“Without justice, what else is the State but a great band of robbers”~~St Augustine
The reaction of Nigerians to Saturday’s shooting of yet to be ascertained number of members of Shiite Islamic sect at Zuba bridge, Abuja, by the Nigerian army has conclusively exposed the fact that reasonable number of Nigerians have very low sense of Civic consciousness in addition to knowing absolutely nothing on how security forces ought to operate and relate with civilians in a civilized society.
Of course, I blame them not, considering that we live in Nigeria, a country where the President and Commander-In-Chief and all his security Chiefs take turn justifying and explaining away the routine massacre of hundreds of tax paying citizens by Fulani militia operating under the umbrella of a group, Miyetti Allah, which has no other person but the same President and Commander-In-Chief as Chief Patron. Living in such a country has a way of making one begin to see state violence as the norm and human life as nothing.
But first, let’s get the issue very clearly:
According to the Nigerian Army, the Shiites smashed their vehicles’ windscreens and windows, injured two soldiers and tried to cart away the “ammunition and missiles” they were transporting simply because they (the soldiers) tried to dismantle the roadblock they mounted while on procession. This is the summary of the official statement by the Commander, Army Headquarters Garrison, Major General James Myam.
Before we analyze this, permit me to take us back to 2015 killing of hundreds of the same Shiites by the same army. Then, their excuse was that the Shiites blocked the convoy of the Army Chief, Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. Meanwhile, evidence showed that the same Army, even after killing hundreds of stick-wielding Shiites, supposedly to create a passage for the Army Chief, went to the home of the Shiites leader, Sheik Ibraheem Alzakzakky, and was caught on video shooting people including women and children. If we all pretend to be Savages by justifying the killing of hundreds of civilians by a National Army, just to create a passage for an army Chief, how do we explain the same Army going to another location to kill more of the same people??
The people killed at Alzakzakky’s house, were they also blocking the Army convoy???
Testifying before a Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up to look into the December 12, 2015 massacre, the Secretary to the Governor Nasir Elrufai headed government of Kaduna state, Mr. Balarabe Lawal, admitted that the state government and the Nigerian Army buried 347 of the killed Shiites IN A MASS GRAVE. In other words, they didn’t allow families of their victims to take the bodies of their loved ones and afford them a decent burial in accordance with their religious belief.
Now, the same Army has killed the same people with the excuse that they attacked them with stones. And with no shame whatsoever, some Nigerians including those who have always condemned Israeli soldiers for responding to stone-throwing Palestinians with live bullets are defending their own army responding to the same stone with bullets.
Even the claim by the army that they were transporting weapons when they ran into the Shiites appears to be as weightless as their claim that they were at Nnamdi Kanu’s compound last year, not to attack him but to do “SHOW OF FORCE”. These are illiterate excuses. You don’t do Show Of Force in a locality populated by your own unarmed citizens. You do “Show Of Force” to codedly warn enemy countries to respect themselves and you do this by displaying your military might.
If the army could be dumb enough to load sensitive weapons (ammunition and missiles) and start moving them from place to place WITHOUT getting intelligence about the traffic situation of the route they intend to ply, it simply means we have a bunch of Morons heading the Nigerian army. And if they knew the Shiites were doing procession there and still chose to take that route, instead of getting the police to disperse the Islamic sect, that is premeditated murder. If we say the Nigerian Police cannot disperse unarmed stone/stick-wielding group, then we are simply saying we don’t have a police force.
Let us get this one point very clear, SOLDIERS HAVE NO BUSINESS BEING OUTSIDE THEIR BARRACKS FULLY ARMED AND IN COMBAT MODE EXCEPT THEY ARE GOING FOR OPERATION WHICH DOES NOT INCLUDE GOING TO DISPERSE A BUNCH OF RIOTOUS RELIGIOUS CROWD ON PROCESSION. The business of the army is the protection of the territorial integrity of the country. Soldiers are permitted to engage civilians only when Police and other law enforcement such as Civil Defence have conclusively failed to contain the situation and it must be in cases where the riotous assembly is populated by people who are ARMED with gun, not stick or stone.
Soldiers are trained to understand only “Open fire” and “Ceasefire”. You don’t send soldiers against stone or stick-wielding citizens. You send the Police who are trained and equipped with tear gas, rubber bullet, water canisters etc.
The militarization of the civic spaces is itself a moral crime against the citizens. It speaks to a worrisome level of ‘anyhow ness’ and a clear intent to massacre tax paying citizens who the government exists solely to serve and protect.
ANY COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OR ARMY CHIEF WHO SEND IN SOLDIERS TO CONFRONT UNARMED CIVILIANS HAS ONLY ONE THING IN MIND AND THAT IS THE MASSACRE OF THE SAID CIVILIAN CITIZENS. There is no “but”, there is no “IF” here. In any confrontation between the Citizens and the government, the responsibility of applying restraints rests more with the government. We owe it to ourselves to stop diplomatizing and rationalizing needless state violence especially by a government that has repeatedly been found wanting in cases like ethnic cleansing by Fulani militias where that state violence are desperately needed.
It is important that we all remind ourselves that the Muhammadu Buhari led government has been holding the Shiite leader and his wife in detention since December 2015 AGAINST COURT ORDER that they are released. That is impunity of the highest order.
The Buhari government must obey the order of its own court by releasing the Shiite leader and his wife.
As the former head of Kenyan anti-graft agency, professor PLO Lumumba would say “Peace can only be a product of intercourse between justice and truth. Any peace acquired through any other way is nothing but the peace of the graveyard which is no peace at all”
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