El-Rufai is someone for whom I have a lot of time, a lot of fondness. I find him to be a brilliant, stubborn, hard worker – some of the essential qualities needed to succeed in this life. Sometimes, I wish it were him in Aso villa, and perhaps, some day, if that is his desire, he might get there.
So far, in Kaduna, El-Rufai is doing a fine job as governor. He even posted one of my articles on his Facebook page at one time, so you know the brother has good taste.
Things were going swimmingly well until El-Rufai felt compelled to put his foot in it. Recently, the governor only went and dropped a couple of clangers. Perhaps he is letting his office get to him. What is it about power that change people so much and so quickly? Around our Independent Day celebration last year, the governor went to town with some wildly off the mark financial figures. He wrote that the Jonathan administration spent some N64 billion over 4 years to commemorate our independence. The Buhari government later confirmed that the actual amount spent was N333.6 million. The governor simply took down his claim and moseyed on.
Now, about a week or so ago, El-Rufai interjected himself into the unpleasant debate about President Buhari stepping all over people's constitutional rights. He issued another statement in which he roundly condemned anyone that had the temerity to object to the executive arm of a democratic government disobeying court orders as it pleases. El-Rufai wrote, “…the rule of law itself is subject to the rule and right of a nation when it pertains to the security and wellbeing of the people of a country against that of a few individuals.”
Haba, Alhaji! Please say it ain’t so.
Stomping on the rights of individuals is a slippery slope to a very bad place. I have read El-Rufai’s book, ‘The Accidental Public Servant’ and I have read a few of his writings where he narrated his harrowing experience in the hands of late Yar’Adua and ex IG of Police, Mike Okiro. Things got so bad, El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu had to flee the country. It is a real pity that a young man who went through that level of State persecution would turn around in a few years and take a position that it is alright for governments to deny her citizens’ constitutional rights.
The emphasis here is on government taking away an individual’s human rights. The exact condition that led El-Rufai to escape into exile for a while because he knew the State, at that period, had moved from prosecution to persecuting him. In essence, right or wrong, he felt powerless to fight back.
Another danger in the governor’s position is who defines the threshold at which a government can begin to subvert citizens' rights for the 'good of the nation' because this is not stated in our constitution.
We have to be careful not to let our desire to see justice done to a few accused people blind us to the tenets of democracy and the wider protection of citizens. The Nazis used the same line; they claimed they were protecting the German nation and within a few months, Hitler’s government was getting rid of a lot of disagreeable people (as defined by him). The disabled were not spared. Similarly, people thought to have mental health problems were forcibly sterilised so that they would not have offspring that would pollute their pure Aryan race. All of that was done to protect the nation’s interest. Then, as it is now, there were many intellectuals cheering on the government.
To support his seemingly newfound support for a totalitarian State, El-Rufai cited the example of American Special Forces summary dispatch of Osama bin Laden to a terrorist heaven. But bin Laden was an external aggressor who perpetrated war against the USA. Habitually, the US government captures and arrests home-grown (and even some foreign) terrorists where possible, and put them through formal legal trial. The rights of American citizens are rigorously protected by their government anywhere in the world.
Furthermore, the government shouldn’t unwittingly create a situation whereby accused persons or those invited by law enforcement agencies see fleeing as the best option available to them because they know that their fundamental and constitutional rights will be breached.
I don’t think that anyone is saying that Dasuki and co should be set free. Very far from it. Dasuki and his mates should be fully held accountable and be made to pay severely for betraying the people’s trust if found guilty. Frankly, I feared what could have become of the military if the PDP under Jonathan got another term. Dasuki was in the forefront of those wanting to scupper the last presidential election; now we know why. In my view, one of the good things that would happen to this country will be a proper and detailed forensic investigation of the 16 years of PDP rule. Additionally, all persons accused of various crimes of corruption and sedition against the state must be brought to book. However, the government must do this within the ambit of democratic rule of law. The two are not mutually exclusive. To suggest otherwise is dangerous over-indulgence and lazy.
Silence is bad enough, but why ask the people to clap as the judiciary is brow-beaten to hold on to accused persons in order not to incur the wrath of the executive? Why are we being coerced into embracing fascism in the 21st century?
Frighteningly, El-Rufai finished off his essay with this: “Enough of lily livered leadership, it's time to run this country according to dictates of the time we live in.” Well, what can I say? I'm sure I've heard similar sentiments expressed by Okiro, and from Pinochet's Chile down to apartheid South Africa.