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Nigeria sleepwalking to disaster with Shia Muslims

President Muhammadu Buhari suggested that Nigerian youths are lazy during a recent trip to the UK.  But it appears that Nigeria’s current teetering from one crisis to the next is down to his intellectual laziness and shockingly poor understanding of how his action and inaction contribute to escalating already dire situations.

Nothing proves this more than the response of the military and security services towards unarmed members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), the predominantly Shia movement led by Ibraheem Zakzaky, who has been detained with his wife since December 2015.  The detention followed a raid on his compound in Zaria, Kaduna State in which a Kaduna State government inquiry concluded that 348 IMN members were murdered by the army and buried in mass graves.  The army were alleged to have destroyed the evidence in this heinous crime.  IMN members have demonstrated peacefully almost daily in Abuja and other cities about the continued detention of Zakzaky and have been shot at by the Nigerian police and military.

The Iranian state-owned Press TV’s The Debate discussed the issue yesterday in what it called “Nigeria crackdown” against the IMN.

Watch it below:

The programme, hosted by Marzieh Hashemi, asked where Zakzaky was.  He was last seen in court on Tuesday May 15, after questionable charges of murder were brought against him by the Nigerian authorities.  A statement from the IMN has declared that their leader is missing since that court appearance.

Massood Shadjareh, head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, spoke about how documents from Wikileaks showed that the Saudi embassy in Nigeria pressured the Nigerian government to “stop” the influence of the IMN in the country.  Guest Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire, claimed that the murder charges against Zakzaky were “politically motivated”.  It was also claimed that Zakzaky told the Nigerian authorities that they should kill him in order to “finish the job you have been paid to do”.

Questioned by the host why Buhari has never come out to condemn the mass murder of Shias over two years ago, Azkikiwe suggested that the regime was trying to “protect themselves from civil liabilities” and had to consider Buhari’s reelection bid.  There were other factors in play such as the Donald Trump administration selling aircraft to Nigeria ostensibly for fighting Boko Haram.  The suggestion seemed to be that any acceptance of liability for the mass murder of peaceful demonstrators would raise human rights concerns that could jeopardise arms deals.

Azikiwe also spoke of how Buhari’s “instincts” were not “democratic” as he was a former military dictator.  He described worryingly how the victimisation of Shias was “direct outside influence in Nigerian affairs by elements hostile to Nigeria’s unity and economic development”.  Those “elements” appear to be Saudi Arabia and the US.  Both countries have a mutual enemy in predominantly Shia Iran and see any growth in the influence of the IMN in Nigeria as an extension of Iran’s “soft power” in Africa.  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is alleged to have claimed that he pressured Nigeria to deal with the IMN in order to limit Iran’s influence on the African continent.

Another guest, Reza Kazem of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, reminded viewers that there was a case in the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the mass murder of Shias in Zaria.  He said that Buhari and all those involved in that crime “will be held accountable”.

Buhari and army chief Tukur Buratai could be indicted by the ICC

While Buhari worries about his day in court, Nigerians should rightfully be worrying about how he seems to have dragged the country into Saudi-sponsored sectarianism.  Like the ruling House of Saud, Buhari is a Sunni Muslim.  His victimisation of Shia Muslims runs the risk of radicalising currently unarmed demonstrators towards violence and has the potential for escalation to involve the Shia government of Iran and Shia movements such as Hezbollah in aid of their Shia brethren in Nigeria.  That would be what Nigerians would call “double wahala”.

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