by Catherine Shakdam (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 6, Shawwal, 1437)
The Islamic movement in Nigeria is the victim of a regime that is now completely in the pocket of the Wahhabi zealots. Our correspondent exposes this toxic nexus.
While most media outlets have remained focused on Nigeria’s finances, pinning the country’s troubles on corruption, its poor economic prospects, and lack of social justice, they have failed to read the proverbial writing on the wall: rampant radicalization and Wahhabism that call for a cultural and religious genocide against those they disagree with. Unknown to many, Nigeria has faced a violent religious repression under the guiding hand of Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, the last victim of radicalization, the next domino to fall on the road to religious absolutism. Again, if such developments have failed to make the headlines, the repercussions they entail are too vast to ignore anymore.
Nigeria’s long descent into the belly of radicalism took a most violent turn in December 2015, when the military chose to raid the Kaduna-based Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) led by its charismatic leader Shaykh Ibrahim Zakzaky. He has spoken against rampant despotism, injustice, and religious repression. A prominent religious scholar adhering to the Jafari school of thought — a recognized school of thought in Islam — Shaykh Zakzaky as leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has been a strong advocate for interfaith cohesion and justice. A true son of Islam, Shaykh Zakzaky spoke truth in the face of oppression, motivated not by personal ambitions but by a desire to end widespread corruption, poverty, and violence that have ravaged the country for decades.
Last December, news broke out that Shaykh Zakzaky’s hometown of Kaduna had been the target of a military attack. The dramatic chain of events that ensued can be traced back to December 11, 2015 and the “Global Campaign to Return to Palestine Conference.” Shaykh Zakzaky’s 18-year-old son Hamad attended the conference and spoke against Zionism. Upon his return to Nigeria on December 12, Hamad was murdered in the military assault on Shaykh Zakzaky’s compound.
In the days that followed much innocent blood was shed. A news report published by Nigeria Watch read, “In a scenario reminiscent of what happened with Boko Haram in 2009, troops opened fire on members of the sect [sic] at a function they had gathered for. Three of Shaykh Zakzaky’s sons had been killed in a similar attack by the Nigerian Army in July 2014 [during Quds Day rally] and this time around the Islamists have also denied they were planning any attack on the chief of army staff.”
Of this massacre only a few words appeared in the Western media. In the face of such brutality and vicious sectarian attack carried out by the Nigerian military against unarmed civilians including many women and children, most Western officials kept mum. If not for the political courage of a few individuals, it is likely Kaduna’s terror would have remained hidden.
Ringing the alarm on Nigeria, Eldar Mamedov, adviser in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament noted, “While Western politicians are very vocal, and rightly so, in their condemnation of Christian persecution in many Muslim-majority countries, reaction to the extreme violence against Shi‘ite communities is much more muted.”
“The decision to raid the Shi‘i community in Zaria and arrest its leader Shaykh Ibrahim Zakzaky was made by Major General Adeniyi Oyebade, commander of the First Division of the Nigerian Army. Oyebade, who had been promoted to major general in 2013, ordered the crackdown based on a report that the motorcade of the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, was attacked by Shi‘i protestors. The report, which accused Shi‘is belonging to Shaykh Zakzaky’s Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) of attempting to strike Buratai’s vehicle with a fire bomb, characterized the protest on December 12 as an assassination attempt,” wrote Yuram Weiller for ScanNews.
A hired gun, General Oyebade did what the higher command ordered him to do; a mercenary sold out to Wahhabism, General Oyebade added to the many crimes that over the years have plagued Nigeria, without ever making it to the news. Zaria massacre, it needs to be said, holds a mirror to Nigeria’s devolution into a terror state. Justifying the massacre of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria as if he had no choice, Oyebade explained, “Of course, because of the report I got that they [Shi‘is] are mobilizing, I had to order that the Gyallesu [Shaykh Zakzaky’s residence] and Husseiniya [shrine] be brought down.”
In the long list of crimes committed against Nigeria’s Shi‘i community, and most particularly the IMN, the Zaria massacre was most gruesome. It not only claimed innocent lives but it also spoke of a disturbing alliance between the military and Boko Haram, al Qaeda’s sister-in-arms.
The IMN insists on justice being served and truth being told. But both commodities as it were, are not part of Nigeria’s agenda especially when its ruling elite continue to dance to the tune of Washington and Wahhabism — the very ideology and its key sponsor that gave birth to terror. A statement issued by the IMN legal team points to the state’s moral decay as it works to dismiss genocide as an unfortunate event. It reads,
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry inaugurated by the Kaduna State Government on the 29th day of January 2016 on the “clash” between members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the Nigerian Army submitted its report to the Kaduna State Government on the 15th day of July 2016. In his remarks at the submission of the report, the Chairman of the Commission Hon. Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba stated that,
They (IMN) had appeared, they were represented by counsels at the initial stage of the proceedings, but for no reason known to the commission, the counsels decided to opt out. I said for no reason known to the commission because there was no formal communication to the commission on why they decided not to continue their appearance before the commission.
However, there were newspapers and online publications that [suggested] they did not want to appear. Because of that we had to apply for extension of time and at the end of the day we have been able to produce a report of the commission’s assignment. I have the instructions and mandate of Femi Falana, SAN to respond to the remarks made by the Chairman of the Commission while submitting his report to the Kaduna State Government.
The Legal Team of the IMN believes that it is disingenuous for the Chairman of the Commission to claim that he is not aware of the reasons for the withdrawal of the Legal Team of the IMN (comprising of Femi Falana, SAN, Festus Okoye Esq and Maxwell Kyon Esq) from further participation in the proceedings of the Commission and the reasons are:
1. On the 8th and 9th of February 2016 the Legal Team of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria met with the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to get the express permission and authorization of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) Sheik Ibrahim Zak Zaky for purposes of their appearance and participation before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and same was denied.
2. On the 11th day of February 2016, the Legal Team of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) wrote to the Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry intimating him of its inability to submit memorandum/da as the Legal Team was denied access to the Leader of the Movement Sheik Ibrahim Zak Zaky.
3. On the same 24th day of February 2016, a member of the Legal Team, Maxwell Kyon Esq. appeared before the Judicial Commission and clearly stated that the Legal Team appeared out of respect to the Commission considering the fact that it has been denied access and opportunity to meet with and conference with the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and cannot in the circumstances provide meaningful representation and or put up any meaningful appearance before the Judicial Commission.
4. On Monday the 29th day of February 2016, Maxwell Kyon Esq. appeared before the Judicial Commission and informed the Commission that nobody has seen the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and that the facilitation the Commission promised has not yielded any positive result.
5. On the 9th day of March 2016 Festus Okoye Esq. and Maxwell Kyon Esq. appeared before the Commission and gave a detailed exposition of the efforts that the Legal Team made and continued to make up to the said 9th of March 2016 to be granted access to the leader of the Islamic Movement. It was on the basis of this that the Commission directed that Counsel to the Commission to liaise with the Attorney General of the Federation and the Attorney General of Kaduna State to facilitate access to the leader of the Movement.
6. On the 7th day of March, 2016 the Commission wrote to the Attorney General of the Federation and the Attorney General of Kaduna State and served copies of the said letters on the Legal Team of the IMN on the 8th day of March 2016 and urged collaboration and facilitation of access of the Legal Team representing the IMN and Counsel to the Commission to see the detained leader of the IMN between now and Friday 11th March, 2016 and to report back at the next sitting of the Commission scheduled for Monday, 14th March, 2016.
7. On the 14th day of March 2016 the Counsel to the Commission reported to the Commission that they had written to the Attorney General of the Federation and the Attorney General of Kaduna State but they had difficulties in getting the Attorney General to act on the said letter and the Commission adjourned to the 21st day of March 2016.
8. On the same 14th day of March 2016, in a clear attempt to blackmail the Legal Team of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, the Commission directed its Secretary Dr. Bala Babaji to issue a Press Statement stating that “The Commission notes that IMN has been represented by Counsel and is satisfied that the said Counsel has been properly briefed by the IMN to appear before us. The Commission has strived hard to afford all parties to be fairly represented and treated with justice and fairness in all its deliberations. The Commission intends to proceed with its deliberations on Monday, March 21, 2016 by taking the Memorandum submitted by the Army. The Commission will furthermore issue to the public its schedule of appearances and presentations in due course. Counsel to the IMN are to submit their memorandum no later than March 21, 2016.”
Our Reaction to the Submission of Report by the Commission [is summarized with the following]:
a. The Judicial Commission of inquiry showed its limitations and complete lack of power in compelling the Department of State Services (DSS) to allow the Legal Team access to the Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and compelling the Service to release him conditionally or unconditionally to testify before the Commission.
b. The Judicial Commission was aware that the Kaduna State Government had made up its mind on the immediate and remote causes of what it calls the “unfortunate incident of 12th and 13th of December 2015” by framing charges of culpable homicide, rioting, unlawful assembly, possession of charms, and unlawful restraint against 251 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
c. The Commission never extended invitation to the over 251 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria that are detained in the Kaduna Prison awaiting trial to testify before the Commission. These are the direct victims of the incident and over 50 of them are still carrying bullets and bullet wounds in their body [sic] and a number of them have died in detention as a result of injuries sustained by them during the clash.
d. In the light of the above, the Legal Team could not in good conscience continue participation in a judicial process with a pre-determined outcome.
e. The Legal Team of the Islamic Movement was fully aware that the Commission was engaged in subterfuge and blackmail when its Counsel Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN informed the Commission that he was yet to facilitate access to the leader of the Islamic Movement only for the Commission to claim on the same day that “The Commission notes that IMN has been represented by Counsel and is satisfied that the said Counsel has been properly briefed by the IMN”
f. The Counsel to the Commission Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN did inform the Commission that he met with the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria in detention and he informed him of his willingness to testify before the Commission yet the Commission was powerless in getting the Department of State Services to allow the leader of the Islamic Movement to testify before it.
g. The Legal Team of the Islamic Movement (IMN) did not have the locus to give evidence on behalf of a client who the Commission was powerless to facilitate access to or compel his release and attendance.
h. The Legal Team insists that it would have been an exercise in futility to continue participation and appearance before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that deliberately refused to exercise the powers conferred on it by law to compel the release and appearance of one of the parties when the said party was being held by one of the parties to the dispute.
i. The Legal Team of the Islamic Movement (IMN) on the instructions of the Leader of the Islamic Movement has since activated other constitutional and legal avenues of redress and will continue to use the instrumentality of the law to see that justice is done and that due process and the rule of law continues to be the guiding principle of our democracy.”
Respected, loved and admired by Nigeria’s many religious communities, Shaykh Zakzaky remains a symbol of hope and resistance to all the oppressed people even while he remains incarcerated at the hands of an oppressive system. It has become further tainted by its unholy alliance with Wahhabism.