Nigeria: Time to End The Iranian Bid At Imperialism

By Sunday Attah 

Until the recent faceoff between the Nigerian Army and Islamic Movement in Nigeria, better known as Shi’ite, not many Nigerians were aware of the activities of the sect. However, immediately after the incident, many were vocal in condemning what they had described as the high handedness of Nigerian Army in handling the situation.

However, the recent incident beyond anything exposed how the sect operates. For instance, not many Nigerians knew that members of Shi’ite led by Mr. Ibrahim Yakubu El-Zakyzaky constitute itself into a parallel authority, with no regards for the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. residents of Zaria, Kaduna state and environs have been living under the reign of terror of the Shi’ite.

Several steps are being taken by Nigerian authorities not just to get to the root cause of the unfortunate incident that led to the loss of life and property but to also prevent a reoccurrence. The life of any human is sacred and for us in this nation, the life of a Nigerian is even more precious and the consciousness to treat it as such is improving. The deaths from the incident are thus condemnable since a different outcome would have been possible.

Similar to the sanctity of life is the right to freedom, hence concerns about those still in custody over the Zaria Shiite incident. It continues to elicit reactions in Nigeria. This is an indication that Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliations, continue to defend the right of their fellow citizens and have never hesitated to hold the authorities to account. This is a gain from our growing democratic credentials and something that the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria MUST protect at any cost in line with the provisions of the constitution it is swore to uphold. It must similarly constantly defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity, which the Armed Forces are on ground to do.

It is on this note that we must all as Nigerians condemn the meddlesomeness of the Islamic Republic of Iran in its totality. One had hoped that the Iranian government would have recalled its envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Saeed Koozechi, on account of his incendiary utterance in the past weeks. The latest of such umbrage from the ambassador was him warning Nigeria not to pour fuel over fire with the continued detention of El-Zakyzaky. The fact that he has not been recalled is enough proof that he speaks for his government as an envoy.

This Iranian interference is apparently part of a desperate attempt to create a Shiite axis of power as compensation for the sliding influence of the sect in the Middle East where the Sunni brand of Islam is gaining the upper hand. Unfortunately for Iran, it blatantly ignores the reality that Islam in Nigeria is not known to be as heavily polarised along sectarian lines as it would want it to be.

The guarantee of secularism in the Nigerian Constitution ensures that adherents of any faith or sect are citizens of Nigeria, who must submit to constituted authorities, including our Armed Forces. No group or sect has the right to hijack public infrastructure and consequently inflict hardship on other citizens. Similarly, bearing of unlicensed arms is a crime in any functional country. So Nigeria, particularly with the benefit of our experience in the north-east, cannot be an exception.

Nigeria, being a member of the United Nations (UN), is bound by all the relevant conventions on human right and does not require a lecture from Iran on how to manage its internal affairs, particularly when the issue under consideration borders on security and survival of the nation. By the way, Iran should first put its house in order before trying to lecture another country on what constitutes human rights. Here is a country where executions are as rampant as tooth extraction at a dentist’s; people are flogged or amputated for minor offences; minorities are hounded; freedom of expression is lacking; and women rank a little above property. It should be crystal clear by now that the era of imperialism is past and Iran does not have the kind of right it is arrogating to itself over Nigeria.

Nigeria should have by now reported Iran to the UN. The arms reportedly found in the Shiite enclave during the military operation came from somewhere; our intelligence agencies certainly must have details of this. As a nation, we should be worried that sometimes ago a cache of firearms and other weapons were uncovered in Kano and it has all the fingerprints of a couple of countries on it. The right thing therefore is for Iran to have tried hiding its involvement in the militarisation of the Shi’ite sect in Nigeria and not try to intimidate a sovereign nation for defending itself against its proxies.

The nation is already grappling with the horrors of Boko Haram, which has ties with an extreme brand of Islam. We face the insidious activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, whose activities were also coordinated offshore until its leader was recently arrested on a visit to Nigeria. The Iran sponsored Shi’ite extremism was another front that was opened against the country. The army responded to the existential threats posed by Boko Haram, IPOB and the militant faction of the Shi’ite sect, with casualties and arrests being part of the fall out. Iran must therefore not expect a different treatment from those who bear arms against the state simply on account that they belong to the same sect that is dominant in the Islamic Republic.

We should be concerned that the whole of this support on so called humanitarian grounds is a ploy to plunge Nigeria into further crisis, disrupt sales of Nigerian crude oil in the international market, and create space for Iranian oil since it is just emerging from crippling sanctions that had prevented it from selling oil.

The Islamic Republic of Iran must respect international laws and allow Nigeria to function as a sovereign nation. It should find ways of getting buyers for its oil without fomenting trouble in Nigeria. It should build its Shiite axis of influence elsewhere as Nigeria is a secular, pluralistic country that does not recognise any state religion. If it genuinely feels that Shi’ites are endangered here, it should offer them citizenship and relocate them to Natanz or Qom.

The Federal Government of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces must without delay expel the Iranian Ambassador, Saeed Koozechi from Nigeria. The President must take the further step of severing all diplomatic ties with the government of Iran until they commit to staying out of the internal affairs of Nigeria. That Iran can continue to undermine Nigeria after Mr President’s recent visit to that country makes the message obvious and clear that cordial relations with Iran will not add value to us.

One must also appeal to the media to consider national interest in the course of reporting. It will be counterproductive to help a belligerent country further its propaganda that is aimed at destabilising our country as it is obvious that the Iranian Ambassador is counting on Nigeria’s liberal media environment to help spread fear and encourage insurgency. In his home country, no media organisation would have dared publish a story that is critical of the government, how much more of stories that are meant to undermine Iran.

Attah is Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency based in Abuja.

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