Zakzaky’s 1000 days of wrongful incarceration

MNA – Zakzaky is a religious leader in detention for ideological reasons and peaceful political criticism but the tricky point is that the government labels him with violence to keep him in prison forever.

It’s been 1000 days of Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky’s wrongful incarceration along with his wife and other associates since the Zaria massacre where about 1000 innocent Nigerians were killed in cold blood by those constitutionally mandated to protect them. Programs and protests were organized all across the world to demand justice for Zakzaky and to draw the attention of Nigerian authorities towards the repercussions of tyranny and injustice meted against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, an umbrella organization of about 30 Islamic and other nongovernmental organizations, as part of #FreeZakzaky campaign held protests in London and called for immediate release of Zakzaky and his associates. Protests were also held in other countries including USA, India, Iran, Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Switzerland, Malaysia, Ghana, Sudan and Nigeria.

Allah states in the Holy Quran, “And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah, exalted in power, worthy of all praise (85:8). This verse contains the central philosophy of justice and its importance in human society. According to a popular adage, justice delay is justice denied and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So justice is the key to peace and stability of all nations.

No doubt the overwhelming solidarity and sympathy for the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, notwithstanding its humanitarian nature, owes a lot to his visionary and insightful leadership. Since the gory Zaria massacre, the demands of Islamic Movement apparently remain unchanged: unconditional release of the Sheikh, his wife and other detainees; handing over the bodies of slaughtered men dumped in mass graves to the Movement for their proper Islamic burial; compensation for the damages made, and of course the urgent need to bring the mass murderers to book.

Rallies and peaceful protests by all justice loving people continue across the world. Zakzaky doesn’t only belong to Nigeria now. He belongs to everyone and everywhere. Even though the calls for justice have fallen flat on the ears of Nigerian authorities, no matter how long, hope is never lost in the struggle for justice. Despite the contemptuous nature of the government, the Movement is optimistic on the undecided cases (issues) with the Federal High Court Kaduna, and the International Criminal Court.

The dismay is clear over total disregard of Justice Kolawale Abuja’s court verdict to release the ailing Sheikh and his wife unconditionally, provide a befitting house and security for them with a compensation of fifty million Naira. By refusing to do so, the regime has shown blatant disrespect to the rule of law. To the concerned individuals in the country and beyond, Sheikh el-Zakzaky’s situation is proportionate to the Nigeria’s security and socio-economic well-being.

Among other endless questions are: on what ground was the Sheikh initially arrested? Who benefits from the continued incarceration of the ailing Sheikh and his wife? What is the government’s stand on the Federal High Court verdict? Why doesn’t it respond to the demand of millions of Nigerians to take him abroad for medication? And how long should the detention continue? What is the stand of the government over one thousand Nigerians killed in the Zaria pogrom and related incidents? If peace, unity and progress of this country were important, who else has played better role than the leader of the Islamic Movement, Shaikh el-Zakzaky?

Using my constitutional right as a concerned citizen that contributes his best to the progress of the nation, I draw the attention of those in authority on the above subject as the Sheikh and his wife clock 1000 days in detention, and in defiance of the federal high court order on their unconditional release, the regime continues to keep them behind bars. The indifference on the side of the regime cannot help the country at all. No doubt, justice is the key to the much needed peace and stability of our nation which the Sheikh symbolizes.
In its forty years of existence, the Movement was never been accused of vandalism or bloodshed. The Shaikh is widely credited for unequalled role in promotion of peaceful coexistence and ethno-religious tolerance. He is deeply concerned about the well-being of his country and its citizens as his Movement was once described as the most organized Muslim group in Nigeria.

Allah states “O you who believe! Stand 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” (5:8).

The Sheikh is well known for being a peace lover, for his sincerity, broad mindedness, theoretical and practical teachings of Islam. He is known for forging cordial relations with people of other religions and being an advocate of ethno-religious tolerance. His teachings are based on the principles of Ahlul-bait. Sheikh believes in what Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) said, a man is either your brother in faith or an equal in humanity. As such, he is the champion of Muslim unity, evident from his speeches.

He is known to speak fearlessly against tyranny and oppression, for which he has faced untold hardship in the past four decades. In the compendium of thirteen speeches delivered in Najaf in 1970, Imam Khomeini stated that the scholars of Islam have a duty to struggle against all attempts by oppressors to establish a monopoly over the sources of wealth or to make illicit use of them. They must not allow the masses to remain hungry and be deprived while rulers usurp the sources of wealth and live in opulence. He also said a clergyman should be such that when the people see him, they should remember the messenger of Allah (S). You have accepted this heavy responsibility and it is you that should guide this people to the end.

The concept of Wilayatul Faqih -governance of the jurist- was built on this basis. Sheikh el-Zakzaky has been firmly and rightly treading on the same path, enduring oppression on himself while creating public awareness. It is imperative to commend those putting hands for justice to prevail across the globe. That was the rationale behind all prophetic missions. Allah 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” (2:247). In an often repeated quote, Sheikh Usman Bin Fodio – the great revivalist of Islam in West Africa – said a kingdom can endure with unbelief, but it cannot endure with injustice.

As Muslims, we believe that Allah has prohibited oppression and injustice, and everyone will account for his or her deeds here and hereafter. No doubt, millions of Sheikh’s followers and other justice seeking people across the world deserve to be listened. The demand is clear: immediate and unconditional release of Sheikh and global isolation of the Nigerian regime.

The writer is a Nigeria based activist and member of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN)