March 7, 2016: The Ides of March for Dr. John Danfulani
On January 28, 2016, Dr. John Danfulani of Kaduna State University was detained by the Kaduna State Government of El-Rufai for “alleged inciting and hateful statements in the social media against the people of northern Nigeria, thereby, capable of causing breakdown of law and order in northern Nigeria and other parts of the country” (http://dailypost.ng/2016/02/01/kasu-lecturer-dr-john-danfulani-granted-bail-with-stringent-conditions/). Such allegations would be laughable if the lecturer had not been arrested after he had been suspended from his political science teaching position at the university.
It is human nature that the more you stifle criticism, the more critics are emboldened. Some of us are starting to love el-Rufai, but this intolerant of criticism is a setback. I hope the police commissioner, Alhaji Umar Shehu; the judge, Alhaji Awwal Musa, who used stalling tactics to deny Dr. Danfulani immediate bail; and the Vic Chancellor of the University, Dr. William Qurix, are not conspiring with the governor to punish Dr. Danfulani for his daring and boldness in speaking the truth.
Kaduna State is not a fiefdom. We live in the twenty-first century, when politico-economic power should not be a prerogative of an heritage few and their water carriers. We should denounce what happened to Dr. Danfulani. We should denounce it loud and clear, on roof tops, with megaphones. Thank God, when Dr. Danfulani was detained, after willingly leaving India and submitting to the state for questioning, many at home and abroad raised their voices in protest. For a university don to abort a vacation and return home because he learned that he was a wanted man is no sign of a guilty conscience. And to treat someone the way the police commissioner and the judge treated Dr. Danfulani is a travesty of justice and a violation of the lecturer’s fundamental rights. Kaduna State is not a private estate; it is not a dictatorship.
It was music to my ears when there was national and global outcry against Dr. Danfulani’s detention and demands for his release. It is worth mentioning the names of few of the many who raised their voices: Our Senator, Danjuma Laah (PDP); Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria ( HURIWA) led by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; Nertzit Patriotic led by is National Chairman, Mr. George Makeri; and southern Kaduna voices abroad, Southern Kaduna Diaspora ( SOKAD) led by its president, Dr. Aminu Likita. Thanks to such voices, thanks to globalization, thanks to non-profit organizations, thanks to human rights organizations, thanks to the blessed Internet and social media, there is little tolerance for dictatorship and misuse of power. The world no longer has a taste for autocratic or aristocratic arrogance. No longer can anyone be allowed to “bestride the narrow world like a Colossus” while others cower in fear. The el-Rufai administration’s attempt to use the instruments of the state—the police, the courts, and even education—to punish dissents and critics (in this case, Dr. Danfulani’s outburst against what he considered northern elitist exploitation of its people) was disappointing. There are many redeeming qualities of the el-Rufai government, but in this case, something was “rotten in the state of Denmark.” As observed by Dr. Danfulani himself:
Without any stretch of imagination, this case is politically instigated to kill a voice of dissent in Kaduna State. Freedom and liberty enshrined in our Constitution have come under serious assault by the government of Nasir Ahmed El-Rufa’i since assuming power on 29th of May, 2015. We are sure that APC’s government in Kaduna State shall stop at nothing to seeing that opposition mouth is shut and voice quieted so as to rule with impunity(http://www.elombah.com/index.php/opinion/5040-i-was-detained-for-6-days-because-i-criticized-buhari-danfulani).
Indeed, the University don does not think his ordeal is only a Kaduna State conspiracy, but President Buhari is involved; after all, one of his residence is in Kaduna and Kaduna State is the bride of the northern establishment and its water carriers.
Dr. Danfulani is now out on bail, after all attempts were made to teach him a lesson for “insulting” the northern sacred cows; stalling tactics were used and, when they didn’t work, the aggressors imposed stringent bail conditions in the hope that Dr. Danfulani could not afford bail.
But thanks to the “Talented 12” led by Barristers Gamaliel Kore and James Kanyip, and the financial goodwill of friends, Danfulani met bail on February 2st, after six dehumanizing days in police custody. But the story is not over until the fat lady sings. Dr. Danfulani’s Ides of March, the battle to use him as example to warn those who dare “insult” the northern establishment, will occur on March 7. The battle will be won only if the March 7 court hearing is decided in Dr. Danfulani’s favor, if he is made whole and his suspension from his teaching position at Kaduna State University is lifted.
People of such brilliant minds as Dr. Danfulani should be celebrated and enlisted for economic development, not vilified and censored in the name of security. We are blessed that Kaduna State has for the first time a governor who is well educated and has a brilliant social intellect. He should put these qualities to better use. But the way Danfulani saga has been handled, some wonder loud, who El-Rufai really is and wonder why what is good for the goose, is not good for the gander:
Recall that El-Rufai before he became governor of Kaduna state had re-tweeted where he made a derogatory post against Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of the Christian faith and Mary Magdalene; an action which until tomorrow remains highly inflammatory, hateful, inciting and capable of causing disaffection in the country yet he was not invited by the police for questioning (New Impression Magazine, quoted from (https://www.sokadusa.com/page/2/).
I close with a caution by Senator Danjuma Laah (PDP), Southern Kaduna:
As the Senator who represents Danfulani at the Senate, I am watching how the judiciary is handling this case. Without prejudice to the competence of our Judiciary arm of government in Kaduna State, I want to caution that political and social pressure should not come to bear on him to deny him fair trial”( http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/02/sen-laah-calls-for-fair-trial-of-kasu-lecturer/).
And in the advice of Southern Kaduna State indigenes abroad, Southern Kaduna Diaspora (SOKAD):
Together with our elites, leaders, and politicians, the citizens of Kaduna State must work, collectively, to nurture our young democracy to maturity.
Violating the rights of citizens, who freely express their views, has no place in our efforts to make Kaduna State great again. (https://www.sokadusa.com/page/2/).
Dr. Tunga Lergo is a Sociology Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Santa Fe College, Gainesville, Florida, and a member of Southern Kaduna Diaspora (SOKAD- U.S.A. & Canada).