These are certainly not the best of times for members of the Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky led Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) or the Nigerian Shiites. Their actions in the recent past have provoked very damning consequences for the sect members, much more as Nigerians are convinced of its links to the ISIS of Iran.
In the near 40 years history of its existence in Nigeria, the Shiites have steadily earned for themselves the reputation of violent extremists, destroyers and lawbreakers, whose impunity has extended to frequent violent attacks on security agents. In Shiites, Nigerians see a personification of brutality and the latest discovery of its hidden agenda to introduce another version of terrorism in Nigeria has compelled different segments of the Nigerian society to outrightly denounce and ex-communicate them.
By implication, the entire Nigerian state has risen against the IMN members, as other Muslims and communities do not wish to have anything to do with the Shiites. They are even rejected as neighbors to anyone, a stigma they are battling so hard to conceal.
The Nigerian Shiites have attracted this ignominy based on some of their unacceptable actions and inclination to violence. In December last year, the Shiites attacked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Tukur Buratai in Zaria Kaduna state. The IMN blocked his way and rejected all entreaties to have the road open for the Army boss to have a thoroughfare. The ensuing violent encounters led to deaths.
Similarly, earlier this month, the Shiites again, under the leadership of Sheik Sanusi Abdulkadir Koki attacked the Nigerian police in Kano state for daring to stop their annual procession for this year’s annual Arbaeen Trek to Zaria, an event that mourns the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS). The Police which had declared the procession illegal, attempted to stop them, but were met with stiff resistance, as the sect members permanently armed, unleashed violence on the Police, leading to deaths and injuries to officers.
Thus, Nigerians cannot discern why the Shiites in Nigeria worship on streets/roads with long processions, instead of the mosque like other Muslims. And during such offensive processions, the sect members are usually armed to the teeth with dangerous weapons, they deploy to use without provocation. The atrocities of IMN members have been manifold and following the recent calls by Shiek Koki for its members never to obey the laws of the land, has further alienated them from the clan of sane people and the Nigerian masses who have become increasingly repulsive of the Shiites with their violent versions of Islam.
Protests against the Nigerian Shiites have taken place variously in America, United Kingdom, and Malaysia and indeed, in other parts of the world denouncing Shiites whose penchant to violence and its frequent attacks on security agents has assumed a dangerous impunity.
For instance, Nigerians in the United States of America protested against the liberty extended to the Shiites by the FGN and sued for the prosecution of leader of the sect and the members. Operating under the aegis of Movement of the People of Nigeria, Cosmas Collins, the US Coordinator of the group which staged a protest at United Nations Building and Nigeria House in New York frowned at the non-prosecution of El-Zakzaky.
He said, “Failure to prosecute these people, including El-Zakyzaky is making other groups think of coming out because it is now believed that it is fashionable to take on the state without consequences. The government must not also omit to consider bringing charges of subversion against members of the group for inviting Iranian intervention in Nigeria’s internal affairs. As a prelude to this, the government should investigate the finances of the group and its senior members to see if they have been beneficiary of Iranian sponsorship of terrorism.”
Back home in Nigeria, the Shiites are also rejected as no one is willing to associate or transact business with them. Saminaka, headquarters of Lere in Kaduna State recently demonstrated this aversion to the Shiites as both Christian and Muslim communities protested against the Shiites’ plan to erect a building in the community.
The provincial pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Mr. Oludare Ojo led the protests as he wrote to CAN kicking against the location of a Shiites’ site near the church premises.
Ojo said, “They are not comfortable since it is located directly in front of the church”. The pastor feared that with the recent incidents of violence initiated by the group in the country, its proximity to the Church was a threat. While Christians are protesting Muslims too have joined in rejecting IMN sect members.
Muslim clerics in the area equally alerted the Sarkin Saminaka and security agencies of threats by members of the community to forcefully destroy the site of the Shiite building if allowed to be erected.
In Kano state, Shiites protests for the release of El-Zakzaky provoked residents who massively ganged up to chase them away. A coalition of civil society organizations have at different times lashed out at the Shiites, calling for their prosecution over acts of violence and treason.
The rejection of Shiites has become so pronounced that even Shiites spokesman Ibrahim Musa recently lamented that, “When we were with other Muslims, they said they don’t want us and that is why we decided to build our centre here. The building is just an Islamic centre. We also have an Islamic school there in Saminaka. People who are against us, like the Izaila, those Muslims who go on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia are the ones against us. We have a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).”
The implication of this widespread rejection of the Shiites in Nigeria means their doctrines are detestable and they are no longer needed in a peaceful country like Nigeria. This has already been expressed in the IMN’s ban by the Kaduna State Government and its replication in Kano and other places in the North.
What their Iranian collaborators intends to achieve through the IMN has been discovered quite early and the Nigerian Shiites are free to relocate to the abodes of their paymasters in Iran. But what has remained certain is that Nigeria would never be anywhere near Syria and Iran where the ISIS have found as a fertile ground to destabilize through their noxious campaigns of religion. Nigerians would not overlook their garments of terrorism.
***Ibekwe, a civil rights activist contributed this piece from 5 New Haven Avenue, Enugu State.