- ‘Why gov’t returned IMN leader, wife to Nigeria’
The window of opportunity of reaching a resolution in the matter between the Federal Government, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), and its leader Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky via the medical leave granted to him may have been scuttled following his return to Abuja yesterday without undergoing the medical procedure that took him to India on Monday. A Daily Trust Saturday source familiar with the process that saw the embattled religious leader allowed to travel to India for medical treatment after an intervention by influential traditional rulers, said yesterday evening that: “It would appear we are back to square one on the issue.”
The noted traditional title-holder, who alongside several others brokered the deal, blamed the Shiite leader for the botched process.
The source also said they intervened in the first instance to stem the tide of clashes and bloodletting that characterize the ‘Free El-Zakzaky’ protests in Abuja, in which many protesters and a Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in the FCT lost their lives. The mediating team got the buy-in of the federal authorities and the Shiites before they got the two sides to meet, and eventually agree to the deal which saw government lawyers not opposing the media, to enable the supposedly very sick Shiite leader to be treated at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon, New Delhi, India.
El-Zakzaky’s lawyers specifically requested for him to go to that hospital, but began to engage in some antics upon arriving India. The IMN leader disregarded all the courtesies extended to him, all of which were brokered by a third-party negotiator who mediated between him and the Federal Government.
“The FG bent over backwards for El-Zakzaky, but instead he scuttled the negotiations that saw him being allowed to travel out for treatment. In any setting, if two parties are disagreeing, and a third one is mediating, whenever one of the disagreeing parties feels aggrieved, he should express it to the mediator, before taking a negative course of action. But El-Zakzaky didn’t, instead he went ahead and kept throwing tantrums, and now we are basically back to square one,” the source, close to the erstwhile negotiation process, said.
“The FG has demonstrated a willingness for resolution, while El-Zakzaky has rubbished all efforts. This has made him lose a substantial chunk of any public sympathy he might’ve had, making all kinds of demands, even dragging the name of India into the mud by baseless accusations,” the source said.
Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat, left Nigeria five days ago, on Monday, 12 August, but by yesterday, August 16th, he was on his way back. In less than 24 hours, he had started to complain about the conditions in India. By Wednesday, an audio went viral, wherein the IMN leader said the situation over there was than in Nigeria, drawing parallels with Lagos State’s Kirikiri Prison.
El-Zakzaky yesterday returned to Nigeria, arriving the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, onboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight, at about 11:41am. He was immediately whisked away by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS), away from the arrival hall, where journalists stood in wait.
Airport sources told Daily Trust Saturday that an SUV with tinted windows drove onto the tarmac, parked by the plane, and picked him up. The vehicle’s engine ran for about 25 minutes, before it negotiated an exit, the source said. The source added that he was moved through the unconventional gate, because IMN members had stationed themselves around the arrival area to see and welcome their leader. “But the DSS beat them to it,” the source said.
Also yesterday, Grace Gekpe, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, in a statement, said the acts of misconduct exhibited by El-Zakzaky, is what necessitated his repatriation. She said he displayed total disrespect and complete loss of decorum for international procedures while in India, and she also revealed that he initiated contact with a team of lawyers led by Ali Zia Kabir Chaudary and Gunjan Singh in that country.
The statement also said that El-Zakzaky also contacted some NGOs, such as the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and other Shiite groups with the aim of seeking asylum, and eventually relocate to another country. It also noted that El-Zakzaky’s actions in India demonstrated malicious intents that were capable of embarrassing the governments of Nigeria, and India.
In an earlier statement, Gekpe had said the IMN leader had demanded to have his passport, and sought free movement, adding that he wanted to receive visitors, and also made a request to be checked into a 5-star hotel.
After El-Zakzaky’s return to Nigeria, IMN spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, claimed in a statement made available to Daily Trust Saturday, that it is glaringly clear that the Nigerian government had an ulterior motive, using its connections in India. He said that could be deduced from the way security agents whisked him away to an unknown destination after arrival at Abuja.
Musa, had also raised suspicion over what he described as interference of the government on the medical leave granted to El-Zakzaky, and alleged that the FG had an ulterior motive. In a statement issued yesterday, he denied reports claiming their leader refused treatment in India. “He insisted he be treated by his doctors,” Musa’s statement said.
Musa decried that even though El-Zakzaky and his wife needed rest, on arrival they were wheeled to a hospital without their personal physician. He also said he was suspicious about the interference of the FG. “[Government] was planning to kill the Sheikh in India using its international connections,” he said.
The IMN says El-Zakzaky, 66, has suffered two minor strokes in detention, and is losing his sight. He has been charged with culpable homicide and other offences, all of which he denies. He, along with his wife, are expected to stand trial after treatment is completed.
It is unclear when the court hearing the charges against El-Zakzaky will resume hearing after the unexpected turn of events.