There is a childhood memory that I have never been able to lose touch with, it is personal, intimately so, I do not like sharing it. But I feel that considering my current circumstances its best I share it, especially considering that in life I have lost almost all the things that constitute my reason for being. I have eventually lost, and it is very clear that I can lose anything else, all by the virtue of ending up as a Nigerian.
I am Mohammed Ibraheem, known to my friends as Ibraheem affixed with my numerous nicknames. I was possibly 6 years old, we lived in a three bedroom, two sitting room, one kitchen, one garage, back garden and front yard house. That house was plagued by brown rats; two of which got trapped in a water tank in the kitchen, so that they could not swim out of the water, and leap to safety.
Everyone was so enraged by them, and rightly so, for these foreign Rats can be so fearfully annoying, plus they once chewed the soles off my mother’s feet. The two rats must have lasted long, for by the time they were discovered, they really were too exhausted to run, I don’t remember what went on before the fact, all I know is that they were ushered out of the water and successfully marched on what must have been rat miles all the way to the back garden. I was then given a stick by the nanny and told to kill one of them. In an unforgettable act, after a little hesitation I hit the rat, after being mocked and taunted for being too soft. I still remember the look in the eyes of that rat looking up at me after I hit him, it haunts me to this day.
The gleeful murder of a mischievous rat is a truly un-forgettable experience for me, much as I can imagine it I cannot see myself killing anything larger than a mosquito or house fly without guilt, yet it was men armed to the teeth who have slaughtered all of my brothers, and multiples of men, women and children along with them, as if they were nothing. Doctors, Nurses, Engineers, Technicians, Journalists, men and women of all professions, there were even boys and girls among them, like (karofi) a one week old University of Greenwich graduate, students whose only aspiration was to make beautiful dreams come true; Friends, Families, the old and the young, all brutally slaughtered by an army that was suppose to protect them!
A few days ago it was announced that the commission established by the Kaduna State Government, submitted a report on its findings, on the massacre and destruction visited upon innocent people by elements representing the Nigerian Army, in which over a thousand people are missing, over three hundred and forty people were admittedly buried in a mass grave, hundreds were arrested and hundreds of millions worth in property destroyed.
Having followed the commission’s sessions with interest I watched as it slowly degenerated from a commission of enquiry into a case of murder and destruction, being convoluted into a commission whose focus seemed to only be a sectarian one. Although the movement sent no representatives, I am yet to read its findings as it is yet to be publicized.
Prior to that in an unusual twist, the custodians/captors/detainers of my parents, the DSS claimed that my father, is being kept in “protective custody” “because he is a vulnerable individual” and according to their lawyer it is the DSS’s duty to provide protection to vulnerable citizens! Adding salt to injury, they further even claimed to have spent five million Naira on his health alone.
It is unbearably hard enough that I’ve had to watch helplessly as they killed all those innocent people including my three remaining brothers. But this claim was the worst affront to my sense of self, more painfully insulting than all before it. Ever since the statement was made I have made several attempts to type a response each time I begin to type my fingers shake from excess of wrath, anger, despair and the all too fresh realization of the truly unbelievable depths of insincerity, hypocrisy and cruelty. I always think and question the humanity of the cabal that masterminded the Zaria Massacre. How can it be rationally explained that we share the same taxonomy as this brutal breed of beasts wearing the uniform of the Nigerian army who executed this inhuman massacre?
This is a most grievous insult, the gravity of which is unfathomable to say the least. Although my parents are not being held in a prison cell, they are certainly not living in a comfortable state, nor are they ‘Safe.’ In the eight months since the ‘Nigerian Army’ killed and secretly buried over a thousand people including my three brothers, my aunt and a lot of the people I hold most dear, while also shooting my mother 7 times and depriving my father of an eye as well as crippling his arm and leg, the DSS which claims to be “protecting him” has also denied him access to his doctors, legal counsel, and has only allowed us to visit only when it suited them.
In the past eight months I’ve driven to Abuja, several times only to be turned back. Yet these people have the rudeness to post my picture in the media to give credence to the idea that all is well, insulting us in the most cowardly of ways. I am thirty years old, I earned my first five million Naira when I was still a university student, yet my own father the one who brought me into this world, after being so injured, physically, emotionally and worst of all deprived of even the most basic of human rights is being charitably expended upon with five million Naira (gratitude for the generosity of the masters of murderous beasts).
As his sight continues to fail day by day the DSS continues to refuse, under the guise of bureaucratic excuses, our request that a known qualified doctor be allowed to attend to him. And then there is the visitation rights, in eight months I have only been allowed to visit four times, but we have been stood up in Abuja for twice as many times. Then there is the fact that even though my father is currently incarcerated, it is he who pays for his expenses down to the fuel for the generator in the place where he is being held, not to mention the extortionist behavior of some of the agents in charge of handling my parents. In our fourth and final visit which was yesterday, they brought in a professional camera man sporting a nice SLR (Single-lens reflex Camera or; Fancy Cameras in Short) to rudely take more of these propagandist pictures designed to deceive the people about the true nature of what is going on, I’m sure you’ll be seeing them in the papers soon enough.
Then there is his health, specifically the health of his last remaining eye, which is already half blind. The attending single doctor whose name and qualification I do not know, nor has the DSS informed me, has already arbitrarily and single handedly proscribed one of his eyes as lost for good, without recourse to a second opinion. Granted in father’s own words, he does “appreciate” the doctor’s efforts, and the courtesy of certain members of the DSS, I for one am not grateful, I cannot be. I deserve answers we all do. If the DSS that is a Government organization of fundamental importance, is proudly insulting me by claiming to be spending five million Naira for my father, Ibraheem Zakzaky has a son who is alive and willing to spend multiples of that amount (and I can afford it), for his Father. But I cannot, because the opportunity to do such things for my father is blocked by the ‘Dutifully Protective Custodians.’ DPC. (Death Prospecting Cooperation).
If they really are just protecting my father as their lawyer has claimed, then I would want to ask them the following unanswered questions; firstly: What form of a threat is the visit of Family Members? What form of a threat is the visit of doctors? What threat does my father’s access to his lawyers constitute? Considering the impending and dangerous situation threatening to turn him blind, why are no doctors allowed? Why do they assault us with SLRs when all we want is to be able to attend to our flesh and blood? And why should I continue to play the silently grateful son of the guest who is actually more like a hostage? As my fingers shiver lest harm come to my parents for speaking the truth I would finally ask you what I have been asking myself, Can I entrust the truth to my tongue?
When I was a child I grew up on the tales of heroes and great men, and I truly did aspire to be more like some of my favorite heroes and great men, I even used to think who wouldn’t. One thing that they all had in common though; was that they all had something of worth whether it was an idea, a person or a thing, these great men and women were willing to risk all for that one thing. In the titanic and everlasting struggle that is good versus evil, justice versus in injustice, the fair versus the unfair.
I have found myself powerless to save my brothers all of whom are now with God. I have found it beyond my means, to protect my own mother. I have no power to protect what I care for, I live in a country where those whose job was to protect have become mindless predators. I have no protection against these serpents. I only have myself, my hands and my feet, there is nothing I can do. I have so few tools at my disposal, in spite my most optimistic efforts, I have come to the conclusion that the evil that has taken my brothers, my family, and has kidnapped my mother and my father, and placed them in a hostage situation, and is killing them slowly, seems to understand no language, that I know or understand. As my father is systematically and slowly being reduced to total blindness, I am becoming desperate.
It is true that I am weak and powerless in the face of such unfathomable levels of evil madness, reckless hatred, extreme prejudice and limitless inhumanity. The only thing I can do now is to complain, to protest, and protest by any means available. As I gradually lose all my senses due to worry, I find myself increasingly losing all hope of recourse to reason and feel ever increasingly compelled towards necessity. If violence and irrationalism is a strength, I don’t have it, I still regret killing that rat. I am incapable of breaking my own innocence. I cannot kill without remorse. I was born of a father who could never ever condone the path of wrath, even at the cost of his sight.
I want to call all those who believe in the inalienable right of all human beings to fairness, justice and dignity, to help by joining me in a redoubled effort. We must protest this seemingly never ending series of outrages, we must make our voices heard. We must act before it is too late, we must demonstrate wherever we are able. I for one will walk alone on my two feet from my father’s house in Zaria to Abuja if I have to, I will sit in front of any office for as long as it takes, I will stop eating and drinking for as long as it takes.
As God is my witness there is no time. My father needs access to doctors now! Right Now. As God is my witness I swear that having survived the unthinkable, my father is currently being wearied down into a blind man, he is being slowly crippled, destroyed. Compliments of the DSS and co. enough is enough. Post the dammed pictures make all the lies but do not insult us, let us send doctors, let us save my father’s eye.
This open letter was written in 2016 but it is still as timeless as ever. No improvement has been registered by those the letter was written for. No attempt has been made to show us the state of the Shiite leader, Ibrahim El Zakzaky. Nothing has changed and this is a democracy. He has not been taken to court or convicted of any crime but he has been held for two years now. The civil rights groups seem to have given up on calling for the right thing to be done. The masses, from the time it happened, had their minds shaped up so beautifully to oppose such cause. The problem with allowing our forces weakened is that by the time the evil gets to us, so much division and bad blood would have been sowed that there’d no one left to speak for us.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”
By Martin Niemöller