The Agony of My Shia Brethren!

By Abdallah Muhammad Makama
It was already late when I arrived home after a hectic day but I have to take my dinner, as I was busy eating, Fatima my nine year old daughter curiously asked, Abba why are the military killing the Shias in Zaria? The question certainly deserves an answer, 

I still was busy eating pretending and trying to ignore her, as a trained teacher I have learned not to ignore question especially that of youngster, but that is a million Dollar question that is begging for answer(s) from various quarters including the killers themselves.

The military alleged that the right of way was denied to the chief of army staff on his way to the palace of emir of Zazzau by the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria during their activities at their shrine, Husainiyyah Baqiyatullah along Sokoto road in Zaria and at other instances the same military accused the Shias of attempting to assassinate the chief of army staff which is tantamount to treason, felony and disloyal to the laws of the land, and fall within the ambit of terrorism akin to the infamous Boko Haram, and  in another quarters , some hard-line “puritan”  Islamic scholars averred that the Shias’ beliefs and ideologies are afar and skew, not in conformity with the teaching of the mainstream Islam thus deserved to be kill, on the part of Kaduna state government their justification for the killings are failure of the Islamic Movement to abide by the state building regulations and road blockage three times in every year, thus deserve to be killed.

To Some northern elite like the emir of Kano their crime is the non-conformity of the Shia ideology with the traditional norms of the north.  Similar accusations were forwarded based on ones affiliations and personal whims and one must also add, ignorance, personal prejudice and uncompromising sectarian hatred and bigotry that has all along been lurking in the hearts of many Nigerians, particularly the government of Nigeria.

Various Security agencies and outfits at various occasions have been advising and inundating different government officials at different times with the so called classical intelligence security reports in respect of Islamic Movement activities which include military training of its members at home and abroad and acquisition hoarding lethal of arms and ammunitions with a clandestine motive of inflicting dangerous attacks to the public or rival Islamic group within the country.

Evidence of this, is the unprofessional shameful act by the former Kaduna state police commissioner, Tambari Yabo who’s report submitted to the police headquarters got its way back to Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, in which the sheikh promptly organized a timely press conference to refute and debunk the sinister insinuations/allegations by the police commissioner. There and then the sheikh express his resolve and believe in the unity and harmony of purpose, peaceful dissemination of his ideologues, gesture of mutual tolerance and his commitment to the principles of peaceful coexistence with fellow Muslims and Christians in Nigeria and advice government and security agencies to always verify and scrutinize all the sources of their information thoroughly before acting on it, thereafter invite the media and the security to an unlimited access to all his facilities at all times.

To buttress this point it is pertinent to mention the comment recently made by the Kaduna based medical doctor cum quasi Islamic cleric Dr. Ahmed Abubakar Gumi, who claimed that late president Shehu Musa Yar’adua has confided in him that Sheikh Zakzaky is amassing dangerous weapons to unleashed havoc to innocent and unsuspecting Nigerians, “give dog a bad name so as to hang him”. These and many other frivolous accusations have been making rounds in both private and public fora in the past thirty years including sometimes phantom, ridiculous, unsubstantiated and myopic accusations.

The question here is? Why is the former president keeping the report to himself and some few confidants and why as commander in-chief of the Nigerian army forces he did not invoke or order for the arrest and immediate prosecution of Elzakzaky or to put a strong commission of enquiry for a full investigation of the hoax weapons? Why did the late president choose to relay the intelligence only to Gumi? What assistance or solution is he seeking from the clergyman? All these and many more questions comes to mind, whenever such absurd sinister insinuation are being proffered especially from adversaries like Gumi whom on several occasions admonished his adherents mostly gullible youths to unleashed mayhem and legalized shedding the blood of the Shias wherever they find them, publicly at Sultan Bello mosque Kaduna in his annual tafsir, and nobody censure or call him to order, with such abnormality and aberration one need seek no any soothsayer to tell him that the country is at the precipice of committing an unnecessary civic blunder. 

 But the beautiful part of the whole drama is that the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has never get distracted or derailed away from his precept and trademark of peace and his pet project “mantra of unity”, the sheikh is always keen to tell anybody who cares to hear that peace is the panacea, and also always provides overwhelming evidences that he is not the person they are vehemently always trying to portray negatively to the public, this has been exhibited in his unrepentant advocative course for unity and peaceful preaching of his ideology and that of others.

 One must add here that in his quest to display his ardent believe in peace and unity, he introduce an annual unity week for different Islamic sects including the Christians to come and have a common ground and eschew schism, this have gone a long way in fostering understanding and unity among some notable Islamic scholars, Christian clergy, intellectuals, human rights activist and elites particularly in northern Nigeria, another pointer to Elzakzaky thirst for peace is his apparent endurance and tolerance in the face of physical and psychological injuries inflicted on him for the past thirty years by successive government be it the military dictatorship or the democratic government either by the various law enforcement agencies or other  intolerant Islamic sects without any provocation from his own end, only last year over one hundred and twenty members of the Islamic movement were release after spending over seven years in prison out of the twenty five years imprisonment sentenced to them by the then Sokoto state government under former state governor for committing no crime either to the state or any individual, meanwhile hundreds have fled and thousands have lost their properties as a result of the government sponsored looting and killing of the Shias in Sokoto, and that same year over thirty one members of his movement were killed by the military along with three promising biological sons of the sheikh, less I forget, the movement has been keeping a record of all martyred members right from the first victim to the most recent including victims pictures, date of dead, place, age and locality.

 

During the first tenure of president Olusegun Obasanjo democratic dispensation, when he inaugurated the justice Oputa Commission of Enquiry, Elzakzaky applied and present his grievances in the hope of having a redress to the myriads of woes inflicted on him and his members.

 After the folding of the commission without any tangible results, many thought that Sheikh Elzakzaky will call it a shot to the age old persecutions and arbitrary insults, assaults and affront to himself and his members, by using and taking advantage of the loyalty and numerical advantage of his supporters to unleash mayhem to avenge the injustice meted on him, but  to the surprise of many, the sheikh declined to be provoked, instead keep his calm and admonished his adherent to also keep calm, thereafter and resign to fate, took solace and attribute the calamity  as the will of Allah, and prayed to God to prevail for him! Unknown to him that that was a mere preamble, the mother of all assault is yet to come, alas, more than eight hundred members of his movement, and additional three more lovely and innocent biological children are going to perish, among which is a thirteen years old lad, and an aged senior sister, making a total of six own children in a swift period of less than one year!  score of hundreds adherent are going to perish within twenty four hours at the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of the year, himself and wife sustained near dead military Buratai brutality treatment that will last in the minds of both friends and foes alike, destroyed, damaged, and demolished any perceived belongings including the grave of his late mother, and any standing structure and or property associated with the movement within the ancient city of Zaria and ostensibly any structures in the remaining  states where Shias hold sway, some call it massacre! As the sheikh has always been predicating and prophesising long before now, which I believed is an understatement; I will rather refer to it as pogrom! Deliberately Orchestrated to checkmate and decimate the sheikh and his three decades nurtured Islamic Movement of Nigeria. A week before that grand massacre there was a bomb blast during the annual arba,in processesion from Kano to Zaria in which over twenty people died mostly women and children, which was later claimed to carried out by the so-called Boko Haram.

It is only common and customary in Nigeria for the perpetrators of such heinous act to have justification and grab any available fact or fiction so as to curry the support and sympathy of the populace and more importantly the international community, similar impunity that readily comes to mind is the infamous raid of Kalakuta shrine of late afro musician Fela Onikulapo Kuti in the late seventies, the Odi massacre and the Zaki Biam massacre thus you hear and see paid campaigns of calumny against the sheikh and his supporters using diehard Islamic scholars, sycophants traditional rulers,  bootlicking opinion and community leaders and  unprofessional, bias and unpatriotic media practitioners in both print and electronic media portraying the movement in a bad light, all in a bid to get away with the crime and permanently get rid of the Shias in Nigeria.

For quit a long time now the ground has already been cleared and with the recent Zaria massacre which will serve as a guinea pig and the collective efforts now put in place by the Nigerian government in collaboration with the aid of some political hawks, unreasonable traditional rulers and some Jihadi Islamist scholars, indications has shown that the utterances, body language and pronouncement of the erratic Kaduna state governor is directing towards slamming a  ban on the activities of the Muslim brothers as they are fondly called by their communities, also the extemporaneous meeting by the northern governors forum has clearly spelt out modalities to actualized that clampdown. Perhaps other states will also follow suit, as Kaduna state is leading others will follow.

One can predict a heap of trumped-up charges that will be thrown on the Islamic Movement, of treason, trying to over throw Nigeria government and other ridiculous stuff, all in the hope, not of saving the heads of the governors and military leadership culpable in the ongoing genocide, but sadly, in the hope of securing public and international complacency to complete the wipe-out of this Muslim minority. Charges and pronouncement have already been promulgated, what do we need a commission of enquiry for? Oh! I remember! To sentence Elzakzaky, wife and other faithfuls to life imprisonment! Nip it in the bud, “Shike nan an gama da yan Shia a Nigeria”. No more federal road blockage, No more blockage of burutai and his entourage, No more state within a state! No more! No more! No more!  

Albeit, every Shia is aware, conscious, vigilant and on guard always in anticipation of an imminent onslaught by either instigated paid street urchins, mercenaries of unscrupulous scholars, traditional rulers, both regular and mobile police and on some special occasion the Nigerian military, as is common with many countries were Shias are in minority or the government in power is not favourably disposed with them, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia the former Iraq and some middle east and indo Asian nations, but mostly In form of sporadic attacks and discrimination and some basic human rights abuses. Although scapegoat!The Shias in Nigeria never imagine such a lethal genocide, at least not now, because even countries that are notorious in human right abuses and oppression like Israel is far below Nigeria’s recent record unleashed to the Shias which is only second to Saddam Hussain of Iraq.

It is high time that Some of our brothers in Nigeria who stereotyped Islamic movement and its leaders needs to have a rethink and resolved to have a concerted and common goal to face the unending insult that is challenging and militating against their faith, none of the Shia adversaries either ancient or contemporary ever discriminate from the docile and naïve to the so-called liberals among the Shias. This is evidence in the treatment meted on parallel Shia sects like the Isma’ili’s”, Zaydis and Allawi’s, in as much as you subscribe to that obnoxious appellation you don’t deserve to live!

One can rightly postulate without mincing words that Misunderstandings, misgivings and paranoia and sometimes religious chauvinism and bigotry characterized the phobia exhibited by many in regards to the Shias and their beliefs and sometimes crass ignorance and personal grudges, yet we would never hesitate in projecting and articulating our standpoint and our resolved to portray it in its pristine, real and positive form, that is what is only incumbent on us, anything beyond that rest with Allah, and that’s just what we are doing, whenever I come across criticism of Shias being violent or possessing terrorist tendencies, I never fail to site simple and logical incidence one of which is a clean records of peaceful and respectful conduct with both friends and foes, one example is the movements relationship with retired colonel Hamid Ali, the former governor of Kaduna state during the late general Sani Abacha regime who happen to be the first government official to inflict heavy casualties to the Shias in Nigeria, after his retirement his home residence is in Kaduna, his residence is as porous as village market gates and as easy a prey as a domesticated goat, the so-called no nonsense Bauchi state native and now interim administrator of the Nigerian Customs is always seen gallivanting and roaming the streets of Kaduna in abject penury attending functions and religious gathering alongside his victims without even a vigilante or security personnel attached to guard him or his residence, but no any member of the movement ever raised an eyebrow or any accusing finger, let alone disparage him, show contempt on him or malign any member of his family. Although neither forgiveness is not the prerogative of the members, nor revenge is in their possession because we did not create ourselves, we all one day are going to be assemble in His presence, it all rest with our creator, and we rest our case with Him, period!Yetit’s still fresh in our memory.

One thousand and one examples that space cannot allow us to mention in respect of injustice meted to the Islamic movement in Nigeria in which maturity and quest for harmony played out.

From time immemorial Shia-Sunni theological encounters are common place which is undertaking by erudite scholars and artisan clergy in which they always resolved amicably, but the worrisome part of this palaver is when the arbitrator decide to becomea partisan party e.g. government and traditional some rulers are taking side, more worrisome is the apparent bias without recourse to fair hearing and apathy by the special media aid of the president and later by the president himself during his national media chat in response to a question posed to him about the Zaria bloodbath with such comment one can predict the outcome of any commission to be kangaroo.

I have no comment on the part of the stance of the Kaduna state government due to the maverick and double standard posture of the state governor, one can vividly remember that the same El-Rufai sternly abhor and detest the gestapo killing during the last administration of President Jonathan when thirty one members and three sons of the sheikh were killed in a cold blood manner, Nasir El-Rufai is among the early birds to commiserate and condole the sheikh, only turns to play Judas after less than a year in the same scenario and circumstance, what an irony! Going by his maiden broadcast to the state after the pogrom, there is no any gainsaying to expect justice, fair play or near equity from his own end.

A Colleague of mine who happens to be a pastor, after studying the whole saga sympathised and also bears his mind, with grief, he opined that in such hopeless situation when your own disown you, he advice that the Shias should reflect back to Islamic history and resort to the teachings of Muhammad (sawa) when his own people, the Quraysh reject and disown him, he took refuge in the Christians of Ethiopia and take sanctuary and asylum with the famous emperor Najashi who later embraces Islam. No wonder, if one ponders and search the Qur’an and noble sayings of the holy prophet and his pure descendants’ one would find many instances of collaboration and interdependence between the Muslims and Christians.

 “Verily, you will find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers (Muslims) the Jews and those who are Al-Mushrikun, and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say “We are Christians” That is because among them are priest and Monks, and they are not proud Q 5:82.

Accolade must be showered to numerous well-meaning and rational Nigerians like Monsignor Hassan Mathew Kuka, Dr. Peregrine Brimah, Femi Falana (SAN), Chidi Odunkalu former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, International Human Rights Commission, Muslim Human Rights Commission, and some of our Muslim scholars who Muster courage and utter one or two encomium, including well-meaning Nigerians, international and local columnist who without any prejudice contributed positively warned and proffer lasting solutions to the incessant quagmire.

By the time I was through with my meal, my innocent lovely daughter had already fell asleep, I quietly and slowly whisper in her ears in a hush, emotional and sentimental tone and said to her, “you are also among the more than ten million Nigerians endangered species that are now at the verge of extinction”

Malam Abdallah Muhammad Makama

Secretary Shi’ibi Abi Talib Islamic Organization,

Abuja