On Friday, 26 August 2016, the Punch newspaper carried an editorial titled: Unlawful detention of el-Zakzaky. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria really appreciate the effort put in by the newspaper, in at least voicing its concern over the Zaria massacre of 12-14 December, 2015, and also calling for the prosecution of the military personnel involved in that gruesome killings.
However, the editorial contained so many errors and inaccuracies, that we feel obliged to correct these factual misrepresentations that were severally and deeply embedded in the editorial. Setting the records straight we believe will leave an accurate legacy for posterity.
The Punch got it wrong right from the start in the sequence of the events that happened on those tragic days when it says “El-Zakzaky’s heart-rending ordeal started when members of the IMN, who were on an annual procession, blocked the convoy of Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, in Zaria, Kaduna State. In the ensuing tempest, Army personnel descended on members of the sect, killing many of them on the spot and at their headquarters in a three-day outrage. The tragedy was exacerbated by the belligerence of the IMN members.”
Members of the IMN were not on any procession on Saturday 12-12-15. A flag hoisting event was scheduled to take place in the evening, which never did because the Nigerian army started the killing spree from about midday that day, long before the purported arrival of the COAS. There wasn’t any road blockage. A look at video tapes of similar flag hoisting events in previous years will prove that IMN doesn’t block the road for these events. The road blockage theory was used by the Army and its co-conspirators as an alibi to justify initiating the brutal attack in the first place. The drama the army staged in front of Hussainiyyah using its own actors and filming same was part of the make-believe for the massacre and wanton destruction.
Had Punch bothered to look closely, it would not have failed to realise that there wasn’t any tempest after all. The Army simply opened fire on early arrivals at a venue of an event and proceeded to lay a siege until it killed those in the centre and destroyed the later. Many hours after that, the Army reinforced and went to Shaikh Zakzaky’s residence, located some five kilometres away from the Centre and massively killed civilians using the most unconventional weaponry in their armoury. They killed close to a thousand citizens over a period of thirty-six hours, torched buildings, evacuated corpses and buried them in mass graves at night about a hundred kilometres away, then denied they killed or dug any shallow grave. It was also in the process that Shaikh Ibrahim Zakzaky witnessed the blatant murder of his three children and elder sister among the hundreds killed. His wife and himself were fatally shot and humiliatingly ferried to incommunicado detention without charges for nine months now, and counting. Hundreds of IMN members including women and children two years and below were taken to court and charged with culpable homicide. Who then was belligerent? Certainly not the members of the IMN as the Punch editorial claimed.
That the Punch editorial team did not make a thorough background check of facts about us came to the fore when it stated “wives” and attributed them to Sheikh Zakzaky, when in reality our leader has only one wife.
We totally disagree with the Punch where it stated, “The blame for this horrible calamity lies with both the IMN and the government. Since the late 1970s when el-Zakzaky founded the sect, it has imperiled the socio-economic life of Zaria residents with its aggressive brand of Islam. Armed with weapons, its members regularly block major highways during its Quds and Ashura processions. They also reportedly openly brandish weapons. This is imprudent.” This is completely false and baseless. We are at loss as to where the Punch got its information from. This can only be from our enemies and detractors who want to justify the unjustifiable by all means.
We have stated it categorically severally in the past that the Islamic Movement in Nigeria is not a ‘sect’ in any sense of the word. We are Muslims no doubt. Again, we are not practising a different type of Islam which the Punch finds it convenient to call ‘aggressive brand’. We don’t know that “aggressive” Islam the paper is talking about. It is on record that IMN members are the most tolerant group of people when you consider inter-faith or intra-faith relationships in this country. IMN members give protection to Christians even in their places of worship. Shaikh Zakzaky’s house was a “safe heaven” during tribal or religious upheavals in the past, including the post-election riots of 2011. It is widely known that you will never ever see IMN or its members involved in the spates of these tribal or religious wars plaguing the country. Thus, what aggression is Punch talking about? If the editorial team of Punch knows any community so brutally massacred and denied justice that continue to seek redress peacefully and patiently through the legal framework as we have doggedly pursued, they should let the world know.
The claim contained in the editorial that we ‘openly brandish weapons’ during our peaceful protest is mischievous. Even the Kangaroo commission of Inquiry set up by KDSG has stated that the widely held belief that we possess weapons was not substantiated. If the editorial team of Punch is in possession of any evidence that we brandish weapons openly in our processions, they should show it. Otherwise, they should do themselves good to limit their editorials to facts and not malicious allegation that the intent of its peddlers is pure mischief.
The Punch editorial also said, “El-Zakzaky’s case therefore presents an opportunity for the government to prosecute him and others in his shoes.” Is the Punch saying that the assailants, who is the government in this case should prosecute the victims, Shaikh Zakzaky and members of the IMN? The Punch has got it all mixed up. We believe people of conscience will not view this as the proper way for the government to write the wrong done to the IMN, Nigerians and the world in general.
We nevertheless agree with the Punch when it said in several places in the editorial, “His incarceration without trial is unlawful. It is an aberration that a democratic environment like ours abhors. Aso Rock’s weird silence over the past eight months on a simple matter of the rule of law is a sign of the insufferable arrogance of public office holders in our clime. This atrocity should have moved Buhari to instant action. But, in spite of the domestic and international outcry, the President has been silent. This falls short of expectation from a corrective government. The military officers who took the law into their own hands in the IMN incident should not be spared.”
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