OP-UNEDITED | El–Rufai’s Preaching Bill And Kaduna State HoA – By Chima Christian

By Chima Christian

The Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai is yet again under fire. This time, the issue is more opinion – dividing than the previous controversies that have almost defined the public service life of the “accidental public servant”. Right from his rather uneasy days as the “Executive Governor” of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to his days in “exile” and down to his emergence as the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, he a been a man in the eye of the storm.

There is this consensus about the person of El Rufai. Even some of his fiercest critics agree that he has been a dogged fighter for the better part of his life, a very spirited one at that. The El Rufai they know will pull all strings out to achieve anything he sets out to achieve despite the enormity of risks and resources involved. This point was validated by El Rufai’s prominent role in the famous “Abuja demolitions”. The former FCT Minister had to step on a lot of toes, including; good, bad, ugly and even deadly ones. This he did despite the stiff opposition and heated debate that later metamorphosed into controversy, name calling, yelling (wailing in more recent lingo) and even threats to life. There is no obvious need now to start quantifying the enormity of energy and political will one needs to have in other to bring about the kind of surgical transformations El Rufai wrought on the FCT.

This magnitude of audacity is an attribute so rare to find in today’s political space. What we now have as a status quo is that most key actors are afraid to even directly speak out, not to talk of fighting for what they believe to be true. They will prefer to pander, tip-toe around issues and strive to be politically correct in the guise of being diplomatic. This political correctness culture which has incidentally become our new normal has continued to ravage the very essence of our society. Since a just about organised cacophony of voices are readily available to brawl at, smear and attack people for saying their mind, most now prefer to be “politically correct”. The situation that this culture threw up is that we will have to endure living in a society where lies and half-truths are the preferred (if not essential) commodities. Haba! El Rufai cannot conform to such a societal pattern. He will always talk and walk his talk in the direction of his conscience. Maybe this explains why he holds the record of being the “most controversial” FCT Minister ever and is currently shortlisted to go down as maybe the “most controversial” Governor ever!

Since the resurrection of the preaching bill, fiery darts resumed flying the way of El Rufai, but the reality is that the man has already developed a tough skin to controversy. He has been described as a religious bigot, an extremist, the next stage of the brawling is already at hand. He will be called a terrorist or something worse than that. Death threats have been issued, and some are coming from seemingly “high places”. But the man seems unruffled and adamant and poised to achieve his set objectives. That’s him! That’s El Rufai! He will stop at nothing to get this bill passed. He will even attempt to get it quickly passed “undiluted”. Since the executive bill was introduced, the defiant El Rufai has been spending an enormous deal of energy trying to explain the rationale of the bill and consequently trying to validate his frank but rather straight jacket viewpoint on combating religious extremism and its imminent consequences.

The preaching bill which was introduced only a few weeks ago is unsurprisingly controversial. The surprising thing here is that such a bill has rapidly passed the second reading and is presently at the committee stage awaiting public hearing and final presentation for third reading at the Kaduna State House of Assembly. Sadly though, the people voting on this bill are not that steep in legislative matters. Out of the current 34 State legislators, only 6 have prior legislative experiences, the rest are simply legislative greenhorns.

Also worthy of note is the fact that Kaduna State House of Assembly is a more or less a one party house. Virtually all the 34 seats were clinched by APC lawmakers and left the opposition PDP with a paltry sum of about 7 seats. This political equation answers to the way votes have gone on this particular executive bill and suggests the direction it will yet go when it eventually comes for final presentation. If the bill goes for a voice vote, the “ayes” will sure “have it. If it goes for manual voting, the majority (APC) will carry the day. Remember the Governor is from APC and there is no telling the amount of influence party caucus meetings have on the voting pattern of the house.

This scenario portends a grave danger for democracy. Kaduna now has a lot of one – sided trainee legislators voting on a bill that would not have survived the second reading if the state of affairs were otherwise. Has it been that the house was fairly balanced, a bipartisan compromise must be struck to get such a bill passed. And to strike bipartisan compromise on such a controversial bill is characteristically herculean and requires input to be drawn from a lot of voices.

Having taken a reasonable amount of time to understand the man behind the bill, one will be sure that drawing inputs from a lot of voices may be practically impossible. The classical El Rufai will not in any way allow the bill to be “diluted” or concede to withdrawing the bill, no matter the amount of controversy it will generate. He will stick to his gun and ensure that the bill gets passed. I like the man. He fights for what he believes in. The problem here is the kind of democracy we practice, we are yet to fully appreciate the need for checks and balances. Until we vividly rethink our contemporary leadership recruitment and near absolute empowerment process, we may continue to have situations like this on our hands.

I agree with the governor, the bill is in some ways good-intentioned but I equally agree with Inibehe Effiong, human rights activists and other concerned citizens; it is many ways unconstitutional and may set off the nation on a very dangerous trajectory. I will love to see El Rufai, the dogged fighter, borrow the character to understand that some battles are unnecessary and are sometimes won by loosing. I will love to see him exhibit the humility of understanding and that no single person holds all the answers to real world problems. I will love to see Kaduna State House of Assembly ignore their current political configuration and grow into full legislative maturity. I will love to see the general populace understand that we collectively created our current political and societal configuration and can at any time restructure it if we genuinely want to. I will love to see us have candid policy discussions and sometimes disagree with one another without resorting to name – calling, intimidation and violence. Let us see what happens at the end of the day, but even if the bill gets passed into law, its validity can still be tested in courts.

Chima is a civil rights activist, public policy analyst and a good governance advocate. He writes in from Nnewi, Anambra State. He can be contacted on Twitter via @ChimaCChristian



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