The Federal Government has proffered both official and unofficial explanations for proscribing the Ibraheem El Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement in Nigeria, otherwise known as the Shi’ites. None of which, to me, makes any sense. With these explanations, this government has grossly insulted our intelligence. As they say in the United States, “Don’t pee on my foot and say it is rain.” The total disdain of the government for human rights and rule of law is blatantly done with Gestapo’s impunity and wantonness.
The fact that the due process violation was cloaked in judicial robe does not mitigate the senseless transgression of the human rights of the very citizens the government officials have sworn to protect. This is not a new subterfuge in the toolbox of tyrannical governments to camouflage their undemocratic stances with pseudo judicial pronouncements.
In the USA, during the slavery, the US Supreme Court decreed that Blacks were two-thirds of human beings. Courts in Apartheid South Africa upheld racial segregation and proscribed various pro-independent groups as terrorist organisations so as to justify the policy of apartheid. It is an old trick to demonise anyone before hanging them.
Nelson Mandela was demonised as a terrorist by the court and sentenced to death. The Judge that imprisoned Fela Anikulapo-Kuti confessed that he was instructed by the military government to find any reason to take him out of circulation.
The silence of many Nigerians in the face of the brutality of this government does not bode well for democracy. Where are the civil society groups, non-governmental organisations and the international community? When and where there is a gross violation of human rights of any person or group, silence is complicity in the crime.
Where the government of this country massacred its citizens just because they belonged to a different sect of Islam, just because the sect is in minority, just because the majority Sunni Muslims are intolerant of this sect does not license the Sunni-dominated Northern Caliphate to decimate fellow Nigerians through a hardcore, fanatic Sunni-dominated government. The incontrovertible fact is that the unprovoked Federal Government has been held culpable for the killing and maiming of the members of the IMN.
Needless to say this government’s demonisation of the Shia group is reminiscent of any country where the Sunni hold sway. Salafism, with its offshoot, Wahhabism adherence to revulsion of other Muslim sects, must not be condoned by any democrat. Just last year, many Shia Muslims were executed in Saudi Arabia for peacefully clamouring for better conditions. Constantly, the Sunni majority in Pakistan raid and kill Shi’ites and Ahmadiyas in their mosques. Five years ago, the Shi’ites were gunned down while thousands were imprisoned for asking for one-man-one vote in Bahrain. The Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent their armies to hew down the Shi’ite Muslims demonstrating for democracy.
Wherever the Shi’ites are in a majority, the human rights of all other faiths are respected and secured: Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq. One of the reasons the Sunni-dominated countries quarantine Qatar is the bilateral relationship between Qatar (Sunni nation) and Iran to the chagrin of the Saudi-led coalition which has blockaded Qatar for about two years. Despite the fact that the Shi’ites are in a majority in Lebanon, they do not upend the unfair political configuration against them which was bequeathed the country by the French colonialists.
With overt support of the Sunni Arabs, Saddam Hussein mauled the Shiite majority in Iraq. Again, with the backing of the United States and Sunni-dominated countries, unprovoked Hussein invaded Iran with the US weapons wrecking carnage on peace-loving Iranians as reprisal for the Iranian hostage crisis. The monster created by the US, and other Sunni Muslim countries, with the exception of Gaddafi’s Libya, turned around to invade Kuwait en-route Saudi Arabia before the US intervened.
The government should halt the legerdemain that the massacre of the non-violent members of the IMN and the demolition of their compounds with the shooting of their leader and his wife are just a response to a disruptive association. Let the truth be told, the Sunni-dominated Caliphate perceives the Shia that respects secularity, modernisation and peaceful coexistence as practising shirk (idolary) to their ultra-conservative and fundamentalist underpinnings of Salafism and its harsh Arab Islam subset, wahabbism, that rejects peaceful tolerance as epitomised by Boko Harm, Al Qaeda and the ISIS.
The Shi’ites are fiercely territorial for self-preservation, they are defensive-oriented, while the Sunni Muslims indoctrinated in wahabbism are offensive-inclined. Since the bifurcation of the followers of the Great Prophet Mohammed after his death between those who supported his successor to come from the community of Muslims (Sunnis) and those that wanted his successor to be chosen among the Great Prophet’s family (followers of Ali: Shiites), the animosity of the Sunnis towards the minority Shiites as heretics has been infectious and cancerous.
After the military superiority of Israel comes the Iranian military in the Middle East. Lest we forget, the Iranians are not Arabs, but they fight for the cause of Sunni Arabs in the Middle East. The Iranians and the Hezbollah in Lebanon have ferociously supported the agitation of Hamas with materials and finance while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Morocco, etc, have openly undermined the cause of Palestine for statehood.
The massacre of the Shiite members, destruction of their compounds and place of worship and the mauling down of their peaceful demonstrators to free their leader and his wife, which the court had granted bail but the government flouted for years, underscore the internationalisation of the detestation of the Shi’ites by the global majority Sunnis.
Without much ado, this government is playing to the gallery of international Sunnis that are hell-bent on annihilation of the Shiites or any other sect. Remember, the violent Fulani’s jihad that displaced the Hausa kingdoms to foist Islamic Caliphate on the North created Fulani oligarchy that brooks no other Muslim sect. The puritanical wahhabism adherents brazenly imposed Sharia law in the North, which bred Boko Harem. President Muhammadu Buhari played no small part in the sharianisation of the North and was on record for saying war against Boko Haram was war against the North. Who then is a terrorist?
No Sunni-dominated country in West Africa has adopted Sharia law. They all defer to civil laws. Likewise, the western Nigerian Muslims do not espouse Sharia jurisprudence. Why then has the Northern Nigerian Sunni-dominated Muslims adopted Sharia law amidst a secular citizenry?
Furthermore, the marauding bandits in the North-West and the murderous Fulani herdsmen are either being rewarded with amnesty or unlimited licence to kill. Why are these pestilent groups emboldened by the authorities not held accountable while the members of the IMN are being killed, maimed, imprisoned and proscribed by this government that has made a habit of disregarding the laws of the land with impunity?
Make no mistake, it is the inalienable rights of the members of the IMN to protest, worship and assemble peacefully. The merchant of violence is the government that has a penchant for bloodletting. For those who perceive the murdering and illegal arrest of the members of the IMN as intra-faith or a Northern issue are hibernating in false cocoons because this government can extend its illegal and dastardly repressive acts to any group that expresses its disagreement through legally permissible methods.
Worse still, the scare resources needed for the development of the country would be diverted into fighting insurrection it has created. Such a self-inflicted injury should have been prevented in the first place: prevention is better than cure. Lest we forget, at this age, no group in any nation has a monopoly of means of violence. The military and the police no longer enjoy such exclusivity. The knowledge and the procurement of the means of violence are dispersed and easily within reach.
Case in point, Boko Haram is a pestilence the Nigeria military is struggling with for about 10 years. When this presumptuous government succeeds in driving the IMN underground, it should not be oblivious that the predictable resistance of the sect would evoke the sympathy of the populace unlike the obscurantist Boko Haram that shares the teachings of wahabbism with the Fulani.
If nothing else, this government should learn not to wake a sleeping giant. Hezbollah (Lebanon), Houthis (Yemen) and the military superiority of Iran and battle-tested Iraq are within the IMN’s reach. Only those who do not learn from history would repeat it.
This piece was written by Segun Olatunji in the Punch Newspaper of August 14, 2019