms of sentiment in the interest of the Union, justice, fairness and equity.

At this juncture, however, the attention of the National Secretariat and indeed the practicing journalists in Bauchi State ought to be drawn to the salient allegations made by the concerned members in their substantive suit. 

How veracious are those allegations? For instance the fundamental allegation that Umar Saidu who happened to be the state Council Chairman before 13th day of June, 2023 had retired from the service of Bauchi State since the 16th day of September,  2022 and exhausted his six months grace window period given conferred on him by Article Eight of the Constitution of the Union since on the 16th day of March, 2023 but  continues to parade himself as chairman for almost three months. Although news of his registration and those of two others, as members of the Correspondents' Chapel of the Union was broken on the 1st of June this year, simple arithmetics would reveal that Umar Sa'idu illegally stayed in office for extra three good months as a retiree if at all the allegation of his retirement on the 13th September, 2022 is true.

Perhaps, the National Secretariat of our great Union and indeed those who see the concerned members as fighting Umar Saidu, may provide answers to questions like: What is the constitutional stand on  the months that Sa'idu remained in office as a retiree?, What is the legality of the State Working Committee after the 13th day of June, 2023 when its tenure elapsed? Answers to these kind of questions can reveal the justification of the struggle of the concerned members and as well obviate the needs for further criticism of their steps in fighting the flagrant violations of our Union's constitution.

As it appears, Sa'idu lacks the locus standing to act in whatever capacity on behalf of the Union. Therefore, one may ask of the legitimacy of the so-called Credentials Committee whose constitution was superintended by the former Chairman, Sa'idu. Recall, the retired Civil Servant and for former Union leader did not even allowed the Congress to nominate members of the kangaroo Credentials Committee as the Union's constitution provides. He instead announced the names to the hearing of the Congress and went ahead to endorse same. The reader may agree with me that, that was the genesis of the agitation and the looming showdown being championed by the concerned members.

The "crisis" can be put to rest in my opinion if the National Secretariat of the Union and the young prolific practicing journalists in Bauchi State will rise against actions or inactions that go against provisions of the Constitution of our great Union irrespective of who is involved. There should be no any sacred cow.

Personal relationship should be trivialised where official matters are involved. The rule of law and  the principle of Social Justice should also be upheld in all circumstances. The Constitution of the Union must be supreme in the real sense of the word. All organs, officers and members of the Union at all levels must be seen to submit to the Constitution. When these are done peace and harmony will be restored to the Bauchi State Council of the Union.

The national Secretariat may act now that matter is before a Court of competent jurisdiction. However, it is said "a stitch in time saves nine." Had it been that, the national Secretariat provided the necessary leadership when all complaints were put before it, the situation would not have escalated to this extent, I believe.

The onus is on the National Secretariat to do the right things and the matter before the court would be withdrawn or it continues to remain adamant and the crisis lingers.

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