It is easy to blame the Shiites because we do not subscribe to their ideology or the struggle for the freedom of their leader, but even if we must blame them for the latest confrontation, let’s not ignore the alarming security threat that President Buhari’s mismanagement of the Shiites crisis is fast becoming.
The truth is, we cannot treat the latest Abuja Shiites protests in isolation. They have their roots in the brutal crackdown of their members in 2015 and the continued detention of their leader. No Nigerian sect will react to the killing of hundreds of its members and the incarceration of its top leadership with the restraint the Shiites have shown over the past 4 years. We have seen how it ended with Boko Haram the last time something similar happened. Now, by sheer negligence, the FG has put itself in a very unfavorable position. Releasing Zakzaky will be seen as capitulation to the Shiites protests and will embolden other groups in the future. At the same time, continuous detention of Zakzaky means continuous protest and the police and our internal security agencies have proved incapable of disrupting IMN’s organizational plans. As far as the FG is concerned, this state of affairs would have been tolerable if the IMN confines its protest to say, Kaduna or Zaria; the group’s operational headquarters. By taking their protest to the heart of Nigeria’s capital and the seeming failure of security agencies to contain them for weeks, the Shiites present the government with a unique form of security challenge that it is not prepared to face and one that it cannot keep ignoring.
Now, what’s the way forward? The way forward is justice. There’s no denying the fact that the Shiites have been unjustly treated. Granted that their crime was denying the chief of army staff passage on that tragic day of December 2015, there’s no place in the world where that offense is punishable by death penalty in the hundreds and the arbitrary detention of hundreds more. Not in the Nigerian constitution and certainly not according to Islamic Shariah. The life of one single Nigerian is more valuable than even a presidential passage. As a gesture of reconciliation, the FG should release the IMN leader ostensibly to seek medical care in Iran. Given the Iranian reluctance to antagonize Nigeria on account of the Zakzaky incident, we can count on their cooperation and guarantees to ensure he doesn’t engage in any destabilizing activity while on exile. That will present a win-win situation to everyone because given the poor state of Zakzaky’s health condition, his likely death in detention will precipitate a security crisis rivaling Boko Haram. In his first presidential inauguration speech in 2015, President Buhari lamented as follows: ‘Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra-judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion, Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.’ It is appalling that it took just 6 months for the president to set the course of that history on a repeat mode with his handling of the December 2015 military-Shia clashes. That’s what happens when a nation (and its leadership) fails to learn from history!
Source: Daily News