By Khalid Idris Doya and Ammar M. Rajab
Introduction: In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most high, may the peace of Allah be upon his noble prophet (saww), his purified progeny, obedient and trusty companions. This insightful write-up is a reflection that sheds light on the life of the residents of Gyallesu, Zaria, Kaduna state.
Gyallesu is a suburb of Zaria where the revered leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky lived since he was released from prison when he was incarcerated for years by the late despot General Sani Abacha. This insight will only focus on the kind atavistic attitude and behaviour of the residents of this area before the relocation of Zakzaky to the area and how he coped with them for more than a decade.
It is an area which is in close proximity to the army depot in Zaria. The area was once famous for its fertility, that is why it attracted many a farmer to the area. The predominant residents are Muslims even though a handful of Christians are found. No body can claim to be an indigenous resident to the area because the area was once settled by nomads. 30% of the residents were there to seek education as evidenced by the presence of Ahmadu Bello University, sub-compus, Congo. Rented houses occupy a large section of the area as a result of the influx of students. The Residents of Gyallesu.
More than 40% of the residents are students who squatter in the residential area. While many of those who have made the area their permanent residence are jobless youths whose orientations tilted towards thuggery, petty larceny, and street violence. Apart from their parents who practically rely on teachings for their livelihoods, the children cared little about self-reliance because it is a well known fact that Gyallesu had recorded notoriety for youth restiveness due to their seeming addiction with drugs, rapes, stealings and joblessness.
The security agencies were aware of all this but little did they to nip them in the bud. Rival factions had demarcated no-go areas, a rival thug might be killed once he crossed the red line. Female students who live in rented accommodations live in a constant fear of harassment because they were used to being abducted and raped. In the1990s, every news that was reported by the media might not be unconnected with ritual killings, abandoned corpses, burglary, clashes among various armed groups. Those were some of the headlines that emanated from the area prior to the relocation of Zakzaky. Moreover, Christians also bore the brunt of any religious crisis because they were being killed in droves whenever a crisis erupted. Their shops and houses would be pillaged and burnt down to cinder. The fear of retaliation had prevented people from crossing to some neighbouring areas. These were of the commonest behaviours of the Gyallesu’s residents. And they did all this in the presence of their parents without any remorse. While the police who were saddled with the task of restoring order were freely collecting bribes without doing much to curtail it.
In spite of the fact that the reflection is not lengthy due to lack of space, to sum up the case, the residents of Gyallesu were living in Jahiliyya-like period.
The Arrival of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky:
Since the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria in 1998 and his subsequent relocation to the area, he found the residents in that pitiable situation. In the aftermath of his relocation, Sheikh Ibraheemul Zakzaky, he had managed to lift them out of darkness. Life of indulgence, moral decadence and thuggery were brought under control by the coherent measures, Sheikh Zakzaky helped bring. His diplomatic efforts had drastically reduced the magnitude of the violence. The rival factions signed an accord to put an end to fighting. Few years after his relocation, Sheikh Zakzaky had used his money to buy gates in order to fend off the infiltrations of thugs. Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria were deployed to maintain order.
Measures taken by Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky had stemmed the tide of violence in no measure. The residents can (without sentiment) even vouch for development achieved since his arrival. But certain detractors, who derided him as a threat who came to interfere with their way of life, began to confront him. In their desperate attempt to discredit Zakzaky, the youths received backings from their parents. As a proponent of peace, Sheikh Zakzaky wanted to resolve the matter in a diplomatic way, but the residents were used by certain individuals and Salafist clerics to ramp up pressure on him. They started accusing him of baseless allegations all because they did not want them to interfere with their way of life.
The Residents Versus Security:
The relationship between maulana Zakzaky and the security agencies was sore because he tended to intervene and broker solutions whenever the police entered to arrest the youths.
As a proponent of peace, Sheikh Zakzaky was of the opinion that the attitudes of the youths could not changed by harassment and extortion, they could only be changed by consultation and diplomacy. He also in times without numbers defended Christians from attacks. But this frequent intervention did not go down well with the security forces.
They soon started to connive with the residents to be causing chaos and pin the blame on Zakzaky. In 2011, Zakzaky was awarded by Christians and civil organisations for his diplomatic efforts when it came to peaceful co-existence among various religious and ethnic groups. These among other reasons had brought more enemies to the Sheikh than anything else. Despite all this, his initiative did little to assuage the visceral hatred they have against him and his followers.
In order to avoid prolixity, I will have to stop here. I will in the next week discuss the unpatriotic elements that were used by the mainstream media to express their happiness with the tragic massacre of Shias and demolitions of their houses and places of worship.