ON Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN (the Shi’ites), reportedly crossed the “red line” even by their own usually peaceful and orderly manner of protesting when they invaded the National Assembly Complex in Abuja and attacked security men on duty.
Media reports had it that they overpowered policemen on duty, seized guns and shot two security operatives. They also reportedly vandalised the main entrance usually guarded by Mobile Policemen and forced legislators in session to adjourn. Shi’ite sources, however, denied any violent conduct by their members that day.
Two days later, the IMN for the first time ever, took their protest to the streets of Lagos, blocking Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way in Ikeja. They also clashed with policemen at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, and vowed to take their protests nationwide unless their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky and his wife, were released as directed by many court rulings which the Federal Government refused to obey.
The Shi’ites have been patiently but consistently conducting their protests mainly in Abuja, since December 2015 when the Nigerian Army responded to the blockage of a road the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Buratai, was taking while in the line of official duty, by invading the Zaria abode of El Zakzaky. Reports had it that 347 bodies of IMN members secretly buried by the military after that operation were recovered from a mass grave.
The Shi’ites have enjoyed a lot of public sympathy and goodwill across the religious divides because of the largely peaceful and orderly manner in which they have pursued their quest for the release of Sheikh El Zakzaky for nearly four years. We call on their leadership to continue to rein-in the growing desperation among their members to avoid the unpleasant consequences of violence.
Apart from the loss of the all-important public sympathy, any resort to violence could birth another front for Islamic terrorism, especially when foreign interests which do not have the love of Nigeria at heart begin to meddle. We must avoid this at all cost because violence never solves any problem. The road of violence never leads to the land of peace.
On the other hand, we reiterate our call on the President Muhammadu Buhari Federal Government to obey court rulings and release El Zakzaky and all other Nigerians illegally detained despite being granted bail by courts of competent jurisdiction.
It is this refusal by the Federal Government to obey the law that is driving desperation in the Shi’ite camp. When government disobeys the law it is tacitly prodding citizens affected by this impunity to break the law. We must learn from our Boko Haram experience and be just and fair to all, no matter how we feel about them.