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On The Urgent Need To Release Sheikh El-zakzaky (H)

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In the name of Allah Who states “Verily, we sent Our Messengers with manifest signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance that people may act with justice ……” Q2:247

Consequent to earlier assessment of Sheikh el-Zakzaky’s health by medical experts from outside the country, he and his wife were diagnosed with multiple health complications. The Sheikh lives with pellets in his remaining eye. The experts certified as earlier observed that they obviously need medical attention abroad due to lack of befitting medical centre to handle such terrible cases in the country. No sooner, part of the reports was made public, individuals and organisations renewed their calls for their urgent and unconditional release, most prominent is that of the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN). While appreciating the roles of all justice seeking and concerned individuals and organisations on the plight of respected Sheikh (H) whose situation deteriorates continuously, I wish to emphasise the need for his immediate release for medication.

As a concerned citizen that contributes his best to progress of this nation in a multi-faceted dimension, I want to use my constitutional right to express my view, and to draw the attention of those in authority on the above subject. Over time, I listened and read similar views by people from different backgrounds to which the government seemingly turned a deaf ear, yet I decided to make my view  public in the interest of the nation hoping to be heard in an acclaimed democratic setting mandated to respond to the needs and yearnings of the citizenry. Most recent of such calls was that of Dr Ahmad Gumi. As citizens, we should have equal opportunity and could advice on any prevailing issue of national interest.

Unlike other countries where fundamental human rights are protected and human life dignified, in Nigeria the situation is different. I will not be graphical regarding the Zaria massacre or what journalists deliberately refer to as military/Shiite clash in which the former alleged road blockage and assassination attempt, which the latter refuted referring the attack as predetermined completely. The aim is to ensure rule of law, peaceful coexistence and prevalence of justice in the country. Notwithstanding the fact that the case is before the two Federal High Courts of justice at Kaduna and the International Criminal Court (ICC), I consider it a duty to tell the bitter truth with the hope that the authorities will take the right measures for the good of our father land. In contrast to the worst military clamp down on the Islamic Movement leader by the army, the Sheikh ought to be respected, dignified and protected by the authorities, not for his citizenship but his apparent sterling qualities that are instrumental to the unity and peaceful coexistence of the country.

Despite the volatile nature of the country, Sheikh el-Zakzaky is widely credited for unequalled role in the promotion of peaceful coexistence and ethno-religious tolerance. His measures make tremendous impact in Muslim/Christian relations not only in Zaria or Kaduna where his house is considered safe abode to ethno-religious crises victims, but throughout Nigeria. During the 2011 post presidential violence, the medical wing of his movement provided first aid and medical care to innocent victims irrespective of tribal, geographical and religious inclinations in a number of Northern states. Every Ramadhan, the Sheikh would play host to non-Muslim visitors at his residence as he honours their invitations in some functions. His stand is worthy of emulation as no development is possible under a situation of chaos and bloodshed.

In the July 25, 2014 military attack on the Islamic Movement where 34 people including Sheikh’s three undergraduate sons were brutally murdered in cold blood, a Christian elder, Julius Anyawu, was among the victims. The Sheikh sent a high-powered delegation to attend his burial and sympathise with his family and community. And on his orders, the Movement took care of the Christian sister that sustained injuries until she recovered completely. The sympathetic remark of the insightful sheikh during the national disaster when tens of Nigerian soldiers lost their lives in a ghastly motor accident, while returning from Niger republic, is still enlightening. Nigeria, with its diverse nature, suffers unending ethno-religious crises triggered by unscrupulous elements to achieve economic and political ends, regardless of huge loss of lives and property. The crises of that dimension owe their origins to socio-economic problems which steadily and violently explode. Interestingly, the Movement was never found wanting in such unfortunate crises of vandalism and bloodshed. Another good approach towards understanding and peaceful co – existence of Nigerians is the commemoration of the birthday of great Prophet of Allah, Isah, peace be upon him, observed on 25th of Zulqaadah according to the narration of Ahlul – bait. In the event, annually organised by the Youth Forum of the movement, his virtues are extolled for emulation and Christians are invited to share the Islamic view on the Messiah.

Prominent people have described the movement as the most organised Muslim group in Nigeria. Disciples of the Sheikh as Muslims abide by the teachings of Islam on his guidance. As such, they run their activities in more or less the same way, not only in Nigeria but wherever you find them. Sallah feast, an annual occasion hosted by the movement, uses the opportunity to exchange views with other participants drawn from various fields of human endeavour. In the last, the Sheikh spoke on societal reform as a collective responsibility. Important dignitaries that attended the occasion include Islamic scholars, traditional rulers, pastors and educationists. The feast observed the need for people to play their moral role, not fold their hands waiting for saviour without emphasis on the proportionate deeds in reforming the nation. During the 2nd annual Qud’s day July 31, 2016, in Abuja, Honourable Evenezer Oyetakin, Professor Odinkalu Chidi and Barrister Femi Falana (SAN) were among other prominent speakers. The conference was designed to commemorate the 2014th event which was the 32nd in 35 years.

With the obvious challenges of this administration, it is paradoxical to continue the act of persecution against the peaceful movement. It is high time the administration responded to calls of many Nigerians on this issue. In any democratic setting where the majority leads, minority’s rights are equally protected. To be frank and sincere, using all criteria, the unconditional release of the Sheikh should not be ignored especially with his deteriorating health. As a Muslim most importantly, I believe that Allah has prohibited oppression and injustice and every one will account for his/her deed here and hereafter. Allah states, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly For Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from Justice. Be just: that is Next to piety: and fear Allah, For Allah is well-acquainted with all ye do” Q5:8

No doubt, millions of Sheikh’s disciples and other well-meaning Nigerians deserve to be hearkened to immediately. Sayyid Muhammad, the only surviving son of the Sheikh, has recently written on the disturbing and frightening health of his father, which he described as assassination almost done. This is not unconnected with the deterioration of the elderly Sheikh’s health given the lead/cadmium poisons in his body. Added to that, the movement has organised several press conferences to educate Nigerians on the deteriorating health of the Sheikh. In view of this, several organisations have called on the government to release them for medication immediately.

Justice delayed is justice denied. There is no point in shedding our citizens’ blood. The government ought to protect citizens not to kill them. After killing about a 1000 people in 2015 and illegal detention of the Sheikh (H), this increased the level of hatred against the government. Why not think positively to bring an end to this problem? And in whose interest is the Sheikh’s detention? Do we have elders in this country? Why can’t they intervene for the good of our nation? Justice is the rationale behind all prophetic mission. “Verily, we sent Our Messengers with manifest signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance that people may act with justice ……” Q2:247.  In an oft repeated quote, Sheikh Usman Bn Fodio – the great revivalist of Islam in West Africa – said, “a kingdom can endure with unbelief, but it cannot endure with injustice.

Wassalamu alaikum

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