Monday 22 of July 2019 could be best described as the most devastating since the new rounds of Shi’ites protests began, seeking to compel the FG to obey court orders for the release of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim El- Zakzaky. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) leader had been detained since December 2015 after the Nigerian Army raided his residence in Zaria,seriously injured him and was arrested consequently. His wife and three sons were also arrested during a siege that killed hundreds of his followers.
According to the Force Police Public Officer, Frank Mba, the Shi’ites protesters killed DCP Umar with two other officers of DCP rank critically injured and receiving treatment. 54 Shi’ites protesters were also arrested.
The question is,how did we get here? The Shiites group and security agencies particularly the Nigerian Army have had series of skirmishes before the final onslaught in 2015 that led to the leader’s arrest. On Friday 25 July 2014, the Nigerian Army fatally shot 35 followers of El-Zakzaky including 3 of his sons after a pro- Palestinian procession. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was in 2015 when the Shiites in protest against state oppression ambushed the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen. T.Y Buratai. It was reported that the protesters hurled stones at the convoy and almost killed the Army Chief . It took a widely condemned massacre of the protesters by men of the Nigerian Army to clear the way for their boss. It was after this sad episode that El-Zakzaky was arrested.
However,on 2 December 2016, a high court ordered his release from DSS detention within 45 days. El-Zakzaky and his wife were to be paid #50 million in compensation. The judge also announced that the justification of holding him for his own protection is not sufficient. As PMB wont,he refused to obey the court order ,an action that generated widespread criticism especially from El-Zakzaky’s lawyer,Femi Falana(SAN).
The Shiites members hoped for the release of their leader ,as it seemed the release was not forthcoming, they embarked on series of violent protests. Sometime in June,they invaded the NASS complex, destroying vehicles and other public properties with attendant terror unleashed on lawmakers and private citizens. This brazen invasion of the NASS complex terrified the Nigerian Senate that they discussed the matter in their sitting and some parliamentarians made suggestions of a dialogue with the sect.
It however seems that the Senate suggestion won’t affect the decision of the FG to continue to hold on to the Shi’ites’ leader as the media man of the presidency, Garba Shehu said last week that the Shiites should stop their needless protests and await the decision of a Kaduna court where their leader is currently being tried. Shehu claimed that the matter is no longer in their domain. The Shi’ites members won’t have none of this,thus the violent face off with the Police which left sorrow, tears and blood in the aftermath.
There seems to be no end in sight to this conundrum as the Shi’ite have promised to continue their protest until they secure the release of heir leader who accordimg to them suffered another stroke on Monday and it is urgently needed for him to be flown abroad for treatment.
Abdullahi Murtala, a security analyst with the Abuja based Goro Initiative said “Shia Muslims are emboldened by the perceived injustice of an immoral state and will continue to show defiance to the Buhari government”. He asked rhetorically, ” have you seen the protesters? Young men and women driven by ideology and ready to die for the cause”.
Being a narcissistic, PMB is unlikely to release El-Zakzaky just as he has remained adamant on the release of former NSA ,Sambo Dasuki who himself was arrested in December 2015 and has not been granted bail despite countless court decisions granting him.
The country is going through series of security challenges, adding the Shiites issue may prove to be tactless on the part of the FG. Book Haram started just like this and we are still battling to put out the fire. The presidency cannot be the prosecutor and the judge. Sheikh El-Zakzaky should be released base on the court judgement, then it can decide to allow the court to settle the matter or engage the sect in a dialogue. Continued detention of El-Zakzaki is both immoral and unconstitutional and it portrays the president as narcissistic who lacks empathy. The security chiefs would do well to be frank with the Commander- in – Chief that we can’t at this moment create another security challenge. I just hope the president will listen.