by Arafat Abdulwaheed,
Anyone who writes to condemn Buratai and the Nigerian Army on the recent confrontation the latter had with the Shi’ite militants in Zaria, is, in my own opinion not properly dissecting and deconstructing the sequence of events that led up to that unfortunate incident.
To start with, it is necessary to point out that life is sacred and its sanctity is not to be violated by anyone. Thus, no one has the right to take the life of another person, even when there is justification for such, except the state and its institutions, following due process of justice. This is saying how it ought to have been but not how it is, how it was or how it went.
Now, back to the basics. What were the events that led to this unfortunate incident? Let’s isolate these events and analyze them together.
Infraction #1 – The Shi’ites had blocked a major road (Sokoto Road) that connects Zaria town. Forget not that this is their stock in trade wherever they are and their modus operandi whenever they have any function. Now, we all agree this is wrong, whether it is perpetrated by Shi’ites, Muslims, Christians or Animists.
Infraction #2 – The Shi’ites denied the country’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) access and right of passage, claiming no one could pass through their barricade not even the President and Commander-in-Chief himself. Is this not crass and absolute indiscretion?
Infraction #3 – The officers who were with the COAS and the COAS himself pleaded with the Shi’ites to allow the COAS and his men pass as time was already running out on them for the passing out parade they were to attend in Zaria but they refused. The COAS was even said to have reached out to Zakzaky through phone to help appeal to his followers only to be told byZakzaky that he could not control them. I call that absolute indiscretion and an affront on the COAS and the military as an institution.
Infraction #4 – The Shi’ites started pelting the COAS and his men with stones and other objects and even fired a metal object directly at the COAS. Once that happened, the detachment of soldiers responsible for the safety of the COAS cordoned him to safety and engaged the Shi’ites in a gun battle that immediately left a handful of Shi’ite followers dead. Thus, the Army chief and his men had their passage. How else do you expect the soldiers to react, especially in these delicate times when we have an insurgency war going on in the country and several assassination attempts had been made on the life of this same man – the COAS. In addition, my own little knowledge of the military is that a soldier is trained to shoot and kill; that’s why he carries the gun wherever he goes on official assignment and reason why no right thinking individual should provoke a gun bearing soldier or call his bluff. Similarly, in the circumstance described above, we don’t expect the COAS and his men to make a retreat and seek an alternative route or continue to appeal to their ‘assailants’ to be orderly.
Infraction #5 – The military hierarchy sent a detachment of soldiers back to the Shi’ites Shrine and also to the home of the Shi’ite Leader to apprehend him. Perhaps, so that Zakzaky may answer some relevant questions in relation to the activities of his sect and followers. And also because the assault on the life of the COAS was seen in the broader context of terrorism, that the army is currently dealing with. Again, the Shi’ites came out with their own firearms and sought to defend themselves and their leader. That was the final straw that led to the full scale gun battle between the army and the Shi’ites. By the time the dust settled, scores of Shi’ite followers had been killed by the soldiers. Now, the relevant questions here are – Was the army right to have ordered the arrest of Zakzaky? Do the Shi’ites have the legal right to own firearms? Was it right for the Shi’ites to have engaged the soldiers in a gun battle? Was it justifiable for the soldiers to have destroyed the shrine of the Shi’ites and the residences of their leader?
With the insights I have offered in the preceding paragraphs, I wish to caution anyone calling Buratai and his men unprintable names to have a rethink and come to terms with the reality on ground, namely – that the Shi’ites had always taken the laws into their hands over the decades but met in Buratai a no nonsense army chief who is committed to uprooting and dismantling terrorism in all its ramifications. And because the man has no skeletons in his cupboard and bears true allegiance to his fatherland, he dealt a deadly blow to the indiscretion and ego of an aberrant religious sect.