Events on Saturday, which led to a clash between the Nigerian Army and some members of Muslim Shi?a sect led by Ibrahim El-Zakzaky in Zaria, have continued to linger in the news headlines. It is reported (as I read in newspapers: I was not there o) that an army convoy, with the chief of army staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai on board, encountered members of the sect where they had barricaded the road en route to the venue of a passing out parade in the same Zaria where the COAS was the special guest of honour.
One important reason is that it further spiralled into riots in Kaduna and other parts of Northern Nigeria which newspapers are reporting to have led to further casualties. Another important reason, among the many other (probably less important) reasons available, is the local and international concerns with the Nigerian Army?s handling of the confrontation. Some are simply asking if it is certain that the Nigerian Army as represented by Lt. Gen. Buratai?s convoy followed the proper rules of engagement and code of conduct in engaging these people or did they just arrogantly display military might that eventually led irredeemable loss of lives. Many others have simply just taken sides; for and against the Nigerian army.
As a Nigerian I can?t really blame anyone who is taking sides; some of them are experts in this kind of matter and they are speaking from a place of knowledge. Others are experts too in the Nigerian reality and experience; I dare to say that they know things that have informed their opinions.
One of the things that many Nigerians know is that the Nigerian Army have not in many times and occasions been good examples of how military might and power should be handled with (self-) control and discipline. Most people in Nigeria know of someone or have experienced how military men can suddenly turn on you, beat you and disgrace you for some of the most trivial of things like having a difference of opinion or claiming your ?right? in a traffic jam. Such memories are the things that inform the bias of many people against the Nigerian army in this matter.
On the other hand, some of the people who have lived in Northern Nigeria also have first-hand knowledge how religious sects and gatherings can be a source of intimidation to other people. For example, major roads can be blocked on Friday Jum?ah prayers and in such instances, inconvenienced road users are usually careful about protesting such because it can lead to an unplanned altercation that may eventually lead to casualties. Patience becomes a very important virtue here.
As an ordinary Nigerian who has read the news, heard the stories concerning this matter and most recently seen a video of the event, I simply have few questions that I have answered on my own but also crave to have other people answer so that I might understand better;
- Why were members of the sect barricading the road? Was it meant to be a protest or a provocation (because I understand they had they had grievances but also heard the soldier speaking to them apologizing to them and telling them to please grant them access)
- Why were they carrying sticks and stones? Is that a normal thing for them?
- Would it have been alright if the members of the Nigerian Army had deferred to them (in terms of Nigeria?s sovereignty, rule of law, blah, blah, blah?.)?
- Were the lives of the soldiers in that convoy at risk from the sect members?
- Did the Nigerian Army as represented by that convoy do all they could to engage them without resorting to force?
I would sincerely like to hear other people?s answers to these questions.