Addressing the President-elect Muhammadu Buhari in a write-up to Legit.ng, Dr Abdussamad Umar Jibia, associate professor and head of the department of mechatronics engineering in Bayero University, Kano, urges the future president to beware of having Shi'a Islam adherents in the government. Is there any real danger the Shi'a may bring to Nigeria?
Let me start by congratulating you on your well-deserved victory. It is Allah that gives and takes everything including power. He has given it to you. We pray to Him to guide you in the onerous task of restoring the lost values of Nigeria.
You are taking over when the dust has begun to settle. Boko Haram is on the run. For six years, this group of people has been unleashing mayhem on Nigeria, especially on its northern part. Thousands of people were killed in cold blood; thousands of others were displaced. Moreover, several thousands of women, girls and boys were taken hostages.
Ordinary Nigerians find it difficult to figure out Boko Haram sponsors due to the nature of their victims who cut across all segments and strata of the Nigerian society. Several conspiracy theories have been expressed, and many of them are just laughable. Some believe it is the northern elders who created Boko Haram in order to make the country “ungovernable” for Jonathan. According to another point of view it is the Igbo who have been exploring ways to take revenge for what the northerners did to them during the Nigerian Civil War. Some say it is you, others say it is Jonathan. There are also some other theories.
Whether or not these theories are correct, it is well-known that the original members of Boko Haram, or Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad as they call themselves, were students of one Mohammed Yusuf. He lived and preached in Maiduguri until death at the hands of the Nigerian police in 2009. The final episode leading to confrontation between his disciples and security forces was the former’s refusal to obey simple driving rules like wearing of helmets while riding a motorcycle.
However, the reason for writing you this letter is not Boko Haram. It is something much worse than Boko Haram. It is a sect that has established itself in all strata of the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. They are in the civil service. They are in business. Their members have deliberately come close to several unsuspecting politicians of note. They are the Shi’a.
Muslims don’t need anyone to tell them about the Shi’a. But for those who do not know I would say the little they need to know. The Shi’a represent the oldest sect in Islam. After the death of Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was both a messenger of Allah and a political leader, the Islamic faith continued to grow under the Rightly Guided Caliphs. During this period, modern Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine came under the control of Islam.
However, the Jews who were expelled from the city of Madina by the Holy Prophet because of their treachery were watching these developments with agony. They decided to react by sponsoring some of them to pronounce Islam in order to cause confusion among the Muslims. It was these “converts” under the leadership of one Abdullah ibn Saba that succeeded in sponsoring the rebellion against the third Caliph Uthman. They first articulated his shortcomings, amplified and disseminated them around the сaliphate. Thereafter, they called for his resignation. When caliph refused to resign they killed him. The Muslim Ummah chose Ali, a cousin of the Holy Prophet, to lead them after Uthman. However, these very people who now called themselves Shi’a’ Ali (the sect of Ali) frustrated his efforts to track and punish the killers of Uthman. They have now made Shia Islam a symbol of love for Ali, other relations of the Prophet, and hatred for the other caliphs and the rest of the Prophet’s companions whom they claimed betrayers.
Shi’a Islam was embraced by Persians because they saw it as an opportunity to distort the religion that destroyed their kingdom and culture. After the Iranian revolution led by Shi’ite scholars, the Iranian government set an agenda to spread Shi’a Islam to other countries.
In Nigeria, this task was to be carried out by one Ibrahim Yakub El Zakzaky. He devised several strategies to achieve his mission. First, El Zakzaky banked on the gullibility of the Muslim youth who could easily be misled by the slogans like “Islamic revolution”, “establishment of Islamic state”, “total change”, etc. His group initially tagging themselves as Muslim brothers (meaning, of course, that other Muslims are not their brothers) organized lectures and several demonstrations during the first phase.
At that time (1980s), El Zakzaky told everyone he did not belong to the Shi’a, his group was not out to promote Shi’a Islam, and what they wanted was pure Islam and nothing else. The other methods used by El Zakzaky to introduce Shi’a Islam to his followers were similar to those the Shi’a had been using over their long history, including temporary marriage. The Shi’a legalized it is to be able to marry a woman for just two hours. Many people don’t understand why young men and women who are supposed to be in school would trek from cities like Kano, Gusau and Katsina to Zaria spending nights along the way to listen to El Zakzaky. This is a secret. However, the Shi’a do not deny they do it. What they may deny is wife-swapping which many people accuse them of.
There is much more on the Shi’a and their doctrine. What, however, would be of major concern to your government is their notoriety in dealing with the government and fellow Nigerians. Way back in the 1990s, the Shi’a constituted a major threat to Kaduna state people. At that time, any Islamic preacher who dared to criticize Ibrahim El Zakzaky or Ayatullahi Khomeini in his preaching was attacked and beaten in his house in the presence of his wife and children. Infuriated by their actions, the government of Col Hameed Ali put a crackdown on the Shi’a and most of their leaders were arrested and prosecuted. This made them to change their strategy for a while.
The main Shi’a’s activities include demonstrations organized on specific occasions like Quds and Ashura Days. During these demonstrations, they block the main roads in the northern cities and intimidate the public including the police whose permission they do not seek. Last year, such demonstration led to a clash between the army and the sect members resulting in the death of several people including three children of Mallam Ibrahim El Zakzaky. Moreover, the Shi’a organize an annual pilgrimage to Zaria. They trek in large groups from certain points to meet their leader. While trekking, they block major highways and create a lot of trouble for travelers, and security agents turn a blind eye to it.
Like Boko Haram, the Shi’a have no regard for any rule no matter how harmless it is. For example, after a series of bombings in Kano metropolis, Kano state authorities banned riding of motorcycles and carrying of passengers on them after six o’clock in the evening. The public complied and defaulters were openly arrested and punished. The only group of people that did not comply were the Shi’a. Even when the implementation of the ban was in full play they rode motorcycles in the night along major Kano roads sometimes carrying more than one passenger. However, none of them was arrested. A friend of mine once asked the Police why they were not arresting the Shi’a. The answer was: “Ai su yan kungiya ne”, meaning “they are members of a group”. The police was obviously afraid of triggering another crisis, but at the same time its inaction gave the impression that some people were above the law.
The Shi’a are well-connected. Since most of their leaders including Mallam Ibrahim El Zakzaky are graduates, it has been easy to fix themselves in all sectors of the economy. Although they publicly condemn the Nigerian political system and do not participate in partisan politics, the group may have been enjoying the support of certain politicians. For example, a former civilian governor of one of the northern states patronized a civil engineering firm controlled by the group members. The group activities were allegedly sponsored by the proceeds from many contracts he awarded to them in addition to what might come from Iran and other wealthy members. Ordinarily, there was nothing wrong in that since they were also Nigerians. Nevertheless, the fact that some of those professionals involved were dismissed from public service for alleged breaching of peace raised doubts about that governor’s action.
Mallam Ibrahim El Zakzaky lives in affluence even when most of his followers live in abject poverty. Moreover, there is always a number of guards accompanying him wherever he goes. In addition to open display of weapons, these guards subject people living in the area and the visitors to constant harassments. Even after the series of complaints to the police and Zaria emirate, nothing has been done to come to the rescue of these innocent Nigerians. Only last week there was a widely reported clash between the Shi’a guards and Gyallesu residents that claimed a number of lives. Yet, there was no response from the government.
My advice for your Excellency is the following. If your promise to tackle insecurity is real you must cut the Shi’a down. To do that effectively you have to look around and make sure no member of this group occupies an important position in your government. It would be a monumental scandal if Nigerians come to realize that a member of such a lawless group, regardless of his intellectual abilities, is very close to you and/or holds a key position in your government. One would wonder what would be the reaction of your government when there were a clash between security forces and members of this group. Millions of Nigerians that voted for you do not include the Shi’a. Firstly, Nigerian Shi’a do not vote unless they engage in taqiyya, a kind of hypocrisy allowed in their religion when a person can pretend to be what they’re not in order to achieve a goal. Secondly, no person including politicians, traditional or religious leaders should be allowed to use his followers to harass the public. If Mallam Ibrahim El Zakzaky or any other leader wants additional security for himself he should employ trained private guards who won’t harass his neighbours. Finally, there should be no double standards in dealing with disobedient groups.
I wish I had a direct access to you to give you this advice without making it public. Although I know a few people around you, I am not quite sure a message sent through them will get to you at this time. And since office-seeking Nigerians have been sending in their CVs, any document dropped in your office is very likely to be treated as another CV in disguise.
May Allah be with you.
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