By Saxone Akhaine, Northern Bureau Chief
Mallam Ibrahim Musa is the spokesman of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). In this interview with SAXONE AKHAINE, he spoke on the need for the government to comply with the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordering that Shiites leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife to be released from detention.
*How did your members receive the recent judgment of the Federal High Court ordering the government to free the leader of IMN, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife from detention?*
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria welcomes this historic judgment that has vindicated our position since the very brutal attack on our leaders, members and structures last December. It is a clear infringement on our fundamental human rights, as guaranteed by all known sane laws, as affirmed by this ruling. The judge showed a full grasp of all the issues at stake, as he succinctly captured the matter when he said he views the whole matter as that of religious intolerance, where majority Sunnah is oppressing a minority Shia. He was right on point. Instruments of governance were deployed to execute sectarian and foreign agenda at all levels. The government appeared to have adopted an official policy from the start, of demonising the Islamic Movement and its leadership. That was then used as the premise on which to justify their extermination plot.
This was evident from the farce they staged and videotaped at our Husainiyya Islamic Centre for show at NTA and other paid media outlets. It was also clear from the way and manner the military and its officers met various people and groups to contract them to smudge the Movement in order to validate the massacre. We believe the landmark judgment obtained will however, certainly impact on the numerous others presently ongoing, as well as, all other matters yet to be clarified, such as the crime of mass grave that government officials disclosed earlier. It remains to be seen how the Nigerian government is going to react to this judgment. We are however not unmindful of the penchant of this government to disregard court orders on spurious excuses.
*The Kaduna State Government has proscribed your Movement and also described the group as insurgents, based on the recent White Paper that was released. What is your reaction on these issues?*
Firstly the Islamic Movement in Nigeria rejects in its entirety the contents of the said White Paper. The White Paper was released on the 5th of December 2016, but backdated to the month of August 2016. This is to give retroactive justification to its hostile actions against the IMN since the December 12, 2015. Also on October 7, 2016, the Kaduna State government without releasing the White Paper on the report of the said Judicial Commission of Inquiry purportedly banned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, relying on the same report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which it set up in January 2016 and whose report it released on the December 5, 2016. I hope you noticed the discrepancies in the actions of the state government. Still on the White Paper, its release is a belated and malicious response to the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered on Friday December 2, 2016, wherein the Hon. Justice Gabriel Kolawole ordered the release of our leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky within a period of 45 days from the date of judgment, the building of a new house for him and his family and the payment of N50million compensation for the unconstitutional and illegal detention of his wife and himself, since the 14th of December, 2016.
Now back to the Governors labeling of IMN as an insurgent group; it is shameful that the Kaduna State government would label the IMN an insurgent group when we have not taken up arms against the country, even in the face of extreme provocation and persecution by the government. It is also not surprising that the Kaduna State government will label the IMN an insurgent group that must be demonised, as it needs to fight the Movement to shore up its non performance in terms of governance. It is also scandalous that the Kaduna State government adopted the attitude of muted trumpet and turned a blind eye to the finding by its own Judicial Commission of inquiry that reported that the widely held belief that the Islamic Movement was stockpiling weapons was not substantiated. Insurgents are not labelled; rather their actions describe them as such. However, in our own case its El-rufai that is doing the labelling not our actions.
*The Islamic group was also said not to have respect for constituted authorities in Nigeria, infringing on the rights of other Nigerians while on procession and also bearing arms?*
All these are charges advanced by our detractors in government, trying to give us a bad name in order to hang us. The problem they are having in all these charges is that our actions are contrary to what they always project us to be. When they say we don’t respect constituted authority, if it is true, why do we use peaceful and legal means available to us after the Zaria massacre. Let them point to a group in this country and beyond where over a thousand of its members were killed, its leader incarcerated, its properties destroyed, but it still keeps its cool and
resorted to legal means, as a way of getting justice. I challenge them to point at a single action that IMN took that is a flagrant disregard to constituted authority.
The procession they always point to is always in order. Nowhere is it said that police permit must be obtained before any procession. So, where have we erred? As for inconveniencing others during our processions, but that is normal with any public procession. Take a close look at any procession in other cities of the world on TV, people are put to stress, but they don’t complain because they know its the right of the protesters, and it is not a daily affair. So, what’s the fuss about our procession? On the accusation that we carry arms, if that is the case, where were our arms when the Army descended heavily upon us last December? The fact that over 1000 of our members were gunned down by the Army, while we didn’t kill any soldier is enough to establish that we don’t carry arms. Look at the real insurgent groups that straddle the landscape of this country, how many were killed by the Army, and how many soldiers did the insurgents kill? Look, IMN is not a new Movement, we have been around for almost four decades, we have never been identified with arms, so what are our oppressors trying to say?
*There is also the allegation that the Islamic Movement enjoys support from foreign governments, especially Iran, in propagating the course of the Shiites movement in Nigeria and to also undermine Nigerian Government. To what extent is that true?*
There is no iota of truth in the allegation. Religion is something of belief; it is inconceivable that you must be sponsored to follow a religion. The fact that we identify ourselves with Islamic Republic of Iran is not something wrong or new to our clime. Doesn’t the Izala group associate itself with Saudi Arabia? Doesn’t the Dariqa group identify themselves with Morrocco and Senegal? Don’t Christians identify themselves with England and Rome? The fact that origins of our two major religions are foreign makes it necessary to identify with the origins. There is nothing new in that. And if you said we are being financed by Iran, point to any project of IMN that is beyond its capability. We don’t have multi-million dollar projects that we have executed or are executing. Even the Husainiyya Islamic centre that Governor Elrufai destroyed was not running into hundreds of millions on Naira. In fact, the soldiers stole from the large boxes wherein donations by members were kept.
*Are there any other underlying factors responsible for the face-off between El-Rufai’s Government and the IMN, which are not known to ordinary people and is making the crisis intense?*
We are also baffled by the action of Governor El-rufai, because he knew our leader Sheikh Zakzaky. His last visit to him was when Jonathan’s administration killed his three children in 2014. He even posted in his tweet, describing what the government of that day did as genocidal. Now, as fate will have it, he is in charge of the state, not only were three other children of the Sheikh killed, but over 1000 of his followers were murdered under his watch, with some of them buried in mass grave. However, we believe the operation to exterminate IMN is foreign sponsored and has for long been on the offing, only that previous governments have not cooperated with the foreign governments that want to wipe out the IMN. But this administration is keen on carrying out this brutal operation to its logical conclusion. What they, however, forgot is that the late dictator, Gen. Abacha tried to annihilate the Movement in 1996, but Allah intervened, and he was gone for good. We believe since we are unjustly oppressed this time around, Allah will definitely intervene, and what happened to us and is still happening will be history. We will come out victorious insha Allah.