By Yusuf Abdullahi
500 DAYS AFTER ZARIA POGROM: SHAIKH EL- ZAKZAKY SHOULD BE UNCONDITIONALLY RELEASED! If peace, unity and progress of this country were the uncompromising yardsticks to assess significant relevance of the citizenry, who can dare to compare his eminence, the insightful leader of the Islamic Movement, Shaikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky with any scholar, politician or else in the history of Nigeria?
Using my constitutional right as a concerned citizen that contributes his best to the progress of the nation in a multi – faceted dimension, I want redraw the attention of those in authority on the above subject as the Shaikh and his patient wife clock 500 days without trial and in defiance of the federal high court order on their unconditional release with stated compensation in the last couple of months.
Apparently, the growing concern of responsible Nigerians on the scenario knows no border as Muslims and Christians – individuals and groups – join hands seeking justice for the most oppressed personality in the post colonial history. Turning a deaf ear is the most unfortunate from the authorities in acclaimed democratic setting mandated to rapidly respond to the needs and yearnings of the citizenry. Contrary to the ideal situation where fundamental human rights are protected and dignified, in our country the situation is different. In the Zaria pogrom of December, 2015 Nigerian military tortured and killed about a thousand citizens including women and children on a traffic violation allegations -road blockage, which the IMN refuted referring the attack as predetermined completely. Beside his three biological sons and close relatives killed in the carnage, the Shaikh and his wife were severally and fatally shot before they were finally moved to an almost incommunicado 16 months custody! The Shaikh through his lawyers sued Federal government for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights which the Abuja court ruled in his fovour for a couple of months but the government refused to obey the verdict. Notwithstanding the fact that the case is before another Federal High Court of justice at Kaduna and the International Criminal Court ICC, it is a duty to remind the world with the hope that the authorities will take the right measures for the good of our father land.
In contrast to the worst military clamp down on the IMN leader, the Shaikh ought to be respected, dignified and protected by the authorities not for his bonafide citizenship, but his apparent sterling qualities that are very instrumental to the unity, peaceful coexistence and progress of the country.
PEACEFUL CO -EXISTENCE
Given the volatile nature of the country, the Shaikh is widely credited for unequalled role in the promotion of peaceful coexistence and ethno – religious tolerance. The measures he adopted made tremendous impact in the Muslim / Christian relations not only in Zaria or Kaduna where his house is considered safe haven to the victims of ethno – religious crises but throughout Nigeria. In fact, the fatherly and scholarly teachings of the Shaikh cut across all borders in the sub region. During the 2011 post presidential violence, the medical wing of his movement provided first aid and medical care without borders to all victims across the northern states. Every Ramadhan, the Shaikh would play host to non Muslim visitors at his Gyallesu destroyed residence by el – Rufa’i administration along other Islamic centres. Generally speaking, the shaikh’s position is worthy of emulation as no development is possible under a situation of chaos and bloodshed.
DEEP CONCERN ON ALL NIGERIANS
In the 25th July, 2014 military attack on the IMN where 34 people including his 3 undergraduate sons were brutally murdered in cold blood, a Christian elder, Julius Anyawu was among the victims. The Shaikh sent a high powered delegation to attend his burial and sympathize with his family and community. And on his orders, the medical wing took care of the Christian sister that sustained injuries until she recovered completely. The sympathetic remark of the insightful shaikh -during the national tragedy- to the nation and families of tens of Nigerian soldiers who lost their lives in a ghastly motor accident on return from Niger republic is still enlightening! Nigeria suffers unending ethno – religious crises triggered by unscrupulous elements to achieve economic and political ends, regardless of huge loss of lives and property. The crises of that dimension owe their origins to socio – economic problems which steadily and violently explode. Where some refer to such Muslim/ Christian clash as Jihad, the shaikh has always referred to it as Jabun jihadi (fake jihad). Interestingly, the IMN was never found wanting in such unfortunate crises of vandalism and bloodshed. Another good approach towards understanding and peaceful co – existence of Nigerians by IMN is the commemoration of the birthday of great Prophet of Allah, Isah, peace be upon him, observed on 25th of Zulqaadah according to the narration of Ahlul – bait. In the event, annually organised by the Youth Forum of IMN, the prophet’s virtues are extolled for emulation and Christians are invited to share the Islamic view on the Messiah. The historic visit of the shaikh to a church in Zaria with a view to foster understanding and ethno-religious tolerance is still in the light.
DISCIPLINE OF THE SHAIKH’S DISCIPLES
A prominent professor has described IMN as the most organized Muslim group in Nigeria. The disciples of the Shaikh as Muslims abide by the teachings of Islam on his guidance. As such, they run their activities in more or less the same way not only in Nigeria but wherever you find them. This could be established evidently with those on studies at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the Asian, African and European sub regions. The movement, last year, congratulated about 30 members on promotion to the ranks of professors, Associate professors and for successful completion of PhD’s, M.A’s and M.Sc’s. This is not unconnected with the Shaikh’s insistence on the uncompromising need for versatile knowledge acquisition. Since Zaria massacre when about 1000 members were murdered including those tortured and burnt alive, the movement consistently calls for the unconditional release of its leader, his wife and other members from custody; release of the members’ corpses buried in mass graves; – as ascertained at the Judicial Commission of Enquiry established by Kaduna state government – for proper Islamic burial; compensation for its destroyed facilities and bringing to book the perpetrators of the heinous crime. Since, the unfortunate incidence, individuals, civil liberties organisations, human rights activists and diplomatic corps repeat the call, but the authorities have amazingly refused to respond. Sayyid Muhammad, the only surviving son of the shaikh has on several occasions cautioned authorities on his deteriorating health but the government remains adamant. But for the discipline and foresight of its members, the IMN could have violently reacted to these crimes against humanity and the extent of provocation.
The Sallah feast is an annual occasion hosted by IMN, using the opportunity to exchange views with the unbounded participants in the fields of human endeavors. In the 2015th event, the Shaikh spoke on societal reform as a collective responsibility for the nation’s development. Important dignitaries that attended the occasion include Islamic scholars, traditional rulers, Christian clergy, human rights activists and educationists including a sitting minister of this administration. The feast observed the need for all citizens to play their respective roles, not fold their hands waiting for savior without emphasis on the proportionate deeds in the national reform.
In the 2nd annual Quds day memorial event held on 31st July, 2015 at Abuja, Honourable Evenezer Oyetakin, Professor Odinkalu Chidi and Barrister Femi Falana (SAN), were among other speakers. The Quds conference was designed to commemorate the 2014th event which was the 32nd in 35 years in which 34 people were killed by the military after the peaceful procession in Zaria. Irrespective of ethno – religious differences, the world witnessed trooping of Nigerians and other nationals to the Shaikh’s Gyallesu residence to commiserate with him over the sad event.
MARTYRS OF THE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT
Although the 25th July, 2014 attack on the IMN was not the first, but was the first of its kind. The Movement lost its first member – Shahid Muhammad Bello – in 1982 as a result of Police attack during the popular Islamic vocational conference (IVC) in Bauchi. The second – Shahid Abubakar Shehu Madomawa – was killed at Katsina on the 19th April, 1991 when a peaceful procession was staged to protest a FUNTIMES blasphemous article. The number of martyrs based on the statistics made available by the MARTYRS FOUNDATION of the IMN after the 12 – 14th December Zaria massacre was about 1000 with over three thousand six hundred dependents!
With the obvious challenges of this administration especially in the southern part with confrontational groups and its incapacity to contain, it is paradoxical to clampdown on IMN which is absolutely peaceful. And the need for the administration to respond to the call of Nigerians is very obvious. In any democratic setting where majority leads, minority’s rights are equally protected. To be frank and sincere, using all criteria, the unconditional release of the shaikh who was not guilty at all should not be dismissed especially with his deteriorating health. As a Muslim most importantly, I believe that Allah prohibited oppression and every one will account for his/her deed here and hereafter. No doubt, the IMN whose members run to millions and other well meaning Nigerians deserve to be listened immediately! Free Zakzaky!