“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” Dalai Lama
Tolerance to opposite views and voices of dissents is a basic tenet of liberal democracy. In his book titled “The End Of History And The Last Man”, American Foreign Policy expert Francis Fukuyama invested effort to justifying why tolerance by leaders and between and amongst people is quintessential in liberal democracies. Eric Digest of 2001 defined political tolerance as “the willingness to extend basic rights and civil liberties to persons and groups whose viewpoints differ from one’s own”. Oxford Dictionary defined same as “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with”.An extensive and intensive research suggests unanimity of facts that tolerance shares doctrinal deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) with multitude of rights and liberties concomitant in all liberal democracies.
From 29th May 2015 to date through his actions, inactions and pronouncements Mr. El-rufa’i has exhibited inability to keep faith with this essential tenet of liberal democracy. He has demonstrated intolerance to voices of dissents within and outside his political family and platform. Different views are being denied ventilating space(s) in the state’s atmosphere through a combination of actions like: sponsoring of executive bills with intentions of censoring religious activities; reading of riot act in cultural days and town hall meetings to dissidents; and midwifing a so-called hate speech resolution through a state security council he chairs. Deadly enough,his deficiency in tolerance is pillared by a delusional and parochial self conviction that, he is an all knowing virtuoso and others a pack of Owellian Benjamin The Donkey that his overflowing dullness was narrated in George Owell’s classic titled ” Aminal Farm”.
On 17th October 2015 he terminated remaining specs of dubiety of his hyperactive intolerance and tyrannical disposition while holding a town hall meeting in Kaduna City. When it came to questions and answer time and observations raised by his audience, he arrogantly told those who don’t accept his version of the truth to head to Kufena Mountain and Fall. In plain words, he meant if you don’t believe his version of truth; you better say your last prayer or mass and die. It was a perfect circumstance to use American idiomatic expression “my way or highway”. Grade one absolutists like Gen. Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe are also good in spewing similar phrases while reacting to opponents with, “go hang”.
After his suicidal matching order to critics and opponents of his Stalinistic leadership in Kaduna State to head to his version of Golgotha called Kufena Mountain in October of 2015, analysts tried juxtaposing his undemocratic and corrosive venom with hate speeches of Govs Mukhtar Ramallan Yero and Ibrahim Shema and former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan at build up to 2015 general polls. Yero’s statement targeted Kaduna State’s emerging dictator, then his main challenger in the 2015 polls. APC and El-rufa’i’s team launched a case against his predecessor and succeeded in making the whole world adjudged his unacceptable bunkum balderdash during official declaration of his bid for another mandate a hate speech. However, much effort is not desirable to establish the realism that El-rufa’i’s Kufena Mountain decree was more litherlistic, tyrannical, and threatening to peace and tranquillity than that of Yero.
Oppositions or men of conscience within his APC were not exempted from his imperial terror . Sen. Shehu Sani, a member of the Red Chamber representing Kaduna central whose populists ideologies are diametrically opposed to Mr. El-rufa’i’s elitists philosophy got a treatment dictators loves to mete on opponents. What were the sins of the human rights crusader and a man who has spent better part of his life struggling for democracy and sinking deep the pillars of liberties in Nigeria? His fulfillment of spiritual obligations of caring for the less privileged at Islamic Holy month of Ramadan and called for a human face in most of his apocalyptic policies. The State party under his supreme command packaged an illegal suspension agenda and hypnotized Sani’s ward officials to sign it. Shamefully, an investigation under the directives of the national party organ revealed that signatures of most of the officials were faked and that cash was given to some of them to generate their consents. Yet, the Czar of Sir Kashim Ibrahim House wants people to believe him and his version of the truth, always.
Issuing arrest and prosecution threat has become a constant phenomenon in the State. People of Kaduna are constantly reminded of the presence a roaring terminator who wouldn’t think twice to unleash terror on holders of contrary views.The setting can be likened to that of Iron Joe of former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics(USSR), or fascists Italy under Benito Mussolini , or Nazists Germany under Fuerer Adolf Hitler. Leading through intimidation not consent or persuasion is the guiding principle of the superman of Kaduna State. Liberties citizens of most iron curtains of Eastern Europe(EE) enjoyed under one party dictatorship has a higher humane standard than the one people of Kaduna State are enduring now.
For a while now, people have been wondering whether its the same Nasir Ahmed El-rufa’i who openly opposed everything under the political sun of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015. With other disgruntled elements in January 2012, they busied the streets protesting a purported intention of President Jonathan to remove subsidy on oil, a policy he encouraged as Bureau for Public Enterprises(BPE) boss from 1999 to 2003. His 2012 treatise “Privatization In Nigeria: The Promise And The Perils” frowned at government’s meddlesomeness in public enterprises. Shortly before then, he was one of the arrowheads of SAVE NIGERIA activism that constituted a direct challenge to the leadership of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Added to these open actions were blasphemous and highly polarizing pronouncements with high potentials of letting loose the beast of intolerance from governments and other bodies in the country.Some example of his activities were his infamous retweet of Christ and Mary Magdaline or an announcement of impending reprisal for and on behalf of Fulanis in Nigeria. Because leaders he exuberantly controverted and groups he unabashedly denigrated recognized that tolerance is an essential lubricant for rolling the wheels of liberal democracies, his excessive behavours were comfortably accommodated.
Sad enough, institutions bestowed with powers to check and balance his hitleristic leadership and rampaging intolerance are grossly failing in their constitutional billings. Members of Kaduna State House of Assembly(KDHA) have developed cold feet and are enveloped in fear despite constitutional coverage and powers they have.These troop of “lawmakers” and the institution they represents are looking the other way- a brand of conspiracy of silence. Their total submission like commuters captured by armed robbers on a highway. That also holds with other pressure groups in the state, they have since lost their tempo and standing aside and watching how this bad culture of impunity is unfolding unchecked.
The most disappointing are the organized labour whose members have been subjected to hardship under the guise of screening of ghost workers. His many layers screenings has left many staffers unpaid for months and rudely converted people who have been working for decades to ghost workers. In one of such screening centre in Sabon Gari Zaria, a suicide bomber annihilated dozens workers and injured scores of others, yet that couldn’t terminated the multilayered sieving exercise that is rather demoralizing the state and local governments workforce.
His undemocratic antics has once again rekindled the protracted disputation of possibility or otherwise of totalitarianism and absolutism in a democracy. So far, he has accorded indisputable credibility to the postulations that there are aspiring and confirmed shogunates pretending to believe in ethos of liberal democracy in many democratic settings in the world. Harshest absolutism is not the variety perpetrated under autocratic political setting,it is blossomed under political orders said to be democracies. Thomas Jefferson supported this line of reasoning when he said “experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny”. This Jeffersonian dictum is unveiling itself in Kaduna State under a totalitarianist called El-rufa’i. The Greek Philosopher Plato added specs of conviction to the ding dong by asserting “dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty” Autocratism unfolding in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and the ones that were incandescence in Egypt under Hosni Mubarak and Ivory Coast under Laurent Gbagbo were perpetrated under democratic orders.
Edmund Burke philosophized that “all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”. If indeed this unacceptable and undemocratic disposition must end, people must rise and square off with him using legal and political avenues recognize by the constitution . Developing cold feet in the face of emerging tyranny is a tacit acceptance of dictatorship. G.K.Chesterton admonished a sudden, massive and decisive response to tyranny like this: “the wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists”.
Those swimming in a pool of ignorance and delusionalism by assuming that the net of El-rufa’i’s autocracy is not wide and strong enough to close on them, they most not forget the poem “Speak Out” by Pastor Martins Niemoller narrating how nazists started their holocaust against the Jews in late 30s and early 40s and how others pretended not to see the evil same came to them. His started with civil servant, then graduated to political opponents and rights activists, beggars, hawkers, and now with clergies. History has a way of repeating itself, sooner or later, it shall be their turn to taste the bitter quinine of El-rufa’i’s brand of Stalinism. People must not forget Benjamin Franklin’s assurance that “rebellion to tyranny is obedience to God”.
There must be a well coordinated and concerted effort of combating this tyranny raging in Kaduna State. Mr.El-rufa’i should be picked from all front to accord the effort maximum repercussion. Citizens and groups whose rights and liberties are under threat or encroached upon should head to the courts to seek redress. Opposing political parties should intensify their activities of running commentaries on how unfaithful he is with his oath of discharging his duties in tandem with the spirit of the constitution and natural justice. Activists should roll off their sleeves and head to the street protesting his obnoxious policies and actions that are contaminating ethos of democracy. Let the clergies his religious bill intends to gag graduate from reeling untra-conservative messages of kneeling down and transferring the schedule of combating evil to God to liberation theology that commands faithfuls to temporally square off with devilish practices of undemocratic and opportunistic leadership. All these must not roll-on with the majority consenting, Samuel Adams said “it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds”. History of civil rights movement in America took off with a simple disobedience by lady Rosa Park. Frail and fragile physiqued Mahatma Ghandi mobilized entire Indian society through peaceful protests against British imperialists, his decolonization crusade was later accepted by millions of fellow compatriots. Arab Springs that vanquished long standing brutal Arab dictators was instigated by a nihilistic action taken by a frustrated Engineering graduate Bouzzizi in the street of Tunis. All that is desirable is courage to place on leg ahead and push forward.
Dictators come to their senses only when Newtonian third law of nature is observed. They are awesome and fearful like spotted hyenas. Autocrats fear any blowing wind, their shadows, and friends. To them, fear and suspicion are golden rules. Despite attracting the name “Iron Joe”, the former Soviet dictator Comrade Joseph Stalin feared even his wife to a degree that he sometimes wouldn’t hint his sweetheart which guests house he was going to sleep in.Saddam Hussein brutalized his people and fought Iranians from 1980 to 1988, crushed internal uprisings but when it was time for him to fight, he ran and hid in a hole like a rat. Laurent Gbago of Ivory Coast refused the decision of the people that said he should leave. He threw his country to a civil war, but when real forces arrived, he ran and hid in a place even village hunters running away from a wounded buffalo can’t look at. Dictators posing tough are not what they want people to think they are. All of them are chronic wets! People of good conscience must begin to act, any delay will provide ample time for the mustard seed of dictatorship in Kaduna State grow big like an Iroko tree.
John Danfulani, Ph.D., is a university lecturer at Kaduna State University and human rights activist. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.