The clash be­tween the Army and the Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria

Daily Trust - - OPINION - Jib­rin Ibrahim

It would be re­called that be­tween De­cem­ber 12th and 14th 2015, hun­dreds of peo­ple were killed in Zaria fol­low­ing clashes be­tween the Nige­rian Army and the Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria (IMN). On Fri­day, the Jus­tice Garba Com­mis­sion of In­quiry on the clashes pre­sented its re­port to Gov­er­nor Nasir El Ru­fai of Kaduna State. In his speech, the Gov­er­nor promised to read the re­port dili­gently and act on the rec­om­men­da­tions. He also promised to re­lease the re­port to the pub­lic for their in­for­ma­tion and scru­tiny, but hes­i­tated when he saw the Com­mis­sion had marked the re­port “TOP SE­CRET” in red and added he would read it be­fore tak­ing the de­ci­sion to pub­lish it or not. I had the priv­i­lege of serv­ing as one of the com­mis­sion­ers and my per­sonal view is that the re­port should be re­leased to the pub­lic sim­ply be­cause Nige­ri­ans have a lot to learn and act upon based on our find­ings. I sus­pect we marked the re­port top se­cret be­cause we have a his­tory of lack of gov­ern­men­tal trans­parency that leads to the anti-peo­ple re­flex of declar­ing all gov­ern­men­tal doc­u­ments as re­stricted and not avail­able for cit­i­zen scru­tiny. We must make an at­tempt to get out of that tra­di­tion and come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that cit­i­zens have the right to know and the duty to act on the ba­sis of the knowl­edge they have ac­quired. I can­not go into our find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions but the most frus­trat­ing is­sue for us, dur­ing our work, was the non-ap­pear­ance of the Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria to give their own side of the story.

Their Coun­sel had writ­ten the Com­mis­sion stat­ing they had no ac­cess to their client and IMN leader, Ibra­heem ElZakzaky and there­fore could not re­ceive in­struc­tions to present their me­moran­dum. The Com­mis­sion de­layed its pub­lic hear­ing for six weeks to help fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to the IMN leader. Af­ter se­cur­ing ac­cess, the IMN leader took the de­ci­sion not to ap­pear or send a me­moran­dum. In yes­ter­day’s Lead­er­ship news­pa­per, El-Zakzaky’s Coun­sel, Femi Falana made the call that the of­fi­cers and men of the Nige­rian Army should be pros­e­cuted for killing 347 mem­bers of the move­ment. I re­gret that they de­clined the op­por­tu­nity provided to make their case be­fore the Com­mis­sion. Mean­while, their lawyer, Falana, is in court try­ing to se­cure the re­lease of El-Zakzaky who had been in de­ten­tion since the events of De­cem­ber last year.

It would be re­called that the clashes had oc­curred while the Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria was con­duct­ing a “hoist­ing of flag cer­e­mony” at their na­tional head­quar­ters in Zaria ca. A large crowd of IMN mem­bers were con­trol­ling the traf­fic on that very busy high­way and had set up a road block just as the con­voy of the Chief of Army Staff, was com­ing from Dutse, Ji­gawa State to at­tend the Pass­ing out Pa­rade cer­e­mony of the 73rd reg­u­lar re­cruits at the De­pot in Zaria. His pas­sage was blocked by the move­ment mem­bers lead­ing to the com­mence­ment of the clashes. In re­sponse to the clashes, the Gov­er­nor of Kaduna State es­tab­lished the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry to de­ter­mine the im­me­di­ate causes of the clashes and the his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances and the re­mote causes that led to it. The Com­mis­sion was also asked to iden­tify acts of com­mis­sion and omis­sion of rel­e­vant per­sons, tra­di­tional and re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions, non­govern­men­tal, Fed­eral and State ac­tors and emer­gency re­sponse agen­cies be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the clashes and to de­ter­mine whether the acts of com­mis­sion and omis­sion so iden­ti­fied were nec­es­sary, ap­pro­pri­ate and suf­fi­cient in the cir­cum­stances in which they oc­curred. The Com­mis­sion was also to de­ter­mine the evo­lu­tion of the Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria and how the or­gan­i­sa­tion con­trib­uted to any en­gage­ment with the com­mu­nity, con­sti­tuted au­thor­i­ties and the se­cu­rity agen­cies while re­view­ing all other fac­tors that may have con­trib­uted to the in­ci­dent or may con­duce to such in­ci­dences in the fu­ture and make rec­om­men­da­tions thereto. With the work of the Com­mis­sion con­cluded, it is now the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Kaduna State Gov­ern­ment to study the re­port and take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.

As a stu­dent of the so­ci­ol­ogy of re­li­gion, one of the most re­veal­ing is­sues that came out of the in­quiry for me is the open ac­cess to the re­li­gious arena in Nige­ria. Ibra­heem El-Zakzaky had started his re­li­gious ac­tivism in the Mus­lim Stu­dents So­ci­ety in Ah­madu Bello Univer­sity in 1979. Sub­se­quently the or­ga­ni­za­tion he es­tab­lished trans­formed into an ide­o­log­i­cally fo­cused mass re­li­gious move­ment with branches in all states in the coun­try. The con­text of the ori­gin of the or­gan­i­sa­tion was the ac­ri­mo­nious 1978 de­bate over the es­tab­lish­ment of a Sharia Court of Ap­peal in the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Sec­ond Repub­lic. Then came the Ira­nian revo­lu­tion of 1979, which be­came the trig­ger for the emer­gence of the Shi­ite group that de­vel­oped into the Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria. Nige­ria to­day has an enor­mous num­ber of re­li­gious move­ments and prac­tices, many of which are rel­a­tively new and have in­tro­duced new be­liefs and prac­tices into the coun­try. In one of his tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances, Pres­i­dent Buhari had promised to launch an in­depth study of Boko Haram, the move­ment that ap­peared to have emerged from nowhere and be­came a ma­jor force in the coun­try. There should in­deed be broad and reg­u­lar stud­ies of new re­li­gious move­ments by our re­search in­sti­tu­tions for im­proved un­der­stand­ing of their na­ture and ac­tiv­i­ties.

New re­li­gious move­ments have shown a high ca­pac­ity to re­cruit fol­low­ers, es­pe­cially the youth. I guess it is rel­a­tively easy to do be­cause the prob­lem of youth un­em­ploy­ment in Nige­ria is very acute and is be­com­ing a so­cial time bomb. New un­der­stand­ings of doc­trine and spir­i­tu­al­ity cou­pled with of­fers of fi­nan­cial sup­port or liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties means that the young are ready to try out th­ese new re­li­gious move­ments. In North­ern Nige­ria, there are eleven mil­lion male chil­dren, al­ma­ji­rai, of pri­mary school age, who are out of school and who do not live with their par­ents. They are avail­able to be mo­bilised for ac­tion. Over the decades, se­ri­ous strains have been af­fect­ing in­ter-com­mu­nal re­la­tions in Nige­ria and one of my great­est con­cerns is the de­cline in the use of civil and re­fined man­ners. We re­fer to the other with such vile and in­sult­ing lan­guage that ha­tred be­comes a com­mon out­come of in­ter­com­mu­nal re­la­tions. Re­li­gion is the arena of the high­est level of pas­sion and com­mit­ment and by al­low­ing too many of our young peo­ple to emerge without guid­ance and without op­por­tu­ni­ties; it is no sur­prise that the break­down of so­cial co­he­sion and es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence con­flicts be­comes the or­der of the day. It is my hope that en­gage­ment with our re­port will be an op­por­tu­nity for Nige­ri­ans and their gov­ern­ments to en­gage in a wider di­a­logue on re­build­ing so­cial co­he­sion, civic cul­ture and the re­gen­er­a­tion of a State sys­tem that serves the peo­ple.

New re­li­gious move­ments have shown a high ca­pac­ity to re­cruit fol­low­ers, es­pe­cially the youth

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