By Favour Afolabi
History has a nasty way of repeating itself – especially in climes where the people love to live in self-deception. Follow me to compare the antecedents of these two men – Mohammed Yusuf (founder of Boko Haram) and Sheikh Zakzaky (leader of the Shiite Movement):
1. Mohammed Yusuf, the head of Boko Haram – was always a problem about to happen. The Nigerian authorities knew about this; there were so many security reports against him and he was even arrested under Yar’Adua before the then President listened to leaders from the North that visited him “begging for him to be released”. Yusuf was released; and then months later he ran into another confrontation with the Police which eventually led to his death
2. President Yar’Adua at the time even disagreed with the report by the Police on how the attack happened. Mind you, this 2009 Boko Haram uprising was a conflict between Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, and Nigerian security forces. Violence across several states in northeastern Nigeria left over 1,000 dead, with around 700 killed in the city of Maiduguri alone, according to one military official!
3. Prior to the clashes, many local Muslim leaders and at least one military official had warned the Nigerian authorities about Boko Haram. Those warnings were reportedly ignored! The rest as they say is History – Nigeria has now lost several thousands of lives to Boko Haram over the course of the last 7 years.
4. Enter, El-Zakzaky. Sheikh Zakzaky was a political prisoner for nine years during the 1980s and 1990s, accused by successive military regimes of civil disobedience.
5. Zakzaky is fluent in English, Hausa, Spanish, Arabic and Persian languages. He has lectured in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Niger, Algeria, Britain, France, Spain, the United States, Lebanon, Azerbaijan and Iran.
6. His supporters have been involved in many violent clashes with the state over the decades – 120 of his followers are currently in prison [as at 2012] – and political analyst Muhammad Kabir Isa says they do constitute a genuine threat. Mr Isa, a senior researcher at Ahmadu Bello University, describes the sheikh’s movement as “a state within a state”. “I know for one that his outfit embarks on drills, military drills; But when you embark on military drills, you are drilling with some sort of anticipation. Some form of expectations; I know for example he is making sure his members are recruited into the army, his members are recruited in the police force, he has people working for him in the state security service,” he said.
7. Way back in 2001, after the 9/11 bombings, El-Zakzaky was warning the US “of mass response if they moved too much against the Extremists that perpetrated the act” [paraphrased] – his exact words in an interview to BBC was “If we want a million people out on the streets on any issue we can do that.”
8. El-Zakzaky has been holding an annual procession with thousands of his followers on the streets of Zaria for years – and most of the time, this has led to deaths based on clashes with the authorities. In 2014, 3 of his sons along with 32 other followers were killed during one of those confrontations. He named his sons killed as Mahmud of Al-Mustapha University, Beirut; Ahmad, a chemical engineering student at Shenyang University, China; and Hamid, an aeronautical engineering student at Xian University, China. The fourth son, Ali was shot in the leg but survived.
Mind you, this procession happened a few hours after an attack was launched on Buhari’s vehicle [remember that incident] and the nation was still under shock but that didn’t stop the group from going on this procession – in the same state!
9. Such incidents leading to deaths had occurred in 2009 and thereafter and only a few days ago, this time in 2015, another 50 people died in a similar clash with suggestions that El-Zakzaky’s followers tried to kill the Chief of Army Staff – Tukur Buratai.
10. It has now been reported that “El-Zakzaky’s home has been razed down by the Army and that some of his followers have gone on the streets protesting!
Can you notice any similarities here?
11. Meanwhile, one more analogy here – Nasir El-Rufai is the governor of Kaduna State; and the state also has Senator Shehu Sani – these two guys were some of those that blamed Goodluck Jonathan the most for all the failings of his government versus Boko Haram and violent Islamic Extremism in Nigeria at the time – read what Shehu Sani said last year when the El-Zakzaky’s sons were killed:
Sani said the President should call the military and security agencies to order with a view to stopping the recurring killing of innocent citizens.
In a statement, he said it was the same type of impunity by security agencies that led to Boko Haram insurgency since 2009.
He said: “We have received the tragic story of the gruesome and cold blooded killing of the members of the Sheikh El-Zakzaky led Islamic movement in Zaria by armed soldiers. We have learnt that members of the movement were fired at while on their yearly peaceful procession, in solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
“The unprovoked attack and killing of the members of the Islamic movement by the soldiers stand unreservedly condemned. The killings are cruel, inhuman, barbaric and a dangerous act with wider security implications for the peace and stability of our country.
“It is most unfortunate and sad that our security forces have not learnt their lessons on the grievous implications of cold blood killings of religious leaders or their faithful.
“While the nation is still battling with the insurgency in the Northeast, which was triggered by the extra judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, a new front is deliberately and mischievously ignited by Nigerian soldiers.”
He said the dastardly killings confirmed that security forces had been part of the insurgency problem in the North.
He added:”The tragic incidence in Zaria is a clear testimony that our security forces are part of the problem. The unprovoked attack and killing of the members of the movement is a reprehensible and abominable act capable of triggering a wider bloodletting and endless conflict.
“The impunity and brigandage by our security forces undermines the peace and stability of our country and by extension the authority and credibility of the Government.”
Sani said the military and security agencies must be directed to operate within the ambit of the laws.
“President Goodluck Jonathan must take charge and responsibility of the situation on the ground. The buck stops on his table. A systematic policy and strategy of gross rights violations by security forces in the guise or excuse of fighting terrorism is unacceptable. Shooting peaceful protesters is tantamount to encouraging armed rebellion.”
- At the time, Shehu Sani was hoping to become a Senator; and of course was speaking as an Opposition member; and explored the problem to score political points. Nasir El-Rufai, of course said worse things but unfortunately for him, he is now the Governor of the State while Sani is now a member of the Senate, so it would be interesting to hear what their current position on this new wave of madness on their soil would be. Would Nasir now be able to blame “the Military under his boss – Buhari for this?”
In closing, I have now paid attention to the subject matter in the last couple of days but I have done nothing new – I did similar articles 8-10 years ago; I spoke of the impending dangers of looking away from creating an enabling habitat for Islamic Extremism in Nigeria. I was initially called a bigot that hated Islam; that was before GEJ became President; when he became President and I wrote of this as well, I was said to have been paid by GEJ to launder his image; and today, I am writing about this as well – so, please, who is paying me now? Is Buhari the one paying me now since I am writing in support of the Military that he is the Commander-in-Chief of? Or perhaps I am now seeking a job as the SSA Social Media from Buhari?
An egbon called me earlier today – praising me for the boldness to speak on these matters when many others are shying away from it – and I told him “the Spirit of God that lives in me compels me to speak of the rare truths many are afraid to confront” – and I have done that again – and my conscience is clear – Nigeria now seems to have become a nation in which its people seem too “desperate to destroy themselves by getting addicted to lies!”
Follow this writer on Twitter: @favourafolabi