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The Nigerian Army and El Zakzaky/Shiite Muslims


In March 2011, then President Goodluck Jonathan was stoned at three different places in Gombe during his presidential campaign. On January 2015, the ex-President’s convoy was again stoned in Bauchi. Those miscreants even attempted to attack him yet not a single life was lost on both occasions as the security agencies managed the situation well. And that was a sitting Commander-in-Chief!

Today we have an Army Chief whose supporters are justifying the murder of hundreds of human beings because they blocked the road his convoy was supposed to pass through. How times have changed!

I have watched video clips and several reports from both sides of the event and this much we know:

Trouble began Saturday, when thousands of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a pro-Iranian Shia group, held a march in Zaria, in Kaduna State, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai (pictured above), and his convoy wound up trapped in the gridlock. Soldiers in the convoy stating the group wanted to assassinate the Army Chief opened fire, killing a number of people.

 Members of the sect put the number at more than 100.

After receiving reports that members of the Islamic group were “mobilizing” following the shootings at the march, troops targeted the group’s shrines and enclaves, according to Maj. Gen. Adeniyi Oyebade.

Troops reportedly firebombed the‎ Husseiniyya, the group’s religious center, and destroyed another religious center on the outskirts of the city.

In the evening, the troops, backed by tanks, moved to the area where the group’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, lives. Hundreds of Zakzaky’s followers went to the house to try to prevent his arrest.

A night-long battle ensued, in which more people were killed. The home was firebombed and demolished.

An army spokesman acknowledged the loss of life but blamed members of the sect.

The “incident,” said Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman, was the “result of the Shiite group members’ blocking roads and not allowing other passers-by to go about their lawful businesses and activities.”

“It is important to note that over the years this group has subjected ordinary citizens using public roads to untold delays, threats and disruption simply because they insist on using public space irrespective of inconvenience and hardship on other law-abiding citizens and motorists,” Usman said. “This cannot be tolerated and must stop.”

His statement made no reference to a perceived assassination attempt.

According to elombah.com reports, Zakzaky’s wife, Malama Zeenat; his son, Sayyid Aliyu, and over 300 members of the Shi’ite, including senior members, were killed by the soldiers.  All because the Army went to El-Zakzaky’s house ostensibly to carry out an arrest (something the Police would have done much better) all because the Shias dared block the convoy of the Army Chief!

When I look at Nigeria and observe certain events going therein, I can’t help thinking maybe Nigeria is a zoo after-all, An Animal Kingdom!

A country where armed security operatives will open fire on a defenceless Shi’a procession and harmless Biafra demonstrators and it appears normal to the populace

Less than 2 weeks ago, security men opened fire at unarmed protesters in Onitsha, South East Nigeria killing over 10 people and we applauded. But today it is Zaria, North West Nigeria… Who knows where it will be tomorrow.

This can only happen only in the animal kingdom, in a time and place where life is ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

It is high time Nigerians irrespective of ethnicity and religion speak up against the Military high handedness and use of extreme force on issues which ordinarily can be resolved by Police via dialogue. 

How did ordinary road block escalate to assassination attempt; death of at least 7 civilians on Saturday; a Military siege around the house of Shia “Holy” site over the night; and another 500 dead on Sunday?

Why should brutal force be an option before trying dialogue? Why can’t we for once as a “Nation” learn from our experiences? If the escalation of boko haram isn’t enough experience? When will Nigeria leaders ever learn!

As I watch the pictures of Nigerian Shiite leader Zakzaky, covered in blood upon being arrested, with a soldier standing behind him, being dragged on the ground by Nigerian Soldiers, why this humiliation of a fellow Nigerian? Is this how Nigeria government treats its citizens?

I have also watched another video, how miscreants rummage through the pockets of the murdered Shiites, robbing the dead, I wonder, how did fellow humans degenerate so low? Worse than animals! 

No one deserves this kind of humiliation even in death.

The maltreatment given to the shia Muslim leader is uncalled for. Our soldiers should stop proving Nnamdi kanu right that Nigeria is a zoo. They should learn to treat us as humans that we are.

The allegation by Sani Usman, spokesman of the army, that followers of Zakzay attempted to assassinate Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, does not fly. The army should look for a more plausible explanation for the yearly slaughter of its members by our military. 

This is not the first time that the movement would clash with soldiers. Last year, some members of the movement, including two sons of Zakzaky, were killed during a similar crisis. 

We must be careful, given the experience with Boko Haram lest the extra-judicial killing of these unarmed Shiites come back to haunt Nigeria, and indeed the Nigerian Army.

Boko Haram did not start as a violent group. It was repeated extra-judicial killings like these and the extra-judicial killing of their leader in 2009 that forced its extremist elements to seek self-help against a state, which appears to derive joy in killing the innocent without regard to due process and the law. 

Shiite Muslims are no Boko haram militants. ISIS and Boko haram militants are rather of the Sunni variant of Islam. Though the majority of the Nigerian Muslim population is Sunni, there is a significant Shia minority. They are called Shi’ia or Shi’ite.

President Muhammadu Buhari should act his office by calling the military to order. These extra-judicial killings must stop as Boko Haram has proved, and effectively too, that the only difference between a soldier and civilian is the uniform. Once a determined civilian is armed like the soldier, only God knows what will happen.

I join Sa’ad Abubakar, the sultan of Sokoto, in warning the federal government not to allow the crisis between the military and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria go out of hand.

“The history of the circumstances that engendered the outbreak of militant insurgency in the past, with cataclysmic consequences that Nigeria is yet to recover from, should not be allowed to repeat itself”, The Sultan said in a statement.

“We urge the federal government to immediately constitute a judicial commission of inquiry to thoroughly unravel the immediate and remote causes of the current mayhem. Besides, the commission should also investigate the past incidents involving the movement so that justice can be done. “The sanctity of human life is inviolable ‎in Islam and painstaking efforts should be made at all times to prevent bloodshed.

In other words, life is sacred and the fundamental responsibility of government is to guarantee the security of life and property. “While no group should be allowed to constitute law unto itself or arrogate unconstitutional powers to itself under any guise, the fact still remains that the position of law is clear when there is any breach. Therefore, as order is the first law of heaven, normalcy and restraint should be taken seriously.

What happened in Zaria was nothing but an act of brutality by the Nigerian military. May the Almighty guide our leaders’ right and guard us Nigerians against our own indiscretion at all times.

VIEWS FROM DIASPORA – BY DANIEL ELOMBAH first published last week in The authority Newspaper

Daniel Elombah



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