By Abdulsalam Muhammad
Last Monday will go down in history as one of the darkest moments for Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shi’ite. The two hours of bloody confrontation with heavily armed policemen at Tamburawa waterfornt, on the outskirts of Kano municipal, led to the death of some Shi’ite members.
While the Shi’ite group claimed they lost at least a hundred members, police official casualty figure was put at eight by the state Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Yusuf.
It was a war foretold going by the rising intolerance of Kano to the activities of the group in a Sunni dominated environment. A month ago, October 12, to be precise, the IMN drew the ire of the public during a protest, dubbed free Zaky-zaky’, their leader detained by the authorities after last year’s disturbance in Zaria, when the group’s members came under attack by those police described as ‘hoodlums’ and injured 17 in free-for-all at the city centre.
In that encounter, the police image maker in Kano, Magaji Musa Majia, said the police rescued 138 from the ‘hoodlums’, out of which 125 were women and children. But in a twist of fate, the police later arraigned 77 of the ‘rescued victims’ before a court for public disturbance
It was therefore strategic on the part of the Shi’ite movement to sneak out of the city last Monday in historic Arbain trek to Zaria before breakfast perhaps to avoid trouble. By things went awry as they exited the city.
The account by the Commissioner of Police, Yusuf, has it that “thousands of Shi’ite members” obstructed motorists and other road users on Kano- Kaduna expressway. He disclosed: “They also attacked innocent citizens, damaged public and personal properties thereby causing mayhem that could lead to general disturbance of public peace in the state. “
But the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the alleged loss of an AK47 rifle by a policeman that was said to have been used on security agents by the group. Similarly, the combined team of PMF, CTU, SARS and conventional police deployed to restore peace allegedly came under attack.
Yusuf further accused the Shi’ite members of freely using bows and arrows, catapults with metalbolts and cutlasses on the police and, in the process, killed a police sergeant and critically injured four others that included a DSP.
But a survivor, Ali Dan’Ali, dismissed the police boss’ claim as blackmail. “We came under attack by the police at Amana city, and several hundreds were injured in what appeared a coordinated attempt to break our procession, and disrupt the historic trek”
“It was a rain of bullets from all directions as the police swooped on us. Some of us were lucky to have escaped unhurt, hundreds of other were not too lucky on a day over an equal number were martyred on the spot”, Dan’ali said.
The two hours of rage brought untold harship on motorists and commuters caught in the disturbance.
Meanwhile, normalcy his been restored in the ancient city and the lost police rifle recovered, but the leadership of IMN believes that the police strategy in handling Shi’ite related matters may lead Nigeria to another Sambisa.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard at Kano headquarters of the group located behind Gorn Dutse police station, the local leader, Sanusi AbdulKadir Koki, described the police strategy as “too poor.”
The tough talking Koki said: “The idea of employing brute force to tackle our group could lead to chaos in the long run unless the police review their strategy. According to him, the police poor strategy is “gradually pushing us to the brink, and yet well-meaning individuals are watching while the police action or inaction pointed to chaos.”
While it is evident that the city is getting out of patience with the Shi’ite group over their alleged penchant for breaking the law and order, Kano and indeed Nigeria need to learn a lesson from the Iraqi experience whose poor handling of sectarian matter robbed them of the desired peace.