By Emmanuel Ome
“They continue to say that we are armed, this is a blatant lie. If we are armed, Nigerian Army cannot face us. “If we have weapons with us, Nigerian Army is too small to face us. With our courage and brevity, with empty hands, they are running away from us; talk less of when we have arms. They know that we are not armed because they are cowards.” – Abdullahi Zango- Shiites Leader on the clash with Soldiers in Zuba, Gwagwalada, Abuja .
These are excerpts from a public statement released by Sheik Abdullahi Zango in the aftermath of the latest clash between his sect members and security agents, especially Soldiers. When I read this bragging, from an obvious outlaw, I almost wept for my country, Nigeria. I saw the naked mockery and grandstanding of a deadly and fanatical religious sect against the Army with such stupefying pride.
I was more confused when Zango admitted tacitly in the statement by alleging that “persons with arms had been planted among the Shiites, by the police, in a bid to incriminate the group.”
However, the rage and tantrums over the latest attack on soldiers by the Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky led Shiites in Nigeria or the Islamic Movement In Nigeria (IMN) have relaxed the bitterness and tensions gradually waning and the absurdity of the action has laid bare its fangs. Now let’s take a second and critical look, once more at the pattern of the affront on state by members of this fanatical religious sect.
We can recollect within memorable time in Nigeria, that the Iranian affiliated and sponsored extremists in Nigeria have caused several avoidable clashes with security agents, resulting in regrettable casualties. From the December 2015 clash with the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai in Zaria, the statistics of the number of the sect-induced clashes are on the ascendency.
The sects’s notoriety for clashes with security agents spares none. In a bid to restrain them from disruption of public peace and security, they attacked the police in Kano in November, 2016 during that year’s 2016 “Arbaeen Symbolic Trek”, an incident which left seven policemen dead. I also learnt, a similar attack in November, 2017 by the same religious fanatics and security agents left scores of deaths.
And precisely in April 2018, the group also clashed with police/soldiers in Abuja. They feigned protests for the release of their leader Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been remanded in prison custody by lawful court order. It also ended up in scores of injuries. And I can keep reeling out such instances endlessly.
And just a week earlier, we also heard of the incident of their clash with soldiers at Zuba in Gwagwalada, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Other Media reports suggested that the IMN who were supposed to be on the annual “Arbaeen Symbolic Trek’ to Abuja, suddenly transmogrified into demonstrators demanding the release of El-Zakzaky. The protesters blocked the Dutse and Galadima parts of the Kubwa Expressway and created traffic gridlock and public disorderliness.
An earlier press conference by the sect on Saturday, alerted the public of the three-day march, beginning on Sunday to terminate on October 30, 2018. And what baffled me was that the sect was explicit that more than one million of its members were expected to converge on Abuja from Suleja in Niger State for the yearly “Arbaeen Symbolic Trek, ” a somewhat spiritual exercises which morphed into protests.
I imagined the chaos and commotion of the influx of more than one million people into Abuja would cause in the guise freedom of peaceful protests. I believe it was stretching such liberties too far. And one could discern from media reports the severity of the spread of the Shiites in the protests. And usually armed with dangerous weapons, which previous experiences have proven, they freely use them anybody who stand on their path.
We are told the group in frightening multitudes approached a military checkpoint near Zuma motor park and were denied passage by soldiers on their duty post. And based on prevailing insecurity all over the country and the desire of terrorists to strike Abuja at all cost, the decision of the soldiers not to allow such volume of armed protesters ingress into Abuja was very clear to me.
But the sect members resisted lawful security order. Its unthinkable, but also explainable. Shiites have not only pledged allegiance to the Republic of Iran, where their spiritual leader is domiciled, but have also openly vowed never to obey the laws or Constitution of Nigeria.
This mindset and sects instant reaction laid the template for a clash with the soldiers. They began hurling stones at the soldiers, brandishing swords, cudgels and smashing the windscreens of both civilian and military vehicles.
In the ensuing confusion, some of the berserk sect members attacked and attempted to forcefully seize military vehicles on convoy, conveying ammunitions and missiles to a different destination. Thus, it opened the vista for another confrontation. Regrettable deaths were recorded.
I have read some of the commentaries on the matter and it leaves me with a sour taste in the mouth. Some analysts are arguing meaninglessly that the Federal Government of Nigeria, predominantly controlled by the Sunni Muslims have deployed unreasonable force in repressing the Shiites. I have not heard an argument so watery or fluid.
Those who parade this view do not even remember that the IMN is an unlawful organization in Nigeria, which has refused to do the needful even after several pleadings. I also understand, The organisation has existed in Nigeria for nearly 45 years. The sect’s headquarters is in Kaduna state. But the state government under Gov. Nasi el-Rufai has proscribed it two years back. The Federal Government is rather lenient for delaying the national proscription of IMN in Nigeria.
But if all of the religious in Nigeria, exercise the rights in such brazen abuse as done by the sect, would there be peace for any other Nigerian? Its illogical for anybody under the pretext of liberty to protest, regale in ferrying over a million people into the already congested Abuja for a protest. This cannot be rationalized under any excuse.
Assuming the millions of Roman Catholic faithfuls, or the Redeemers, or the Deeper Lifers, or Living Faith members in Abuja also mobilize their members’ in millions for protests on any issue they feel aggrieved, would the Shiites find a space to spot their shadows on the ground? Or should the Tijaniyya Islamic sect or the Sunni Muslims also mobilize their members in millions to converge on Abuja, would there be space for other Nigerians? Let’s reason together!
I don’t know when a protest becomes violent. But if the protesting fanatics hurl stones at security agents, brandish dangerous weapons before soldiers and challenge their efficacy as Abdullahi Zango later admitted boastfully , as quoted above, what else is the definition of violent protests?
Shiites leader, Abdullahi Zango also indicted his sect members by his voluntary admission that the police planted some arms and ammunitions among members of the sect on the procession/protests. It sounds like an afterthought narrative to divert attention from their intention for invading Abuja in such numbers.
Reliable security sources say, the sect was prepared to violently seize Abuja. They plotted discreet sneaking of explosives and other dangerous weapons into the city, to destroy the peace and lives of others in the nation’s capital.
We all know, IMN is a terrorists organization, backed by Iran. So, they reject Nigeria’s legitimate constitution, but enforce their own barbaric laws on the country and her peoples. This is not acceptable anywhere. There is nowhere in the world, where there is total freedom, when public safety and security are the deciding factors. The Shiites can give us some peace.
Amnesty International (AI) is concerned about the abuse of the human rights of the protesters; but less concerned about the human rights of the rest of us these devious fanatical sect members violate with such impunity. This terrorist’s sect deserves no such cuddling like innocent babies, but their affront on state and idiocy should be treated appropriately. They are not above the law!
Ome, a professor writes from the Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.