About a year ago, the 30th of May, 2016, I honoured the invitation of the Kaduna State Government, through the Kaduna Ministry of Budget & Planning (@KDMobp), headed by Muhammed Sani Dattijo (@Dattijo), to the Interactive Session with members of the New Media Community, on Governor El-Rufai’s One Year in Office, #ElRufaiAt1.
When the invitation got to me via Isa Ozo (@Ozo1Naija), the curator of @Abuja_Facts, I was a bit surprised. Okay scratch that. I was stunned. But I quickly shook off the shock and accepted it because it presented an opportunity for me to confirm a particular news first-hand.
The news was not one related to the Socio-Economic developments and plans for the state. Not at all. Instead, it was off a religious matter.
A few days before the invitation came, a Nigerian based in the United Kingdom, tweeted that El-Rufai had successfully chased Christians out of Kaduna, and no one is saying anything about it. That tweet was retweeted on to my TL by another Nigerian, based in the country.
The moment I saw that tweet, I knew that the opinion of the person tweeting must have been formed based on information available to him -I deliberately don’t want to say it was based on prejudice. I remembered that when the issue of the Religious Bill was still hot, a lot of people gave it various interpretations. I didn’t weigh in on the argument at the time for the simple reason that I had not yet read through the Bill personally. I endeavoured to get a copy of the so-called “controversial” bill.
After reading through, I didn’t see any of what most people alleged that the bill contained. I then followed the conversation on that bill by representatives of the Kaduna State Government, to see if they would in any way affirm something not contained in the print, as people were alleging. But all the conversation never deviated from what was documented on the bill. And seeing as people of Kaduna State that I know, had no issues with the bill, I saw no need to join the debate, until I saw the tweet mentioned earlier.
That tweet made me try to consider things from a different point of view. The question that went through my mind was: “Could it be that the reality on ground, as to the enforcement of the law, was quite different from what was contained in the bill?” This led to the issue of were to get non-biased information of the true situation on ground. I was still mulling this in my mind when the invitation came. It provided the much needed opportunity to go confirm things by myself, with the notion of “seeing is believing” running through my head.
I made the short trip down to Kaduna in the company of Isa Ozo (@Ozo1Naija) and Dr. Khalidz (@dr_khalidz)
On getting into Kaduna state, I was on the lookout for closed up, or burnt down churches as some have alleged. I saw quite a number of operational church buildings, contrary to the claims of some. From the common ones like Dominion City, RCCG, Apostolic Church and Catholic Churches, to some with very hilarious names as some of us have encountered in other cities within Nigeria.
We arrived the venue of the #ElRufaiAt1 a few minutes after 8am. The event was scheduled for 10am. This afforded me some time to stroll around and engage the people. The few Christians I spoke with, most of them shop owners, were a bit surprised at my questions about their safety and right to worship. They all said they are not aware that people believe they had been denied such right. They all stated, quite vehemently, that they have had no reason to be skittish about the Government of El-Rufai with regards to their religion and right to worship.
I didn’t take much of their time. I quickly went back to the hotel where the event was to hold. As I got in, Isa introduced to me to A.S Aruwa (@MusadiqZ), who happened to be part of those who made the event possible. Honestly, I was taken aback by the warm reception. Not only by @MusadiqZ, but by every other person I was introduced to.
The event eventually kicked off, and it was indeed quite interactive. Lots of young people from different professions turned out to engage the Honourable Commissioner of Budget and Planning, the SA on New Media, and other representatives of the Government. I was impressed to see very young, vibrant people who are professionals in various areas, with interest in other areas too. They engaged the Government Representatives on a variety of issues ranging from Health, to Agriculture, Education, Construction, Transportation, you name it.
They commended the government in areas they have experienced improvement, and berated them on areas they felt the government had performed poorly in the past 1 year.
The Kaduna State representatives took the criticisms well, and assured the people that the next 365 days will witness a marked improvement. As an observer, I took everything in. One thing I must commend the governor and the people of Kaduna State on is the high level of youth involvement in governance. It is something worth emulating.
The event came to a close by 2pm, which afforded me the opportunity to return to Abuja same day to meet up with another anniversary event. But before leaving Kaduna, I made a brief stop at the Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church along Kachia Road.
A very serene place for the 3pm Divine Mercy prayers and a brief benediction. For a Monday, it had quite a number of people in it, engaging in one activity or the other. I chatted briefly with a few and they still maintained that they’ve never come under any threat with respect to exercising their faith. I thanked them for their time and prayed briefly with them before continuing on my way to Abuja.
To refresh your minds on the activities of #ElRufaiAt1, kindly use the hashtag to search through my TL.