Nasir Rufai could do more to contain the crisis in southern Kaduna, writes Sonnie Ekwowusi

Last week the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) dramatically withdrew the invitation it had earlier extended to Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai to speak at the 2020 Annual General Conference of the NBA slated for August 26-29, 2020. The charges (emanating from different lawyers including some members of the public) preferred against Governor El-Rufai at the court of public opinion last week, are, inter alia, that since 2015 to date El-Rufai has been fragrantly disobeying court orders; disregarding and abusing the rule of law; adopting a nonchalant attitude to the monumental carnage in Southern Kaduna; threatening people whom he feels are opposed to him. For example, on February 5 2019, El-Rufai threatened the international observers covering the last general elections that if they dared interfered with the elections they would go home in “body bags”.

As at last Friday, the had collected the signatures of not less than 4, 300 witnesses ready to testify in the charges preferred against El-Rufai. The testimonies of some of the witnesses published online are hereunder stated: “As a lawyer, I join my colleagues in condemning d decision to invite Gov.@elrufai of Kaduna State to address the viral conference of NBA… .” (Nnamdi Asomugha Sr Esq.); “As at today, Southern Kaduna is the most active site of massacres and mass atrocities in Nigeria. Despite this Governor El-Rufai dismissed the atrocities going on in Southern Kaduna as “media hype” (Open Bar Initiative). “For fragrant disregard for the rule of law and disobedience to court orders and for saying that he would give money to the killers in Kaduna to stop their killing, El-Rufai lacks moral right to address lawyers” (Femi Falana SAN)

In his defence, Governor El-Rufai, together with his witnesses, has lampooned the NBA for allegedly being parochial and bowing to pressure from anonymous crowd without giving him a fair-hearing. Citing section 3 (6) of the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution and Bye-Law in their testimony for El-Rufai, the NBA, (Bauchi Branch) faults the withdrawal of El-Rufai from speaking at the conference. It calls on the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) to rescind the withdrawal failure which the NBA (Bauchi Branch) would boycott the 2020 NBA Conference. The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) construes the NBA withdrawal of the invitation of El-Rufai as a “declaration of war”. It urges all lawyers from Northern Nigeria to boycott the 2020 NBA Conference. What a prescription for intolerance?” (Abubakar Sani Esq.)

Let me say this again: The fundamental issue that calls for determination in this public trial is not the person of His Excellency Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. Far from it. Neither has it got anything to do with tribe and religion. I agree with the out-going NBA President Paul Usoro (SAN) that the trial of El-Rufai has “no ethnic or religious colouration”. The fundamental issue at stake in this trial is the crisis and bloodletting in Southern Kaduna. Therefore any mudsling and rebellious impulses towards tarnishing the image of Governor El-Rufai are completely misconceived. El-Rufai, ontologically, is a good person. My closest physical encounter with him dates back to his days on the Editorial Board of THISDAY Newspaper. At that time, he stood out for his exceptional brilliance in analyzing national issues. So, Governor El-Rufai is good.

Having said this, I wish to reiterate my earlier comment that the main issue in this trial is the spilling of innocent blood in Southern Kaduna. This is why after 55 years after some 1.5 million Jewish children were killed during the German Holocaust, many are still seeking justice today. This is why after 50 years Nigeria has not made any meaningful socio-political progress because the blood of almost two million Biafran civilians (three quarter of them small children) who died from starvation caused by the total blockade of the region by the Nigerian government is still demanding for justice today. Southern Kaduna is in the grip of gruesome death.

Imagine blindfolding an innocent three-year- old girl and slicing off her head with a machete in Southern Kaduna. On August 16, 2020, Reverend Adalchi Usman of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Unguwan /Madaki, Maro Ward, in Kajuru Local Council was killed when a commercial vehicle in which he was travelling in was ambushed by armed assailants. On 17 August Mr. Bulus Joseph was gruesomely killed on his farm in Sabon Gida Idon, along the Kaduna-Kachia road, in Kajuru Local Council by Fulani militia. On 18 August, Malachy Bobai, farmer and a 16-year-old student Ms. Takama Paul were killed by Fulani militia. I can go on and on. The crisis in Southern Kaduna has been on for ages. El Rufai may be doing his best, but the crisis seems to be getting worse.

Rather than remain sober, El-Rufai is going about making statements that suggest that he is playing politics with the killings. For example, how can El-Rufai dismiss the atrocious killings in Southern Kaduna as “media hype”? Why does he threaten the opposition for expressing different views on the killings?

Governor El-Rufai, undoubtedly, is conscious of his place in history. For now, the people of Southern Kaduna do not think he is doing enough to end the bloodshed. This is why he should do more and mend his relationship with the people today.