The scenario was familiar. Angry protesters block the roads, chanting songs of solidarity to a cause, whipping sticks and throwing stones while men on camouflage light up their troublesome bodies to exorcise the demons that inspired them. The sight was familiar and the more it happens the more we see reasons it ought to happen. It is the turn of Nigeria’s Shi’a Muslims to be used for shooting practice by the Nigerian government and numb further the already numbed empathy of Nigerians. Stick and stones against guns and RPG’s. Angry citizens against armoured cars. The humiliated, wounded and downtrodden against men more physically equipped, militarily equipped and immorally equipped and the people consider it institutionalized justice.
These scenes are familiar and the reasons are not different. Our lives have been traded for the ego of the men in power and the lives yet to be traded give props to the hand behind the wheels. The average national intellect has been reduced to fit the intellect of wild animals and king Lion is simply doing what forest rules say. Any attempt at corrupting this new norm and going domestic, transcending to man and reason, is met with domestic violence. It is the turn of Shi’a Muslims to taste the soured grapes hanging on the vine of this country and as it was in time of the Odi’s and the IPOB’s, silence is consenting to degradation. The government is trying to create an atmosphere of peace by creating an atmosphere of death and the logic is acceptable to the quiet masses.
Where words are uttered, the killed are blamed for showing disrespect to the men on camouflage and reason when they were alive. Shi’a Muslims should have known better that the man licensed to kill was never licensed to think and whoever dares to piss the man off is a lump. The state deserves respect and even though the law courts penalise and uphold, there is nothing really wrong with instruments of state putting men to sleep before they inflict everyone with sleepless nights. The court of public opinion judge intentions and not just actions and one’s intention is not really what he thinks it is but what some other man inflated and weaponized with guns and a huge load of inhumanity, knows it is. The beauty of injustice is that where it abounds, it will get to everyone.
This past week, Nigeria’s Shi’a Muslims protested the detention of the leader of the ISM, Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh El-ZackZacky, who has been held custody since December 2015 and it was a bloodbath. Their crime, the forces said, was that they blocked the road of other road users and their protest was intended to create chaos, heat up and destroy the polity. They were also accused of attacking military vans and breaking windows of vans. Photos of wounded soldiers bleeding and in bandages also circulated and was it not for the military killing over 34 of them, they would have run over the state.
The video posted online only showed defiance to the men on camo was the problem and the men on camo, whose presence there was in defiance to the law, hated competition. Chaos hadn’t broken out and the soldiers had to be sent in. It was not reported that Abuja was under attack by the Shi’a Muslims or that the Nigerian Police asked for backup after falling to the superior might of the protesting Shi’a Muslims. Nothing of such was reported. What we know to be true was that before the soldiers showed up, the place was not soaked in blood. They have protested for days before that day and the reason few persons heard about it was because the men on camo were not around or close.
The moment the military comes close in the guise of trying to control protesters in a civilian environment that is not at war or in chaos, they leave behind red marks that help to publicise the event. The moment a group of people improperly trained on crowd control try to control a crowd, entropy is bound to be elevated. This same thing happened to the Shi’a Muslims before the IMN leader, Sheikh El-ZackZacky, was locked up in the interest of ‘national security’. In 2015, they were confronted by Shi’a Muslims on procession and their weapons were the same weapons common among civilians, sticks and stones, but were brutally murdered. Till this day, it still looks like more of them need to fertilize the land with their prodigal blood and the culprits nationalists.
Shooting at protesters doesn’t solve the problem. It only fortifies the resolve to stand by the cause that led to the deaths in the first place. To people with strong ideological base, it sinks deeper into the core of the cause and breaking or defeating them becomes impossible. To the faithful whose ideology is met with barbarism, barbarism never wins and he becomes more enchanted and belief in the cause reaches optimum height. He is no longer afraid to die and fear cannot be found in his lexicon. This is the same reason America can’t defeat the people they call terrorists. They have not really fought an ideological war but a barbaric war simply to show strength and intimidate.
But how do you intimidate a man who is neither afraid of you, afraid of death and fighting an ideological war of superb moral proportions? You can never defeat him as long as your method is barbaric and he has learned that your method is of the lowest brain. That is the mistake and stupidity of shooting at Shi’a Muslims by the Nigerian military. The goal is to induce fear and respect through violent acts but you cannot induce fear and respect through the very acts that propels a cause. You cannot defeat the Shi’a Muslims by shooting and killing them unjustly because that is the stuff of the faithfuls. Why is this attack on Nigeria’s Shi’a Muslims and not Muslims in general?
Islam like Christianity have so many sects and each sect, just like churches in Christianity, have different beliefs and traditions and these have led to deaths for centuries. What is happening in the middle east today and in Islam once rocked Christianity. It still exists in Christianity but not with the same venom. The early Christian sects in lower numbers were killed by the sects in the majority and that was even before the coming of Martin Luther. They were accused of practising a kind of Christianity that was against the message of Jesus Christ and for that lost their lives. Church and State were one and those in the state were treated on the ratio of popular and unpopular versions of the Christian religion.
That is what is at play in Middle East Asia today and just like Nigeria’s Catholics, Anglicans and Winners see each other as evil and lost, the Nigerian Muslims also treat each other same way. The popular sect or Muslim church, to understand it better, in Nigeria, are the Sunnis. They make up over 80% of Nigeria’s Muslim population while the Shi’a Muslims and others are less than 20%. When you consider the fact that the Nigeria’s current leadership is under a Sunni, you’d see why the killings is easy and why majority of Muslims are quiet. This is the politics of religious hatred happening since man invented religion to give his existence some meaning.
If there is anything this military approach will get us it is more violence and a false sense of peace. If this people are pushed to the wall they may have no other option than to bounce back similar and more aggressive response. Boko Haram was treated same way in her initial stages and the Nigerian state and those in charge seem not to have learned anything. The leader of Boko Haram was just a radical preacher until he was unjustly killed without trial in a law court. It is going to a decade now and the group has not left the clutch. Democracy is imperfect but it works to an extent. People want to see consistency and not made-up rules to suit a particular interest.
If the person dies through the hands of the law and justice is seen to have happened, it is easier to forgo the situation but the reverse is the case when justice becomes the will of a few. Wherever the punishment for throwing stones and sticks is guns and dead bodies, justice have not happened and peace will elude that place. In such place, forgetting becomes unjust and inhuman and in trying to achieve justice, anger and pain could cloud the heart and dead bodies appear on the side of the enemy.
The entire episode is crazy. See how we have reduced the life of our nephews and brothers to those of ants and mosquitoes that must be uprooted for us to live in peace. People die for stupid reasons and we stand by defending the actions of the security operatives. Because we are of a different religion we don’t care anymore how it happens, who dies or lives and how. We are of similar religion but our beliefs and norms are different so we wish evil on our nephews on the other side. We are closer to Arabs and Jews in Saudi Arabia and Israel than Nigerians in Nigeria. All because of religion. We kill for religion, hate for religion and oppress each other for religion. Foreign religions.