By Emmanuel Ado:
“It’s not the size of the dog; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Mark Twain.
Political opponents of Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State routinely resort to insults,especially about his height, when they can’t counter his position on issues with superior argument. But being “short” has obviously worked for El-Rufai, it hasn’t in anyway been an impediment to whatever he had set out to achieve. El-Rufai has achieved in his “short” life, what many “tall” people within his age bracket have failed to achieve or are still dreaming of achieving. Being “short” or “small” clearly has its advantages; dynamites which can bring down a hundred floor building for instance comes in small packages and because “short” people they are always looking up, they have a better perspective of life. Thankfully neither his “shortness” nor his poor background has been a “failure” sentence.
Onikepo Braithwaite, a lawyer in an opinion article “El-Rufai and Napoleon Complex” published in her column “The Advocate” in the Thisday newspaper of 13th August,2019 from the outset shockingly admitted lacking the information to make an informed contribution on the what has popularly become known as Mallam Ibrahim Zakzaky, the Leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria(IMN) matter, but because she was on a demolition mission, she not only pontificated, but to add insult to injury for her readers that she clearly failed in educating , she poured not one but several invectives on El-Rufai because it’s the season of El-Rufai bashing, whose only crime was daring to provide a template that can lead to the defeat of godfathers and for suggesting that zoning be jettisoned in favour of competency, two suggestions that some analysts concluded are targeted at Bola Ahmed Tinubu,who has a bursting presidential ambition. Hear her “The fact that the El Zakzakys or Omoyele Sowore may have been unfair in their dealings (and I’m not saying categorically that they have been), does not mean the law is entitled be unfair to them.”
For the education of Onikepo Braithwaite and those who sincerely desire to know the truth about the IMN matter which was not in any way the making of the Kaduna State Government, but which as a Government it has a fundamental responsibility of ensuring that justice is dispensed to all without fear or favour. And it must be stated that no threat of violence or politically orchestrated campaign will force the state government to abandon this case or any other one. For the benefit of all, here is brief recap of what can be termed the Zakaky matter- the origin and the terms of travel which the kaduna State government filed with the court for the Federal Government and Zakaky to fulfill in other to perfect the bail, which if the federal government had adhered to would have averted the fiasco that eventually played out in India.
Between 12th- 14th December 2015, the members of the IMN had as it had become their tradition over the years blocked a public high way, most unfortunately for them this time around it was the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff Lt. General T.Y. Buratai. All efforts to persuade the members of the IMN to lift the blockade and allow Buratai passage to perform his legitimate duty at the Nigerian Army Depot failed and the resultant clashes led to loss of lives and destruction of property. Ibrahim Zakazaky and his wife Zeenah were subsequently arrested and transferred to the Federal of Nigeria, in whose custody the couple has since been. The kaduna State Government only requested for the transfer of Zakaky and his wife to it after the Judicial Commission of Inquiry had concluded its investigations and held El-Zakzaky, the Leader of the Movement liable for the clashes. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry noted that “members of the IMN owe absolute loyalty to Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. He therefore bears responsibility for all the acts of lawlessness committed by the organization and should therefore be held responsible, fully investigated and prosecuted”.
In October 2016, the Kaduna State Government in line with the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry declared the IMN an unlawful society, drawing on powers vested on it by Section 45 (1) of the Constitution and Section 97A of the Penal Code (Cap 110, Laws of Kaduna State, 1991). It consequently commenced the process of prosecuting Zakaky and his wife who for a long time had been law unto themselves in Zaria where their headquarters is located. In 2018 the Federal Government Of Nigeria transferred the couple to the kaduna State Government for arraignment before the Kaduna State High Court. The Eight (8) count charges in the suit – The State versus El-Zakzaky (KDH/KAD/60c/2018) were filed under Sections 59,47, 66, 77, 73, 222 and 78 of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State. The offense are; Criminal Conspiracy, Culpable Homicide punishable with death, Unlawful Assembly, Wrongful restraint, Disturbance of public peace, Voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Inciting disturbance and Breach of Public Peace. It must be noted that ordinarily these are not bailable offenses.
It’s important to stress that contrary to the position of some busy bodies, the Kaduna State Government had never at any point in time arrogated to itself powers that it doesn’t have. Hence in spite of the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry and as a firm and ardent believer in the Rule of Law, and the constitutional Right of the accused persons to free and fair trail, it has taken steps to ensure that Zakaky has his day in court. On 2nd August 2018, the kaduna State High Court took the pleas of Zakaky and his wife. And the Court in its wisdom on 4th October 2018, denied them bail considering the weight of the charges they are facing and ordered that they be remanded in kaduna prisons. It further ordered access to their personnel physicians, alongside those of the state government. It must be noted that the detention of Zakaky and his wife at the State Security Services (SSS) facilities was at their express request and the court indulged the couple.
The latest needless controversy was triggered by the 5th August 2019 decision of the Kaduna State High Court to grant Zakaky and his wife permission to travel abroad for “medical attention”. The Kaduna State Government rightly opposed the application largely because the medical report didn’t emanate from a government hospital, which is a demand of the law. Though it vehemently disagreed with the premise on which the court granted the application, which is within its legal rights it didn’t lodge a stay of execution, because it wants them healthy enough to face their trial. It must be noted that the court specifically granted the two defendants “leave to travel out of Nigeria for urgent medical treatment at Medanta Hospital, India, under strict supervision of the Respondent and to return to Nigeria (for continuation of trial) as soon as they are discharged from the hospital”. This is the ruling of court.
The Respondents in question in the 5th August 2019 ruling of Justice D.H. Khobo is the Kaduna State Government. And it’s in strict compliance with Kaduna State High Court ruling that mandated it to oversea the medical treatment that it has acted. The key sentence in the ruling is that trip must be “under the strict supervision of the Respondents”. It’s on this basis that it filed the following terms under which couple would enjoy the medical trip. But mischievous commentators have deliberately misled the public into believing that the Kaduna State Government wants to usurp the powers of the court, which is far from the truth. All the Kaduna State Government set out to ensure were that Nigeria didn’t become a laughing stock of the world and to avoid the internationalization of what is strictly speaking an internal affair of Nigeria.
The point must be restated again that it’s the Kaduna State High Court that saddled the Kaduna State Government with the responsibilities that were clearly beyond its competencies. For instance the Federal Government of Nigeria is the sovereign vested with constitutional responsibility to conduct foreign affairs, this explains why the state government in carrying its court mandated duties asked that the Federal Government of Nigeria should use its good offices to confirm the appointments of Zakaky and his wife at the Medanta hospital including undertaking “all the necessary diplomatic arrangements. And to show good faith the bail conditions which it asked the court to impose were without doubt friendly and reasonable, but unfortunately the Federal Government succumbed to bullies like Braithwaite and the members of the IMN, who resorted a campaign of violence to force the hand of government.
Just like Zakaky, Maurice Iwu, the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who is standing trial for corrupt practices, but whose charges do not attract the death sentence unlike Zakaky was granted bail, with very stringent conditions. Iwu was granted bail in the sum of N1billion, two sureties in same amount, one of whom must be resident in Lagos State and must be a certified taxpayer. In the case of Zakaky the kaduna State Government only asked that each of the defendant should produce two prominent and reliable persons as sureties, one being a first class chief/emir of national repute and the other a prominent person within Kaduna State, who shall undertake to produce the defendants whenever they are needed. The sureties must also produce evidence of landed property within Kaduna State. As pointed out earlier it would have been sacrilegious if the court didn’t impose bail terms for offenses that carry death penalty.
The other terms which from the disastrous Indian trip clearly showed foresight on the part of the Kaduna State Government were; that each of the defendants/applicants shall undertake to return to Nigeria to continue their trial as soon as they are discharged from the hospital, and shall also be responsible for the cost of their travel, treatment and living expenses while on their medical leave, that the Federal Government of Nigeria shall obtain from the Government of India an irrevocable guarantee that it will not entertain any application by the defendants/applicants or any third party seeking asylum under any guise or conferring the status of political prisoners or any other status aside from being medical patients on the defendants/applicants and shall also restrain the defendants/applicants from any act inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria ,that Security agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria shall escort the defendants/applicants and remain with them throughout the duration of their treatment in India and thereafter shall return with them after their discharge from the hospital and that the Nigerian High Commission in India shall undertake prior vetting and grant consent before any visitor has access to the defendants/applicants while in the Republic of India.
The point must be made that laws are meant to be enforced and that it is the failure to deal with the IMN challenge over the years which created a Frankenstein monster that the Kaduna State Government is finally addressing. The IMN has visited kaduna with terror, with the objective of intimidating the government into releasing their leader, like it has waged war on Abuja, but the determined resolve of the state government not to “tolerate” their excesses discouraged them from continuing their actions. Unfortunately their strategy forced the Federal Government into acting hastily and in the process found itself with its back to the wall. Lessons have definitely been learnt that evil is not romanticized. And it’s hoped that the Federal Government would by decisive actions make it abundantly clear that the carnage visited on the streets of Abuja won’t be tolerated in future or it stands the risk of encouraging other aggrieved groups that violence pays. For those who believe that the IMN matter is about Nasir El -Rufai – I dare to say that they are wrong – it has nothing to do with him and thankfully he has not been accused of bias in handling of cases of this nature.
My honest advice to Braithwaite considering the number of times she acknowledged her doubts and crass ignorance on the Zakaky matter, which unfortunately didn’t stop her from pouring invectives on Nasir El- Rufai, is to keep away from any issue that she is ill informed about or read up on the issue, which will hopefully enable her make very informed commentary without misinforming readers who have invested their trust in her. Hear her “First, let me say unequivocally that, I am not a Shiite, nor do I know much about their movement and activities. The fact that the El Zakzakys or Omoyele Sowore may have been unfair in their dealings (and I’m not saying categorically that they have been), does not mean the law is entitled be unfair to them.”
It’s obvious that Braithwaite hates reading. But if she to maintain a Column she must read, journalism like law demands discipline and rigour. She must perish the thought that journalism is not professionally tasking. She must work on her manifest laziness, if she wants to be taken serious. I will nevertheless bring to the attention of Braithwaite a 2007 research by the University of Central Lancashire that contradicts her description or conclusion that Nasir El-Rufai suffers from Napoleon complex, described in terms of the theory that shorter men are more aggressive to dominate those who are taller than they are. The conclusion of the research is that short men, were less likely to lose their temper than men of average height. Braithwaite is clearly a victim of generalization and conclusions, and it might interest her to know that to the contrary Nasir El -Rufai is calculating, very patient and someone in control of his temper. And it will be very helpful if she forgets or stops listening to the tales by moonlight of his political opponents, who are in mortal fear of his capacity.
The Kaduna State Government is absolutely right that the IMN became emboldened because for decades it has gotten away with impunity, which encouraged it engage in various unlawful activities culminating in the tragic events of December 2015. It’s to put a stop to the activities of the group that informed the decision of the Kaduna State Government to diligently prosecute the case, and to reaffirm simple canons of the rule of law, that no one is above its long arm and that all persons are equal in its yes.
Like they say the rest is history – Zakaky and his wife have undertaken the trip and returned without undergoing any medical treatment, but the media hasn’t deemed it fit to ask the necessary questions. Like the Ibos will say agaracha must come back – abi e no never come back?