The growth and development of any nation rests mainly on the shoulders of leaders elected to pilot its affairs. In Nigeria, a country of over one-hundred and eighty million people, there has been extensive under-development and political instability that has accumulated over the years. The present government came into power on the foundation of ‘change’ but has done little or nothing to bring smiles to the faces of Nigerians that voted out the Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP government.
The sufferings Nigerians endure day after day have resulted in calls from some parts of the country for the chance for self-determination. This call reached a crescendo when on May 30th, Igbos of the South Eastern part of Nigeria called for a sit-at-home in honour of their brothers and sisters who lost their lives during the Nigerian civil war of 1967 – 1970.
This was reciprocated in the most unusual and childish manner by youths from Northern Nigeria who gave an ultimatum for all southerners living in Northern Nigeria to vacate on or before October 1st 2017. This ultimatum was given in Kaduna state, the state where Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is the governor – the same Mr. El-Rufai who is now funding, organising and hosting The Kaduna Book and Arts Festival.
While the threat from northern Nigerian youths was causing panic, the Nigerian Senate requested the Presidency to submit to them for consideration, the reports of the 2014 CONFAB, held to devise means of restructuring Nigeria and reposition the country for greater political and economic development. It is believed that if all or parts of the CONFAB recommendations are implemented, the problems of segregation and calls for self-determination, amongst others, would be solved.
It is then very astonishing and indeed quite shameful that the governor of Kaduna state, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, on the 29th of June 2017, while being interviewed on Channels Television – one of the leading network news channels in Nigeria – posited clearly that it was pointless for anyone to call for the restructuring of Nigeria. His attention was brought to the demand by the Nigerian Senate that the Presidency re-submit to them the report of the 2014 CONFAB and Mr. El-Rufai stated emphatically that the Presidency and indeed the APC led government would ‘never submit the report of the CONFAB to the senate for consideration’. He said that the call for the CONFAB report to be re-visited was ‘senseless’ and meaningless. He argued that the 2014 CONFAB which was held after Nigerians seriously demanded for it was ‘a jamboree’ and its reports ‘senseless’.
Mr. Nasir El-Rufai went ahead to argue and reiterate several times that the manifesto of the All Progress Congress (APC) is better than the recommendations of the 2014 CONFAB and that this manifesto has more workable solutions to the Nigerian problem and ways of restructuring the country than any CONFAB report. By saying this, what Governor El-Rufai told Nigerians was that the manifesto of a single party is better than the recommendations and suggestions of the entirety of Nigerians.
In addition to this, it is same Mr. Nasir El-Rufai who holds such views and opinions — who has failed to arrest and bring to book those who, while in his state, plot to evict southerners from the north, who has done little or nothing to stop the killing of Shiite Muslims in his state, who has failed to stop the killing of Christians in southern Kaduna and who has continued to persecute scholars — that now plans and funds a new arts ‘jamboree’ tagged The Kaduna Book and Arts Festival. The festival slated to hold from July 5 – 8, 2017, is billed to have writers from Nigeria and overseas in attendance – the same group of people that Mr. El-Rufai has failed to protect.
Is it not right to point out that if Mr. El-Rufai thinks the report of the 2014 CONFAB senseless, same Nigerians whose interests this CONFAB seeks to protect are also senseless? If Northern youths, in a state under the governor’s watch, called for the eviction of Igbos from the north, is it not right to assert that writers who will attend this event are not safe? Isn’t it correct to highlight that if the governor has done nothing to bring a single person to book for such weighty and treasonable plot, it explains that he lacks the willpower and capacity to protect the writers and scholars that will converge in his state?
If Mr. El-Rufai believes that Nigerians are senseless and that the process that involved representatives of the entirety of Nigeria was ‘a jamboree’, then the people he has invited to his Kaduna book and arts festival are also ‘senseless’ and partakers in a ‘jamboree’ system. It is right and just for writers from Nigeria and indeed Nigerians living everywhere to boycott his book and arts festival in denunciation of his stand.
Therefore, it is pertinent that Nigerian writers and scholars unite and protest as much as they can, in as many ways as possible, the continuous efforts of people like Mallam Nasir El-Rufai to use them as objects for overshadowing their poor governance, political brigandage, lack of respect for rule of law and human rights, and continuous persecution of their fellow scholars.
To attend The Kaduna Book and Arts Festival is to allow people like Governor El-Rufai the chance to continue to work to undermine the people of Nigeria and their democracy, knowing that he could always pat their intellectuals on the back and feed them some rice and porridge, and all would be well. It would be a shame.
Obinna Udenwe is the author of Satans & Shaitans – a conspiracy thriller on politics and terrorism.