There is no question about it that the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky has the potential of being the only true Champion and pillar of unity across divides in Nigeria.
Sheikh Zakzaky has consistently shown the way in bridging tribal and sectional divides irrespective of religious differences, which has been the chief factor that endears him to so many from different cultural and tribal background from him.
Being a Hausa man from Zaria and his wife, Zeenatu a Yoruba lady from Ibadan, Oyo state alone tells us how he has purged himself of tribal sentiments and tribal bias right from the outset and thereby helped in building bridges across tribal and sectional divides.
It is noteworthy that the Movement he leads finds acceptance among different people irrespective of tribe or geopolitical region. This is evident even from reports of the series of campaigns embarked upon since the gruesome genocide in Zaria in 2015.
There have been reports of ‘Free Zakzaky’ protests held by Christians and Muslims in Abia and Rivers States. On 15/2/2016 members of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, who were not of Northern extraction, staged a peaceful protest and also addressed a press conference in Port_Hacourt, Rivers state of Nigeria demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the leader of the Islamic movement in Nigeria Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H), his wife and other detained members of the movement including women and children. A similar protest held in Abia state by some Christian faithfuls.
The Igbo Mandate Congress, IMC in a message signed by Rev Obinna Akukwe, also condoled with families of massacred members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, over the genocide in Zaria, where estimated one thousand persons met an untimely death. The message stated, “Igbo Mandate Congress views with outrage a situation whereby out of eight children of a religious leader, six were killed by the Nigerian Army over incidences which patience and dialogue could have resolved.”
The fact that Christian Igbos and other tribes would identify and associate with Sheikh Zakzaky and the Movement even in this critical moment would only suggest that they had a good relationship with him earlier and considered him peaceful.
This was evident from the frequent visits of the Igbo Community leaders to sheikh Zakzaky in his Gyellesu residence. Some of the instances they were widely reported to have paid him visit include when Zaria Igbo Community leaders visited him after the election crises of 2011 to show gratitude to him about the way rhe Sheikh and members of the Movement provided safe haven and shelter to Igbos and other minority tribes. Again, they visited him in 2014 to condole him on the death of 34 members of the Movement, including his 3 sons killed by the Nigerian army.
This cordial relationship was again demonstrated during the military attack of 2014. Among those killed by the military and injured were Igbo Christians, who challenged the military for shooting at unarmed peaceful members of the Movement without any provocations. Consequently, the military killed one of the elderly Igbo men and wounded some. Sheikh Zakzaky took up the hospital bills of the injured and sent a strong delegation to the burial of Chief Anyawu who was killed.
Furthermore Igbo Muslim converts and their scholars do participate in activities organised by the Movement such as Maulud (birthday of the Prophet) and also the unity week activities. All these would not have been possible had there not been a good understanding between Sheikh Zakzaky and these tribes.
This act of fostering understanding between tribes and communities undoubtedly will help the cause of peaceful coexistence and credit must be given to Sheikh Zakzaky in being a leading light in that direction.