Kabiru Sokoto: The Limits of Demagoguery, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

There is absolutely no crime in embarking on public inquisition about a civilian government that the people brought to power, particularly when the head of this government has been quoted as saying that he would embark on prisoners’ swap with Boko Haram terrorists.

One of the most salient components of democracy is the freedom to exercise your right to free speech. However in much of Africa where 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 for demagoguery. Nigeria, under the current administration, has witnessed the elevation of demagoguery to a statecraft, and 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 in prison 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 social media platforms, the group I head known as Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) took it upon itself to openly demand accountability from the Federal Government so as to clear the confusion building up around this allegation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s setting of the terror mastermind free.

In order to put all these in their proper logical contexts, readers need to be reminded that these rumours began the moment the president gave clear indication of a prisoners swap deal with Boko Haram terrorists two weeks ago in Nairobi, Kenya.

President Buhari had confirmed the readiness of his administration to enter into this swap deal for the release of the nearly 200 Chibok school girls allegedly kidnapped over two years ago 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 nefarious gang operating from the North-East of Nigeria.

Also on President Buhari’s tweeter handle, he gave clearer condition that the involvement of foreign non-governmental organisations in the negotiations with Boko Haram terrorists 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 in the last five years since the serial attacks on civilian and government targets commenced.

It would then amount to revisionism and indeed an act of wickedness for anyone to categorise 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 “hatred” for President Buhari?

Section 14 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) unambiguously states as follows: “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.”

Again, from the same section aforementioned we are told as follows: “the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”

Proceeding further, in Chapter four of the constitution and specifically in Section 39 (1), the fundamental freedom of expression is expressly guaranteed thus: “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”

The idea that some persons apparently out of sheer mischief could pick up their pen and brand those seeking information about Kabiru Sokoto’s current status as “haters” 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 oppressed and capped it up in his philosophical treatise by saying that: “during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed tend to become oppressors.” He then challenged us all in the following beautiful words: “the greatest humanistic and historical task of the oppressed is to liberate themselves and their oppressors.”

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 by the car bombs planted and detonated by the terrorists, which included 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 about a civilian government that the people brought to power, particularly when the head of this 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 decolonise our mental state and begin to see political office holders as people 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 ‘hatred’ of the president of Nigeria is as good as falling into the trap of exhibiting the “tendency of the oppressed peoples to mimic the behaviour and attitudes of ruling elites which amounts to demagoguery.”

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 Mallam Kabiru Abubakar Dikko a.k.a Kabiru Sokoto to life imprisonment, and as at 2015 he was being held in Kuje Prison following his conviction over his role in that 2011 Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Mandalla, Niger State.

The blast in respect of which he was given life conviction claimed about 44 lives and wounded 75 others.

To be candid it would amount to dancing on the graves of the innocent souls slaughtered by these terrorists for the current government to enter into a sort of satanic arrangements to set free a man who plotted the bombing of a Catholic Church, resulting in the slaughter of scores of Nigerians, including babies and the elderly.

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 its killing spree of innocent Nigerians and coercing innocent minors to be sent out as suicide bombers under the influence of drugs. Only today, reports are circulating of a new threat by Boko Haram terrorists to kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari.

There is therefore no hatred in asking President Buhari to address Nigerians and clear the impression that his government has decidedly released a hardened terrorist convicted for his crimes against humanity, even when political prisoners like Mr. Nnamdi Kanu are languishing in prison. The Nigeria Prisons Service is said to have debunked the speculations about Kabiru Sokoto only after these rumours swirled around for some time, and our group took the gauntlet to decently ask for clarification, which some persons are interpreting as hatred for Mr. President, as if he belongs to them exclusively.

Let the Nigerian government allow credible non-governmental bodies and select private and public media to empirically verify 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 of the people, as Abraham Lincoln, the post independence president of the United States of America, famously defined it.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the intellectual head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs as www.emmanuelonwubiko.com.