El-Zakzaky: WHEN Warri folks can no longer analyse a man’s behaviour, their retort is always “dem swear for am?” It is the same question I am asking about our government today on the return of El-Zakyzaky abruptly from India where he was billed for medical treatment.
This match has been on for a long time. The Federal Government scored a goal when it overruled the Kaduna government by complying with a court order to allow the IMN leader to proceed on bail to take care of his heath. Obedience of court order should not attract any attention in a normal polity but critical organisations like Afenifere and Pan-Niger Delta Forum openly commended the Federal Government for this obedience given the impunity in the land that is becoming our new normal.
But in less than a week the same government scored an own goal when El-Zakzaky returned home without any treatment following a disagreement with the Federal Government through the Indian Government on modalities for the treatment of the high profile detainee and his wife. This should not have happened if the government is full of strategic thinking. By allowing El-Zakzaky to return home, it has made a further hero out of him.
Resort to self-help
There would have been no Shiites crisis in the first place if there was better crisis management with leadership responsibility. The December 14, 2015 clash between the sect and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai was avoidable. Gen. Buratai did not have to drive through the Shiites when he ran into their procession at Polo Road near Railway Clinic on the said day.
He had alternative routes in the road through Commandant House in Z1 GRA, the flyover at Damangaji to Zaria depot which soldiers normally use for endurance trek and Chikaji NTC route. He could have reported the Shiites to the police to arrest and prosecute their leaders for obstruction. The country would have been spared of this prolonged crisis occasioned by resort to self-help.
The crisis has occurred, the fallouts should have been creatively managed. There was no reason keeping the Shiites leader in detention without proper trial all these years after he had lost hundreds of his members, including his biological children, according to the group’s account.
The disobedience of court orders on his freedom was unnecessary in a democracy without prejudice to the right of the government to prosecute any citizen who has committed any offence.
The Shiites in this period have defiantly stood against the government in sustained protests over the detention of their leader. It was a great relief that they recently suspended the agitations on the eve of the latest bail and a great discomfort that they have vowed to resume it with the return of El-Zakzaky.
I told my brother, Mallam Garba Shehu when we both appeared on “Politics Today” on Channels TV with Dr Oby Ezekwiesili recently that this government has to improve on its public communications. There are so many other things it has to up its game on. There is no way a more strategic administration would have allowed El-Zakzaky to return home without treatment. He should have been allowed doctors of his choice in his preferred hospital.
You don’t even have to listen to El-Zakzaky after hearing Federal Government arguments to know that the government was shorn of maturity in handling this matter. You puke when you hear puerile stuff like: “he wanted to stay in a five-star hotel”. Shouldn’t a strategic team have allowed him to check into a 10-star hotel and capture his image in such? Would that not have been a kind of “see a man who said he is sick?” That is in case he settles for only tourism without doing his medicals.
I recall spending about two months in India for medical treatment in 1999 and I spent only one week on the hospital bed and the rest in the hotel and reporting to the hospital. It was not that I converted my treatment to tourism. The hotel was even cheaper for me than the ward for foreigners!
An unnamed government official reportedly asked that by insisting on staying in a five-star hostel and be reporting to the hospital raises the question of whether El-Zakzaky needs medical treatment or relaxation. Let that gentleman be shot at and kept in confinement for four years and see if he would not need both. The IMN leader is a detainee and not a convict; why do you want to treat him like a prisoner because of sectarian feud taken to the extreme?
There is also the jejune argument of “he wanted to seek asylum in India”. I saw a denial by his organisation and I didn’t even bother to read it in full. Should his seeking such not be a relief to a thinking government? Even if he had chosen to seek refuge in Iran, should the Federal Government not be happy to donate him to Khomeni-land and disorient his movement?
I am not oblivious that some lazy security agents would have written volumes on his plans to destabilise Nigeria with foreign help; but who says his continuous incarceration does not raise that possibility better than plotting as a refugee? Is Yussuf’s bone in the grave not causing Nigeria maximum harm than what he would have done if he were alive as a refugee in some Islamic kingdom?
The question today is that does the government think that it would not enter into some serious challenge if El-Zakzaky today dies or even a natural cause in its custody? Why should a regime that understands the fragile nature of the polity not be interested in closing some of the crisis points in the country? Why opening so many fronts daily? A good General knows it makes no sense taking on too many enemies simultaneously. Why does a government head by a General not understand this trite lesson in warfare?
Are all we have said above an endorsement of all the ways of the Shiites? No. The government has a role to ensure that all citizens conform to the laws of the land. I have read some allegations against the Shiites and I don’t dispute them, but we have not been shown proofs of what they have done compared to the type of crimes Miyetti Allah has even owned up to and yet the present administration continues to cuddle the group.
The government would do itself a lot of good if it reorders its priors on El-Zakzaky and brings to some closure this self-inflicted crisis.