Islamic cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, has said his group would employ legitimate peaceful and legal means to challenge the killing of 35 of its members by the Nigerian military last Friday. Members of the sect were on a procession to mark the annual Quds day in Zaria when soldiers reportedly shot at them at the popular PZ roundabout in the city.
Mr. Zakzaky’s three biological sons, Mahmud, Ahmad and Hamid as well as 32 other members of the Islamic Movement were shot dead.
Mahmud was a student of Almustapha University, Beirut, Ahmad a Chemical Engineering student of Shenyang University, China and Hamid an Aeronautical Engineering student of Xiang University, also in China.
A fourth son of the cleric, Ali, was shot in the leg. He survived, and is in hospital.
He said although the group was still bitter over the incident, it had accepted the incident as a spiritual test of the group and its leader.
Mr. El-Zakzaky, who spoke to online news portal, PREMIUM TIMES, described Islam as a religion of peace and said being a movement of peace, his organisation would never be provoked into taking arms against the Nigerian state and its innocent citizens.
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria is far too peaceful, mature and organised to take the law into its hand to foment trouble, he said.
According to him, rather than resort to violence which could have fatal consequences on the country the group would take its case to the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, and other civl rights bodies for redress.
The organisation will also seek legal redress in court if necessary, the Islamic cleric said.
“We are very angry,” Mr. El-Zakzaky told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Thirty-five members of our organisations were murdered by the military. It was a peaceful procession but they shot at our members unprovoked.
“But in spite of the tragedy, we will remain peaceful. Islam is a religion of peace. And we are organised. We are matured, and nobody can provoke us into violence.”
When asked if his angry members won’t be provoked into descending on the country like the Boko Haram sect, the cleric said his members are aware of examples of past Islamic prophets and leaders who were spiritually tested in various ways but who did not resort to violence or ungodly conducts.
The Boko Haram sect took up arms against the Nigerian state when its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was extrajudicially murdered by the Nigeria Police.
“So many things like that have happened to great servants of Allah in the past. Imam Khomeini’s (of Iran) sons were also killed, but he never lost focus. We will never lose focus. Why should we be provoked? We don’t attack, we only talk about faith and what we stand for. We are a peaceful people and no one can accuse us of ever instigating violence.”
The crisis started when the soldiers allegedly tried to disperse the sect, which was denouncing Israeli’s attacks on Gaza.
Mr. El-Zakzaky however told PREMIUM TIMES that five days after the incident neither President Goodluck Jonathan nor agents of the Federal Government has made public statements on the matter.
“The government is yet to contact me. As you know the President is yet to make any public statement on the matter. The Minister of Defence is also yet to do that. What has happened has happened. And people have been coming to see me,” he said.
He explained that his group was on a peaceful procession that day and did not in anyway provoke the soldiers.
However, Defence spokesman, Chris Olukolade, a major general said the military would investigate the matter to establish who was wrong.
He said soldiers do not take delight in killing anybody.
Mr. Olukolade added, “the people from within that crowd shot at soldiers. We don’t want to be drawn into any controversy. We are interested in ascertaining what really happened.”
The defence spokesperson, however, rejected Mr. El-Zakzaky’s claim that the military and the government had not reached out to him.
“On the day of the incident, the officers in Zaria met him, had discussions with him and even exchanged telephone numbers with him,” Mr. Olukolade said. “And we have since said we need to investigate what really happened that day so we know how to proceed.”
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, said it was not true that the Federal Government had not contacted Mr. El-Zakzaky.
“That’s not true,” Mr. Abati said. “The incident occurred on Friday. The National Security Adviser contacted him on Saturday and condoled him. He also assured him that the incident would be thoroughly investigated.
“The Chief of Army Staff has also initiated investigation into the incident.”
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