Tomorrow the 4th of October, 2018 is destined to yet again be a historic day as the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his spouse will again appear in court to learn whether or not the court will grant them bail or not.
The duo are standing trial in Kaduna state high court for sundry trumped up charges, including that of aiding and abetting culpable homicide.
The trial, which came up as an afterthought, has largely stalled because of non appearance in court of two other members of the Islamic Movement with whom they were joined in the case as defendants. The state has never made any attempts at serving the two beyond the lip service notice the government did in publicly declaring in two Nigerian dailies that they were wanted.
At the start of the case in May, the defence counsels had applied for bail for the Sheikh and his wife. That was followed by a formal written application, on grounds of ill health and prolonged incarceration, which was moved and adopted before the judge before the court fixed October 4, 2018.
We therefore reflect on all the scenarios and the possibilities of the outcome tomorrow.
Bail or no bail?
The single most important thing the court will determine tomorrow is whether or not to grant the Sheikh and his wife bail. Then should they be granted bail, what manner would it take.
Should the court decide to deny the duo bail, the presiding judge would be relying heavily on the position of the prosecution that the Sheikh is in sound health and doesn’t require bail to enable him seek treatment. The trial judge will also be agreeing with the prosecutors that if the Sheikh is granted bail, he will never appear again for the trial, especially as the two others being charged with remain at large.
If the judge follows this line of argument, he would be jettisoning the position of the defense lawyers that heavily relies on the well-known ill health of both Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife (illnesses inflicted on them by the Nigerian army during the heinous attack on their family compound) and the long duration of detention both have been subjected to without trial.
The Sheikh had been detained for two and half years without being charges before filing of these charges. During his stay, he has lost one eye and is at risk of losing the other due to inadequate access to medical attention in detention.
Furthermore, the Sheikh is known to have suffered a stroke in detention, and now moves only with support of a stick with a neck collar supporting his head.
The second possibility is that the court may actually grant bail to the Sheikh and the wife. In that case, will the judge grant bail to the Sheikh on self recognition or would he stipulate conditionalities for the bail.
The counsels for the appellants had suggested that the court should grant the Sheikh bail on self recognition, saying that the Sheikh will never jump bail for any reason.
On the other hand, should the court decide to grant bail on some conditionalities, the question remains whether these conditions would be soft enough to be acceptable or be easily met by the Sheikh or not.
Yet another possible scenario is whether when the bail is granted the Nigerian authorities will obey the ruling of the court this time around. This is particularly pertinent question considering the notorious penchant of the government to disobey court judgments.
In the case of the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the Sheikh earlier at the federal high court Abuja, the court ruled that the detention of the Sheikh and his wife was illegal, baseless and unconstitutional, and therefore ordered they be released unconditionally. Nearly two years on since that judgement, the Sheikh has remained in this illegal detention.
Whatever may be the case tomorrow, the Free Zakzaky Campaign Committee has vowed to relentlessly continue its campaign for the total freedom of the Sheikh without conditionalities, and not merely the granting of bail.