Nigeria: Mismanagement of Zakzaky's Detention II

23 August 2019

Though my piece titled "Mismanagement of Zakzaky's detention" a fortnight ago was originally a single-part piece, some subsequently conceived afterthoughts warrant writing more on the issue and under the same title. I have therefore added (1) to the title of the previous piece making this part two accordingly.

I must also admit that the drama of Zakzaky's aborted medical trip to India disproved my early assumption that by granting him the leave to leave the country in the first place, the federal government was actually succumbing to pressure to release him; and that it was actually allowing him to escape in a carefully stage-managed face-saving arrangement.

Nevertheless, even though the federal government has managed to avert a potentially embarrassing situation by bringing him back home early enough, his detention remains grossly mismanaged anyway; and unless both the federal and Kaduna state governments handle the issue with necessary decisiveness, the resultant dilemma will keep getting even more complicated exposing the country to further Iranian-sponsored subversive plots and campaign of calumny, which the Nigerian government obviously lacks the necessary intelligence capabilities and counterpropaganda resources to tackle.

This is particularly imperative now that Zakzaky has contradicted his own claim of being critically ill with poisonous bullet residues in his eye and body, by his dramatic transformation from a wheelchair-bound, visibly seriously ill and decrepit person with medical mask and a cervical collar around the neck and a seemingly permanently damaged eye, in Nigeria, into a very healthy and well-fed 66-year-old man, in less than twenty-fours after his arrival in India without having to undergo any medical treatment.

Besides, by his own admission in his conversation with the visiting Indian Minister of Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Zakzaky highlighted the quality of his detention conditions and the privileges he enjoys in Nigeria. By the way, it's still not clear whether minister Naqbi's visit to Zakzaky was in his official capacity as a minister or as a leading Shiite figure in India

In any case, figuring this out is important at this juncture especially considering the fact that, though Zakzaky wasn't/isn't even bail, yet soon after his arrival in India he began to act with an unmistakable sense of entitlement, releasing propaganda videos and demanding to be relocated to a 5-star hotel while moves were already underway to somehow secure a transitory legal status for him in India that would have made it practically impossible for Nigeria to bring him back, and would have also enabled him to escape to Iran.

Anyway, now that the aborted medical trip has vindicated both the federal and Kaduna state governments with regards to Zakzaky's state of health and his detention conditions, both governments should review their handling of his case.

Though his group (IMN) has finally been duly designated terrorist group in Nigeria, this should be followed up with the appropriate commitment to concluding his trial as soon as possible even if entails holding dedicated court sessions for his trial to ensure reasonable promptness without prejudice to any of his rights as an accused person, as provided by relevant legal, judicial and procedural provisions.

However, even from his own description in his conversation with the visiting Indian minister, it's obvious that Zakzaky is not only being treated well in detention but actually pampered with privileges quite unnecessary for an accused person facing serious criminal charges, compared to the average standard of living in Nigeria, where I believe many people, given the option, would willingly agree to give up their freedom to enjoy similar conditions in detention.

The Kaduna state government should, therefore, and in the spirit of fairness to other accused persons in Nigeria, move Zakzaky to a prison facility where he should be treated accordingly without prejudice to his rights as an undertrial pending the conclusion of his trial that determines his fate.

Also, the relevant authorities at both the federal and Kaduna state governments should be prompt in debunking the avalanche of both sponsored and unsolicited propaganda released by his Iranian sponsors, followers and his foreign and local apologists.

Yet, I must point out that these measures can only address the challenges surrounding Zakzaky's detention and trial at the moment. After all, as I have always observed in this column and elsewhere, there has always been a dismissive underestimation of Zakzaky phenomenon on the part of successive Nigerian governments due to apparent unfamiliarity with the agenda behind the phenomenon on the part of Nigerian intelligence agencies, strategic research centres, media and decision-making institutions.

This explains the ineptitude that has always characterized the handling of his subversive activities by successive federal and state governments; and unless those and other relevant government and private institutions develop an interest in that agenda, which I have always exposed in this column and elsewhere, governments' handling of Shiite activities in Nigeria would remain grossly simplistic hence ineffective.

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