Precious Owolabi, El-Zakzaky And Impunity

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The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) attempted to dispel any particle of doubt about its readiness to fight to the finish to get its leader, Ibrahim Elzakzaky, released when the sect declared recently that it was ready to sacrifice 21 million of its followers for the freedom of its leader.

More worrying is the fact that the southwest coordinator of the sect, Muftau Zakariya, had posited that there would not be a country to rule in 2023 should “they kill” the Shiite leader.

Now, for poor students of history who do not know how Boko Haram insurgency began, or those who simply pretend to be oblivious of the scale of havoc the terrorists have caused in the last decade, the willingness of the sect to offer 21 million lives in the battle to free its leader may count for nothing.

But for a sect that has remained irrepressible after losing hundreds of its members to clashes with security agents, it is hard to shake off the feeling that, left to its devices, it would bring down the house on everyone like the biblical Samson when it is stretched beyond its elastic limit.

Even if one does not spare a thought for the 21 million lives willing to be sacrificed, one should worry about innocent victims that will be consumed by the needless ‘war’ between IMN and security agents.
Only recently, Precious Owolabi, a Channels Television reporter, was put six feet under by a stray bullet in the course of serving his fatherland as a National Youth Service Corps member while covering the protest of Shiites in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja. Owolabi had probably fantasised a bright future after serving his fatherland. Of course, he had hopes and aspirations. But death is no respecter of age, beauty, class, hopes and aspirations. When death calls, hopes and aspirations get buried without delay!

In a touching tweet, his sister, Bera had written with a shared picture of them the night before his murder: “My cheerleader, my everything. This was Sunday night and I still spoke to you on Monday morning, we were supposed to meet after work only for your office bag to be delivered to me. The corpse was just brought home to Zaria. Thank you for your kind words, he will rest on.”

Interestingly, special adviser to President Buhari on media and publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, had in a television interview said he started his career as a journalist 33 years ago as a youth corps member like Owolabi at a Lagos television station, expressing sadness over his death. Adesina said,” Imagine that as a youth corps member at a television station 33 years ago, I’d been killed in the field of duty.” Thought-provoking! And it is apposite to add that he couldn’t have had the privilege of speaking for and defending his principal.

It is true that the bible wants us to mourn with those who mourn. Truth is, Owolabi is a victim of the impunity of the government Adesina serves, which has sadly become the hallmark of the same government. It is no fairy tale that almost four years ago, the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordered the unconditional release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenat from detention within 45 days.
But,the federal government has chosen to appeal the judgement of the court without obeying its order. Adesina had explained in the aforementioned interview that El-Zakzaky was not released because the federal government appealed the ruling of the court. Adesina ought to know better. Appealing a judgement does not automatically translate to the suspension of the order given by the court in question.
If we forgive Adesina because he is layman, what shall we say about Nigeria’s former chief law officer, Abubakar Malami, who has fiercely defended every known impunity of the Buhari government under the pretext and jaundiced argument that national interest – as defined by the Buhari government- takes precedence over the rule of law?

The scant disregard for court orders is not only exemplified by the illegal detention of Zakzaky. Also, the incarceration of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd.), who is in custody for alleged diversion of $2.1 billion meant for arms purchase since 2015 is another eloquent testament. The federal government has wilfully disobeyed the orders of Nigerian courts and the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that declared the arrest and detention of Dasuki unlawful, among other examples that advertise the present government’s penchant for contemptuous disregard for court orders.

Curiously, despite being named the fourth deadliest terror group in the world and the sorrow and tears it has brought to numerous homes, the same government that was quick to approach the court to proscribe IMN and label it a terrorist group has not deemed it necessary to lift a finger of authority in matters concerning Fulani militant group!
Admittedly, tales abound of the atrocities committed by Shiites. For instances, a former governor of Kaduna State, Mukhtar Yero, was reportedly made to alight from his car to trek to an associate’s house because he was stopped by Shiites during one of their processions. There also reports detailing how the members of the sect have become a pain the neck of its neighbours in Kaduna.

It must be stated that while the constitution guarantees freedom of movement and association, it must not be at the expense of fellow citizens. Nonetheless, a fire with fire approach to checking the activities of the Shiite sect can only have cataclysmic consequences. Tackling impunity with impunity would also fast track descent into anarchy.

For a government that has argued on several occasions that having a dialogue with a terrorist group is not a strange practice, it is expected that it would explore the opportunities of a dialogue for the sake of peace.
It is noteworthy that on December 2, 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court had in addition to the order that El-Zakzaky and his wife be released warned that ” if the applicant dies in custody… it could result in needless deaths. ” For a government that has not demonstrated competence or capacity in tackling the myriad of security problems bedevilling Nigeria, it is impolitic to add to its list of worries.
––Ladesope Ladelokun, ladesopeladelokun@gmail.com