OPINION: Malam Ibrahim Bature: Katsina state Government and the rest of us – By Sadiq Tijjani Inuwa

As Nigeria celebrates her 57th Independence Anniversary, Malam Ibrahim Bature; a politician, philanthropist and activist is still in custody. His crime was the release of a video clip on his Facebook wall  in which he criticises the Proposed loan of $110m from Islamic Development Bank for the renovation and construction of Health care centres across the state by the Masari led administration. Although, Bature later removed the video and apologised, the activist has been in detention for about six weeks now. He spent the Eid-el-kabir festives and the 30th anniversary of Katsina state in prison.

The Masari led administration, more than the ones that came before it, gained notoriety for ruthlessly dealing with dissent voices. Some time last year, similar incident happened to two activists; Jamil Ismail Mabai and Comr. Bishir Dauda. They were charged to court before they regained their freedom. Ironically however, the APC under the guise of change mantra has been the biggest  beneficiary of Social media for it accorded them the opportunity to spread campaign propaganda and reach out to the multitude users on the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp). They made extensive use of social media to ferociously attacked the former administration. They are now in power, using state apparatus to suppress those that follow the same  route.

The arrest and detention of Malam Ibrahim Bature under any guise can not be justified. This administration is giving the opposition a live  ammunition to fire at them. Why arresting a man for exercising his constitutional right. It is an injustice that should be condemned by every discerning mind.

This administration needs a vibrant opposition and critics for it to succeed. They are the ones to put those in power on their toes. For APC government to  achieve her  campaign promises, it certainly needs the support of social media community, who will be there,  constantly reminding the government on the numerous campaign promises and at the same time enlightening the public about the efforts of the government.We should remember the role played by the social media in the victory of APC and they could also play the same role In seeing to its downfall. This administration need a friendly social Media  community not a hostile one; for when it united against this administration, the heat would be too much to bear.

Some say Masari has no hand in the arrest. Much as I want to agree with this, my conscience is telling me the direct opposite. His Excellency may not be directly behind or even aware of the arrest at the beginning. But he must be aware by now and the refusal to release the man, made the governor an accomplice. As the chief security officer of the state, the buck stop at his desk.

This Administration need to thread with caution, it should be conscious of public perception.  Once the issue became national, as it is beginning to, it will soon generate global attention. The statement released last week by the Arewa Youths Council, Condemning the arrest and call for the immediate release of Malam Ibrahim Bature is just the starting point. It will bring too much heat than  the administration could bear and the consequence will be disastrous. We have the ”cockroaches” saga to serve as an example.

Just of recent a similar incident to that of Bature happened in Gombe State, the Governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo ordered the immediate release of the accused and apologized to him. He promised to investigate and dealt with the perpetrators. This singular act of statesmanship exhibited by  Dankwambo earn him my respect and that of many people including his traducers.

Media Aides:

Much of the blame for the unfortunate development  in my dear state, Katsina has been attributed to the handlers of His Excellency. As media aide to a politician be it New or conventional Media, you are first and foremost an image-maker. Your job is to  counter criticism and allegations leveled against your administration with sound, superior argument garnished with fact and figures. Also part of the job is to dispel rumours and disarm the opposition against your principal with louder reason. That’s why you are hired- to promote the good work of your principal. That is the essence of your dignified tittles of SA. SSA etc. Look at what the critic says with an open mind, pick the valid points and gave the recommendations to your principal. That is how you can help your bosses and also justify the huge amounts expended on you.

The fact that you resorted to blackmail, arrest and incarceration of critics is an indictment on your competence to handle the job. By so doing, you are bound to create more critics and dissent voice. It will do more harm than good. When you detain a critic for airing his view, you automatically loss the support and goodwill of his family and friends and they will wait to avenge in the ballot box. So when you put the result on a balance sheet, the negative consequence  by far outweigh the gains. So what is the essence of embarking on a mission that will create more enemies for the administration you are hired to promote? There is an old Hausa adage which says ”Da muguwar rawa, ai gara kin tshi”. The best for one to do is to either accept the suggestions or ignore the critics but intimidation was never a viable option when it comes to silencing the critics.

I have an inkling that His Excellency, Gov. Aminu Bello Masari is being surrounded and misled by an army of sycophantic aides who made him think that every criticism of his administrative policies is an attack on his person which warrant an arrest and possible detention.

leaders relied on their aides and foot soldiers to furnish them with information about the happenings in the town. Often times a leader tend to crackdown on the critics when being surrounded by sycophants who made him have the impression that he is infallible and his action and inactions  must be hail by all and sundry. That the critics are hired by the opposition to dent his image or to destabilizes his administration. When these happened, those in authority will resort to repression using the instrument of coercive forces at their disposal.

That His Excellency is being misinformed about the social media community is evidently clear. His unguarded utterances about social media at every given opportunity and public gathering only confirmed our fear. Your comments at the combine prayer session  organized  for PMB’s health and the deceased mother of His Highness, the Emir of Katsina which was aired live on TVC  is a testimony to that. The governor said ”Masu yanar gizo-gizo, ‘yan bakin ciki, masu hana ruwa gudu, masu ganin fari suce baki ne. Allah ka shiryesu, idan masu shiryuwa ne. Idan kuma bamasu shiryuwa bane Allah kayi mana maganinsu”-The social media users, spiteful, who never see good in our administration, may Allah guide them if they could be guided, may Allah deal with them if they could not be guided. The crowd replied with ”Amin”. In another event he said ”Duk wanda yace mana Kule,zamuce mashi cas”- tit for tat.

This underscore the sheer-disdain the governor have for social media community. It must be the result of one of the two; either His Excellency is being misinformed about social media community or he himself is not ready to accept the advices given to him by his handlers.

There is also the claim of over-personalization of issues by the governor’s aides. They view every criticism as an attack on their person and therefore use the power they have on the perceived enemies to settle some scores.

Throughout human history,  Persecution of critics has never yielded a fruitful result. Instead, it creates more critics and made them even more popular and strong. Incarceration hardened one’s heart and made him fearless. We have seen the NEPU example. It has even become a badge of honour for a NEPU member to be imprisoned several times. Mandela’s stand against the Apartheid regime of South Africa is another epitome of the futility in detaining activists. Here in Nigeria we have the Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Malam Aminu Kano, Gani Fawahemi, Ken Saro-wiwa, and a host of them.Detention and persecution is an old fashioned means of curtailing the opposition voices.

Why not engaging the services of  the teeming social media users as foot soldiers to counter the narratives of opposition voice just like the ”sojojin baka” we have in Kano. There are always too version of every political issue in Kano state. The moment one finished his criticism on Radio, someone will be there to counter the narratives while the public were left with dilemma of whom to believe.

Social media critics/activists:

The social media critics too, can not be entirely exonerated and therefore must to take their sizeable share of the blame. How can one come to the public with an unsubstantiated and fabricated allegations against a government. As a critic, one has to equip himself with facts. Cross-check and verify every allegation before you went to print. Else you’ll land yourself in to trouble.

The Other thing you need to do is to chose a very effective way of message delivery. Wisdom and utmost care should be employed. You can not win all Battles, and therefore one have to select his fight wisely. You don’t need to attack and form an opinion on every government policy; every issue. You can’t be an expert on every field. There is time to attack, time to offer suggestions and the when to just let go. Know exactly when to struck and when not to.

Freedom of expression too has its limitations. Your job of telling the truth to the powers that be, must be within the confines of the law.

As a critic one need to avoid using defamatory, malicious and derogatory terms. Words  such as  ”Stupidity”,”Nonsense”, ”Azzalumi”, and the rest should be avoided but instead use more subtler and respectful words. You can express your point and achieve your aim without insulting anybody. Decorum should be the yardstick.

When Almighty Allah sent prophet moses and His brother Harun to pharaoh,  He knows that the Pharaoh is not going to accept the truth. Nevertheless, the Almighty Allah ordered them to speak to him (Fir’aun) kindly, so that he may accept the call.

”Both of you go to Firaun. He, indeed, has transgressed (a lot).”

”So speak to him kindly, perhaps he may accept advice or fear (from the punishment of Allah)”. (Qur’an 20:43-4).

There is a great lesson in this verses. Despite pharaoh being an oppressor and despotic ruler(who transgressed a lot), God ask prophet Musa and his brother Harun to speak to him in good not harsh words. This is to show how kind words, good manner and approach matters in telling the truth to someone in authority. When you try to admonish someone in power and end up using harsh words, tendency are your message, no matter how well intention,is going to be misconstrued.

When you have your facts; do not be afraid of voicing it out. As a career activist, be rest assured that your road is very rough and protracted and also bound to face numerous challenges, intimidation and incarceration. That is the price you have to pay for standing against the government.

For a viable country and for democracy to be entrenched, the leaders and the critics must co- exist. In the absence of Critics, democracy is nothing but tyranny.  Every administration, every regime be it Democratic or dictatorial must have critics to contend with.Therefore, we are appealing to Katsina state government to release Malam Ibrahim Bature.

Its time to close ranks and forge ahead.

Allah raya Jihar Katsina.

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