To Be Half-free is Never Freedom – To Whom It May Concern By Shafi’i Hamidu
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” ? George Washington
I wish to have titled this piece ‘In Defence of John Danfulani’, but I understand that the gentleman in question had filed a lawsuit in the Industrial Court and I have no intention of tampering or pre-empting a judicial proceeding. Therefore, my piece is more of an advice to anyone or any organ of government that wish to be used to intimidate any citizen into silence by fiddling with his or her basic right to free speech. The freedom of speech is an absolute state to fully express thoughts and there is no such thing as being half-free; it is either you are free or not free.
The ability to come out openly and voice out the concerns of your people is not only bravery, but it is also a right that everyone must enjoy. It is about calmly speaking the truth when everyone else is silenced, when the truth cannot be expressed. It is about speaking out with a different voice, risking the wrath of the state and offending everyone, for the sake of the truth, and the writer’s conscience. For many a time, when I listen to some political sycophants speaking with the caution of trying to please a master, I wish for an alternative voice. Danfulani has consistently provided that voice, especially for the people of Southern Kaduna. He has fearlessly expressed himself writing from the good, to the bad and everything in between. Whether his style is likable is not what is important; the pivotal point is he says it the way he sees it, and in most cases, that is the true reflection of the feelings of his people. I wonder why we keep missing this point. Therefore, before I proceed with my submission, permit me a space to turban on your platform Dr. John Danfulani as the Sarkin Yakin Samarin Kudanchin Zazzau.
I read with great concern a news article, in some of the Nigerian media outlets, a story that says the poor lecturer had been served with a warning letter by the Council of his University i.e Kaduna State University (KASU) for allegedly denigrating in the social media the Visitor of the University who doubles as the Governor of the state, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero. At this point, I wish to state that I do not know Dr. John Danfulani beyond what I read of him on the cyberspace and I have never seen him or met him anywhere. At the same time, I do not know any of the Council members of KASU. I do not need to know any of them. But I feel an urgent Zazzau intervention is required before the issue takes the usual political turn between the two major political divides in the state. This warning must not be allowed to stand for many reasons. In the first place, was Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero been criticized in his capacity as a Governor of the state or the Visitor of the University? If it was in his capacity as a Governor, then there is no case and KASU should not even dabble into it. The gentleman is a patriotic and concerned citizen of the state who has all the rights to say all that are needed to be said to make sure the state was being run properly. On the other hand, if the criticizing was directed to his office as the Visitor of the University, as alleged, the gentleman still has right to criticise the office as a dedicated staff of the University, because no office is above criticism. Even if the criticism is directed at his person, KASU Council still has no business in it, because it should be the responsibility of Alhaji Ramalan Yero to take-up the matter himself. In any case, why are we even afraid of criticism?
Yes, I understand that speaking the truth to the powers that be sometimes requires wisdom, but everyone is different and we all have different ways of expressing ourselves. Therefore, what is important is the wisdom of the reader to separate the grains from the sand; the wisdom of the reader is to separate the message from the messenger. The wisdom of the reader is to challenge the idea put forward by the writer intellectually wherever opinions differ. But most importantly is the wisdom of whosoever is concerned to act based on the positive criticisms until there are no more loopholes for the critic to criticize. In other words, action speaks louder than the voice.
The University don is a political scientist by profession and he has a Ph.D to show for it. It is normal for a political scientist to comment on political issues around him, not even when he sees it as a community service. By the way, community service is one of the essential components for an academician to get promoted into the Professorial cadre. In his quest to liberate his Southern Kaduna people from political slavery, many power brokers have in the past come under the hammer of his mighty pen. Some of which includes the Senator representing his constituency at the national assembly, the Southern Kaduna political elites, the first republic northern elders, some sycophantic Southern Kaduna youth movements and also the state and federal government security apparatus for their lackadaisical attitude towards the protection of lives and properties in the state. He has never shied away from condemning any perceived injustice including the ones done on adherents of other religions, like the recent killings of Shi’at people in Zaria. In all these, we never heard the voice of KASU council restraining him or any other person. Therefore, it is ironic how they suddenly found their lost pen to prevent him from commenting on their almighty Visitor. In the words of Neil Gaiman: “if you don’t stand up for the stuff you don’t like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you’ve already lost.”
KASU is a new state-owned University, but the decision of Danfulani to take-up a career as political scientist came even before KASU was established. Therefore, any attempt to send him into political hibernation is ill-conceived and cannot stand. It is a very bad precedence that KASU is trying to start, especially on many us that work in various institutions in Nigeria and wish to chip in one or two pieces of advice to our leaders. This miscalculated warning is already breeding more political enemies to your Visitor than friends. And believe me, it is also projecting your institution in a very bad light. My advice to the council of every newly founded state university is that they should try and concentrate on the development of more Danfulanis by sponsoring many of their staff to obtain higher degrees and clear the bottom-heavy staffing system they always run. Dabbling into politics by an institution of higher learning is definitely not the way to progress.
God bless Kaduna State,
God bless Nigeria, amin.
Shafi’i Hamidu wrote-in from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
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