By Mahdi Garba
THE order by Justice Gideon Kurada of the Kaduna High Court to release Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenatudeen Ibraheem on July 28, 2021, gladdened many hearts within and outside the country, especially people who have been at the forefront of championing justice.
Following the historic judgement, massive jubilation swept major Northern towns and cities, including the Federal Capital Territory, where members of the El-Zakzaky-led movement had endlessly protested over his continued detention.Many people were optimistic that the judgement will not only bring an end to their detention but pave way for them to seek medical attention in a country of their choice.
Top in this list was counsel to Sheikh El-Zakzaky, Chief Femi Falana, SAN, and a former Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Jens-Petter Kjemprud, who facilitated negotiations between the Federal Government and the Movement through the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue during his tenure (2016-2020).
But, the injudicious seizure of the passports by the man who should be the custodian of justice and human rights in Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami is turning people’s smiles into a scowl. The explanation by AGF Malami latterly exonerating himself from the passport seizure of the ailing couple didn’t add up. It’s lame and to some extent indicting.
Since the infamous Zaria Massacre of December 12, 2015, the embattled leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and his wife have nursed gun injuries. Not long ago, one of the family physicians of the duo, Dr. Abubakar Yahaya, told journalists in Abuja that there is a serious need by the Federal Government to release their passports for a medical trip to treat the life-threatening injuries they are battling with since the invasion of the house by the Nigerian military six years ago in Gyallesu, Zaria.
Speaking, he said: “The latest medical reports (September 24, 2021) have been recently reviewed and listed up to 11 multi-morbidities of great concern that are still being suffered by Sheikh Zakzaky, viz: Ischaemic heart disease; left ventricular hypertrophy; left and right thalamic stroke; cervical/lumbar spondylosis with radiculopathy; left eye anophthalmia; right eye advanced-progressive glaucoma; benign prostate hypertrophy; heavy metal poisoning of Lead (Pb) and Cadmium (Cd); penetrating forearm soft tissue injuries; metallic foreign bodies following multiple gunshot injuries (up to 55 pellets that are currently still embedded, not extracted from the Sheikh) on the scalp, orbital, left forearm and left lateral/thigh; and Dyslipidaemia).”
On the wife of Sheikh Zakzaky, Malama Zeenatudeen, the medic asserted that “in her latest medical report (September 24, 2021), is also indicated to be suffering from a combination of 11 multi-morbidities of great concern too, viz: long-standing uncontrolled hypertension; severe degenerative bilateral osteoarthritis of the knees rendering her completely wheelchair-bound for the past four years and requiring total knee replacement surgeries; penetrating soft tissue bullet injury; recurrent episodes of severe acute abdominal uterine fibroid with cystic degeneration; left sphenoid arthritis; Dyslipidaemia; right breast lumps with regional lymphadenopathy; and right renal cyst.”
These are issues of great concern. More disturbing is the viral-gone medical reports that justified the doctor’s claims and knowing the fact El-Zakzaky is 68 years old and Zeenatudeen is 60 years old and even before the attack on their home have had underlying health issues. And, the former has only been able to access traditional therapeutic help since the last two years he was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning, despite a recent diagnosis showing he is living with a high lead level.
The AGF and the Director-General of State Security Service, SSS, as well as the Director General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, NIA, all of whom the trip to India went under their strict supervision, are responsible for the passports’ seizure. Since their return from that 2019 botched guilty-looking medical trip from India, the passports numbered A50578740 and A50578739 were forcibly taken away from them.
Since their release four months ago, efforts have been made to collect or renew these passports but proved abortive. All the authorities involved have been shifting blames. In my opinion and that of many right-thinking Nigerians, this is not the way forward. As the court has freed them and this time around, those at the executive have complied, their passports should be returned to them which will enable them jet out of Nigeria for medical care. No one denies the sad truth that our healthcare is in disarray to an extent that the president and his acolytes travel to London to cure headaches. Even medical experts here have testified in countless of reports.
If there is anyone that deserves to jet out for medical tourism, I think it is Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, given the health complications they are having. Following the tests they took in September, a physician at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Kaduna, Dr. Ramatu Abubakar had expressed a similar concern in the medical report I saw. “Access expedient medical attention at an adequate medical facility outside the country,” she advised. A consultant ophthalmologist, Khazim Dhalla, reiterated the imperative of medical attention.
I am sure that all the authorities that are responsible for the confiscation of the passports have got the medical reports. If that is the case, then at whose interest are they being withheld? Surely, not that of Nigerians and not that of any person that loves this country. As a Nigerian, anytime I come across this news on new and conventional media, I feel grief-stricken. And, I know many conscious Nigerians share the same sentiment.
No matter in whose interests the confiscators are retaining the El-Zakzakys travel documents, it is high time the President intervened and put a stop to it, for the couple to seek medical attention abroad as recommended by experts.
Garba tweets regularly via @MahdiGarba