Daily Trust (Abuja)

5 December 2012

Nigeria: Zakzaky - Ahmadu Bello University's Last Alumnus Standing

Mahmud Jega's Monday Column in the Daily Trust newspaper of November 26, 2012 titled, "Kongo, Golan Heights and Km 101", prompted me to write and point out what all speakers, well-wishers and goodwill messages left out at the recent 50th anniversary of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, the "largest university South of Sahara", as it is being described

It is very correct to say that ABU has been a breeding ground for all shades of ideologies and opinions. it is not an overstatement to say that the university, through the students it has bred and nurtured, has made contribution to Nigeria's development more than any other institution. Among all those who spoke or wrote catalogue of achievements and praises on this centre of excellence in the last fifty years, only Mahmud Jega hinted the one great event in the history of the university that has today culminated into a phenomenon in Nigeria's history. Mahmud Jega however, missed the point.

History of ABU can never be complete without the mention of Sheikh Ibraheem Yaqub Zakzaky. Like him, hate him, you cannot ignore this man while discussing great historic events of the university and current situation. Considering what transpired during his student days and what he represents today, i expected the university to present him with an honorary degree, if not for anything, for his long standing ideal, despite trials and tribulations, which made him the last man standing among all its alumni.

Mahmud Jega wrote: "In those days, ABU was the vanguard of internationalism as well as of ideological battles, African unity, anti-colonialism, opposition to tyranny and military rule, fighting corruption and human rights abuses as well as campus authoritarianism". The atmosphere at the campus then, as he rightly pointed out, was a clear manifestation of communist ideology in which the left wing rhetoric received a huge boost. It was under this circumstance that the young, vibrant Ibraheem Yaqub Zakzaky emerged on the campus of ABU and changed the equation.

He came to the university in the 70s, when religious manifestation and practice were not in vogue. Practical Islam in particular, moderate or extreme as some categorized it, was near impossible and unthinkable. It was a period when the world was dominated by two ideological powers represented by the East (Russia) and West (US), and the world was forced to belong to either of the side. For the love of "social justice", both lecturers and students were inclined to the left wing communist ideology. You are termed as "anti-social" if you did not tilt to the communist fold of comrades. For historical purpose and chronological understanding of the events, we can say that the Iranian revolution had inspired Muslim activists at ABU headed by Zakzaky, as Jega noted. Islamic activism started by Zakzaky had preceded the Islamic revolution in Iran; it only added to his hope and served as a model for him and members.

When the Movement started, members were dismissed as "students", and because of their collective brotherhood worthy of emulation, were later termed "Muslim Brothers". It was only in the early 90s that because of the evident inspiration from the Islamic revolution in Iran, members of the Movement are referred to as "Shi'ites".

Young Ibraheem Zakzaky coincidentally found himself at the epicentre of ideological battles, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), to read Economics. The then two dominant world ideologies were nothing short of economy and ownership. When left wing revolutionary lecturers in ABU were enticing gullible students with fiery speeches and debates, calling for the establishment of Socialist/Communist Nigeria, the students marching all over the country chanting, Struggle continues! Victory is certain!", the Right Wing fiercely on the defensive, young Ibraheem Zakzaky presented Islam as a new world view and order to the disgruntled and disenchanted university youths that were fed up with the impractical ideological jargons of the West and East. Through sermons and study sessions, he translated the Islamic world view and attitude into a practical programme. At every opportunity, he had to switch from the more common religious topics that other Islamic scholars of his time were discussing, to more serious ones that bordered on justice, rights and freedom.

His mates in the university got endeared to him and rallied around him. Zakzaky was able to replace left-wing bibles of those days such as Das Kapital by Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Fredrich Engels, State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin Quotation from Chairman Mao (The Little Red Book), On Practice by Mao Zedong, Collected Works of Enver Hoxha, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney, Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon, For the Liberation of Nigeria by Yusuf Bala Usman, etc., which were must read in every discipline in FASS, with struggles and writings of Islamic revolutionaries and theoreticians that represented manifestoes of Islamic ideology. Such books include, Jundullah by Sa'eed Hawa, Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestone) by Sayyed al-Kutub, and in later years books of contemporary Islamic scholars such Ayatollah Baqir Sadr, "Iqtisaduna" (Our Economy). This book was a deadly blow to the concept of dialectical materialism and it strives to show that Islam has answers to problems of the modern world by presenting an Islamic alternative to both capitalism and socialism. It presents Islamic economics as the natural conclusion of Islamic ideology and therefore justified, entirely independent of other systems of economics.

When the adherents of socialist ideology in ABU and other universities were propagating the establishment of socialist system in Nigeria, young Ibraheem Zakzaky and his student colleagues staged an unprecedented demonstration in Zaria tagged, "Islam Only" in 1980, calling for the establishment of Islamic system in Nigeria. The demonstrators comprised only students from different Nigerian universities. That did not go well with not only the university authorities, but the Nigerian government. More dangerous was that some lectures on the campus were tilting to the "new world order" of Islam presented by Zakzaky.

Usman wrote from Kaduna

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