By Ibrahim Usman
Believe it or not, the Quds Day Massacre in Zaria and the Arba’een Symbolic Trek to Zaria were two major events that shook Nigeria the entire world in 2014. They were also events that will further shape events in 2015.
ZARIA QUDS DAY MASSACRE
Boko Haram fully unmasked
July 25, 2014 (Ramadan 28, 1435 AH). That day, the faceless Boko Haram terror cell was unmasked when it attacked the Quds Day procession called by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria under the leadership of His Eminence Sheikh Ibraheem Yaqoub Zakzaky. On that very day, the state-sponsored Boko Haram in broad daylight came in their full military uniform, and heavily armed in their vehicles and killed 34 people in cold blood. The obvious fact that they engaged a determined group, there was not room for escape or maneuver. They were fully identified and unmasked.
The July 25 International Quds Day procession in Zaria was the 23rd in the series commemorated by the Movement in the last 35 years. As it had been the case in previous years, it was the people’s glorious presence to express solidarity with the Palestinian cause. This year’s event was so pressing with the merciless siege and unhindered serial bombardment on Gaza by the illegal state of Israel. It was peaceful as it had always been in the about 22 major cities the day was observed, except in Zaria where a section of the Nigerian Military had other plans.
When the procession was terminated and a closing prayer was said, the Nigerian military, some in full military gear, others in plain clothes and military vehicles, laid ambush at the tail of the procession and opened fire indiscriminately on the people. The soldiers laid ambush on top of buildings and in sugarcane farms and at different road intercessions.
Official torture and murder
At the end of the offensive, 34 people were killed, of which 3 were sons (The Zaria Trio) of Sheikh Zakzaky. They were identified as biological sons of Sheikh Zakzaky, taken alive, brutally tortured and shot dead by the official Shekau of Zaria, Colonel S. O. Oku, at the Basawa Barrack in Zaria. Not satisfied with brutality meted on that day, the soldiers returned the next day and opened fire at Hussainiyyah Baqiyyatullah, and killed two more people with several others injured. Nineteen (19) out of those killed were taken alive and tortured to death at the barrack. The torture included electrocution, severe beaten and stabbing with bayonet of AK-47. A total of 34 people were killed, while about 120 sustained several forms of injuries.
The unprecedented restraint
What happened was neither accidental nor coincidental, but a calculated attempt to go for the Movement’s jugular and hit where it hurts. There were signs that the security forces were plotting something sinister. The Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky had on various occasions been targeted for attack either as he went for a public or private function outside his home. These attempts were in most cases foiled due to exposition of these plots by the Sheikh. Some of these expositions were reported in the Nigerian media.
The onslaught was meant to instigate the Islamic Movement to take akingup arms to further justify an official clampdown. Instead, Sheikh Zakzaky at the helm of affairs demonstrated unprecedented restraint, by civilized actions. The Boko Haram unit of the Nigerian Military was therefore shamed and disappointed.
The Global condemnation
One cannot remember a single event in 2014 that has received such magnitude of global condemnation and concern like the Zaria Quds Day massacre. Shortly after the carnage, world nations condemned Nigeria government and called for justice. Vigils were carried out in Nigerian high commissions abroad, notably London. Demonstrations were stage worldwide, Nigerian ambassadors abroad were summoned.
There were also condolence from across the world, which cut across tribal and religious boundaries. Contrary to the Nigerian government expectation, the event presented the Islamic Movement as a popular mass movement that has strong affiliation with the society.
Group Chairman, Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah graphically captures the exemplary restraint of Sheikh Zakzaky this: “We commend your leadership attribute and the dignity you exemplified. We wonder how many leaders could contain this and remain calm. We are very proud of this attribute. If leaders were like you, the world would be a better place to live. Without this kind of restraint, we would not have been alive talking now”.
The false flags
In the face of growing global concern and condemnation, there was the need for the central axis of the Boko Haram to justify its action. As a result, the military was put on red alert, through leaked secret memos.
One of such was a secret memo was raised by one Brig Gen BA Fiboinumama from the Army depot in Zaria and sent to Defense Headquarters in Abuja.
The second security alert covertly sent to all security formations nationwide. In it was an allegation that members of the Islamic Movement were about to attack security formations nationwide as a revenge. One such false flag emanated from Zamfara state unit of the State Security Services (SSS).
To set the stage for further violence and justify their action, some newspapers were commissioned to write fake reports and statements and attributed it to Sheikh Zakzaky. The National Daily of Sunday, 03 August 2014, was one of such newspapers which carried an article titled “My sons blood cry for vengeance — El-Zakzaky”.
The series of events in the July 25 Quds Day Massacre in Zaria, and subsequently victory of conscience over gun, demonstrated by the Islamic Movement made the event one momentous event in 2014.
THE ARBA’EEN SYMBOLIC TREK
From December 6-13, 2014, approximately 6 million people trekked from 7 axis across Nigeria to Zaria, for the 40th day (Arba’een) after the brutal murder of Imam Husain (AS), the grandson of the Holy Prophet (SAWA).
It was under-reported by the Nigerian media for three reasons:
1. A march of such magnitude is a show of strength, influence and a clear demonstration of power and devotion in faith. It is very dangerous and risky on the part of the government to allow for wider coverage of the event, especially from the same group it is fighting.
2. The press is more concerned with negative and sensationalized incidences when it comes to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
3. There was envy from some groups, that could not muster and control such such a large population for whatever reason.
Reason with this: If a few hundred anti-privatization protestors take to the streets they will make headlines. Sufficient airtime and pages is also awarded to a pro-democracy march. But a gathering of about 6 million in obvious defiance of terror attacks and injustice failed even to make it into the TV news bar! Form all indication, as it is said of the event in Karbala, Iraq, “An unofficial media embargo is imposed on the gargantuan event despite the story having all the critical elements of an eye-catching feature; the staggering numbers, the political significance, the revolutionary message, the tense backdrop, as well as originality. But when such a story does make it through the editorial axe of major news outlets, it creates shockwaves and touches the most random people”.
It was a sea of men, women and children, but most visibly black-veiled women, fill the eye from one end of the horizon to the other. They walked over hundred kilometers and spent a maximum of 6 to minimum of 2 day on the road, before they finally melted in Zaria for the grand occasion. As in Karbala that hosted about 30 million people this year, the Nigerian pilgrims carried “little besides their burning love for "The Master" Hussein. Flags and banners remind them, and the world, of the purpose of their journey”.
Despite the attempt to suppress the event, it was nevertheless mentioned, because the envy was so excruciating. Some were given pages in the media to condemn the trek, while others used public gathering to pour venoms on the trekkers. Yet the Arba’een symbolic trek in Nigeria remained a significant event to be reckoned with in 2014.