Incessant protests by the followers of the incarcerated leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakizaki, by the Nigerian government has begun to cause national anxiety. This angst has further been worsened by the violence attending the ubiquitous protests of the Shiite protesters leading to loss of human lives.
In the last few months, followers of the detained Shiite leader have been asking the government to obey court ruling which granted El-Zakizaki a release on bail. The government would not have none of that by would rather insist on keeping him in ‘protective custody’.
There have been several calls for El-Zakizaki’s release but the government obviously have reasons to believe that doing so may jeopardize national security considering his antecedents and those of his followers in Zaria and its environs in Kaduna state.
Those opposed to his release on the accounts of the protests hold that doing so would set a bad precedence. They instead urge El-Zakizaki to face the rudiments of his prosecution and await the consequences of his actions.
Even though the movement has consistently maintained that its protests are set out to be peaceful, in reality such have always turned out to be violent leaving in their trails broken skulls and mangled limbs.
Their incursion into the National Assembly and recent face-off with law enforcement agencies led into avoidable loss of lives and destruction of properties running into several millions of Naira. The fecundity of the protests has bolstered the suspicion in certain quarters that the IMN may be deliberately acting a script geared at the destabilization of the country.
Even when the sect has denied bearing arms, the boldness with which its members face arm bearing security officials, leading to large scale fatalities on both ends, put a lie to the claims. It could be recalled that a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Usman Umar, allegedly fell to the protesters who are fast transmuting into arsonists. There were also records of other deaths on the side of the protesters. An innocent youth corps member serving with Channels Television in Abuja also kissed the dust.
The consistent violent protests leading to avoidable fatalities have robbed the sect of its initial public sympathy. This has made the people to wonder whether the call for the release of the Shiite spiritual leader was not just a mere smokescreen to precipitate an agenda to cause widespread mayhem in order to make Nigeria ungovernable.
Those insisting that El-Zakizaki should be kept away regardless of courts verdicts on his bail hold that his freedom will aggravate the nation’s insecurity. This is notwithstanding the claims in certain quarters that holding him back in the gulag, in spite of the consistent demands for his release by his followers, smacks of injustice and an affront to the rule of law.
El-Zakizaki issue has thrown up a dilemma as to the propriety of adherence to legal rectitude at the face of exigencies of national security. Prominent citizens of Islamic faith believe it would be dangerous to let the IMN leader loose on the public because of his ideological bend.
According to some Islamic scholars, the El-Zakizaki IMN does not believe in the sovereignty of Nigeria and therefore does not bear any allegiance to her constitution. To his followers, El-Zakizaki is not only their religious and spiritual leader but a political father to whom they bear allegiance.
In spite of all arguments being put forward by El-Zakizaki’s traducers, the government must find a middle way out of this logjam.
This Nigerian cannot be kept away forever. His trial should be expedited and judgement delivered without delay.
There are fears that leaving his matter to fester could lead to another security concern as those protesters being repressed now could be driven underground. Experts say that was how the dreaded Boko Haram started. The option of carrots and sticks should be employed now before things get out of hand.
Going by the insinuations that the sect has a link with some foreign powers, it behoves on the leadership to practically engage its leaders with a view to de-radicalizing the members and reintegrate them into the society. There is no time for prevarication. Now is the time for action. This looks like an ideological war that cannot be won with mere brute force.
By the way, the organizational skill of the leadership of this sect is bewildering. The way they manage to convoke crowd in thousands even with inconveniencing security checks are in place is amazing. The last but one protests, where the police chief lost his life, was said to have been carried out by over 3000 persons. This speaks volumes on the vulnerability of the society. The question is where do these people come from? Where do they disperse to at the end of their protests? How do they beat security intelligence? If actually they bear arms, where do they get them from? These and many other questions beg for answers.
Perhaps proffering solutions to them would better improve on the nation’s security.