Eight months after Nigerian soldiers clashed with members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shi’ites, resulting in the loss of more than 300 lives, this unfortunate incident won’t just fizzle out. Why would it, without an amicable solution to a problem, which a little restraint on the part of all parties involved could have effectively averted?
I had written in this column shortly after the incident last year and a recap may be necessary here. Members of the Shi’ites group had blocked Sokoto Road in Zaria through which the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, was to pass to attend an event in the city last December 12. Armed personnel were deployed to clear the road after pleas to the youths who carried sticks, stones and machetes fell on deaf ears.
Then the Army launched an attack on the Hussainiyya Baqiyyatillah compound occupied by the Shi’ites the next day, killing 347 members of the sect ,including children of the leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. A soldier also died during the operation.
The Shi’ites were wrong to have barricaded the road, but with fresh memories of a previous encounter with soldiers, which left 35 of their members dead, they were obviously angry with the Army. They actually argued that they wanted to prevent the Army chief’s convoy from passing through the area to prevent loss of lives, which had happened in several previous encounters.
Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, blamed the incident on the Shi’ites’ leader. More than 70 members of the sect were arrested and detained, including its leader. A commission of enquiry was set up, before which the IMN declined to appear, on the grounds that they would not get fair hearing. They contended that on the panel were some personalities who had openly shown contempt for the sect and its activities. The IMN’s lawyers were denied access to El-ZakZaky by the security agency holding him and the sect eventually neither submitted memoranda, nor appeared before the panel.
The commission recently submitted its report, indicting the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Nigeria Army 1st Division who authorised the killings. The panel ruled that the force used by the Army against the Shi’ites was disproportionate and that the officers involved acted against the Armed Forces Act 1994 and the 1999 Constitution. The GOC and other officers involved in the massacre were recommended for trial in a court of competent jurisdiction. It was also advocated that policemen be better equipped and deployed in place of soldiers to quell civil disturbances.
The panel also said the IMN leader, El-ZakZaky, should take personal responsibility for all acts committed by his followers during the clashes with the Army, for failing to call them to order.
Since the release of the panel’s report, it is not known if and how the Kaduna government, which set up the enquiry would get the indicted Army officers to face trial.
The Presidency had described the Shi’ite-Army clash as a military affair, when it happened. It never condemned the killings, despite the huge number of citizens involved. When President Muhammadu Buhari was asked about the incident during an interview, last December, he suggested that the victims got what they bargained for, for confronting the Army.
Now the Shi’ites, with 347 of their members, male and female, buried together in mass graves against Islamic tradition and the laws of the state where the incident happened, are agitated. Their leader has been held incommunicado for eight months; his children killed. He also almost lost his life. No charges have been brought against him and those officers who massacred Nigerian civilians in their hundreds. The Shi’ites are protesting in towns and cities in the North. They’re demanding justice and rightly so. For how long will the agitations and protests continue?
The Shi’ites are first and foremost Nigerians.
And even if we don’t share their ideology, it is disturbing that in a democracy and under a government that swore to protect our lives, 347 citizens would be killed and it would be taken as normal.
But this is not the first time. We had Odi and Zaki-Biam earlier. For the Nigerian Army, it would seem that killing civilians at the slightest provocation is a tradition, not mistakes.
Would lives not have been saved if the Army had exercised restraint in handling the Shi’ites’ obvious illegal and provocative behaviour?
And whose interest did the Army serve when soldiers were deployed the day after the road incident to kill innocent civilians?
President Buhari should show fairness and justice in this matter. As the commander-in-chief, he has appeared, so far, to be siding with his soldiers against the citizens who put him in office. Officers responsible for killing innocent citizens must be brought to justice. El-ZakZaky must be released.
His family and families of victims of the Army’s senseless killings must be compensated. And the government should now do what it ought to have done in the first instance.
It should devise ways to ensure that religious groups, such as the Shi’ites, are taught to respect constituted authorities, know their bounds and if they act beyond limits, be tried in a court of law.
We must not let the injustice done to the Shi’ites linger any longer, the same way as the Boko Haram for which the nation is still paying a heavy price.
Re: Korede chained, like the rest of us
My mood, absolute melancholy, hasn’t changed. You have said it all. If God, who sees it all could work like of old, we will not all be in chains, laughed to scorn in their inner recesses by our leaders. If our leaders who lie over our heads with glee on television were to be smitten with foams in the mouth at the point of each lie and deceit, only those who come for service to humanity will lead us, but no, the one who sees it all allow us chained. Let it be with us.
–Tony Enyinta, Isuikwuato
It is very sad and a pity what inspired so-called Pastor Taiwo to chain his nine-year-old boy for one month because the boy stole meat from his soup pot. The pastor should go to jail for his wickedness to serve as a deterrent to others who are doing same or intending to do so in future.
–Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia
Buhari knowing that Nigerians are suffering is not enough. He should act fast before Nigeria turns into hell. Majority of youths no more see stealing, kidnapping, etc, as crime but as a game. A father who fails to provide for his helpless children is indirectly asking them to go into stealing to keep soul and body.
It’s a pity that our leaders are insensitive and careless about what is going on. I imagine if the Dasuki security vote money is invested in agriculture how many youths would have been gainfully (busy) employed.
I must advise government to stop dumping our youths in prison and even killing some. Investigate every suspect and know what led him/her into crime before final judgment because in Nigeria, instead of rehabilitation, they graduate from pick pockets to robbers, from robbers to killers, etc in our prisons.
–Romanus Ndehigwo, Ogun State
Abdulfatah, there is no one who would not be stunned by Korede’s dehumanization by his father who was reported to be a pastor. That disgraceful act confirms the notion that there are more beasts than human beings in the world; a point Christian faithful would align with an end-time sign dictum. Faith is garbed in doubts when such a devilish act is perpetrated by a “pastor”. Such deceits are taken care of by Jesus’ pronouncement that “not all those who call me God shall inherit the kingdom but those who do the will of my father who is in heaven”.
So, Taiwo, father of Korede, has a case before God over his infraction against his son who, even though his child, is also his neighbour covered by one of the ten commandments of Christianity which states “love thy neighbour as thyself”.
Even if, as Taiwo was reported as chaining Korede to remove his devilish penchant for stealing, through spiritual cleansing, where in the Holy Book, is such a treatment recommended? At mundane premise, such an act is limited to animals condemned for slaughtering. Korede’s claim that his parents’ incapacity to provide food led him to stealing from his school’s food vendor, an action which led to his expulsion from school, sounds true and possible. Parents should always keep at the back of their minds the hard fact that their children come to the world, from wherever, through their mutual sexual inducements. Therefore, they have that compulsory responsibility to give the best, within their means, to those children. Let me commend government’s decision to give better living to Korede while prescribed legal punitive measures are dished out to Korede’s parents to the letter.
Dear Abdulfatah, I appreciate the lucid manner in which you captured the Nigerian situation.By every stretch of imagination, Nigeria and Nigerians have no reason to be in our current condition but for the inept, divisive and narrow-minded leadership that was successively foisted on the nation by the military from 1966 to 1999. Within that period, all that gave Nigeria the semblance of a nation was willfully thrown away by those who ruled us by force. They jettisoned the constitution that our less selfish nationalists bequeathed to us. They destroyed the civil service that was civil, efficient and less corrupt.
They were adept in subjugating one group to favour another. For them, merit and capacity had no place; all that mattered was their interest.
How can we explain the Federal Government policy to take over schools from the missions and the original owners who had standard and proper training in mind before setting them up? The worst is air of might being superior to order in which they operated.
We need properly weaned people like we had before 1966 in power and urgently too, so that sanity, respect for one another and among every group, to stop the Korede saga from repeating itself or even overwhelming what is left of Nigeria in terms of morals. Thanks.