I’m was drawn to eccentrics and to difficult, grouchy old folks; and I must confess that I just love Sheikh Ibrahim Yaquoub El-Zakzaky!
I know that I am risking the wrath of those who regard this radical Shiite leader as a dangerous felon and very serious religious icon. But I possess a trivial streak and reckon that there is nothing wrong with occasionally seeing the funny side of situations that weren’t meant to be funny, and I must confess that El-Zakzaky’s recent medical drama made me laugh until tears ran down my face.
When the Nigerian government, which had held El-Zakzaky and his wife in custody since 2015, reluctantly agreed to send him to India for medical treatment, I and many other onlookers breathed huge sighs of relief because his enraged – and fearless – followers were constantly demonstrating against his incarceration; and their protests were escalating at a time when the country was in such a volatile state that any public outpouring of anger could have triggered off a widespread breakdown of law and order.
Frankly, I had hoped that President Muhammadu Buhari secretly shared my view that discreetly allowing Mr and Mrs Z to escape in India would be the best way of avoiding further blood-soaked confrontations between Shiites and law enforcement officials back home.
El-Zakzaky is known to be fond of Iran and the feeling is mutual, and I saw no reason why he should not be given an opportunity to find his way to the Iranian embassy in Delhi and export his wahala to Tehran.
But it turned out that this administration was not in the mood for easy, face-saving exits from avoidable battles; and the Sheikh and his spouse were so hemmed in by security operatives in Delhi that they declared India an even worse proposition than Nigeria.
I watched with amused fascination as El-Zakzaky took it upon himself to be as troublesome as it is possible to be when you are a prisoner. I couldn’t help smiling as he grumpily toyed with the exasperated Indian doctors who had been selected to manage his healthcare and firmly rejected their attentions…on the grounds that he (understandably, if you ask me) wanted to choose his own healers.
I couldn’t suppress my mirth when tight-lipped, po-faced Naija government spokespersons issued whingey statements accusing him of indulging in “unruly antics” in India and of being “uncontrollable”. But the real icing on the cake – the part of this comedic saga that made me succumb to stomach-clutching giggles – came when it was announced that Oga Sheikh had had more than enough of India and was winging his way back to Abuja, unrepentantly untreated.
And I’m sure that nobody was surprised to hear that the Indians were totally fed up with him and not remotely sorry to see him go!!! I know plenty of hitherto neutral Nigerians who now admire him for refusing to play ball; and I guess I’ll always be drawn to rebellious types who don’t feel obliged to be obliging, especially when they are convinced that injustice is being inflicted on them and/or others.
I actually felt like going to the airport to warmly welcome the surly Sheikh and thank him for annoying the establishment and providing me with some much-needed merriment in this bleak era! But I wouldn’t have expected any reciprocal gratitude.
I’m certain that had I been able to meet him and tell him that I am a Christian member of his burgeoning fan club, he’d have sniffed suspiciously, balefully eyed my uncovered head (so immorally unIslamic!) and unsmilingly waved me aside with regal disdain!!!
As I’ve said before on this page, I don’t understand the hatred that a large chunk of the Nigerian Sunni Muslim majority is directing towards Shiites in general and El-Zakzaky in particular. I pray that he and his jailors can find a civilised way of resolving this impasse that is injecting unnecessary additional tension into the body politic of a nation that is like a pressure cooker at the moment.
THE Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, has ordered the Department of State Services and the Inspector-General of Police to appear before it on September 4 to discuss the detention of Omoyele Sowore, the co-convener of the #RevolutionNow movement.
Sowore was arrested by DSS officials on August 3 because he was planning a peaceful protest titled RevolutionNow.
I urge the court to immediately release Sowore. I don’t personally know him, but he is a media colleague best known until recently as the main brains behind the famous Sahara.com news website.
And I believe in free speech and in journalists and other vocal citizens who bravely criticise governments that don’t take kindly to criticism. The “inflammatory” word “Revolution” is undoubtedly what made the authorities get jittery and lock Sowore up. But why should they panic about a word that has been used by previous Nigerian governments – as in the Green Revolution and Ethical Revolution?
“Revolution” has also been used by numerous foreign governments: as in the Cultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, etc. Meanwhile, there is a harmless Workers’ Revolutionary Party in the United Kingdom.
Long story short, there is nothing intrinsically destructive about the word “Revolution”; and the Bottom Line is that protestors have a right to call themselves revolutionaries if they so wish…and aren’t breaking any law if they describe their movements as revolutions.
Besides, God knows that we desperately need a good governance revolution in this country. So what’s the fuss about someone planning a public show of dissatisfaction on behalf of those of us who yearn for the change Buhari promised us?