By John Alli
Some Nigerians occupy their time needlessly; or expend energies on worthless issues. I am tempted to ask the above question again because there seems to be some trouble brewing between one so called Sheik Ibraheem Yaqoob El Zakzaky and his motorized but now proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN); and some highly respected producers /actors of the film “Fatal Arrogance,” which is still in its preparation stages.
But some publicized select scenes from the film has piqued the IMN members and it is driving them illogically crazy and restless . I learnt, aside allegedly issuing death threats to the Nollywood movie producer/ actors of the film, the incensed outlaws and adherents of El Zakzaky have gone a step further by hurling petitions to heads of major security agencies like the Director-General, Department of State Security Service (DSS) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
According to the contents of the petition by the IMN sect members, the film, “Fatal Arrogance,” has demeaned, denigrated and portrayed their leader, El Zakzaky who is currently in detention for crimes against the state of Nigeria as a terrorist. The sect members are already threatening fire and brimstone and, may likely declare a “fatwa” on the film producer and actors/actresses.
Some people say, Nigeria is a failed state; but I don’t believe in this verdict. But if the IGP, the Director-General, DSS or any other head of Nigeria’s security agency who acts on a petition with signatories under the banner of IMN, I will be surprised. IMN as far as Nigerian laws are concerned has been officially proscribed. And any government institution which honours an assemblage of people under the logo of IMN amounts to the condonation of and, giving official seal to the breach of laws of the Federation of Nigeria. That’s a different ballgame anyway.
But the real and urgent question is whether Sheik Ibraheem El Zakzaky is a terrorist? There is no hedging on it, but the straightforward answer is a simple “YES.” He has lived and acted like a terrorist all his life. The realization of Government now to the status of El Zakzaky as a terrorist is even slightly belated by my judgment. I say this with much gusto because I personally know the incarcerated IMN leader, way back in our undergraduate days at the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria. That’s where he cut the teeth of terrorism.
He was studying economics; while I was reading political science, all under the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences ( the great FASS). El Zakzaky was quite a brilliant student and the toast of lecturers as well as students. But he soon lost this prestige and aura of a friendly dude when he begun to assemble Muslim brothers to preach radical Islamism. He was very active in Student Islamic unionism on campus and worked his way to become the Secretary-General of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN). And that is where the problem started.
Armed with this official power by virtue of his position in MSSN he started to import and infuse into the Muslim brotherhood on campus, the ideologies of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which dethroned Iran’s monarchy and Ayatollah Khomeini took over.
He assembled a small group of students under the auspices of Muslim Brothers, which later became broadened as IMN and frequently sermonized Iranian model of an Islamic state for Nigeria. It caused a split in the MSSN on campus and placed El Zakzaky on permanent collision course with the university management, which accused him of incitement of students against the government and breach of extant campus regulations.
After graduation, El Zakzaky proceeded to Iran and trained as a Shia cleric. On his return, he consolidated his position as the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Shia sect (IMN). But all along, Sheik El Zakzaky never desisted from propagating IMN’s objective predicated on ensuring strict enforcement of Shia sect Islamic legal and administrative systems, with the target of creating an Islamic state in Nigeria.
His preachments attracted an appreciable number of adherents and from a small membership, IMN’s population in Nigeria grew wonderfully over the years because of his radical preachments. The sect is financed by Iranian actors interested in forcefully converting Nigeria into a Shia Islamic republic.
Therefore, followers of El Zakzaky have been indoctrinated and brainwashed by him into the mistaken belief that Islamic revolutions are accomplished by brute force. So, in their worship places, public processions or any religious festival, like Quds day, organized by IMN, the members possess and brandish dangerous weapons. Sometimes, they bloodily attack those they presume to be against the sect. With the general problem of the proliferation of arms and ammunitions in Nigeria, IMN members have a field day, as they also allegedly possess guns of varying descriptions and capacities to launch unprovoked attacks on targets.
So, in the secular Nigerian state, much like in his undergraduate days, El Zakzaky has had problems with the government and constituted authorities because of this disposition emulated by his followers. Incidents of IMN’s violent confrontation with government at different times are too numerous.
But I was stunned in 2015, after the IMN’s clash with soldiers in Zaria, leading to the arrest of El Zakzaky, the sect’s publicist, Sheik Abubakar Koki openly stated in a public statement that IMN and her members are not answerable to the Nigerian Government, but holds their allegiance to the Republic of Iran. The statement was striking when I assessed it in the light of what is happening to Nigeria on Boko Haram.
The statement by Abubakar Koki alludes to an insidious nexus between IMN and Boko Haram terrorism. We all know that apart from Mohammed Yusuf, the founder and first leader of Boko Haram, successive leaders of the sect have also pledged allegiance to the Islamic state in Iran. Boko Haram’s factional leader, Abubakar Shekau voiced publicly its sponsorship by Iran; while the splinter faction, ISWAP led by Musab Al Barnewi is funded by Iran.
And when Sheik Ibraheem El Zakzaky feigned illness under imprisonment and government granted him permission to seek medical attention in India; he indulged in pranks to outsmart security agents and escape. But his plan was to escape and take refuge in Iran.
Now, the republic of Iran has the unenviable reputation as the global exporter of terrorism to other parts of the world. And when I consider the actions of El Zakzaky and his adherents, it strikes a semblance of a budding terrorists sect. IMN might become more disastrous than Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorists sect, if government dilly-dallies or handles the sect with kid gloves.
Precisely, El Zakzaky is the emerging Osama Bin Laden of Africa. He has planned to visit Nigeria with terrorism for years and government should not blink an eye, until he is cut to size. I believe El Zakzaky is more than a terrorist and with his education and exposure, Nigeria shall be in real trouble if he is not tamed now. This is expressed more pungently to the world by the recent violent actions and bloodshed by his followers which have stamped IMN’s spiritual leader as a deadly terrorist, as his foot soldiers faithfully discharges his mandate.
Alli is a retired civil servant and contributed this piece from Zaria.