Human rights activist and lawyer, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, has said he will not be part of the Section on Public Interest and Development Law, SPIDEL, conference in Sokoto State, because of the murder of Deborah Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, and, more importantly, SPIDEL’s leadership’s reaction to the incident.
According to Odinkalu, who compared Deborah’s murder to “pre-Neanderthal killings of Nigerians”, “SPIDEL was set up to defend the meaning of human life in Nigeria.”
Deborah was stoned to death and then her body burnt by her raving colleagues, who claimed she blasphemed Islam.
Since the tragedy yesterday, there have been calls for the cancellation of the conference. It was scheduled to hold in Sokoto from May 22 to 26, on the theme “Rule of Law and Democratic Evolution in Nigeria”.
Odinkalu’s decision to pull out of the event was the latest in the outcry against the murder of Deborah or according to him, “killings of Nigerians anywhere in Nigeria,” although he expressed displeasure more with the reaction of SPIDEL’s leadership.
Odinkalu’s “personal statement” read in part: “I am gratified that the Chairman of SPIDEL, my brother, Monday Ubani, MoU, has responded to this horrific incident in Sokoto.
“Sadly, much of the contents of his statement are beside the point at best. Others parts are gratuitously insulting.
“It seems clear his statement is more focused on saving a conference, which can take place anywhere, or on NBA politics, which is unending rather than on valorising human life and responsible government.
“The issues here are clear and his statement fails to reckon with any of them at all. That is why I consider it necessary to respond.
“If all that MoU has done is send SMS to the state governor and HAG, he sadly fails to get the point about this.
“You mean all that bloviating evident on the face of his statement was done in order to convey the point that he has sent a mere SMS to the state governor?
“And on the back of that he accuses colleagues of lacking ‘locus’, whatever that means.
“The reality is life has lost meaning in Nigeria. SPIDEL was set up to defend the meaning of human life in Nigeria. I know because I did.
“In case my brother does not recall, the guarantor of life under our constitution is not the state governor. It is the president.
“I may have missed it but I am yet to see what the President or Federal Government has said about this incident.
“Nor has MoU said that he sent an SMS to the President or to Abubakar Malami, since, in his view, an SMS is all that this incident requires. But an SMS addressed to the wrong recipient is not an SMS at all.
“I was prepared to suspend final decision on participating in Sokoto until I heard from the leadership of SPIDEL.
“Having now heard from them, it is clear to me that they do not get the significance of this issue. I am now convinced that I will be unable to accept an invite to participate in the SPIDEL conference.
“So, I, Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, am cancelling my participation. I will, in addition, actively campaign against the meeting.
“Everyone has to take their own decision. The SPIDEL leadership has taken its decision. I have taken mine. This is a matter of conscience,” he wrote