By Dele Sobowale
“I disapprove of what you say, but, I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire, 1694-1788.
The first part of this series called for the release on bail of Mr Kanu the leader of Igbos demanding the creation of Biafra. I stand with the agitators despite not being an Igbo man and with nothing to gain if the demand is actualized.
It is a desperate attempt to obtain justice for Igbos in a country which had been unfair to them in many respects. Former President Obasanjo, recently called for Igbo presidency in 2019 and some self-deluded individuals rallied round him. They have forgotten that it was the same Obasanjo who allowed himself to be used by the military to snatch the Presidential ticket from Dr Alex Ekwueme in 1999 – something which would have healed the wounds of the Civil War forever.
That was short-sightedness and selfishness combined. Kanu receives support from Igbos because people like Obasanjo failed to integrate them fully into the Republic when the chance occured.
From Kanu to El-Zakzaky is for me an easy step. The two are different in just about every respect – age, religion, ethnicity and the objectives they pursue. While Kanu and the actualization of Biafra will pose no danger to Christians, El-Zakzaky and the Shiite Muslims portend danger not only to other Muslims but to Christians in particular. Before going into my reasons for asking for his release on bail let me briefly explain the religious component of his detention.
Islam, like Christianity started as one unit – Islam first under Prophet Muhammed, 570-632, and the second was the Catholic Church with the Pope at the head.The protestant movement resulted in the hundreds of sects now in existence. When Prophet Muhammed(SAW) died Islam broke into tow sects – the Sunis and the Shiites.
The details need not delay us here. Just as the emergence of other Christian sects provoked deadly conflict for centuries, the break-up of Islam has – until this day fuelled violence in all Islamic countries and around the world. The Sunis which are in the majority worldwide regard the Shiites as “non-believers”; the Shiites in return call the Sunis “unIslamic”. Almost as soon as he returned to Iran after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, called for the overthrow of the rulers of Saudi Arabia.
All the murderous conflicts in the Middle East – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Turkey, and even Pakistan have Suni-Shiite struggle for dominance as their basis. Unfortunately, those conflicts appear set to last for centuries. Nigeria is now getting caught in that struggle for dominance.
Christianity and Islam are two of the religions of the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates river valleys which gained ground in Nigeria. Christians finished their own sectarian blood letting before they arrived here. Islam is still in the throes of the violence induced by differences in the mode of worship by the two sects. Let me explain how that affects all of us – Christians, Muslims and non-believers.
El-Zakzaky and his small band of followers are Shiites. They are in the minority and they are the more intolerant Muslims. If by a miracle El-Zakzaky or any Shiite should become President tomorrow, they will not hesitate to turn Nigeria into an Islamic country. I am sure of that. Arraigned against them are the majority Sunis.
The group includes the Sultan of Sokoto, virtually all the Emirs, President Buhari, the Minister for Justice, the Director of the DSS, virtually all the Muslim Special Advisers, Muslim military leaders, Ministers, Governors etc. El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna state is a Suni. By far the more tolerant of other religions, the majority Sunis reserve their venom for the Shiites – like dogs and cats.
The Nigerian constitution forbids government from adopting a state religion, it also impliedly forbids individuals holding top government positions from using those positions to further the interests of their own religious groups at the expense of justice being done and being seen to be done. President Buhari is a Suni and the Acting (Vice) President belongs to the Redeemed Church. None of them, or their subordinates should place themselves in a position where their neutrality in a matter affecting Muslims or Christians belonging to other sects is in question.
At the moment, as a neutral observer and Christian, I find it difficult to see how El-Zakzaky can expect a fair trial and his followers obtain justice when all the most powerful officers of the Federal Government belong to the Suni sect and they are openly defying the courts of law which represent the last hope of all of us.
The only option open to President Buhari, if he is to be seen to uphold the constitution which made him President is to ask that El-Zakzaky be released on bail; to allow the case against him to be tried in an open court, preferably by a non-Muslim Justice, and let the facts speak for themselves. In fact, it is the only way the President can escape charges of persecution of Shiites by Sunis in Nigeria. That charge, if it sticks, will lead inexorably to at least three consequences.
First, it will escalate in Nigeria the global conflict between the two. The leading Shia controlled nations – Iran, Iraq, Syria – are watching closely. They will not allow their sect to be wiped out in Nigeria and they will provide all the funds and “weapons” required to keep the sect alive; and, they will continue to do so long after Buhari has left office – whether in 2019 or 2023.
As the great Nelson Mandela had reminded us in the title of his book – “Time is longer than rope.” Buhari has limited “rope”; Shiites have unlimited time. Like the agitation for Biafra, unless handled with care and a desire for justice, even this one will outlast his grip on power.
Second, if pushed to the wall and allowed to believe that the Federal Government of Nigeria is against them, the descent to self-help and self-protection will be rapid. If care is not taken, by refusing to allow the rule of law to flourish, we might finish the Boko Haram conflict only to start another one – right in the heart of the North. That uprising will not only be more extensive, it will destroy a lot more. Kaduna state controls more of the nation’s assets than four northern states combined.
Third, the government and its Suni advisers, inadvertently, are creating the environment for future reprisals. Given Nigeria’s dynamic and unpredictable political terrain, nobody can be certain that a Shiite will not emerge President in the future. Once religious bias is accepted as government policy and a precedent is established, governments in the future will follow the examples set today.
The victims are now totally unpredictable. Certainly, the descendants of El-Rufai and El-Zakzaky have become sworn enemies and, given the opportunity, the foundation had been laid for vendetta in the future. Anybody who thinks that the personal aspects of the present face-off will end when Buhari and El-Rufai leave office must be self-deluded. The question is: should he want to leave such a legacy which might come to haunt his descendants – all because he refuses to obey court rulings?
Let me close this part by reminding the reader that defending El-Zakzaky, who I know hate Christians and perhaps even Southerners is easy for me because upholding democratic principles demands that one should stand up for even people one disagrees with on fundamental issues.
The “charity” in this case is not complete if it is extended to those we love. Early in 1999, when President Obasanjo authorized the release of funds for the Poverty Alleviation Programme, PAP, without approval from the National Assembly, Senator Arthur Nzeribe, called for OBJ’s impeachment. Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, representing AD, and playing the ethnic card, announced that Nzeribe was “persona non grata in Lagos State”.
I replied Tinubu that he had no powers under the constitution to ban any Nigerian from entering Lagos and that Nzeribe was right to ask for impeachment. Years later, Obasanjo repaid Tinubu with his characteristic ingratitude. Nigeria would have saved trillions stolen from 1999 to 2007 if OBJ had been cautioned by the National Assembly. Yet, I regarded Nzeribe as one of the most despicable politicians I would not place much store by. Undoubtedly the Shiites constitute a threat; but far worse than their own is to allow executive lawlessness to flourish in Nigeria.
WHY SHOULD NIGERIA EXTRADITE SEN. KASHAMU TO THE US? – 2.
“The main purpose of [American] foreign policy is to persuade [or coerce] other countries to do what we want.”. Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State.
The statement by Mrs Albright, Secretary of State under President Clinton, slightly modified, represents what all of American Foreign policy seeks to do – to persuade or coerce other nations of the world to accept by force or fraud what America wants done in their country. Invariably, all they want done is whatever in the best interest of America.
All presidents of the US subscribe to this fundamental policy. The differences had only been on the approach. Most try bribery – foreign aid, soft loans, contributions in time of national disaster, grants etc. When that fails they try aggression starting with economic warfare – trade embargoes, exclusion from markets etc. When that fails they resort to subversion of the country, and when that fails they actually go to war with the country involved.
Hypocritical as they often are, their support for democracy in other countries is strongly situational. A democratically elected government, if it resists their overtures to dictate to his country can be overthrown by the US Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, which readily does business with a dictator who is regarded as “friendly” – meaning a stooge of the US. The history of Iran, which is currently in the black books of America offers a classic example of American duplicity.
Only recently did the CIA finally admit that it undertook the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953. In a document titled “The Battle for Iran”, the CIA in the internal CIA history recorded the following.
“The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of the government.” What was Mosaddeq’s sin? He wanted the best deal for Iranian oil from American oil companies which were cheating – just as International Oil Companies, IOCs, have been cheating Nigeria from Oloibiri till today. The de-classified documents revealed that Britain’s MI6 collaborated with the CIA to get rid of Mosaddeq, who was regarded as a threat to their economic interests after the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was nationalized by the government of Iran.
Mosaddeq was replaced with the Shah of Iran, an American stooge and a dictator but who was kept in power by the US until 1979 when the Iranian revolution led by the Ayatollas swept off the American stooge. The US has not forgiven Iran till today for standing up to it.
I have gone to great lengths to expose the often peddled propaganda that America believes in democracy and the rule of law. Nothing can be further from the truth. Globally, America allies itself with nations it can manipulate and opposes those that are independent. Those are regarded as enemies.
In its arrogance of morality, the US does not trust any other nation in the world to sit in judgment over an American citizen – irrespective of the charges or the evidence. Once an American lands in the US, no extradition treaty can bring him out to be tried elsewhere in the world.
Consequently, the so-called extradition treaty which the US relies upon to have citizens of other nations returned to the US for trial had been a one-sided affair. America can request for a Kenyan or an Indian to be brought from his country for trial; but, Kenya or India cannot do the same. That, to me is an international insult which Nigeria must resist in the case of Senator Buruji Kashamu.
In fact, recent events have reinforced the feeling that no Nigerian and this Nigerian in particular, will not get justice. The election of Fuhrer Donald Trump as American President and the executive orders he had signed, as well as other utterances of his have revealed America’s hypocrisy more than ever before. Trump hates Africans and other people of colour. Kashamu is an African. He detests Muslims intensely. Buruji is a Muslim.
Trumps cabinet is full of those generally described as “red necks”. His Attorney General has a long record of racist utterances. Yet, that is the man who will receive out fellow Nigerian and assign his case to a “hanging judge”. A fat cat dropped into the midst of half a dozen hungry cats has a better chance of surviving the ordeal than Kashamu in Trump’s America.
Finally, the same Madeleine Albright had made the point that the primary duty of every American government is to protect Americans wherever they may be. That is why no US government will give up its own citizen. It is not too much to ask that every Nigerian government and this one in particular, should adopt the same position. What this means is quite clear, Nigeria should not extradite a Nigerian citizen to any nation which does not believe in reciprocity.
To be continued.