The Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI) has noted with dismay the ongoing twist being introduced into the confrontation between Nigerian security establishment and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) as a Sunni/Shia confrontation, rather as a case of secular breach of the law and the fallouts generated which are nonetheless unfortunate.
This was the same way the Boko Haram issue became laden with spurious narratives till it turned out to the Frankenstein monster that it is today.
We urge those pushing the Sunni/Shia narrative to desist from the idea and focus on the fallouts of the confrontation which is the use of maximum force to quell a supposedly civil protest.
It is appalling to see some individuals as usual trying to make political and/or religious gains out of the entire situation.
To be sure, Zakyzaky’s Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) is not the only Shiite group in Nigeria and there has never been any history of a clamp down on those who profess Shiism on account of their being distinct from the Sunni majority.
We are concerned that this growing wrong narrative has the tendency of importing rivalry brewed in other lands to further compound the security challenges of the country.
To be precise, Nigeria does not mirror any of the ’theocratic’ states of Saudi Arabia or Iran to which the confrontation is being tied; and neither is the President under any allegiance or obligation to any of the two protagonist countries as Nigeria maintains diplomatic relations with the two nations.
The fact that the President happens to be a Muslim and a Sunni does not give any analysis the latitude to stand logic on the head by alluding to the odious conjecture of ’Sunni majority persecution of Shiite minority’. To be sure, the President not only has a prominent Shia ideologue in a conspicuous position in his cabinet, he also received large electoral support from other Shiite groups in the country.
We also consider as superfluous ’responses’ which seemed to provide a ‘Sunni’ defense to the fallouts of the event. The issue has nothing to do with Sunni or Shia; it is simply a case of unrest and how it was met.
We wish to remind all that this is not the first time Zakyzaky’s IMN has had confrontation with the Nigerian State in how it intervenes in the socio-political space. And the current government was not the first to arrest and detain Zakyzaky due to his approach seen as militant by many. At no time was there a derailment into this odious Sunni/Shia sponsored narrative, with obvious ulterior motives and by those who have some axes to grind with the government.
For instance, we have heard some highly placed individuals who in their attempt to make political gains from the confrontation described the President’s transmission of list of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly a few days after the fracas as diverting attention from the crisis!
This exposes the mindset of some Nigerians who would rather have us enmeshed in instability and insecurity for being unfortunate to be at the helms of affairs. This is the limit of the patriotism of such persons, including those whose’ advertised humane instinct is always conditioned upon ethno/religious consideration and awkward political calculations.
We also would like to warn the Muslim communities across all divides in Nigeria to learn from other climes and be wary of efforts of some insidious elements to get them entangled in a Sunni/Shia civil confrontation that would predispose them to mutual diminution. We have seen that such confrontations in other climes only brought mutual death and destruction, and are being fought for regime preservation on both sides. The Muslim communities must not allow a slide into such a pitiable situation.
While we reckon that the deaths from all sides in the latest confrontation were highly regrettable and unfortunate, we enjoin the Nigerian security institutions (especially the Police and the Military) to review and re-appraise their techniques of handling civil disobedience such that protests would not always end up with deaths and destruction. It is also pertinent on any group embarking on protest to ensure that protesters are neither armed nor urchins allowed to hijack the protest, and to also bear in mind that there are limits to civil disobedience. Every party must take responsibility to avoid the needless loss of lives that has been witnessed so far.
The media arm of the government needs also to up its ante by ensuring a timely and accurate dissemination of information on crisis-ridden issue as this one on our hands. This will prevent the convolution of the public space with conjectures and inaccurate accounts. As it is, the IMN is a step ahead in giving its own part of the narrative to the world while the Federal Government grapples with ’countering’ that narrative; this is lackluster performance from the media arm of the government.
Again, the proscription of the group, which in part the government may justify as a way of averting further protests and bloodletting also presents some challenges and seemed to be an afterthought. Or how does it sound that the state is coming to proscribe the group in the middle of a subsisting court case; and whether the designation of the group as terrorist and subsequent proscription would not color the outcome of judicial pronouncement on the matter. This is not tidy enough.
Finally, it is also pertinent for the Nigerian judiciary to reinvent itself especially as it concerns the delivery of justice as promptly as necessary. It will always help the course of justice to bring timely closure to a case of this nature as protraction and detention of the principal actors by the state often convey the impression that the detained is innocent and is only being persecuted for his/her beliefs.
Let us act with caution and utmost responsibility and refrain from throwing bombs into raging fires.
Comrade Yekinni Shakiru A.
Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI)