IMN leader, El-zakzaky
By Eleoja Adesola
Reading the Punch Newspaper editorial, titled “Stopping Army-Shiites’ bloody clashes” gives one the impression that all Nigerians will act rationally and that the appeal in the piece would be taken to heart by all. Such desire is prompted by the knowledge that Nigerians behave alike; we have a tendency to fidget until the fire gets out of hand and singe us before we resort to lamenting “had I know”. The proper thing is not to prevaricate but to take decisive stand for the overall good at all time. This is the time to stop the Army-Shiites clashes before a successor to Boko Haram terrorist group emerges.
It is reassuring that a respectable publication like the Punch, which had in the past focused on the rights of the Shiites – members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in a permissive manner bordering on not seeing anything wrong in their provocative behaviour, is now convinced that the group poses threats to the rights of other citizens. The outgoing British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, whose country had practically been tolerant of the lawlessness of IMN, similarly shifted grounds to ask the Nigerian Army and the sect’s members to obey the law. But one wonders if he will tell the security apparatus of his country to obey the law in dealing with their own notorious National Action, whose existence is outlawed and its members forbidden from preaching their poisonous ideology.
In addition to the Punch and Arkwright, a handful of notable Nigerians are beginning to admit that the IMN is not that “harmless group” that well managed propaganda once projected it to be. It may take time, but when the birds come to roost those that have shifted from denial of the group’s virulence will at some point in the future demand that proportionate force be deployed against the sect’s members. Wisdom is not waiting until such a time before demanding action.
Those that continue to defend the many atrocities of the sect are persons in the business of “cutting the nose to spite the face”. These are people that ordinarily will be jubilant at anything that makes life difficult for Nigerians just so they will be able to have one more thing to criticize the government of the day for. They support IMN as petulant children because their expectations of patronage have not been met under the present dispensation and they still hold the dream that IMN is an army that can help them bring down the government and replace it with their corrupt greed.
These few can be likened to terrorists that are bigger and stronger than Boko Haram in tormenting the nation. It is not that they are unconvinced of the evil lining beneath IMN’s piety but is just that they feel entitled to have it their way or the nation goes to hell. The list of this category of people boasts the likes of a legal counsel to IMN, some people standing trial for corruption who believe they will be free when IMN destroys the country, those seeking to get court ordered compensation from law enforcement agents, and commercial activists. These are the only ones yet to be convinced that IMN is now a terrorist organization.
In the government, there are officials that should take action in line with the oaths they took – to act at all times in the interest(s) of the country, but who for reasons unknown are being tardy in doing the needful. It is difficult to understand the tardiness in activating the legal mechanism that will help the nation contain the excesses that has transformed IMN into a terrorist organization. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) was properly declared a terrorist group when the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) took the necessary steps of approaching the bench as stipulated in the anti-terror legislation of the land. The AGF must now act faster than he did to produce the result that proscribed IPOB and brought it to the status of Boko Haram.
If the Office of AGF does not appreciate the urgency it must be warned that Boko Haram, like IMN is doing now, started out by killing security agencies and few people paid heed because the tendency was to say “serves the hated security operatives right”. Boko Haram later extended to killing Christians, then Muslims and finally just anybody and everybody. Those who defend IMN today can be sure that they will not be spared if the group is allowed unchallenged to continue along the path it has chosen.
There is a task on all Nigerians, friends of Nigeria and those who claim to be Nigeria’s friends to join hands with efforts to do the needful and save the country’s future, prevent the season of regret that could await those that are not diligent. What is condemnable must be condemned.
The calls must continue to put the military and security agencies under pressure to abide by the rule of law and observe internationally accepted rules of engagement. These institutions must listen and be seen to be complying. But such calls must be balanced. If authorities must observe rules in clamping down on trouble makers IMN must also be compelled to observe rules of engagement for holding protests – knives, swords, catapults, stones and petrol bombs have no place in a “peaceful protest”. Obstructing the roads to inflict pain on other citizens is a no no, which must necessarily be met with dispersal by security agencies. This is a truth that even those that are beginning to see the viciousness in IMN are yet to tell the group’s members.
But the IMN we have come to know is incapable of heeding such respectful demands from well-meaning individuals and organizations. It will continue its belligerence until it is obvious that there is a widespread rejection of its ideology of terrorising others. The option left in this instance is to collectively agree that its excesses are curbed using the constitutionally empowered organizations. The time to curtail the IMN is now, before another descent into darkness, the kind Boko Haram plunged us into. The kind IMN can plunge us into.
Adesola writes from University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos.