by Paul Okeugo
True to statements made by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai last week at the Social Media Week Lagos in which he vowed to “prosecute”( or persecute) Mr Audu Maikori for statements in respect of the Southern Kaduna crises.
Mr Maikori despite being ill has been ferried off to Kaduna state by law enforcement officers at the behest of Governor El Rufai, who is asserting that one of the pictures posted by Mr Maikori caused the death of Fulani in Kaduna State.
It is unfortunate that the governor has made this issue more about Audu Maikori that we have forgotten what the real issues are about.
The real issues are that hundreds of people from Southern Kaduna have been killed in the past year and there has been no clear indication that the arrests or prosecution of the actual perpetrators of these Mass Murders is imminent. There seems to be a keener focus on locking up or silencing people who are speaking up against the lacklustre response of the Kaduna state government.
Governor El Rufai claims that Audu’s posts “may” have incited violence in Southern Kaduna. Well let’s examine the tweet again. The link to the above story was posted on twitter
The tweet stated the following words “Not a Very Merry Xmas for the People of Southern Kaduna” the tweet does not mention any inciting words; neither does it state “Fulani” or any other thing. The tweet has a link, which leads to the actual story:
In summary the article itself was not inciting, it laid out the history of the crisis dating back 20 years ago, indeed it acknowledged the efforts of the Governor/Government but called for them to do more, and even outlines ideas and steps to help curb the situation and ended with this line “This is a plea for action and a prayer for peace for Southern Kaduna, Kaduna and all of Nigeria”.
How can this article be read or interpreted as irresponsible, inciting or reckless? The very next day, the 24th of December 2016 on Christmas eve it was reported that Goska Village was attacked by the murderous herdsmen, with the killing of scores of people. The pictures are all over the Internet and the reports were made by several news sites.
One wonders if the Governor will also arrest and charge Sahara Reporters for posting this story.
All this happened during a 24-hour curfew.
Was it this article that incited suspected Fulani herdsmen in a remote part of Southern Kaduna with no Internet access to slaughter the people in that village?
The gaffe here was that the picture on the tweet was later discovered to be that of another genocide. Was that intentional?? Of course not. Many pictures come up when you do a Google search of the Southern Kaduna killings on the web, and really how can one just on the surface of it tell a Rwandan village from a village in Kaduna? Does this make the story any less true? Did the Fulanis not attack already before pictures were posted? Mr Maikori even posted an apology on both Facebook and Twitter for the picture, while still maintaining focus on the loss of life caused by the incident. Did this picture really start all this? Have there been any reprisals from Southern Kaduna indigenes on Fulanis? (None has been yet reported).
The second matter has to do with false story told by Mr Maikori’s driver: The driver has confessed to the IGP monitoring unit as well as the Marwa, Lekki Police Post confirming that he concocted the story in a bid to defraud Audu of some money. The details of the story are already widely publicized and there is no need to rehash it.
What is worthy of note is that Audu personally investigated the matter after the School’s statement and took active steps to apprehend the driver and take him to the Police.
He thereafter issued a copious apology to not just the College of Education, but the Fulani Community, the Southern Kaduna community and both the State Governor and government. In spite of all these Gov. El Rufai still arranged for him to be arrested, detained and investigated by the Police under the charge of “Criminal conspiracy and Incitement.”
The narrative being sold by the governor is that Audu has been reckless and irresponsible and therefore responsible for attacks?
Does this make sense? Let’s examine this allegation: In the matter of the driver’s claim how could anyone actually verify the story? What reason would anyone have to doubt a story if a personal staff who has worked with them for months says that he lost his brother? Why would anyone think he lied, when on several occasions even more numbers of people have been killed in the same area?
The main reason for Audu’s advocacy and that of others like him is the helpless situation Southern Kaduna people have found themselves in. They are being decimated every day and when they speak up against it, they are called inciters or criminals. They are arrested, detained, threatened, taken to court and all sorts of charges are trumped up against them. Has this advocacy worked? Yes and this is evidenced by the serious attention the matter has seemed to garner, so much so that we have seen the recent establishment of battalions, arrests of some suspected killers and even the level of support the Kaduna State government has gotten both locally and internationally. If these advocates hadn’t spoken up only God knows how many people would have lost their lives by now.
PROSECUTION OR PERSECUTION
Last week the Governor took time out to attend the SMW Lagos where he made two scary statements
“We are going to prosecute him. He was arrested. His statement has been taken. He is on bail. He is going to be prosecuted. His fate will be decided by a judge”. He thereafter also added
“We (the state) are TRYING (please note the emphasis on trying) to link the dates of his (Audu Maikori) tweets/postings to attacks that MAY have happened the next day to Fulanis and if we are able to establish that causation, we will prosecute him.”
So two points jump out: –
1. Considering the fact that the “Fake picture” was made on the 23rd of December 2016 and his statement was made two months later, it would seem to me that any “LINK” or connection between the erroneous picture and any attacks should have been well established and/or reported by now.
Second, if between the 2nd of March 2017 when the Governor made his statement and this week, evidence suddenly appears linking these “deaths” to the time of the statement, then it is safe to say that such evidence is fabricated or at least is tailored to meet an expected charge.
2. The second issue for consideration is how personally involved the Governor seems to be in this matter. He stated to several newspapers and media platforms that he would ensure Audu was prosecuted.
In the matters relating to prosecution, the accused must first be investigated. It is only when a prima facie case has been established will he then be prosecuted. Anyone who watched the shocking video of the Governor can see clearly that he has already decided to prosecute Audu regardless of what happens because he needs a scapegoat.
What was the crime? Speaking out against the slaughtering of people in Southern Kaduna.
This sort of statement, if there is ever need for it, should be made by the Attorney-General of Kaduna State, Director of Public Prosecutions of the State and not the Governor who is supposed to a neutral arbiter in such matters.
Clearly, the Governor has demonstrated which side he stands on. So contrary to his verbal statements this case for him is very personal.
We should not be surprised if sometime soon, the Police suddenly find “new” evidence that indicts Audu. And needless to say, any trial held in this matter will be heavily tipped in favour of Governor El-Rufai. He has more than enough government resources and connections to make sure he wins at all costs.
Meanwhile, let us get back to the real issues. Are people being killed in Southern Kaduna still?
Yes, in fact, during the weekend during which Mr Maikori was first detained, between The 19th of February and the 21st of February, another 21 people were reportedly killed near Kafanchan and Kaura according to Thisday, over 3,000 people have been displaced and compensation still has not been paid to many of these homeless people who have suffered- but surprisingly compensation was niftily paid to the Fulani community who are by the Governor’s self-admission, not even Nigerians!
The Governor has proudly announced this is at several fora. He says the justification of these payments is based on recommendations of the Agwai Report – unfortunately General Agwai himself has frowned at that position. He said that any recommendations for the payment of compensation would be to both aggrieved sides not just one-sided to the Fulanis and in his words the action of the Governor was “partial”.
The real forensic analysis that should be conducted by the local and international media, civil society groups, law enforcement agencies and concerned citizens is the number of Southern Kaduna indigenes slaughtered by the Fulani aggressors between the times Governor El-Rufai started paying them up till this present day.
The real concern is how the governor has incentivized these killings because when you pay money to people who are killing innocent citizens, you have done nothing but provide the killers with the incentive to continue killing. Little wonder the crisis in Southern Kaduna has lingered this long.
We are at a critical point in this nation and Southern Kaduna is a very important part of the equation. Indeed the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo last week ensured he visited Kaduna to meet with some of the stakeholders to plead for the restoration of peace in Southern Kaduna by dialogue, by consultations and by forgetting past wrongs and working together towards a new peace pact – a development that was very welcome by all sides. I don’t see how the persecution of advocates such as Audu Maikori will help bring peace – instead it brings a further strain on any efforts of peace building.
Let it be known that persecuting Audu Maikori is persecuting those who continue to cry out against the killings in Southern Kaduna.
This is a time for the Governor to reach out and broker peace in a state that has been war torn and not to further persecute a people who have suffered great persecution over the past one year for crying out for help.
Keep praying for the people of Southern Kaduna.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Paul Okeugo is a co-founder of Chocolate City Group with Audu Maikori and has been a close friend of his for many years.