Between el-Rufai and free speech By Barometer : A Rejoinder, By Emmanuel Ado

                    “War without End”  – Unknown

Sun Tzu, without doubt was an acknowledged brilliant military strategist. But to the bewilderment of historians, Tzu was constantly more preoccupied with finding ways to avert war, that he was comfortably tagged a pacifist. Tuz , in fact is credited with securing countless victories without having to wage a war. In “The Art of War “, Tzu admonished warmongers to “appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak”, a further confirmation of his cherished strategy that the “wise warrior avoids the battle”, unless it becomes absolutely unavoidable. Bola Ahmed Tinubu a presidential hopeful on the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform, would do well to arm himself with the seminal works of Tuz, if he is to rescue what is left of his presidential ambition, which seems already in tatters, because of the “Area Boy” strategy he has seemingly adopted. 

There is absolutely no doubt that ownership of mass media is a powerful weapon to have at your beck and call in the contest for political power. The purpose of setting up any business is usually to make money, unlike mass media which most times are principally established for the tremendous power and influence it gives the owner to set National “agenda” and to manipulate – what the people watch and how they watch it, what they hear and how they hear it, what they read and how they read it and what they say and how they say it. Unfortunately only a very limited number of the people can filter what newspapers like The Nation or television/radio  stations like the TVC constantly pushes out for their daily consumption, nor make that very important connection that they are working for Tinubu’s interest.

There is absolutely no dispute about the immense power of the media. It was the very hostile print media, that compelled the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to set up the Kaduna based Democrat newspapers, to counter the Lagos/Ibadan media axis, which gave the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s government a bloody nose. The late Chief M.K.O. Abiola who initially provided the NPN with some media cover, compounded the woes of the NPN by withdrawing support for the Shagari administration, following disagreements between him and the henchmen of the then ruling party. But while the going was good, The National Concorde newspapers saw absolutely nothing wrong with the Shehu Shagari administration, while it demonized the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the one time leader of the region. Eventually the NPN was to enjoy some “objectivity” dose of the Concorde newspapers. 

The media empire of Bola Tinubu has consistently waged a concerted media war against Nasir El – Rufai,the Kaduna State Governor,who they perceive as a stumbling block to the presidential ambition of their principal. From Idowu Akinlotan’s  “The Waspish El-Rufai”, Festus Eriye’s “El-Rufai the godfather Slayer” , Segun Ayobolu’s “El-Rufai’s thoughts and non – thoughts on godfatherism” to Sam Omatseye’s  “A Divider In Chief Of KadunaPolitics – El Rufai double talk” the vexatious news  reports and articles are what Akinlotan was frank enough to describe as reactions to “Nasir El Rufai’s inflammatory remarks against the “National Leader” of the All Progressives Congress(APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu”. The Nation columnists and reporters  deserve credit for fighting real and imaginary battles of their master, thus disabusing the assumption that the media can be neutral and confirming that serving the interest of the public is most often secondary. 

On September 15,2019 Barometer in the article “Between El-Rufai and free speech” continued from where the others had left off , in what clearly is a “war without end”  strategy of “containing” and ultimately forcing Nasir El-Rufai to abandon any interest in the presidency. Though El-Rufai has not indicated interest, it would be naive for anyone to conclude that at the appropriate time and all things being equal that he won’t exercise his constitutional right to run or not to run for the presidency. It’s clearly lack of knowledge about El-Rufai , that makes some motor park strategists believe that can he be persuaded by  rough tactics to jettison the idea.But assuming without conceding that the motor park strategy works and El-Rufai is forced not to run, it’s safe to conclude that Tinubu won’t be getting the support of Kaduna State which is firmly in El-Rufai’s control. Tinubu, the celebrated “strategist” obviously hasn’t given this some hard thoughts. 

What triggered the latest volley of unwarranted attack from Barometer, The Nation newspaper columnist, was El – Rufai’s matter of fact statement at the public presentation of “Digital Wealth” by the blogger Japheth Omojewa, that henceforth the kaduna State Government would diligently prosecute any purveyor of fake news, especially if the tweet, re -tweet or the Facebook fake posts lead to of loss of life or breakdown of law and order. Rather than condemnation, El-Rufai deserves praise for upholding the rule of law,and for not resorting to self help,like some other governors have been known to,and for his manifest faith in the judiciary. 

In the warped opinion of Barometer, enforcing the law amounts to destruction of the “foundations of democracy”. For the benefit of Barometer and his likes,  El-Rufai it must be restated ran for the governorship of Kaduna State on a strong law and order agenda,based on the Rule of Law- and not might – which explains why he sent packing the “big men” who had shamelessly appropriated school lands  and paid compensation in cases where the occupiers had valid allocation from previous governments. He has also implemented the Reports of Commissions of Inquiry into the various communal crisis, as a deterrent to those who would want to take the laws into their hands,believing that as in the past they can get away blue  murder. 

Late Robert Kennedy eloquently made the point that “every community (country) gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.” While it might be okay for Lagos State where Barometer resides to condone fake news, Kaduna State based on real time experience of the consequences of fake posts would definitely not tolerate them, the point El-Rufai stridently made and for which he owes Barometer no apology. El-Rufai hasn’t in anyway appropriated the powers of the judiciary by declaring the likes of Chidi Odinkalu who clearly crossed the red line guilty,rather the Kaduna State Government has painstakingly made its case against him and others whose actions on the net has precipitated or escalated communal crisis in the state to the law enforcement agencies whose duty it’s to investigate and prosecute. 

Following a series of fake posts by “social media activists” and the traditional media about events in Southern Kaduna,there were very unpalatable reactions, which if the other parts of the state had retaliated , Kaduna State would have most certainly witnessed not one , but several civil strifes, which going by previous incidents would definitely had affected other parts of the country. In the specific case of The Vanguard newspaper reports for which Luka Binniyat and Audu Maikori are standing trial,it was without doubt the mother of fake news. The Vanguard newspaper had reported with certainty the purported killing of some students of the Kaduna State College of Education,Kafanchan by Fulani herdsmen. Audu Maikori, a popular music promoter further amplified the false report,that led to increased tension. The college in refuting the report,asserted that the “report was fabricated by the reporter to compound the security situation in the state.” 

It beats my imagination why Barometer would have any problem with the El-Rufai’s assertion that there is no absolute freedom. For the avoidance of doubt I reproduce the governors’ statement ; “we should not confuse freedom of expression with freedom to kill. If you tweet something that is fake or you tweet something that is reckless without checking and it leads to the death of people, then you deserve to be tried at least as an accessory before or after the fact of murder. In Kaduna State we have done that very aggressively because there are things that have been put on social media that have led to the death of people. So, we take it very seriously. You cannot sit in Port Harcourt or Lagos and start posting stuff that leads to societal instability in Kaduna and we let you go. We will file charges, we will go and collect you from Port Harcourt or Lagos and bring you before a judge in Kaduna and the judge will decide whether you are guilty.” 

The unfortunate side of the Vanguard newspaper report was not only that it was false in its entirety ,but it profiled a particular ethno-religious group as the assumed aggressor. Like Barometer many activists bluntly refused to condemn the Vanguard newspaper or reprimand Binniyat for his tales by moonlight report that was in every material fact a blatant falsehood (the College was not in session, it doesn’t offer any Programme in Mass Communication and it lost no student),but they typically rose up in arms to threaten and condemn the Kaduna State Government for prosecuting people who clearly jeopardized public security. To worsen matters, Binniyat’s backers praised him to the high heavens for his “highly principled” stand and for refusing to apologize to “the powers that be”. An indication that they welcomed the false story which certainly heightened tension in the entire Southern Kaduna area that was already on edge. 

Barometer like many other uninformed commentators without facts made very far reaching conclusions on Suleiman Hunkuyi and Shehu Sani. Had Barometer bothered or cared, he would have confirmed that El – Rufai lost several cases at the State High Court and like the democrat that he is, he appealed them. About  Hunkuyi and  Sani it’s a shame that in order to achieve some political objectives Barometer would turn facts upside down , maybe because  Hunkuyi and Sani at the behest of their  Lagos based political master displayed an amazing lack of respect for the party that made them and for the leaders of the party including the president,to the applause of the likes of Barometer. Seeing the handwriting on the wall they both decamped and were roundly trounced in the 2019 general elections. Pity that these are they men Tinubu is building his project on. 

Hunkuyi,but most especially Sani, are featherweights ,more popular on Facebook than in their constituencies and at the appropriate time  were permanently retired from politics. I challenge Barometer to make public details of the court actions  both men filed against the government and how interfered in the matter? About Hunkuyi’s property that was demolished,the kaduna State Geographical Information Service duly served him a demand notice to pay up the backlog of ground rents,which he didn’t. The Government acting in accordance with the law,revoked the title and decided to put the place to the use of the general public. Barometer would certainly never ask, why on earth law makers should be law breakers? 

There is no doubt that since 2015 Tinubu preferred candidates ( Shehu Sani, Isa Ashiru ,Hunkuyi), that would have gladly resumed work from Bourdlion, which an independent minded El-Rufai would never agree to. Unknown to many people is the fact that El-Rufai  has twice defeated these Tinubu’s boys and would any day hand them another crushing defeat. The good people of kaduna State have spoken and the Governorship Elections Tribunal has further reaffirmed the resounding victory to the consternation of Barometer and his masters. So when Barometer writes that 

“despite the ruling of the governorship election petition tribunal, there is still no incontrovertible evidence that Mallam el-Rufai won the last Kaduna governorship poll. He is not liked, he is irascible” , Nigerians should ignore his rantings as that of a  frustrated Tinubu apologist. 

Rather shamelessly after  the rigmarole, Barometer having acknowledged that “fake news is a big problem and that tweeters do sometimes exceed themselves by deliberately concocting falsehood”, rather than calling out the media, or urging the media to take a hard look at itself, in the last paragraph he finally showed his hands and left no one in any doubt that his proxy war against El-Rufai is basically about the 2023 presidential election. And I quote” And to think he has interest in the presidency!”. Precisely the problem that Barometer and his fellow travelers must learn to live with! 

“War without End”  – Unknown

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