Omoniyi Salaudeen and Daniel Kanu
Following last Tuesday’s botched procession of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), rights activist and counsel to Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the detained leader of the group, Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the Federal Government to desist from twisting provisions of the law with unnecessary technicalities as a ploy to deny his client access to justice, as well as treatment for his medical condition.
Accusing the Federal Government of being insensitive to the deteriorating health condition of his client, he insisted that he would do everything possible to undo the injustice meted out to him and his wife.
His words: “The health of the El-Zakzakys was impaired in detention. Since the Federal Government could not treat them (El-Zakzaky and his wife), their health deteriorated. Local and foreign medical teams examined them and recommended foreign treatment. We applied for medical leave for them. In spite of the vehement opposition by the government, the Hon. Darius Khobo granted the application.”
In this regard, Falana disclosed that he had applied to visit El-Zakzaky and the wife to keep him abreast of their next port of destination for comprehensive medical treatment to overcome their health challenge.
“The next move concerning their medical leave and treatment will be based on a decision with them. I have applied to visit the couple with a view to consulting them”, he said.
However, in a sharp reaction, Senator Anthony Adeniyi, also a legal practitioner, punctured Falana’s arguments, saying El-Zakzaky was merely feigning alleged ill-health and that his activities were contrary to the claim being made by his counsel.
He said: “The guy was never at any time ill. His activities do not portray him as a sick person. Before he went for medical treatment abroad, they said he could not see, bullets were hidden in his body. But if you saw the clip of what really happened in India, there was no evidence that he was sick. That is my view. He was asking Iranian envoy to visit him.
“He only wanted an avenue to escape. He could not have chosen the person to treat him. This is not a legal practice where you can choose the person to represent you in court. If you go to a hospital for treatment, you don’t choose a doctor to treat you. It is the hospital management that will choose the appropriate specialist to attend to you.
“He has demonstrated that he was not in any state of ill-health. He said he was ill and he was granted the permission to go for treatment. But it was evident that he was not ill.”
Stressing the need for the government to maintain public peace and order, he added: “The government has the right to incarcerate him until his case is decided in court. He is facing a trial, which I think when the court resumes, the trial will continue. The government has coercive powers to suppress or to control his excesses. By the operation of the law, anybody can be put under check. If the presidential election tribunal had asked Buhari to go, he would have gone by now. Law does not tolerate excesses of anybody on flimsy excuses.”
Defiant to the proscription order of the Federal Government, the IMN members had gathered in their numbers,Tuesday, at Hayin Danmani Junction along Nnamdi Azikiwe Byepass in Kaduna to proceed on their procession, when the police intervened to disperse them.
In the ensuing encounter, three members of the Shiites group were reportedly killed, while about 10 others were said to have sustained various degrees of injuries.
In a similar view, an activist and vocal legal practitioner, Mr. Wale Ogunade, while also speaking with Sunday Sun on the matter, said the concerned victims sold themselves to death by defying the order of a constituted authority, adding that no responsible government would watch any individual or group undermining public peace. “Where one’s constitutional rights stops, is where the rights of others begin,” he quipped.
Ogunade said: “There is no way anybody or group of persons can be stubborn and then think they can have their way. The way the Shiites group are going about it is dangerous. Each step they take has always been a threat to other people’s rights. And, of course, nobody wants to die. But unfortunately, they have sold themselves to death because to die does not mean anything to them.
“If they carry out their activity, there are other law-abiding citizens that it will be a threat to their lives. Of course, the constitution gives them the power to protest, but it must not be done forcefully or violently. I hope that those who are advising them should also let them know that although they have the constitutional right to protest, their right stops where others begin.
“They have a right of freedom of movement, freedom of participation. But according to Section 45 of the 1999 constitution, such rights must not be against the public interest, public morality, etc. Your conduct must be orderly; it must operate under public safety and general security. You cannot because you have a right, then you override section 45 which is the controlling power of the state to control activities.
“Nobody has a monopoly of violence. If they (Shiites) think they are violent, then other groups are also there to unleash violence too. And when it becomes a free-for-all fight, there will be anarchy. So, things must be done orderly, things must be done with good conduct.”
Ogunade maintained that only a peaceful approach to their activities and respect for the right of others could guarantee their existence and operation, arguing that government has the prerogative of the law and the instrumentality of security apparatus to ensure compliance to order.
He urged members of the IMN group to approach the court to seek redress, if they feel strongly about the proscription order, rather than taking law into their hands.
He argued: “If you are proscribed by the government, all you need to do is to go to court to vacate the order. There are three-tiers of court system in Nigeria. If that fails, then you sit down and put on your thinking cap on how to go about it. They can go to court or take another name for themselves and then conduct themselves in a better way. The onus is that they should carry out their activities in an orderly manner which will endear them to the people.
“If they want their leader released, they must conduct themselves peacefully. Life is about give and take. You give us peace, we give you peace. No sensible government will want the state to be run amok by some individuals who think that they are above the law. It is wrong for them to have the impression that the government of President Buhari hates them. I am a Christian and I belong to a sect of Christendom, it will be foolhardy to say that Buhari hates my sect because Buhari in his position as the Head of State is the father of all. The truth is that when the Shiites do their activities, they put fear in the minds of people. It is only the government that can put checks on them”.
The National Missioner of Ansar-U-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Abdulrahman Ahmed, examining the activities of the Shiites, said Islam condemns violence or civil disobedience as a means of resolving conflict.
His words: “Islam is a religion of order, a religion of discipline, a religion that places high premium on balance and societal harmony. Islam places very premium on obedience to constituted authority because this is the only thing that will guarantee social stability, progress and development and creates an environment for individual’s pursuit of happiness. Anything that is contrary to this, anything that will upset this is frowned at by Islam.”
He urged the group to explore the option of dialogue as a way of resolving the seeming stalemate. “Islam even goes further to encourage alternative means of conflict resolution without resorting to lawlessness, civil disobedience and violence. If there is no peace and there is civil disorder, lawlessness, even religion will not flourish; people will not be able to exercise their freedom of worship and freedom of association. It is within this contest we should see what is going on.
“In a situation where even the leadership becomes corrupt, inept, dictatorial and oppressive, Islam does not advocate violence, lawlessness as a first line of reaction or response. Courts are there and Islam encourages dialogue in the circumstance. Islam does not encourage or support violence because in a situation of violence even the innocent will suffer. So, there is no way we can justify or sanction what is going on right now,” he said.
This is even as he enjoined the Federal Government to employ wisdom in handling the matter, warning that the government may win the war, but lose the battle.
“This is not being one side. Islam has a lot for those who are in authority, emphasising that they are holding trust for the people and that on the day of judgment, they will be raised in chains, yolks, and will only be freed based on the testimonies of those who are under them. So, it is not expected that the people in authority become authoritarian, tyrannical and dictatorial. These are also negatives for which they will be rebuked, and held accountable.
“We could also say that government should use wisdom in tackling this seemingly intractable issue because at the end of the day, the government could win the war and lose the battle,” he declared philosophically.
The National Coordinator of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Prof Ishaq Lakin Akintola, corroborating the same position, condemned the recalcitrant attitude of the Shiites, arguing that Islam enjoins obedience to constituted authority.
He said: “Islam does not allow any individual to disobey constituted authority. Quran Chapter 4 verse 59 says: ‘Obey Allah, obey the Prophets and those who are in the positions of authority. If there is any dispute or misunderstanding between you and the authority, leave everything over to Almighty Allah and his Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him).’
“What Shiites are doing is arbitrary, and unislamic. It is a deliberate disobedience to the constituted authority not necessarily because the authority has not done anything bad, but because they just want to be on their own. They want to be difficult. That is the position of Islam.”