ISSUES | Why Audu Maikori May Get the Abacha Treatment from El-Rufai – By Mbasekei Martin Obono
By Mbasekei Martin Obono
The return of democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999 coincided somewhat with the arrival of the digital age in Nigeria. In this period of nearly 20 years, never before have we witnessed the level of criminalization of voice of dissent as we see today under the APC-led administration. One key question that needs to be asked, however, is whether the current ruling party would have taken over power in 2015 if the previous government had criminalized dissent in the same way that they have chosen to do. As I write this, news has just filtered through of the gruesome killing of Abdulkareem Bauchi, a blogger who was reported missing in Bauchi recently.
One case that dramatizes this situation more than most is that of Audu Maikori, the CEO of Chocolate City who has been at the forefront of the campaign against the killings in Southern Kaduna. In a series of tweets in February, Audu alleged that some students of Kaduna State College of Education in Gidan-Waya, near Kafanchan, were killed by herdsmen on 22 January, 2017. This information, he insisted, was acquired from his driver and came at a time when tales of incessant killings were rife in Southern Kaduna. The school, however, denied these allegations and a formal statement was released by the state government vowing to prosecute rumor peddlers. After further inquiry and investigations, Audu retracted his tweets and apologized.
On Friday, 17 February, 2017, Audu was arrested in Lagos on the warrant of a Magistrate court in Kaduna. His arrest was confirmed by the police the following day and he was released on bail having passed the night in their custody in Abuja. On 3 March, 2017, at an event in Lagos, the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai proclaimed: “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.” One week later, on 10 March, – yet another Friday – Audu was again arrested. He ended up in the cells of the Kaduna state Police. Yet they said they were not responsible for his arrest. Audu is presently on bail granted by the Magistrate.
The key issue now is not Audu’s guilt or innocence. Rather it is whether or not Audu can get justice for the crime he is charged in the place that he has been charged. These questions arise because of the antecedents and statements of Kaduna’s Governor El-Rufai.
First, Mallam El-Rufai stated categorically that his government will prosecute Audu. A major drawback in this statement is that El-Rufai has made himself a chief prosecutor in the case. By doing so, he usurps the roles of the Police and the Attorney-General and gives them no room to exercise independent discretion based on evidence. This is not the role of a Governor.
Second, this Governor of Kaduna State will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Specifically, he has previous record of confessing to interfering with judicial independence and process. On page 202 of his autobiography, The Accidental Public Servant, El-Rufai, referred to equity and justice as ‘protocol issues’ and extensively recalls how he used his network of Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA) to suborn disgraced Chief Judge of Abuja, Justice Gummi, just to achieve his set objective of “restoring the Abuja master plan.” To achieve his purpose, El-Rufai boasts about how he also budgeted an “annual grant” to support the FCT Judiciary in order to ‘procure court recording and automation equipment.’ A more concrete confession of authority bribing and judicial corruption is difficult to invent.
The question then is: would Audu Maikori get justice from a government led by a man who would think nothing of boasting about interfering with judicial process and advising on how to acquire it? This is why citizens of good conscience must resist the impending sham of El-Rufai’s judicial lynching of Audu Maikori.
Third, in his recently leaked memorandum of September 2016 to President Muhammadu Buhari, titled “You Have Failed,” El-Rufai advised the president to have “harmonious relationship” with the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the all-important Federal High Court in order to speed up the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s case and ensure his conviction. This is a clear case of procuring subornation and interference with judicial process.
The question then is: would Audu Maikori get justice from a government led by a man who would think nothing of boasting about interfering with judicial process and advising on how to acquire it? This is why citizens of good conscience must resist the impending sham of El-Rufai’s judicial lynching of Audu Maikori. It is not in any way or form different from what Sani Abacha did to the Ogoni 9. It is working to a pre-determined answer.
Just like Audu Maikori, Ken Saro-Wiwa fought for the pursuit of the rights of Ogoni people against Shell for environmental degradation and the attendant loss of lives of his people. Just like El-Rufai, Gen. Sani Abacha administration was bent on getting rid of Saro-Wiwa. His government handpicked the judge and team who delivered the verdict they needed to hang Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni activists on November 10, 1995. According to Sahara Reporters, “Justice Auta pronounced Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni activists guilty of a crime they never committed and sentenced them to death by hanging. The Abacha regime swiftly ratified Auta’s verdict and thereafter murdered Saro-Wiwa and the eight activists before the period allowed for an appeal had elapsed.” Other members of the Tribunal were Late Justice Etowa Arikpo and Col. Hameed Ali, now the Comptroller-General of Customs.
Kainen Michael once said that the justice system is a human system and it is fallible. This statement may be true but then, we don’t need people like El-Rufai going out of their way to ensure the fallibility of our already frail justice system. It is the easiest way to grow the toxicity of an already poisonous system.
Mbasekei Martin Obono writes from the United Kingdom and tweets from @martobono
Follow us on Twitter at @thesignalng
Copyright 2017 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to www.signalng.com and other relevant sources.