OPINION: El-Zakzaky exposed the godlessness of many Nigerian Christians, Muslims, By Reno Omokri
It is by now no longer news that Ibrahim El-Zakzaky has been discharged and acquitted by Honourable Justice Gideon Kurada, whose judgment totally vindicated the Shiite leader and gave hope to many Nigerians that despite the best negative efforts of the demonic duo of Muhammad Buhari and Nasir El-Rufai, justice can still be found in Nigeria.
El-Zakzaky was arrested and detained for six years. Members of his congregation were killed in their thousands. Buhari killed 6 of his children. The remainder of his congregation were hounded. Yet, they never abandoned him. I want to study El-Zakzaky’s life. His ability to sustain loyalty is commendable. In his roman à clef, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Ayi Kwei Armah said: “Disgust with injustice may sharpen the desire for justice. Readers who don’t see this connection merely wish to be entertained, and I have neither skill nor desire to turn the agony of a people into entertainment.”
I am disgusted with the injustice meted out to Nigerian Shiites. I note with some contentment that I spoke up when the Zaria Massacre of at least 347 Shiite men, women, children and infants (the real number will never be known, but it was much more than 347) occurred between December 12-15, 2015. Not only was I the first Southern Christian with a national voice to speak, but I also called the then President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, and appealed to him to issue a statement of support and solidarity with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, against their persecution by General Buhari. I did this by persuading Pastor Ayo that Christ would have done what I was appealing to him to do.
That action of December 2015 was a test. General Buhari was testing the waters to see how tolerant Nigerians would be to his brutality. If we had all risen as one to condemn what he did to Shiites, he would not have gone on to commit the atrocious acts of state-sponsored killings that have taken Nigeria back to the Abacha era, including the Lekki Massacre of #EndSARS protesters, mass killings of peaceful IPOB protesters, and the ethnic cleansing that has been and continues to happen in Southern Kaduna and Benue.
As disappointed as I was and still am with Southern Christian leaders, especially after Pastor Ayo’s tenure as CAN President was over, my disappointment, nay embarrassing shock, goes to Northern Muslim leaders who acquiesced, via their silence, with what General Buhari did to El-Zakzaky and the Shiites. To the best of my memory, not one significant Islamic body, including the slavish Southern lackey (MURIC), spoke up in defence of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
I remember calling a prominent Muslim Northern Muslim and asking him why the Muslim Ummah was so unconcerned with the Shiites’ fate and was told that there is not a lot of appetite for Shi’a Islam in Northern Nigeria. But even at that, are they not worth defending based on their intrinsic value as humans?
We are where we are today in Nigeria because: First, they came for the Shiites, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Shiite. Then they came for IPOB, and I did not speak out — Because I was not IPOB. Then they came for Sunday Igboho, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a supporter of the Yoruba nation. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. This is the case for many of us in Nigeria.
I sometimes suspect that we are facing the national spiritual repercussion for what we let happen to El-Zakzaky. That man had been to hell and back, yet he is not broken. Meanwhile, Nigeria that tried to break him is itself broken, hopefully not beyond repair.
Cast your mind back to that image of a bloodied El-Zakzaky, with gunshot wounds, one eye almost dislocated from the eye socket, lying limp in a wheelbarrow, being ferried off to who knows where by soldiers sent by Buhari and Buratai. And what was his crime? That his congregation blocked a major road in Zaria, while the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Buratai (a coward who is only strong when he is facing unarmed civilians but is nowhere to be found when Boko Haram and killer herdsmen surface) was in town for an event. And just because of that flimsy excuse, the Nigerian state did to him what they have not done to either Boko Haram or herdsmen.
In the final analysis, El-Zakzaky exposed the Godlessness of many Nigerian Christians and Muslims. Many Nigerian religionists only love their neighbours as themselves if they follow the same religious doctrines. Read that again. I am not saying what you think I am saying. Nigerian Christians do not necessarily love other Nigerian Christians. They tolerate them. Their love is reserved for members of their denomination, and sometimes, their love is so granular that it is reserved for only members of their particular church. And the same or true for Muslims.
We have forgotten, or perhaps we never knew, that God did not create Jews, Christians, or Muslims on the Sixth Day. What God created on that blessed day was Mankind. God’s religion is not Judaism, Christianity, Islam or any other doctrinal religion. God’s religion is love. And that God kind of love is the love I saw displayed by Nigerian Shiites for Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. Through hardship, killings, deprivation, humiliation, ostracisation, and economic emasculation, Nigerian Shiites stood by Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. That alone is a testament that the man has leadership abilities beyond what we have seen in contemporary Nigeria. And if we had universities worth their salt, by now, they would be researching what, why and how the man El-Zakzaky built up such a massive, cohesive, supportive and emancipative following. Because if Nigeria is to recover from the hell and beyond that Muhammadu Buhari has put us through, we will need a leader that can command such a loving, loyal, self-sacrificing and committed following.
And obviously, I am not referring to the type of follower-ship typified by the shattered dreams that made Yahuza Ibrahim of Katsina change his daughter’s name from Buhariyya to Kauthar, because, according to him: “Before, when his name (Buhari) was mentioned, everyone felt he was the right person that could help in tackling our problems. But it has turned out to be the other way round. I tell you, the president has not redeemed any of his campaign promises. He has done nothing.” Not one Nigerian Shiite will ever say that about Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. Not even one!
Alas, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was imprisoned for six years of Buhari’s misrule for a crime he did not commit. Meanwhile, bandits, killer herders and Boko Haram are still free after six years of Buhari’s misrule despite the many crimes they committed. And we expect peace in Nigeria. Can there be peace without justice?
Omokri is a human rights activist and lawyer.