Shi’ites: The Need to Be Cautious

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Government should be careful in handling the Shi’ites’ issue so as not to create more problems

As the battle against Boko Haram enters the critical stages, the federal government may need to study the nature and character of insurgent uprisings in order to restore lasting order in the northern half of the country. These uprisings tend to have a way of metastasising into other formats, especially in situation where force rather than reason is used to diffuse tension.

It is for that reason that the Nigerian authorities should heed the admonition of Islamic scholar and leader of Tijaniyya, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, on the need to avoid opening a more dangerous flank. According to the Sheikh, there is currently an orchestrated agenda not only against the Shi’ites in the country but also against several other Islamic sects.

While there may be no evidence to support such a weighty allegation, it would be foolish to dismiss the Sheikh who spoke against the background of the ban recently placed on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) by the Kaduna State Government. With the increasing violence in Kaduna which could easily spread to other states in the north, it seems that a Shi’ites-Sunni confrontation may soon replace the brutal Boko Haram terrorist onslaught in the country. Should that happen, it promises to be nastier, more widespread and difficult to contain as Sheikh Bauchi has warned.

Anyone who has studied the root cause of inter-Arab conflicts that have endured for decades in the Middle East is likely to locate them in the Shiite versus Sunni historic confrontation. That violence and death have become a daily staple in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, a bit of Turkey, etc., are traceable to the mismanagement of these differences in beliefs. While we do not need such in Nigeria, especially at such a fragile period as this, incidentally that is the seed unwittingly being sown with the manner in which the IMN issue is being handled by the Kaduna State Government with tacit support from the presidency.

It is instructive that the full report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the December 2015 violent clash between soldiers and members of the IMN in Zaria confirmed that, indeed, no fewer than 347 Shi’ites were killed and scores of others injured.

Yet the federal government has not taken action, especially since the report blamed the army for using excessive force and for not complying with the rules of engagement during the clash. The interpretation of that ominous silence is that soldiers can take the law into their own hands by killing hundreds of innocent Nigerians without any consequences. On top of that, members of the group are now being banned from practising their faith.

Just recently, the counsels to the Islamic sect painted a pathetic picture of the IMN leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, who is being detained at Department of State Services (DSS) headquarters in Abuja. They said El-Zakzaky and his wife “are not in a good state of health.”

We believe that the Shi’ites deserve fairness and justice, both of which have been denied them since the beginning of the crisis. And it is always better to deal with the “enemies” you can see and monitor than those forced underground as the authorities are inadvertently doing with the IMN. It is even all the more unfortunate that their members and leaders are being denied all their rights under the law while hoodlums, taking advantage of the position of some powerful people in government, practically now target IMN members for vicious treatment. This, we dare warn, is not in the interest our country and could engender severe consequences.

President Muhammadu Buhari should rise to the occasion and save the nation from what could be the beginning of another bloody crisis.

QUOTE: We believe that the Shi’ites deserve fairness and justice, both of which have been denied them since the beginning of the crisis. And it is always better to deal with the ‘enemies’ you can see and monitor than those forced underground as the authorities are inadvertently doing with the IMN