Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky is alive and well, according to the Nigerian Army. Spokesperson for the Nigeria Army, Colonel Sani Usman, who said this in an interview aired on Channels TV last week.
Narrating how the the bloody confrontation between members of the Islamic sect and the Army started, Usman said there was no procession by the group that day but a deliberate attack on the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
“One thing I want you to understand is that there wasn’t any procession that day,” he said.
“Sometime around 2:30pm, along Sokoto Road, by the Railway Clinic, a group of youths started coming from the PZ end, close to the spiritual headquarters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
“What they did was to start encircling the convoy of the Chief of the Army Staff. We came down, we pleaded with them and we wanted them to see reason but, before you could say Jack Robinson, some of them had started throwing stones and you could hear loud bangs.
“People who were responsible for the safety and security of the Chief of the Army Staff had to clear the way for the Chief of the Army Staff.
“They had made bonfires and there was stone-throwing all over the place and no amount of pleading could get them to see reason.
“They made it clear that they had done it to several other people and that the Chief of the Army Staff was nobody and he could not pass through that road.
“Remember again, there were series of arguments. They alleged that some days ago, some security operatives went to a particular village and murdered their people. Meanwhile, there was nothing like that. What actually happened was that there was an altercation between the Islamic movement and some other Islamic sect over the location or ownership of a mosque. Then they changed the argument that they were having a funeral procession.
“For goodness sake, there was’t any funeral procession and, of course, when the leader was giving an interview on the BBC Hausa Service, he said they were hoisting a flag.
“Please, which flag are you going to hoist at 2.30 in the afternoon?
“And, in any case, in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no flag that is more important than the National Flag.
“I want to honestly tell you that all these things were premeditated, they were planned and, before you knew it, they started encircling.
“And the advance party of the Chief of the Army Staff, some 15 minutes earlier, passed through the same place without any incident.
“The arrival of the Chief of the Army Staff was well publicised and these people were aware that the convoy was that of the Chief of the Army Staff and they decided to ambush it,” Usman said, adding that the men were armed.
“The least were machete and catapult. They also had petrol bombs and were always hiding behind trees.”
While there has been history of altercations between the Army and the Islamic group, Usman noted that “the Nigeria Army does not have any problem with anybody or any group of persons. We are against criminals and criminality and whoever is not ready to operate within the ambit of the Nigerian law, something must be done about that.”
Asked how the military got to El-Zakzaky’s home and started exchanging gun fire and why/how the headquarters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria was levelled, Usman said the issues were subject to inquiry and he would not want to discuss them.
However, Usman said he understands people’s worries given the history of Boko Haram, “but I can assure that the Nigeria Army and every reasonable Nigerian has learned lessons from that ugly incident and we don’t want that kind of thing to repeat itself and that is why it needed to be nipped in the bud. And unlike the previous instance when the law was circumscribed, the law is being followed diligently and I will implore Nigerians to be patient.”