By Uche Amunike
The gentleman I bring you today is among so many things, a firebrand Lawyer, Unionist, Writer, Human Rights Activist, Politician and founder of the non-governmental and non-profit making organisation, Egalitarian Mission, Africa which is dedicated to the promotion of justice, equity, equality, fairness and rule of law.
He is the Principal Partner of Kayode Ajulo & Co Castle of Law, Abuja. He is also a member of several notable organizations including International Association of Human Rights Lawyers, Nigerian Red Cross, Nigerian Institute of Management, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the International Bar Association (IBA), Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK.
This dashing gentleman is a respected force to reckon with in the local and international media and has been in active advocacy campaign for global good governance and democracy just as he is one of the leading voices against corruption, nepotism and injustice. He has won over a hundred awards for his contributions to social justice and Human Rights.
During the 2011 election, he ran for Senate under the aegis of Labour Party, FCT, Abuja where he called for a change of attitude and style to ensure a vibrant and dynamic Senate, as against the docile membership of legislators that made the Red Chambers look like a home for Pensioners.
Please read the rest of a most enlightening chit chat with this amazing and inspiring son of Ondo state soil at his intimidating office at the FCT, Abuja.
Let’s meet you, Sir
I am Kayode Ajulo. I’m a Lawyer.
You are the founder of the NGO, Egalitarian Mission. Tell us about the Egalitarian Mission. What was your vision before you founded it? Are you achieving that vision and mission?
Well, let’s start with the fact that I got engaged with leadership and leadership position when I was a teenager. I became a unionist at the young age of 16/17. I was the secretary of a brand job in Abuja which I got as a holiday job . Not too long after that, I got admitted into the university. With the experience of a unionist, you can imagine that from my 100 level, I got involved in politics. In my school, I ran for election, down to the student union government. I was executive of that body. From there, I began to see and notice a lot about the fundamentals of society. You see the ruled and the rulers and you notice that there are a lot of violations of their rights all the time. Not just Nigerians but the whole world entirely thrives on class struggles. Nigerians have several structures of classes. Some are rich. Some are not rich. Some are good, some are not good. Some are brilliant, some are not brilliant. This has already divided the society.
My thinking was finding how best to bring ourselves together to be on an equal pedestal. I knew it would be very difficult. It is like an article of fate for anyone to think that the Almighty God did not create us equally. So, how come there is this disparity? The issue of class, when you look at it from the position of the violation of people’s rights, we find out that it has many things to do with it. Poverty has something to do with it. Those who are being relegated to the background have something to do with it. imagine the kind of violation those that are selling moi moi and other foodstuffs might be subjected to.
I’m sure, somebody like you, if there will be a case of fundamentals of your human rights, it must be on a higher level. But just imagine all those selling ice water and moimoi, sweets, biscuits and co. Imagine the kind of violation they are being suggested to. For instance, you have your voice and anybody that thinks that he can touch you as a super journalist must think twice because he knows that he has a lot of things to contend with. But what about those without voices? The voiceless and faceless and the unknown people in our society. You need to know what they go through. Some of them get raped and cannot even get themselves to the police station afraid that they may be turned back.
Those are the things and I just realised that it is this class issue that makes this violation so prevalent. The idea of the Egalitarian Mission is to see a way to ensure that we have a classless society by making room for equality, equity and equal opportunity for everyone. It may be very difficult to achieve, but at least, there should be somebody that is coordinating it and that is what we are doing. As God would have it, when I was serving, I served with the Legal Aids Council for my Community Development (CD). This broadened my view, particularly about how people’s rights are being violated. I was exposed to quite very vulnerable people.
Then, you’ll be surprised that people are in prison for something as common as ten naira whereas somebody would steal N10miion and you’ll see twenty lawyers defending him in court. After that experience during my service year, I decided to start something to fight this anomaly. That was how Egalitarian Mission came about. It’s egalitarian all over the world. I think the first problem that I had under Egalitarian Mission ran for about seven years. We called it Free-a-Prisoner-a-Day. We had about 365 days in a year. So, if you feel that you want to free a prisoner a day, it means that in a year, the target is that over 365 inmates will be released. It was quite so simple initially, it was so difficult, but with time, it became easier. When I mention prisoners, it doesn’t have to be those who are in prison. Those who are in all those detention facilities are also involved.
I remember then as a young lawyer, going to Garki and to all those other DPOs. Initially, everybody will be fighting you because they won’t want to see your face. They’ll be asking you what you’re looking for. With time, I realized that those policemen were even looking for how they would release some people. The only problem was that they didn’t even know how to. At a point I was even the one that was avoiding them, particularly over the weekends. They’ll ask me if I would be able to come and look for a way to release some inmates. You need to know the harvest of fellows being released in detention facilities. That really also exposed me. At least, I got to know a lot of people.
Don’t be surprised if I tell you Owoseni who was a Commissioner of Police in Lagos state sometime ago, but now the Security Adviser in Oyo state and who I met during that programme when he was a Superintendent of police in charge of Human Rights in one of the zones in Abuja here. I met quite a number of them who were junior police officers then but are now senior police officers. At a point, the federal government said there was a need to decongest the prisons. That’s why till date, despite all those prison decongestions, I never took part in it because they were being paid but I was doing it out of my own volition as part of my own contribution to society. Why should I apply for money? And how much is it? Is it three hundred naira or three hundred thousand or one million? It was just a no-no for me. So, I never took part of it cuz I had started doing it for humanity and couldn’t stop.
Talking about imprisonment, the Shiite leader, Al Zakzaky whose release had erstwhile been granted by the courts is still held in detention. His members protested recently and that protest led to the loss of lives of innocent Nigerians. Kindly react to his continued detention.
Well, with the little I know about Al Zakzaky, I want to believe that even though he might have been released, there might be other pending cases against him. His case is a little bit complex. He has some cases with the federal government which they prosecuted him for. He has some cases which led him being prosecuted by the Kaduna state government. So, all those releases and bail happened to come from the federal government.
Recently, to justify that, Kaduna state government granted him bail and he was released. That release was for him to go for medical check-up in India and the drama that ensued after that is already public knowledge. But one thing I want to believe is that once the court of law grants someone bail and there’s no other case against the person, there is no reason why the person will not be released. The federal government needs to explain to Nigerians why he is still in detention.
I am not speaking for the government. At least, I am not being paid to speak on their behalf. The government needs to take up any issue at it comes. I want to believe that the loss of lives and property during the agitation to free Al Zakzaky, came about because of communication gap. If Al Zakzaky’s people came out to say that he has been released by the court, the federal government needs to come out to explain the reason why he is still held in custody.
I am aware that he has an order pending in the court in Kaduna. If the court asks federal government to release him, the question will be, what about the case in Kaduna. But as you can see, he has been asked to be released.
To be continued next week...