Kazeem Ugbodaga, Eromosele Ebhomele & Henry Ojelu
Family, friends, lawyers and several other sympathizers this morning besieged the Agege home of the late human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, who died Wednesday in Lagos, western Nigeria.
Among the early caller were Prof: Tunde Babawale, Ayo Obe, Law lecturer at the University of Lagos, Wale Ogunade, Richard Akinola, Lanre Arogundade among others.
A condolence register has already been opened for the late activist.
As at the time of filing this report, only few visitors were allowed access to the widow. No official statement has also been made about the cause of his death.
Meanwhile, his close friends and associates are yet to recover from the shock of the incident.
Aturu, a political and public affairs analyst, was said to have slumped and was reportedly confirmed dead on arrival at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba. He was aged 49.
Debo Adeniran of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, told P.M.NEWS that it was a sad loss, especially to the human rights and civil society community.
“I was told he collapsed, but the news did not come to me early. By the time I heard it, I called his wife but the background noise coming from the other end seemed like a church setting. It was another person, a lady, who picked the phone and was just shouting: ‘it is well’ and that Aturu’s wife cannot speak to me.
“He must have overworked himself or he is a victim of the doctors’ strike, but we will know in due course,” he said.
Adeniran recalled that his relationship with Aturu began from the Adeyemi College of Education, Lagos where they were classmates. Since then, he said, they both belonged to the same civil and human rights organisations.
“I was even the Director-General of his campaign group in 2003 when he contested against former Governor Bola Tinubu. He was a quintessential human being and was the one we were hoping would take the space left behind by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi,” he said, recalling Aturu’s humility and love for the downtrodden in the society.
Adeniran also disclosed that the late Aturu once served in the Nigerian Army before going for his first degree and that he was earlier denied his National Youth Service Corps certificate on account of his opposition to military incursion into Nigeria’s politics.
Despite his popularity, Aturu was only able to move into his own house in Lagos last year.
When contacted on the phone, Festus Keyamo, another human rights lawyer based in Lagos, could only utter some terse words in tears. “I can’t speak now, my brother, I am so weighed down that I don’t have the words,” he said.
Reacting to Aturu’s death, National President, Campaign for Democracy, CD, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin described his demise as shocking, especially at a very young age.
He said Aturu, over the years, had displayed uncommon courage in the face of tyranny in confronting the powers that be with the truth.
She added that Aturu devoted his life to the struggle to liberate the oppressed in the country, saying his demise was devastating and he would surely be missed.
“Mr. Aturu’s life was dedicated to the cause of social change, defence of the weak and expansion of the frontiers of freedom. From his days as a students leader till he breathed his last, Aturu was consistent in his dogged defence of justice, equity and fairness in all spheres of life .
“He was moulded in the tradition of the Gani Fawehinmi tribe of legal activists who believe that the purpose of law is to liberate and not to oppress and that defined his sojourn in the legal profession. It is symbolic that he was on his way to the NUT delegates conference when the complications that led to his death arose.
“He has played his part and has departed to the realm of the ancestors but his deeds have entered the archives of progressivism in Nigeria. He will sorely be missed at the barricades.
“It is our prayer that God Almighty will be with the family he has left behind and may his soul rest in perfect peace. Good night fearless fighter!”
Comrade Biodun Aremu, activist, who handed over the leadership of the United Action for Democracy, UAD, to Aturu, lamented the death of Aturu, describing it as sad.
“It is a sad news. We shared the same thing in common in that I handed over to him as UAD Convener. We were contemporaries in the Students Movement then. It is a sad loss, especially when he died young.
“This reminds us that whatever we have to do, we should remember death. It is unfortunate that death is an irreparable thing we cannot avoid,” he lamented.
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said the news of Aturu’s death was devastating and shocking, saying that his death had depleted the progressive forces in the country.
“He was one of the foremost activists in Nigeria. Words are not enough to express his loss. We will surely miss him. May God grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss,” he said.
Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos State branch, Joe Igbokwe, described Aturu’s death as the passing away of the ‘gentle tiger,’ saying his death has diminished him as a mortal and robbed the Nigerian human rights community one of its most vibrant activists and defender of the rule of law.
“We will miss his vigorous advocacy, we will miss his imposing personality and eloquent delivery in public space. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace,” he said.
Barrister Olasupo Ojo, human rights lawyer and bosom friend to the late Aturu, told P.M.NEWS that his friend’s death was devastating.
“It is a calamity, a huge loss, and above all very sorrowful,” he said.
Comrade Ojo, a leader of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, said he had been friends with Aturu for close to 20 years.
He noted that Aturu made a lot of sacrifice just to get to where he was before death sntached him away, wondering why death would strike at a time he was just settling down.
“He toiled hard to become a lawyer, he really suffered. He was fearless, paid a lot of sacrifices and was only just settling down. Something is really wrong somewhere and I am completely devastated,” he told P.M.NEWS as he grieved.
Some former motorcycle riders in Lagos also expressed shock at the death of the lawyer. Many of them recalled how he legally fought the state government in their favour when they were banned initially without a law backing same.
Born 49 years ago, Aturu, was nicknamed “Gentle Tiger” for his outstanding brilliance and stand-out personality. He studied law at the Obafemi Awolowo University and carried out his National Youth Service Corp scheme in Niger State between 1987/88.