IT is no longer news that abuses of human rights have been recorded in the current administration since it assumed office in May 2015. Disappointingly, numerous mental pygmies have proffered different kinds of rationalisations in favour of tyranny. While I understand that the majority of those defending the tyranny that we see today are merely ensuring the continual security of their source of livelihood and that the rest are either too ignorant, sentimental or illogical to dissect and make dispassionate submissions about the situation, I have chosen to write this piece with the hope that such people and their sympathizers would be rudely awakened to the supremacy of humanism and the constancy of moral law in the entire human agency.
My focus today is on the continuing confrontation between the Federal Government’s forces and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) or the Shia Islamic group as they are also called. Basically, there are two sides to the ongoing debates on the Government vs IMN: on the one hand, there are those excusing the killing of Shias by the state’s forces as an inevitable act of violence in defence of Nigeria’s unity and territorial integrity; and on the other hand, there are those claiming the contentious issue is mutually exclusive of common understanding. While I disagree that the contentious situation is not for public discourse, for there is no better way to reach amelioration than through this means; I must state that the debate is one that requires logical lucubration.
On whether the Islamic Movement of Nigeria is indeed a threat to Nigeria: in times of war, commanders use different tactics to demonise their opponents and also win public sympathy. One of the potent tactics used is known as psychological warfare or hearts and minds or propaganda. An effective psychological warfare or propaganda is like an opium; it can easily capture the mind of man and convince him to believe anything its proponents are propagating. There is presently an effective propaganda against the Shias in Nigeria.
Among many, the group has been regarded as a violent group with members (especially women) allegedly walking around with knives tucked inside their abaya looking for people to stab. It has also been regarded as a group practising Bidah (in Islam) or doctrinal heresy. Another potent propaganda is that which promulgates the group as a radical secessionist movement intending to hand over Nigeria to Iran. At the epicentre of this propaganda, however, is a litany of carefully concocted fables intended to enforce a structural and cultural violence against the IMN members so as to demonise them in the sight of the people and eventually inflame the seething impetus of direct violence against the group. For many will refrain from associating with this group while many more will support whatsoever unjust act is carried out against them because of this propaganda.
In spite of this propaganda which has considerably turned public sentiment against the distressed group especially at the grassroots, it is instructive to note that the Shias have been moderately calm with their temperament.
We have seen the alleged mass killing and burial of over 300 IMN members in mass graves; the prolonged incarceration of its leader even with the court ruling otherwise; and the frequent clampdowns on peaceful protests organised by its members in different parts of Nigeria. On the other side of the debate which attempts to foreclose this issue from public discourse: I think there can be no stronger attempt to shield impunity and glorify injustice than this hypocritical narrative from religious zealots. Surely, this narrative seeks to vindicate and sanctify the state’s aberrant use of aggression against the IMN as though it were nothing.
From a religious point of view, the continuous killing of Shias is indicative of the decades-long religious feud which exists between the two major Islamic groups in Nigeria; The Sunnis (commonly described as orthodox) and the Shias (commonly described as unorthodox). These two groups have fundamentally been entangled in several doctrinal disputes as the former believes its doctrines supercedes that of the latter. This has led to increasing tensions between both sides over the years. Painfully, the role of government in dousing the tensions between both groups as the arbiter of conflicts has drastically diminished since the beginning of the current regime.
- Raphael is the National Secretary of the OurMumuDonDo Movement