THE 1979 IRANIAN REVOLUTION and IMN’s FEASIBILITY TEST ON NIGERIA: A historical comparison and the journey so far!
Never will Iran (the great Persian empire) be omitted from the list of the greatest monarchies the world have ever seen; an empire with more than 2500 years history of prestige and power and Never will as well the year 1979 be forgotten in Iran’s history as it was the year the world witnessed a revolution it has never seen before!
It all started in October 1977, Iran was enmeshed in acts of mass demonstrations and civil resistance staged by followers of the Shiite leader Ayatollah Khomeini(who was in exile in France) in anticipation for emancipation from the then perceived Pro-Western monarchy lead by the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Strikes, massive demonstrations and systematic civil resistance saw to the complete paralysis of the country by December 1978 which necessitated the exile of the Shah on 16 January 1979 to the United States. This would be the last time Iran will see or be lead by a Persian monarch!
However, there have been preparatory conflicts over the years within Iran before the major revolution of 1979,like;
The 1891 tobacco protest facilitated by the Shia Ulama – when the Shiites protested against the full monopoly over production, sales and export of tobacco was conceeded to Major G. F Talbot at a time when the indigenous tobacco sector has almost 200,000 Persian employees, the concession was later averted due to the substantial resistance from the Shiites. And this was the first time the Shiite ulama displayed how powerful they were! Others were The Persian constitutional revolution, The 1935 Goharshad Mosque rebellion(against imposition of western laws one of which was the ban on Islamic clothing) etc.
Most important was the opposition against the Shah’s White Revolution which was lead by Ayatollah Khomeini. This was his foray into the political landscape of Iran, the aftermath of his arrest in 1963 was not a pleasant one as almost 15,000 of his followers were shot dead by the police. He was released after eight months of house arrest and was rearrested and sent into exile in 1964 due to his incessant agitation against Iran’s relationship with west especially with the US and Israel and the conferment of diplomatic immunity over US and Israeli personnel in Iran(Capitulations).
The conflagrations continued between Shah’s forces and forces loyal to Khomeini. Shah’s soldiers however were demoralised by his indecisiveness. They were ordered to face the resistance without any prior training on unrest management. They were as well ordered not to use the means at their disposal(fire power), Martial law was invoked but with many compromises. On the other hand, the protesters offered the soldiers a soft landing whenever they decided to join the opposition. They offerered them flowers, civilian clothes and money as incentive.
Ayatollah Khomeini came back from exile on 1st February 1979 to a grand welcome and by 11th February, the monarchy was toppled! An Authoritarian Pro-western Monarchy was replaced by an Authoritarian Anti-western Theocracy under the guardianship of the jurist(velayat-e faqih) with the Ayatollah as the Supreme ruler!
Across the sea to the west of Africa, a young, vibrant student of the most largest university in sub-saharan Africa, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria was getting inspiration from the Iranian revolution; his name Ibrahim Yaqoub Elzakzaky!
Ibrahim Zakzaky was inspired by the Iranian revolution and wanted thesame thing for his country Nigeria. He wanted his country to one day become an Islamic Republic just like Iran. He was a student activist who in the year 1979 was the secretary-general of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria(MSSN)
Later, he went to Iran, became a Shia cleric and came back to Nigeria to establish the Islamic Movement of Nigeria; an umbrella movement for all Shiites within Nigeria and beyond! The movement was not popular until the 1990’s when he started garnering supporters from all over Nigeria. His activities saw to the conversion of many muslims to the Shiite branch in a country without any prior history of Shi’ism.
He sure was nurtutring an ambition of a revolutionary; just like his mentor in Iran Ayatollah Khomeini, he wanted testing the feasibility of an Islamic revolution in Nigeria!
The movement kept proliferating mainly into villages of Northern Nigeria where illiteracy were at its peak. Some people are of the opinion that he used his gift of rhetorics and the menace of illiteracy to brainwash youths to join his cause; one whose motive is to revolt against the Pro-western nature of the Nigerian government.
The Islamic movement was seen as a non violent movement as there activities were peaceful, most of them symposiums,lectures etc. Not until 1996 when he was arrested and charged much later for sedition and treason.
His arrest sparked a demonstration on 13th September which was peaceful but turned violent, many were killed and injured. A commemoration protest was staged for the following week, 18th September which was also violent. Another violent protest was in February 1997, it was supposed to be a Quds day protest but turned violent due to the fact that their leader was still in detention.
He was released in August 1998 by the Abdulsalami regime. And this was the first victory attributed to the Shiites series of protest and agitation. He continued on his quest to boosting the existence of Shia in Nigeria. Today they remain an integral part of Nigeria’s population and are united under One umbrella; The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
He however based in Gyallesu Zaria. He founded the official headquarters of the movement; the Hussainiyyah Baqiyatullah in Zaria as well which was put up without statutory title to the land. The IMN rapidly became powerful and seemed untouchable, had a great surge in the number of followers. One could testify that when witnessing the mammoth crowd that come out on specific days of every year to commemorate some historic days in Shiite history. Some of these days were the Tasu’a, Ashura, Quds day etc. They would march through the streets of Zaria, Kaduna state en masse disrupting the normal day to day activities of the people. No one could put a stop to it.
Gyallesu where he lives was a “No Go zone” for security personnels. Every entrance of the street was gated and heavily guarded by shia security agents. And as they became more powerful, more and more aggression and violence followed.
On 7th January 2009 ,they attacked the convoy of HRH Shehu Ideas The Emir of Zazzau Emirates one of the most powerful Emirates in Nigeria. This sparked violence which to the death and injury of many people. At one time, they had the audacity of intercepting the motorcade of the then Governor of Kaduna State Ramalan Yero from entering Gyallesu to visit a sick friend which made him disembarked from his car and forged on with the journey by trekking.
This was how powerful they were, one would correctly say that the “one society, one rule” principle does not apply to them; they were outlaws!
Then came one of the most agonizing days in the history of the IMN. 25th July 2014, the routine annual Quds day procession went violent leading to the Killing of almost 16 people, 3 of which were Elzakzaky’s biological sons. This is one time even critics of the Shiite sect sympathised with them. The IMN condemned the incidence but remained peaceful.
Not until December 2015 when their biggest misfortune befell on them. They intercepted the motorcade of the Chief Of Army staff in person of Brigadier General Tukur Buratai after attending a function in the Zaria Army Barracks. This was seen by many as a direct threat to the security of the nation as a whole Chief of Army Staff was intercepted, but the army chose a more peaceful way of resolving the issue by engaging in an “on-site dialogue” with the Shiite group leader. The shiite group still resisted, became more violent with local arms at their disposal. An attempt to contact the leader of the IMN leader proved abortive as it seemed he was giving his followers what they wanted just like Ayatollah Khomeini did during the time of the American Hostage crisis in Iran. Eventually, violence disrupted, the army felt the life of their chief was threatened and then launched an assault which was the final alternative left. Many were killed and others injured severely.
Sequel to this, a more severe and generalised violence erupted between the army and the shiites leading to the killing of more than 300 people as reported by the army( but a disputed value of morethan 1000 people was gotten from the IMN spokesman), an ambush on the residence of Elzakzaky in Gyallesu lead to his capture and the killing of 3 of his children. His wife was also captured and house demolished to the ground. The headquarters; Hussainiyah Baqiyatullah which “was put up without statutory title to the land, and in outright defiance of a stop-work notice issued by the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority” as stated by Elrufai was also brought to the ground.
Since then, Elzakzaky has been in detention, even though he has been severally tried in the courts and has even secured a verdict to be released from detention, the government still insists that the detention is for his own good and that of the common people as well. As nobody will be willing to accept him as a neighbor
Just like in the 90’s, the Shiites have been protesting, demanding for the release of their leader. At first it took a peaceful nature as they usually protest within the Federal capital territory.
Everything seemed normal until when the IMN did a press conference notifying the government that instead of observing their annual Arbaeen procession in Zaria, they will rather be coming to Abuja, the federal capital. The security operatives warned them against doing so but as always, they defied the warning.
On Saturday, 28 October, the Shiites proceeded to Abuja for the Arbaeen procession in defiance with warning from the army. And coincidentally, an army escort was transporting ammunitions and missiles from Abuja to Kaduna through the same road. Violence erupted when the army allegedly felt threatened over the effort of some of the Shiites to cart away with the ammunitions and they opened for fire. 3 people have been confirmed dead and many injured including the army personnels. A day after, the conflagration escalated leading to the destruction and burning of police properties including patrol cars by the Shiites.
Now on comparing this historical backgrounds, one would unarguably believe the fact that the IMN is testing the feasibility of an Iranian-like revolution on Nigeria.
It all started like this, preparatory conflicts were the major backbone of the Iran 1979 revolution. We’ve seen replica of them in Nigeria from the 90’s till today. The IMN have been testing their resistive powers by defying state laws, by upholding own rules, by unlawfully utilising government lands as on the land on which Hussainyah Baqiyatullah was built, by attacking and intercepting people of high eminence like the Emir of Zazzau, The former governor of Kaduna state Ramalan Teri and even The Chief of Army Staff Buratai..
They remained outlaws for a long period of time, threatening the soveriegnity of Nigeria as a nation, breeding an independent Shiite army which could turn to something like Hezbollah of the Middle East. I saw a video clip of their parade and became extremely shocked at the magnitude.
Ayatollah Khomeini was in exile when the major revolution started, compare it with Nigeria today, Elzakzaky is in detention but they seem to be more violent than ever before.
Of the major impediments to victory on the part of Shah’s forces in Iran was the indecisive nature of the Shah which saw to the demoralisation of the troops. Today, the Nigerian government is following the same path by being indecisive about the status of IMN. It has failed to recognize it as a legitimate and legalised movement or a terrorist organization. Our troops are becoming more and more demoralised by the negative reactions they get from the media.
The crimes labelled to this movement from inception has been that of sedition, treason, threat to Sovereignity, public disturbance, murder, land encroachment etc. Today they’ve started attacking state owned properties, today even the police and the army who are unarguably the guardians of a nation’s Sovereignity are not exonerated from their radical actions.
Today, they’ve taken their radical and extremist acts to the seat of power, the federal capital territory. Convincingly, a scent of a plotted revolution can be perceived by all focused minds.
We’ve over the years seen the Civil war, the Niger-Delta militia crisis, the Boko Haram most recently. But since the civil war, the Nigerian government has never faced something as gigantic as this, a great population of shiite extremist all united under one umbrella, with same ideology and purpose; to crack down on democracies, to topple Pro-western regimes and to impose an anti-western theocratic governments under the guardianship of Shia jurists.
Therefore, Nigeria as a sovereign state should wake up and defend its Sovereignity. It is time for Nigeria to be decisive on the status of this violent movement or risk being a positive experimental inference to IMN’s test for the feasibility of a Shia revolution.
Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim is a political analyst, public affairs analyst and commentator, an activist and an advocate for youth participation in politics and governance. He writes from Zaria, Kaduna State. He can be reached through Haleemabdul1999@gmail.com, @Comrade_haleem on twitter, and 08036189935 on whatsapp.