By Abdulmumin Giwa
This rejoinder is intended to correct the misinformation with the above-mentioned editorial heading stating the stand of the Leadership newspaper on the recent developments on the issue of the Zaria massacre of December 2015 in its Thursday, December 8th 2016 edition.
The content only seemed to have presented a sentimental, unsubstantiated and ill-fated misinformation unfortunately coming as an editorial of a widely read newspaper. This must have undoubtedly affected the credibility and integrity of the paper in the eyes observers.
Firstly, I will like to start by disabusing the minds of people from using the word “clash” to qualify the unfortunate December Army attack on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). What actually took place was not a clash because the Nigerian Army attacked unarmed men, women and children killing then indiscriminately, using heavy weapons like RPGs, AK47s, Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and bombs.
All these facts have been established by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI) and the Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) set up by the Kaduna state government. The JCI described the incident as a massacre and the Army as violating its rule of engagement. The JCI also recommended that the soldiers involved in the clash be prosecuted while it also described the mass burial of victims by the Army and Governor El-Rufai as a violation of the Geneva Convention, state laws as well as religious laws.
Who clashed with who? It does not make any sense for one to describe a heavily armed Army attacking and indiscriminately bombing, burning alive and killing unarmed women and children as a clash. How could you describe such a pre-planned extra-judicial killing and mass murder of unarmed civilians as a clash?
More so, I debunk the misinformation that there was an assassination attempt on the life of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai. Not even the JCI mentioned this as a reason because it is a lie. The Army propagandists striving to cover up their crimes against humanity are the ones spreading this misinformation.
The claim that “the Iranians are known to be the promoters of the Shiite Movement and they can be very rabid in their interpretation of what Islam teaches” is more of a display of compound ignorance. Firstly, there is no connection between the IMN and the Iranian government but the people of Iran that share the same faith-base with IMN.
What the editorial is saying is that the a Nigerian Catholic is being controlled by Rome because of the Vatican, or an Anglican is controlled by England because the Arch-Bishop is in Canterbury, or the Wahabi/Salafi Sunni Muslims are controlled by Saudi Arabia, or the Sufi Muslims are controlled by Morocco, or even a Manchester United FC fan is being controlled from Manchester. This does not make sense at all because it is not a crime to share the same faith-base with people in another part of the world.
Secondly, there is no such thing as rabid interpretation of Islam because Islam is a universal religion. What exists is referred to as ‘Schools of Thought’ in Islam and not rabid interpretation. These are basically two made up of Sunni that is further sub-divided to Wahabi/Salafi and the Sufi orders. On the other hand is the Shi’ah School of Thought.
Furthermore, some are taking these diversities on the platform of sectarian sentiments especially Wahabi/Salafists who see Muslims other than themselves as infidels and polytheists and Christians as their enemies. So, there is nothing surprising when you claim that “many Moslem faithful are also not known to sympathize with them (Shiites) in their plight” because they are in the majority in Nigeria.
It is difficult to believe that a team of editors and journalist of a reputable newspaper do not know what the acronym ISIS stands for even with the availability of the Wikipedia. The editorial wrongly claimed that ISIS means Islamic State of Iran and Syria which is unbelievable in this age of information. What is the link between Iran that is Shiite and ISIS that is Salafi? It is a display of compound ignorance. ISIS or ISIL or DAESH in Arabic, means Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and it is established and funded by Saudi Arabia, America and Israel. There is no connection between Iran and ISIS.
Recently, prior to the fifth coming back to life of the Boko Haram leader Shekau who also declared the IMN leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky a non-Muslim in his new life maiden speech, it was everywhere in the news that Boko Haram have joined ISIS. This was made public by the Nigerian security and it was in the news. On the other hand the IMN is a victim of several bomb attacks claimed by Boko Haram, therefore there is no link whatsoever between the IMN and ISIS.
More so, the Syrian crisis was miss-presented in your editorial. The ISIS is being sponsored by Saudi Arabia, America and Israel to help oust the Bashar Al-Assad Syrian regime while on the other hand Russia, Lebanon and Iran are allies to the Syrian government.
There is no link, no connection and no sympathy whatsoever between IMN and ISIL and we see this claim by the leadership newspaper as a mischievous attempt at painting the IMN black in order to dent its public image.
I was among the team of Journalists that escorted the founder of the Leadership newspaper Chief Sam Nda Isiah to condole the IMN leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky when the Nigerian Army without any provocation murdered 34 IMN members including three biological sons of the Sheikh in 2014.
Chief Sam Nda Isiah praised and eulogized the IMN leader for remaining calm despite the extent of provocation on him and the widespread followership he has. He was so impressed that the IMN leader called for calm that he described him as an exemplary leader saying if Nigeria would have just three of his type Nigerian problems will be a thing of the pass due to his leadership quaalities. I am sure whatever negative views you might be having about IMN and its leader is not similar to that of the founder of the Leadership newspaper.
Most of the accusations labeled against the IMN in your editorial are bits of the fabrications by the perpetrators of the attack on IMN. There is no way one can liken Boko Haram with IMN. They are entirely different in all parameters. The faith base of the IMN does not accept unnecessary bloodshed and also, it recognizes every human being as a brother in humanity or a brother in faith. The IMN does not believe in arms struggle and clandestine attacks and whenever it is suppressed or oppressed it follows peaceful channels of seeking redress just as it had done since the Zaria attack despite deliberate provocations by government to push it into violence.
I personally expected the editorial board of the leadership newspaper to scrutinize the integrity of the so-called white paper produced by Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufai. The entire content of the Whitepaper contradicts the report and recommendations of the JCI.
The JCI clearly dismissed the claims that the IMN was armed but with disregard to the report the governor fabricated it in his white paper. Also the JCI never described the IMN as an insurgent group but the governor did that in his whitepaper. The JCI described the military attack as a massacre that violates the army rules of engagement but the whitepaper disputed that. The JCI described the mass burial of 347 IMN members as violating international laws, state laws and religious laws but El-Rufai disputed that. He also systematically avoided calling for the prosecution of soldiers guilty of the crimes against humanity they committed in the course of the attack. His white paper is as good as completely not having the inquiry because all he had ranted about before setting up the JCI, during the sitting of the JCI and after the sitting are all that are contained in it and not the recommendations of the JCI.
Finally, the IMN as usual will never engage in any form of violence no matter the level of provocations but it is also the duty of every right-thinking person to speak out against the persecution being meted on the IMN by the APC regime. They should encourage the government to obey the court order for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the IMN leader and they should busy themselves calling on the Nigerian government to respect constitutional authority and lead by example in obedience and recognition of law and order. In a nutshell it is not the IMN that is a threat to law and order because of its peaceful manner of seeking redress and general conduct. It is now left on the government to prove that it is truly the gatekeeper of law order and not a threat to the citizenry by ruling with oppression and impunity.
By Abdulmumin Giwa