ABDUSSAMAD U. JIBIA: An open letter to Gen Muhammadu Buhari

Your  Excellency Sir,

Let me start by congratulating you on your well-deserved victory. It is Allah that gives and takes everything including power. He has given it to you. We pray to Him to guide you in the onerous task of restoring the lost values of our country. You are taking over when the dust is beginning to settle. Boko Haram are on the run. For six years, this group of people has unleashed mayhem on Nigeria, or at least Northern Nigeria. Thousands of people have been killed in cold blood; thousands of others have been displaced. Yet, several thousands of women, girls and boys have been taken as captives. Ordinary Nigerians have found it difficult to figure out the sponsors of Boko Haram due to the nature of their victims who cut across all segments and strata of the Nigerian society. Several conspiracy theories have been expressed, many of which are laughable. Some believe it is the Northern elders who created Boko Haram in order to make the country ‘ungovernable’ for Jonathan. According to another school of thought it is the Igbo who have been exploring ways to launch revenge against the North for what Northerners did to them during the Nigerian civil war. Some say it is you, others say it is Jonathan. There are a few other theories.

Whether or not any, some or all of these theories are correct or incorrect, it is well known that the original members of the group known as Boko Haram or Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad as they call themselves were students of one Muhammadu Yusuf who lived and preached in Maidugri until his death in the hand of the Nigerian Police in 2009. It is also well known that the final episode that led to confrontation between his disciples and security forces was the refusal of his followers to obey simple driving rules like the wearing of helmets by motocyclists However, my reason for writing you this letter is not Boko Haram. It is something worse than Boko Haram. Yes worse. It is a sect more dreadful than Boko Haram that has established itself in all strata of Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. They are in the civil service. They are in business. Their members have deliberately come close to several unsuspecting politicians of note.  It is shia

As a Muslim, you don’t need someone to tell you about Shia. But for the benefit of those who do not know, I would say the little they need to know. Shia is about the oldest sect in Islam. After the death of Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was both a messenger of Allah and a political leader, the Islamic faith continued to grow under the rightly guided Caliphs. It was during this period that the present day Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine came under the control of Islam.

However, the Jews who were expelled from the city of Madina by the Holy prophet because of their treachery and were watching these developments with agony decided to react by sponsoring some of them to pronounce Islam in order to have the license to cause confusion among Muslims. It was these ‘converts’ under the leadership of one Abdullah bn Saba that succeeded in sponsoring the rebellion against the third Caliph, Othman. They first articulated his shortcomings, amplified and disseminated them around the Caliphate. Thereafter they called for his resignation; when he refused to resign they killed him. The Muslim Ummah chose Ali, a cousin of the Holy Prophet to lead them after Othman, but these very people, who now called themselves Shiat Ali (the sect of Ali) frustrated his efforts to track and punish the killers of Othman. They now made Shia a symbol of love for Ali and other relations of the prophet and hatred for the other caliphs and the rest of the prophet’s companions whom they claimed betrayed the trust of the prophet. Shia was embraced by Persians because they saw it as an opportunity to distort a religion that destroyed their kingdom and culture. After the Iranian revolution which was led by Shiite scholars, the government of Iran set an agenda to spread Shia to other countries. In Nigeria, this task was to be carried out by one Ibrahim Yakub Elzakzaky.

The man Elzakzaky devised several strategies to achieve his mission. First, he banked on the gullibility of some Muslim youth who could easily be misled by slogans like ‘Islamic revolution’, ‘establishment of Islamic state’, ‘total change’, etc. His group, who initially tagged themselves as Muslim brothers (meaning, of course, that other Muslims are not their brothers) organized lectures and several demonstrations in their first phase. In those days in the 1980s he told everyone that he was not a Shiite, his group was not out to promote Shia and that what they wanted was Islam and nothing else. The other methods used by Elzakzaky to introduce Shia to his followers were the same methods that Shiites have used over their long history. One of them is women. Shiites legalize temporary marriage. In Shia it is possible to marry a woman for two hours. Many people find it difficult to understand why young men and women who are supposed to be in school would trek from cities like Kano, Gusau and Katsina to Zaria, spending nights along the way in order to listen to Elzakzaky. This is the secret. It is an open one because the Shiites do not deny they do it. What they may deny is wife swapping, which many people accuse them of doing. There is plenty more on Shiites and their doctrine. What, however, would be of major concern to your Government is their notoriety in dealing with Government and fellow Nigerians. Way back in the 1990s, the Shiites constituted a major threat to the public in Kaduna state. For a period, any Islamic preacher who dared to criticize Ibrahim Elzakzaky or Ayatullahi Khomaini in his preaching was attacked and beaten in his house in the presence of his wife and children. Infuriated by their actions, the Government of Col. Hameed Ali staged a clampdown on them and most of their leaders were arrested and prosecuted. This made them to change their strategy for a while.

The main activities of Shiites are demonstrations which they organize on specific occasions like the Quds and Ashura days. During these demonstrations, they block main roads in cities across the North and intimidate the public including the Police whose permission they do not seek. Last year, this type of event led to a clash between the Army and the sect members leading to the death of several people including three children of Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky. In addition, these heretics organize an annual pilgrimage to Zaria for which they trek in large groups from certain points to go and meet their leader. In the process of this long trek, they block major highways and create a lot of havoc for travelers. This is watched by the security agents and nothing is done to stop it. Like the Boko Haram of Muhammadu Yusuf, the Shiites have no regard for any rule, no matter how harmless it is. For example, after a series of bombings in Kano metropolis, the Government of Kano state banned riding motorcycles after six o clock in the evening and carrying passengers on same. The public complied and defaulters were openly arrested and punished. The only group of people that did not comply were the Shiites. Even when the implementation of the ban was at its peak they rode motorcycles in the night on major roads in Kano sometimes carrying more than one passenger and none of them would be arrested. A friend of mine once stopped and asked the Police why they were not arresting Shiites. The answer was, ‘Ai su yan kungiya ne’, meaning ‘they are members of a group’. The Police was obviously afraid of triggering another crisis, but at the same time giving the impression that some people are above the law. The Shiites are well connected. Since most of their leaders including Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky himself are graduates, it has been easy to fix themselves in all sectors of the economy.

Although they publicly condemn the Nigerian political system and do not participate in partisan politics, the group may have been enjoying the support of certain politicians. For example, a former civilian governor of one of the Northern states patronized a Civil Engineering firm controlled by professionals belonging to this group. The group activities were allegedly sponsored by proceeds of the many contracts he awarded to them in addition to whatever little might come from Iran and other wealthy members. Ordinarily there is nothing wrong in that since they are also Nigerians, but the fact that some of those professionals involved were dismissed from public service for alleged breach of peace raised doubts about the action of that governor. Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky lives in affluence even when most of his followers live in abject poverty. Added to these is the large number of guards that accompany him wherever he is going.

These guards who are mainly unemployed youth also man illegal checkpoints on roads leading to his house in the Gyallesu quarters of Zaria. In addition to open display of weapons, these guards subject people living in the area, their families and visitors to constant harassments. Even after registering series of complaints to the police and Zaria emirate, nothing has been done to come to the rescue of these innocent Nigerians. Only last week, there was a widely reported clash between Shiite guards and residents of Gyallesu that claimed a number of lives. Yet, there was no response from the Government. My advice for your Excellency is this. If your promise to tackle insecurity is to be a reality you must cut Shiites down to size. To do that effectively you have to look around you and make sure that no member of this group occupies an important position in your Government. It would be a monumental scandal if Nigerians come to realize that a member of such a lawless group is very close to you and/or holding a key position in your Government. This is regardless of the intellectual prowess of the person. One would then wonder what would be the reaction of your Government when there is a clash between security forces and members of this group. The millions of Nigerians that voted for you do not include Shiites. Nigerian Shiites do not vote unless they engage in taqiyya which is a kind of hypocrisy allowed in their religion whereby a person can pretend to be what he/she is not and act accordingly in order to achieve a goal. Secondly, no member of the public including politicians, traditional or religious leaders must be allowed to use his followers to harass the public. If Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky or any other leader wants additional security for himself he should be allowed to employ trained private guards who would not harass his neighbours. Finally, there should be no double standard in dealing with different groups. I wish I had a direct access to you to give you this advice without making it public. Although I know a few people around you, I am not quite sure that a message sent through them would get to you at this time. And since office-seeking Nigerians have been sending in their CVs, any document dropped in your office, no matter its contents is very likely going to be treated as another CV in disguise. I wish you Allah’s guidance.

Dr. Abdussamad Umar Jibia Associate Professor and Head Department of Mechatronics Engineering Bayero University Kano

Culled from the Leadership Newspaper, May 12, 2015