By Femi Giwa
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) has succeeded where others failed. It has successfully branded itself as the victim, effectively casting the Nigerian state as the aggressor comparable to an occupation force.
Those familiar with IMN ascendancy are possibly asking how a problematic group that unleashed hell on commuters and other road users in Zaria has today become an outlawed group that people are blindly canvassing for to protest, kill and destroy property without being held to account.
The answer can be found in several seemingly unrelated development that are yet connected – the one connection being that they all helped IMN evolve the persona of the victim, which now allows it to commit more crimes without its members fearing repercussions.
First is the ability of IMN members to continue hiding their penchant for lawlessness behind the façade of peaceful protests, which are anything but peaceful anyway. It is not unusual to see the group swell its rank with women and children while the hardened elements with catapults, swords and other cudgels stay embedded within the protests, these are the fighters that are able to launch projectiles at security agents without being identified as the source.
The arson brigade of the group is similarly concealed, they spray paint graffiti on public buildings and private businesses while their other members are milling around to create a human screen that shield the destructive acts from public glare.
The other factor is ubiquity of social media. Reports of successive encounters with law enforcement are recorded and reported according to IMN’s version of events. They have slick photography and video productions that are published and promoted to tell the IMN story – footages of militants hurling stones and petrol bombs at security personnel are carefully excluded such that the audience goes away with the impression that IMN could not have struck the first blow.
The social media feeds are further promoted by embittered commercial activists, who have other axes to grind with managers of the state so it is logical to have the “an enemy’s enemy is a friend” approach to things. Such emergency activists are thus hooked on defending IMN even when their crimes are glaring.
Thirdly, many may not know or believe it but IMN has a deep pocket, which some analysts had attributed to Iranian sponsorship. Anyone that has ever catered to the material and monetary needs of, say, four people at a time will understand what it takes to finance such; but here is IMN bankrolling the logistics of keeping thousands of mostly unemployed people on the streets for protests.
The deep pocket supports not just the transportation and feeding the protesters on the streets but also pays for the propaganda and media manipulation that created for IMN the image of a “harmless group” when in reality it is a dangerous group, outlawed in Kaduna state and teetering on the verge of becoming Boko Haram’s replacement. The Iranian support extends to sustained coverage on the owned Press TV, which creates short video clips that allege persecution against IMN.
Furthermore, IMN is a beneficiary of the tendency of decision and policy makers to be stuck on political correctness. What this implies is that those that should keep IMN in check in Nigeria continually commit and enslave themselves to concepts that are unrelated to the Nigerian situation. It is not unusual to hear people demanding that IMN should be treated like groups that are non-violent because some people want Nigeria to be seen as being compliant with human rights conventions.
This error is being reinforced by groups like Amnesty International that practically suggests that security agencies should leave IMN alone to torment other citizens. None of those pushing these kind of ideas have ever come out to condemn IMN for its excesses and crimes. The dictum seems to be “the state is always wrong where IMN is concerned.”
In addition, IMN has been emboldened by the Federal Government’s decision to not designate IMN as a terrorist group even when it has become glaring that this is an unavoidable step to contain the group’s growing resort to terror to make its points.
The outcome of the foregoing is that IMN has been able to embrace more lawlessness with each successive protest. If its members kill a policeman the next thing they will claim is that “we were demanding for the release of our leader”.
They echo the same refrain when they set a police patrol car on fire. It has been the standard response they have for their numerous atrocities. One is then compelled to ask if Mr Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, the IMN leader is different from other awaiting trial murder suspects in custody awaiting judicial decisions or trial.
The fact remains that El-Zakzaky is being held for cases of multiple murder, which is no longer news. Rev King is on death row for murder so maybe his followers should take to the streets to demand that he be released while attacking security operatives and crying persecution. Those supporting IMN would definitely support them since their goals are at variance with the Nigeria vision.
Common sense demands that the madness stops now. IMN must be made aware that it cannot continue to act lawlessly even when it does not recognise the rights of the Nigerian state over its own existence. Those indulging El Zakzaky and his men must stop now because the farce has gone on for too long. The cat and mouse chase around IMN’s lawlessness is no longer about El Zakzaky and the state but has spilled over to concern all Nigeria. It is a matter of time before citizens begin to resort to self-help for dealing the IMN menace and that will be really ugly.
Giwa wrote from Lagos street, Abuja.