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Buhari owes Shiites justice, not massacre


[FILE PHOTO] President Muhammadu Buhari

Even in its twilight, the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration remains impenetrable to the simple logic that democracy is leavened by the disparateness of opinions.

It is in epochs of heightened divergence of opinions that sometimes spawn crises and tend to unspool the state that the genius of a great leader is given stellar expression.

The man or woman who comes into leadership fully prepared for such near-fatal periods know how to parlay them into opportunities for national development.

Thus, the best leaders are not brewed in epochs when the people luxuriate in ease but when they are confronted with life-threatening crises.

Was the genius of Winston Churchill not unfurled, and thus he became a touchstone of good leadership, because he had Adolf Hitler to prevent from adding Britain to his definitive list of conquered territories? Did Franklin D. Roosevelt not etch his name in the memory of Americans because he had the Great Depression to contend with on behalf of his people?

There is a second category of leaders. These are not prepared for the challenges of the high office they have desperately sought.

Confronted with crises, they easily unravel as mere pretenders to the throne. The worse tragedy is that they tend to hide their leadership inadequacies in such moments by mutating into despotism.

They hanker after a medieval era when the words of potentates were life- or death-giving decrees.

Though centuries have lapsed since the demise of such potentates, we are currently saddled with a despot who is in the grip of hallucinations about such an era. Buhari wants to use force to recreate everybody after himself.

He would like to see as his ultimate achievement a nation filled with his replicas, those who see his policies and programmes through his own lens.

After all, having been haloed with the reputation for integrity, Buhari might want to replicate a Hitlerite obsession with Nazi eugenics whose outcomes are Buharis – the incorruptible supermen.

In some cases, it is possible that people who desire development would not really bother in being recreated in the image of their leader.

But here they want us to note this caveat: Such a leader can only have his way if he possesses the qualities that could conduce to national development. In that case, the alignment in the creed and deed of the leader would be clear to all.

On the path of Buhari’s mutation from a military despot to a civilian despot are pain, tears, blood and death. Bereft of the patience of a democrat, he makes no allowance for consensus.

He is quick to draw red lines for the citizens that they can only cross at the peril of death. In different parts of the country, there are such red lines.

In the south-south, the red line is that they should not ask for an equitable distribution of their resources that are being used to develop other parts of the country.

In the south-east, the red line is that they should not ask to be treated as equal partners in the nation.

Like the south-south and the south-east, the middle belt must not go beyond the red line of not complaining as Fulani herdsmen pillage their farms, rape, maim and kill them.

Let us avoid the muffled and nebulous debate about sectarian superiority and envy that could propel attacks on the Shiites.

But what is clear is that the Shiites, also known as the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, are under lethal attacks because they have crossed Buhari’s red line that they should not ask questions about justice and liberty.

Buhari defended his soldiers in 2015 after they killed hundreds of Shiites, including their leader’s children, for blocking the road on which Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai was travelling. Since then, through his soldiers, Buhari has been killing Shiites.

Yet, the lives of Shiites matter. Like other citizens, they have the right to live as long as they do not violate the laws of the land.

But they should not be provoked into violating these laws. Clearly, they are provoked when they are unjustly treated.

They are provoked when their leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky is being forever held in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) despite the nation’s competent law courts granting him freedom.

It is not the Shiites who are creating a state of anarchy but Buhari who has refused to obey the laws of the land.

It is because Buhari, through his disobedience of the courts, has sent a strong message that there are no laws that guarantee the citizens’ liberties, that the Shiites have to fight for their own survival.

In fact, the Shiites have been patient. If they were not patient, their protests should have come earlier.

This is because their leader and his wife have been in detention for over two year now. He is said to be going blind.

And at a time, he was said to have died. The DSS was only able to dispel this rumour by presenting El-Zakzaky to the public.

It is obvious that for Buhari, the Shiites are a species of humanity to be wasted. Or why would Buhari’s soldiers be using lives bullets on them? What were the dangerous weapons that the Shiites used to attack the soldiers that elicited such a level of lethal response from them?

If the Shiites actually used lethal weapons, the Buhari government should be preoccupied with the more serious responsibility of finding out the source of the weapons rather than just gleefully clamping hundreds of them into detention.

With the killing of the Shiites while their leader is being detained, the Buhari government has meted out more injustice to them.

This sense of ill treatment can only make the Shiites to be more socially deviant.

In the long run, they would feel justified in taking up arms against the state. This was how Boko Haram began.

If their leader Mohammed Yusuf violated the laws of the land, he was not given fair hearing in a law court.

Instead, he was summarily executed. The consequences of this impunity are still with us today. Since then, communities, their residents and their property have been destroyed.

Children, women and men are still being held captive while billions that could have been channeled into development are now being used to pay ransom and rebuild what the insurgents have destroyed.

The citizens have suffered enough. They do not want another insurgency to come from Shiites. Buhari owes the Shiites fair hearing and justice.

He should not create insurgents out of the Shiites who would be abducting children and raping daughters and mothers while the wives, daughters of Buhari, generals and others are cocooned overseas.

Buhari must know that a society that cannot allow a person a competent law court has granted freedom from DSS custody to go home should not expect peace from its citizens.

If Buhari does not want Shiites to protest and trigger what his government would hysterically like to denigrate as a breakdown of law and order, the first step is to release their leader while ensuring that justice is unimpeachably served in the law courts.

If the nation is bogged down by a pussyfooted legal system, El-Zakzaky, his wife and followers should not be made to suffer for this anomaly. What is needed in this regard is for the court to hasten his trial.

And since the Shiites crisis is one of the multi-faceted challenges facing the country, Buhari should consider it as an opportunity to etch his name in the memory of Nigerians.

This he can do by providing an enduring template for resolving the nation’s problems. All these call for his acumen in governance and not guns and tanks to mow down genuinely aggrieved citizens.

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