Kano was the venue of the latest run-in between the members of the Shiite group Islamic Movement of Nigeria and police officers. This time, another eight IMN members died. It also indicates no lessons have been learned.
The Nigerian state is still battling against Boko Haram in the North East, and Niger Delta militants in the South-South. Neither situation is under control. Both battles are the result of trampling on the rights of those who are defenceless. Mohammed Yusuf and several hundred of his followers were killed extra judicially in 2009, and Abubakar Shekau arose from the blood-soaked earth to wage a war against the Nigerian state that has passed its fifth year. It has claimed tens of thousands of lives, disrupted the lives of millions more, and will have significant economic and social impact that will reverberate for years.
In the South-South, the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight MOSOP comrades in 1995, plus the Odi massacre in 2001 brought forth a militant strain of Niger Delta youth that ended the free extraction of crude oil from the area. Pipelines got blown up, crude exports were disrupted and an expensive amnesty followed soon after, which looks set to continue in form or another.
The brutalisation of the Shiites shows that the Nigerian state seems intent on finding out how far they can be pushed before they take up arms. Since the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff was prevented from leaving Zaria by some of its members last December, the situation has spiralled out of control. Hundreds were killed and the IMN leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky has been held in custody for nearly a year without charge, and without access to legal representation. His wife has also been locked up, and the group has been attacked in a few Northern states in the months since.
It is impossible to escape the feeling that this is coordinated persecution against the Shiites in a country dominated by Sunni muslims, which may have international dimensions. Nigeria is part of a coalition by led Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, and has in all likelihood chosen the side of the Saudis in that country’s proxy war with Shi’a dominated Iran.
Even if that were not the case, there is enough evidence that the Nigerian state only speaks and understands the language of violence. All concepts of justice are alien to it. Years of abuses by security forces have gone unpunished, along with years of corruption by politicians. The little guy is dispossessed by anyone with even a little power. There is a North-East Development Commission on its way to that region in response to the Boko Haram insurgency, in addition to the Niger Delta Ministry and the NDDC. Both stand as pathetic attempts to right the wrongs of decades, a continuation of the doctrine that merely throwing money at a problem makes it go away.
It does not. The Shiites continue to be killed without much thought given to their lives, and while they may continue to accept all the crimes committed against them with resignation, it is also possible that they may not. While Nigerian society continue to turn a blind eye to their treatment by the powers that be, any armed retaliation should come as no surprise.