Kabiru Sokoto: The limits of demagoguery
One of the most salient components of democracy is the freedom to exercise your right to free speech. However in much of Africa whereby democracy has been embraced, the exercise of this fundamental freedom can come with a number of challenges from those who hate democratic freedoms and would rather canvass demagoguery. Nigeria under the current administration has witnessed the elevation of demagoguery to a statecraft to a very ugly dimension.
The above intriguing facts have just played out in the last couple of days since the insinuations gained heightened currency about the alleged release from life sentence of a notorious terrorist convicted for the murder of over 50 worshippers in December 2011 at the Catholic Church in Madala, near Abuja known simply as Kabiru Sokoto.
When these speculative stories circulated on the social media platforms the group I head known as HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)took it upon ourselves to openly demand accountability from the Federal government so as to clear the confusion currently building up around the insinuations that President Muhammadu Buhari had indeed set free this highly dreaded and notorious terror mastermind- Kabiru Sokoto.
In order to put all these in their proper logical contexts, readers need to be reminded that these rumors on the release of this terrorist began the moment President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago in Nairobi, Kenya gave clear indication to a prisoners swap deal with book haram terrorists.
President. Muhammad's Buhari confirmed the readiness of his administration to enter into prisoner's swap deal with the Boko Haram terrorists for the release of the nearly 200 Chibok school girls allegedly kidnapped over two years now by those terrorists who are now demanding prisoners exchange for their hostages to be freed. Some media reports in the past had listed Kabiru Sokoto as one of the terror masterminds whose release is being demanded by the hierarchy of this terror gang operating from the North East of Nigeria.
Also in President Buhari's tweeter handle, the Nigerian President did not mince words in restating his administrationâ€™s readiness to enter into exchange of prisoners with Boko Haram terrorists for the Chibok girls. While attending a conference of African economies in Kenya funded by Japan, President Buhari gave clearer condition that the involvement of foreign non-governmental organizations in the negotiations with Boko Haram terrorists on the concept of prisoners swap for Chibok girls was imperative.
So the saying by the people of old that 'there is no smoke without fire' finds a very scientific basis in the above scenario surrounding the rumored release of one of the most notorious and dangerous terrorists ever convicted since the last five years that the serial attacks on civilian and government targets commenced.
It would then amount to revisionism and indeed an act of wickedness for any sycophant to categorize the insinuations surrounding the alleged release of Kabiru Sokoto as a hatred for Mr. President.
It is both lawfully permissible and indeed constitutionally guaranteed that the people of Nigeria are entitled to quality information from the government whose only legitimacy and authority are drawn from the same people. So why should any commentator dabble into the arena of barefaced partisanship by dismissing the rational concerns of Nigerians as an act of â€œhatredâ€ for President Buhari?
Section 14 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) unambiguously states as follows: â€œSovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.â€
Again, from the same section aforementioned we are told as follows: Â© â€œthe participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.â€
Proceeding further, in Chapter four of the constitution and specifically in Section 39 (1) the fundamental freedom of expression is expressly guaranteed thus: â€œevery person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.â€
The idea that some persons apparently out of sheer mischief could pick up their pen and brand those seeking information about Kabiru Sokotoâ€™s current status as â€œhatersâ€ of President Buhari is unfortunate.
It is a sharp reminder of what the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire brought out in his work on the theme of the relationship between the oppressors and the oppressedand capped it up in his philosophical treatise by saying that: â€œduring the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed tend to become oppressors.â€ He then challenged us all in the following beautiful words: â€œthe greatest humanistic and historical task of the oppressed is to liberate themselves and their oppressors.â€
Look at it this way, Kabiru Sokoto was convicted for the gruesome slaughter of nearly four dozen Catholic worshippers and the symbolic timing of that wicked act of terrorism was during the Christmas Mass to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. Amongst those who were cut down in their prime of life by the car bombs planted and detonated by the terrorists including Kabiru Sokoto as affirmed by the Court were little babies, women and the elderly. This is a serious crime against humanity and no reason whatsoever could be adduced for any grant of Presidential pardon for such a callous criminal. What is the crime of those Nigerians who raised the concerns on Social media that Mr. Kabiru Sokoto has been set free?
There is absolutely no crime in embarking on public inquisition from a civilian government that the people brought to power particularly when the head of this current government has been quoted as saying that he would embark on prisoners' swap with Boko Haram terrorists.
To borrow from one of the greatest thinkers the World has ever seen, Mr. Frantz Fanon, I believe that the best way to erect a formidable democracy in Nigeria is for those of us who have the privilege of accessing the media to decolonize our colonized mental state and begin to see political office holders as persons who must render proper accountability to the people about every one of their actions.
For anyone to equate or interpret the inquiry on the whereabouts of a convicted terrorist like Kabiru Sokoto with the â€˜hatredâ€™ of the President of Nigeria is as good as falling into the trap of exhibiting the â€œtendency of the oppressed peoples to mimic the behavior and attitudes of ruling elites which amounts to demagoguery.â€
There is nothing untoward to have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to tell Nigerians if he has freed the only Boko Haram terrorist convicted for the killing of over 50 worshippers at the Madala Catholic Church near Abuja.
Readers must recall that it was only a few months back that Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High Court, Abuja, sentenced to life imprisonment, Mallam Kabiru Abubakar Dikko a.k.a Kabiru Sokoto and as at 2015 he was being held in Kuje Prison following his conviction over his role in connection with the 2011 Christmas Day bombing at the St. Theresaâ€™s Catholic Church, Mandalla, Niger State, be remanded in Kuje Prison.
The blast in respect of which he was given life conviction claimed about 44 lives and wounded 75 others. He was charged with failure to disclose the plan to law-enforcement officer as soon as practicable, an offence contrary to Section 7(1) and punishable under Section 33(1) of Terrorism and Prevention Act 2011.
Kabiru Sokoto was further accused of supporting the act of terrorism by training 500 men and inciting them to commit a terrorist act, contrary to Section 4(1)(a) and punishable under Section 33(1)(b) of Terrorism and Prevention Act 2011.
The accused allegedly facilitated the commission of terrorist act to wit: by planting and encouraging some boys (now at large) at Mabira Sokoto in Sokoto State with the intention to bomb the police headquarters and some other government agencies in the state.
The alleged offence is contrary to Section 15(2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004 and punishable under the same Act.
Since the current President Muhammadu Buhari administration accepted to free some Boko Haram terrorists being detained in exchange for the elusive Chibok school girls kidnapped over two years ago, the social media platforms are replete with reports of the release of this notorious terror mastermind who is one of the very few already convicted. This is understandable given the clear indications to embark on prisoners swap as affirmed by President on several occasions within and outside of our shores.
To be candid It would amount to dancing in the graves of the innocent souls slaughtered by these terrorists for the current government to enter into this sort of satanic arrangements to set free a man who plotted the bombing of a Catholic Church filled up with Worshippers thereby resulting in the slaughter of scores of Nigerians including babies and the elderly.â€
Moreover the current Federal government has so far failed to aggressively prosecute the terror suspects in detention but has decided to engage in subterranean deals with dreaded armed terrorists for whatever considerations which are however, unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic. This same group has continued in their killing spree of innocent Nigerians and coercing innocent toddlers to be sent out as suicide bombers under the influence of drugs and hallucinations. Only today the reports are circulating of a new threat by boko haram terrorists to manually kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari.
There is therefore no hatred asking President Buhari to address Nigerians and clear the impression that his government has â€œdecidedly released a hardened terrorist convicted for his crimes against humanity even when political prisoners like Mr. Nnamdi Kanu is languishing in prison. The Nigeria Prisons service is said to have debunked the speculations about Kabiru Sokoto Only after these rumours swirled around for sometime and our group took the gauntlet to decently ask for clarification which some overzealous sycophants are interpreting as hatred for Mr President as if Mr President belongs to them exclusively. Let the Nigerian government allow credible non governmental bodies and select private and public media to verify empirically the veracity of the government's counter claim that Kabiru Sokoto is still serving the life sentence. This is not too much a demand in a democracy whereby the government is by the people for the people and with the people as Abraham Lincoln the former post independence President of the United States of America defined the term DEMOCRACY.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the intellectual head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs as www.emmanuelonwubiko.com