Few days ago, Northern Nigeria took several steps closer to sectarian anarchy which didn’t surprise many like me but rather further established the reputation of that part of the country for bloody religious intolerance and scant regard for human life.
When the Kaduna state govt banned the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) last week, I smelled something sinister and promised myself to write extensively about it but many other events overtook the issue.
First, it’s funny when people think those of us from the Southern parts “do not know these Shiites”. That I bear an Igbo name doesn’t mean I’ve never left my village. I was born in Northern Nigeria and have lived at least half of my 40+yrs here but even if I was born, bred and confined to my village in Imo state, all I need to know about these Shiites to be able to hold an opinion are simple:
1) That they are Nigerian citizens
2) That the 1999 Constitution provides certain inalienable fundamental freedoms of belief, association and expression.
3) That there are provisions of the Penal Code that should govern everyone’s conduct and many provisions that deal with treason, insurrection, bearing arms against the state etc.
Those are the objective parameters to be applied in rendering opinion in this matter, every other thing being bandied around is a pander to the emotions. But believe me, i’m not so ignorant of this matter, you just won’t believe how much detail i’ve assimilated on this topic. But let’s leave that a moment.
Let’s see if some allegations against this sect can stand up to plain reason and available facts:
1) SHIAS DON’T RECOGNIZE CONSTITUTED AUTHORITY:
That’s funny. They have members working in govt, they have members in the armed forces, their children attend govt schools, they vote in elections, yet you say they don’t believe in constituted authority? I don’t understand that blackmail.
If they don’t obey the law (in whichever manner), they should be dealt with by the Police. Extant laws prescribe clear punishments for infractions so we don’t need to hide under this excuse to abrogate their fundamental right to hold a belief. If a Shiite breaks any law, he/she must be arrested and prosecuted accordingly. If they break the law in numbers, squadrons of Mobile Policemen trained in anti-riot/crowd control should be sent in to enforce the law. There’s a reason why modern societies use plexi-glass shields, water cannons, tear-gas and other such equipment to subdue errant crowds with minimum casualty rates…must we be so crude and brutish in these parts that you send soldiers into living quarters to kill off everyone in sight including women and children? Or allow religion-crazed mobs attack others?
In Nigeria, we make straightforward things appear crooked so that we can carry out our hidden and often sinister agenda.
2) THEY BLOCK THE ROADS DURING PROCESSIONS:
Whenever I read this allegation, I always feel particularly bad. Look, here in Abuja and many other cities in Nigeria, whole roads and areas near mosques are closed off every Friday afternoon. Ditto every Sunday, whole roads are blocked to allow Christians worship their God. As a nominal Roman Catholic, i’ve severally participated in street processions on Palm Sunday and Feast of Corpus Christi, maybe I should have been shot too, right?
So how on earth have we (Christians and Sunni Muslims) become so arrogant that we now imagine that no other shade of faith should enjoy the same right to inconvenience the public which we so gleefully and arrogantly impose on others?
So you can block the roads every Sunday and Friday and imagine that no-one else has the right to do so? You gotta be kidding me!
3) THEY’RE VIOLENT TERRORISTS:
Another laughable allegation when viewed in light of plain facts. The world’s infamous terrorist organizations, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS are all Sunni-inspired, so what are we talking about? How many of the numerous religious riots in the North have been solely Shia-inspired?
This is NOT to say the Shias are gentle as doves, far from that! I say again, if any Shiite commits any crime, such person(s) must be clinically apprehended, prosecuted and put where he/she belongs. Simple as that.
4) THEY HAVE A PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATION AND THEIR OWN FLAG:
So what? Is the Boys Brigade not paramilitary? Abi na Boys Scout? Go near any busy mosque on Fridays and you will see many youngmen also dressed in uniforms. Are they not paramilitary? Or is it because they belong to Sunni Islam?
As for the flag matter, that’s utter crap. Here in Abuja, even schools have their own flags, PDP and APC have their own flags ditto other organizations. Why is the Shia own different?
I think the hate against the Shia sect in Northern Nigeria is driven by very deep-seated religious prejudices – the average Sunni is horrified by some Shia practices which they think is pagan and idolatrous. I believe The banning of IMN and the clampdown on the sect has little to do with their routine activities which periodically dislocate normal life. But I insist that it is the duty of the Police to deal with offenders while preserving fundamental freedoms.
Watching yesterday’s clashes on ChannelsTV, we clearly saw youths burning residences of Shias and knocking them down with sledgehammers. If TV cameras could catch these scenes, where was the Police and what were they doing? That simply tells you that the clashes had the tacit approval of the state. A son whose father sends on an errand of theft doesn’t go stealthily, he breaks down the doors violently and attacks his victims with confidence.
Look, I write for conscience sakes…if the Northern elite (actively or passively) encourage increasing prejudice and persecution of Shias to continue unchecked, Boko Haram will be child’s play. We were in this country when some ‘elders’ pretended Boko Haram wasn’t an issue while that sect’s attacks were initially restricted to security formations, churches and drinking bars. Some of those elite, in their crazed bid to spite and oppose everything Jonathan, once asked the then President to withdraw the JTF sent to Borno to save their very lives from the monster they incubated in their midst.
Twenty thousand lives, millions of IDPs and a presidential election later, instead of withdrawing soldiers, the authorities had to relocate the whole Army’s operations HQ to Borno to bring the insurgency in hand. From “withdraw soldiers!”, they started shouting “increase soldiers!”. That’s what playing with the truth costs.
It seems these elite (and some of their clerics) haven’t learnt a thing. By failing to mount vigorous campaigns against these religious prejudices among their followers and staying silent in face of these attacks, they may think they’re spiting the Shia (because of the latter’s perceived ‘unIslamic’ practices) but let them be wary of the Boko Haram example and start condemning extremism among their youth.
If not, na regret una dey look so ooo! Remember Frankenstein Monster?
Please let the Shias be. Let them be allowed to practice their beliefs with the same freedoms every other faith enjoys in Nigeria. All forms of targeted discrimination must stop.”