MICAH STEPHEN: THE ARMS, THE ARMY AND THE ARMAGEDDON

The Armageddon is really nigh. There is nothing as precise and accurate an explanation as that. Nationals are increasing their knack to bear arms against the State. As each second ticks, the idea of genuine national rebirth or rearmament of the nation for genuine transformation seems to be as inane as it gets. Nothing can be more shameful. Woe unto a nation that is afraid of its nationals. Woe betides the nation that is scared of imposing its laws within its territory. To the thoughtful, these are strange times. The Shiites debacle that occurred a fortnight ago shows that Nigeria is still an idea, it has not evolved in its fullness. A time will come when this historical and political merry-go-round will come to a halt. When rhetoric of national unity will be exhausted and reality will unfurl. Meanwhile, as always, our responses have been filled with crass indecision and acutely implausible arguments powered by religious innuendos.

Let us lay it as bare as possible; a bunch of miscreants in the name of religious beliefs, armed with machetes, planks and other dangerous weapons, mounted a road block. In the ensuing intervening events, the Chief of Army Staff who by a stroke of sheer fate, was passing by and needed that road as a route, happened to meet a resistant bunch of scoundrels, claiming he had no right of way. A mental replay; the Nigerian soldier that we have grown to know is passing by your neighbourhood and without any reason; you said he had no right of way. Well, without equivocation, a slap and a kick would have been the most civil of responses you would have got. But this Chief of Staff, for some consideration ( I doubt if it is mere dictates of reason, or maturation of the soldier’s mind, or awareness of fundamental human rights which the soldier considers mundane) came down in person to beg the machete-wielding goons to leave the road. A plea they turned down. Their “civil” responses were chants and abuses, with some of them claiming that even if the president was passing, he would not be allowed. Now that is as unreasonable as it can get.  Few hours after the altercation, many were on their way to the afterlife. Well, let the dying bury the dead.

To my utmost chagrin, many have berated the army for being blood-thirsty and having flagrant disregard for human rights. Many a phrases have been thrown into the marketplace that is the internet, like “the reckless” , “unprofessional” Nigerian soldiers. Without any ounce of apology, I say poo. I think we have been stressed by the caterwauling state of the Nation, that proper analysis of happenstances is no longer our forte. And we are also being dragged along the global penchant for political correctness, that we say things as soothingly as possible, even if untrue. And I must also say that we have evolved an attitude of greeting the efforts of our armed forces with derision and ridicule. Nigeria is a fundamentally flawed state with fundamentally flawed institutions, but our arms men in spite of their much avowed irritability have held their own very well. The political and security architecture of the nation will stress any armed force anywhere in the world no matter how best equipped, talk less of an ill equipped one as ours. Our armed forces are handling the rage of internal security challenges, national orientation programmes in NYSC, external aggressions, international collaborations etc, and still they are always derided by the people they protect. It is as unconscionable an attitude as it can get.

We are currently in a dicey situation, a semblance of terrorist attack against the state, which in the rambling odyssey of our nation, we have never experienced. We have lost many lives and properties, consequentially stretched beyond limits, by the travails of our displaced compatriots and stretchered by the tragedy of the yet-to-return chibok girls. All these oddities emanating from this same zone. We have so much wailed at the number of our maimed friends, but we have not asked ourselves the numbers of dead soldiers. What I saw was a soldiers’ chief who in all civility, tried to douse an unwarranted tension caused by the arms-bearing young ones. He did what we do not always see a Nigerian soldier do. He should be commended not condemned, he tried his possible best.

The militarization of religious sects is the reason we are where we are. There are efforts being put in place to pacify the aggrieved sect. Once again, as always, we dress our problems, we do not address them. Ethno-religious militarization is the effect of the inability of the state to impose itself when it is faced with challenges. People are talking about caution. There is nothing; absolutely nothing to be cautious about, but to uproot this menace totally. These people can never be assuaged. That Iran was the first to raise eyebrow (reports have it that Ibrahim Yakub Elzakzaky even called an aide of Iran’s president), shows that we are yet to see the last of this sect. While rummaging through informations available on the Shiites, I found an open letter written by one Abdussamad Umar Jibia, an associate professor     and Head of Department of Mechatronics Engineering Bayero University Kano, quite instructive and educative. It is crucial to note that this open letter, predates the current hullabaloo as it had been written as far back as May 12, 2015. The academic is a seer. He stated that “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 motorcyclists. 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”. He stated further that “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. …….”

He continued “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.

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….”

I would have continued the reduction of his letter but for space constrains. What we have at hand is an Armageddon waiting to happen. It is no time for ethnic masturbation or stroking religious egos. Disaster is waiting to occur. If the Northern Elite in the long term refuses to reinvent their region anew through mass education of the populace, that part will be torn into shreds by needless extremism. In the short term, all appearances of extremism should be nipped in the bud. No two ways about it. Else the only way is hell.. Arms must be wrestled away by the Army to prevent this impending Armageddon. I stand by the Army on this.

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