Waziri Isa Gwantu, a Veteran Journalist, who worked with defunct Daily Times, Ibadan-based Third Eye and New Nigerian newspapers, and lately, Daily Trust, is a lecturer with the department of Mass Communication, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. A father of 17, Gwantu lost 4 of his eldest children – Muhammad, Fatima, Hasan and Husain who were all undergraduate students of the university where he lectures. The children were killed in the house of Nigeria’s and Africa’s Shiites spiritual leader, popularly known as Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky , when men of the Nigerian Army invaded his house on the evening of 12th December, 2015, over alleged blockade of road of the Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai. In this interview with our Kaduna Correspondent on the recently celebrated 3rd Anniversary of the massacre, Gwantu, spoke on unknown or unreported perspectives of the tragedy:
Sir, it is three and half years now that you lost four of your biological children who were undergraduate students of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to what is generally regarded today, as ‘Zaria Massacre’. How do you remember them?
We remember them by celebrating their birth days and the day they were gruesomely murdered, their corpses burnt and buried in mass graves, by praying for them because they died as martyrs. They were among the over a 1000 innocent men, women and children who surrendered their chests and bare hands to save the live of our innocent and peaceful spiritual leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Yaqoub El-Zakzaky, from the heavy guns and Armour Tanks of President Buhari and Gen Buratai-led murderous military when they invaded his house in Gyallesu quarters with the intention of killing him and all those that were in the house with him, without any provocation. The army moved to the Sheikh’s house after killing hundreds of our members at our conference and study centre, which we were also using as our Mosque, known as Hussainiyya Baqiyyatullah, on the 12th of December, 2015. The day was equivalent to the 1st of the month of Rabi’ul-Awwal the month in which our Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah continue to be upon him, was given birth to, and in which we used to celebrate his birthday. In their efforts to deceive the public to justify the Hussainiyya massacre, the army lied that our members blocked General Buratai’s convoy with the intention of assassinating him. But they never told us and the public why we would have attempted to assassinate a whole COAS, since there were never any reports of altercations between our members and the army in the media before that day that would have warranted us to contemplate what would have best been described as a suicide attempt on the life of the COAS whose convoy had hundreds of specially trained fighters and different sophisticated weapons including multiple Armour Tanks while what our members only had with them were Qurans and rosaries.
Are you trying to change the popular narrative that the clash between your members and the army, which led to the loss of your children and several others, was not as a result of attempt by some members of the movement to attack the convoy of the COAS?
No. Mr Journalist, What I am trying to say is to put the record straight, not changing any popular narrative. What you mean by popular narrative was fake news which was propounded and propagated by the army to cover up the crime and injustice done to us. What the army told the public about the cause of the so called clash was pure lie and propaganda, and which they had to bribe some of our lazy and greedy colleagues, and especially those whose kind of Islam considers the killing of Shiites and Christians as a holy and paradise rewarding war, to misinform the public by parroting or mimicking their fake version of the episode. You remember what one of the late and few most celebrated black American investigative Journalists, Ida B. Wells, once said, “…those who commit the murders, write the reports”? in fact, and simply put, the whole operation was a foreign script. You can clearly understand this by comparing what they claimed or lied that we did and what they consequently did to us, with what they also claimed that some people in plateau state, Dura Du or something, did to another Army General. To the best of public knowledge, to date, none of the people they claimed was involved in the gruesome killing of General Alkali was killed and no single hut of any of the suspects was destroyed as a result of that. But you can see in our case, they said we only attempted to kill an Army General and because of that they killed thousands of our members by burning and burying hundreds of them alive. They kidnapped our leader and his wife after raining bullets on them and inflicting heavy life threatening injuries on them. They killed three of his youngest children in his presence by blowing-off the heads of two of them and slicing the throat of the other. They bombed his house using grenades which went aflame and destroyed all his possessions in this world including his rich library which had several thousands of books and very rare and historical documents. They destroyed our schools, cemetery and confiscated all our certified landed properties, all for the offence of mere attempt to kill an Army General.
You said there is a foreign hand or script that resulted in the whole of this, Could you please shed more light?
As an informed journalist, I know you can still remember that at the twilight of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, precisely sometimes in June, 2014, the same Nigerian army brought in soldiers from Maiduguri who attacked and killed 31 members of the movement without any allegation of road blockade or attempt to kill any soldier. Three children of Sheikh Zakzaky were also killed that day after they were kidnapped and taken to Basawa Military Police Barrack in zaria where the Commandant, one Col. S. Okuh, personally stabbed them to death. When this tragedy struck the Sheikh, all the leading leaders in the country, especially in the north, trooped to Sheikh Zakzaky’s house for condolence. While General Buhari called the Sheikh several times to commiserate with him and condemn the killing which described as inhuman, his present foot soldiers like EL-Rufai threatened to deal with Goodluck over the killing of the Sheikh’s children. But, to us, Goodluck was more humane and Godly, because he did not arrest the Sheikh to charge him for laughable offence of aiding and abetting murder, after killing his children and several of his followers, as Buhari has done to the Sheikh; in fact, Goodluck called the Sheikh to condole him and even told him, ‘sir, we are sorry’. When this happened, we later gathered reliably that Goodluck was actually contracted to kill the Sheikh, as one of the conditions to support his second term ambition, but he was really not comfortable with that devilish act, possibly because of his faith or fear of what would have become the fate of the country today.
Another proof that the Zaria massacre was a foreign script was that, few weeks after President Buhari gave order for the Zaria massacre, he rushed to Qatar where he met with his sponsors and informed them that the deal had been successfully executed and added by telling the Press in that country that as a Sunni Muslim, he had to declare an all out war on Shiism in Nigeria to stem the influence of Iran in Africa. But the truth is Buhari is not a Sunni Muslim, he is a Salafist or Wahhabist. All genuine Sunnis do not behave the way he behaves, they do not support the killing of innocent people. In fact, mainstream Sunnis are among the most peaceful group of musilms on this earth. To corroborate Buhari’s action on the killings of the Shiites,after the Zaria massacre, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the mastermind of the brutal killing of US-based journalist, Jamal Kasshogi, Muhammad bn Salman told Times magazine of America that he was the one that contracted President Buhari to deal a final blow to shiism in Nigeria to halt the fast growing influence of Iran in Africa under the leadership and spiritual guidance of Sheikh Zakzaky. Actually, one other hidden fact behind the Zaria massacre was to ignite Sunni/Shia war in Nigeria. This agenda is still on the table. This government still wants Sheikh Zakzaky dead in detention, so that it can use it to fuel sectarian war in Nigeria and to use the war to cover up its atrocities on the Shiites, and to also, possibly, avoid justice which we are seeking for at the ICC. In fact, this government has messed up this country and is ready to do anything to destabilize it, especially if Buhari cannot win the forthcoming election, hence we must be careful not to fall into the deadly trap of the enemies of Nigeria.
Thank you for these well researched revelations and lecture. Can you tell us what the death of your children has taught you in life?
You see, whatever one does in life or believes in sincerely, he must pay a price for it. The gruesome killing of my children only reinforced my belief in Allah, my creator, the creator of the universe and the creator of those that killed my children, who, I believe, must also die one day and face divine judgement on the Day of each-to-himself. Allah tells us in the holy Quran that whoever that truly believes in Him as his Lord, must be tested and persecuted in this world, but if he perseveres, he will be admitted into His garden of eternal bliss in the hereafter. This persecution comes in many ways such as imprisonment, as in the case of Prophet Yusuf or Joseph, and the peak of it is ‘dead’ as in the case of Jesus, as stated in the Bible. Read the history of Islam, you will see that no prophet and his true followers were allowed by ungodly and tyrannical leaders to live in peace on this earth. Do you know that Prophet Muhammad [saw], his children, grandchildren and whoever that embraced them as leaders and guide never enjoyed peace in this world.
Have you made any effort to seek for justice in any court of law?
Justice? Where can you get it in this country? May be I would have gone to court if we were in a country where leaders obey court orders. I did not waste my time and resources, which I do not even have, to go to any court. You know our leader went to court after what happened to him. You know what the outcome of the judgement was. Has the government obeyed the court order? However, for record purposes, the movement instituted a legal action against the government at the International Criminal Court at Haque; eventhough we have heard from unconfirmed sources that the ICC may dismiss the case because of what exchanged hands between them and Nigeria’s government during President Buhari’s visit to the Haque last year. But, I don’t think the ICC Judges can be bribed to sweep such a transparent case of genocide under the carpet.
However, we have taken our case to the court of the most Just and the fairest of all Judges, where we are sure of getting the best of all judgments on the day of each-to-himself.
Do you have any child in the university now?
To the glory of Allah, I have three.
How many children do you have as at today?
You know my in-laws (Yorubas) do not disclose the number of their children (laughs). However, for record purposes, I can say I have 17.
How comes? I remember reading in one of the interviews you granted Vanguard newspaper shortly after the zaria incident where you said you had 14 children out which the four were killed, and now three years after, you are saying you have 17. I don’t understand.
I know you will not understand. But, to make you do, you see, after the genocide, Allah blessed me with three more. They are: Musal-Kadhim (boy), Ali-ar-Rida (boy) and Ruquyya (female). If you add 14 to 3 you get 17. Remember those 4 are martyrs and so, they are alive. That is why we celebrate their birth days and communicate with them in so many ways from time to time. Do you understand now?
Perfectly well, thank you. Government’s lawyers recently told the court in Kaduna that, though under detention, your leader is being fairly treated. This corroborates earlier claim by the Minister of Information that the government spends N3.5m only on his feeding. What is your take on this?
For the government’s lawyers’ claim, we pray to the Just and Almighty Allah to treat them the way our leader has been and is being treated by this government, and for the lying Minister, since he made that unbelievable, unscientific and unempirical statement, we have been praying to the Almighty Allah to put him in the same situation they have put our leader and where he will equally be fed with such or higher amount, before the end of his life in this world.
Who do you blame for his continued incarceration?
I blame everyone. I blame opinion leaders, traditional leaders, CSOs, human rights activists, and the intellectuals for their silence, which can be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as consent or complicity in the unprecedented and unforgettable injustice done to us. I blame religious leaders, but with the exception of CAN, which is the only major religious organization in the country that summoned courage and looked at Buhari in the face and said, ‘Mr President, please enough of Zakzaky’s incarceration. Release him as directed by the court’. People forget that an injustice to one, is an injustice to all. However, the people I blame most, are my professional colleagues in the mainstream media who, as watchdogs, are supposed to investigate the cause and masterminds of every single act of injustice and inhumanity in the society, and fight for the weak and the oppressed, but majority of them choose to side with the government either because of greed, fear or sentiment, and throw ethics to the wind.
Some were of the view that El-Zakzaky’s Shia is an armed group. How will you react to this?
This is a disgusting question which even enemies of the Shia have debunked. Therefore, I will not want to go into it for what you may say again is another lengthy lecture. But, I believe most people that read the Tribune are intellectuals, informed and discerning members of the society, who should not find it difficult to spare few minutes’ to carry out a brief but very educative research to understand which Muslim group in the world is armed and is the most intolerant and violent and whose ideology encourages the killings of innocent souls and who are their sponsors? So, for answer to your question, please, google: 1. Intel Vets Tell Trump Iran is not Top Terror Sponsor – consortium news, Volume 25, Number 29, and 2. Senior Saudi Salafi Cleric: ‘ISIS Is A True Product of Salafism’. But, as a Food For Thought, you should know that Buhari’s government killed by burning and burying alive over a 1000 followers of Sheikh Zakzaky for not killing a fly, arrested him after inflicting life threatening injuries on him and his Ibadan-native wife and threw him and hundreds of those that survived the massacre into the jail, and yet you still say we have arms which we are hiding in the moon? Do you think if we are armed and our ideology encourages us to take up arms, couldn’t we have been defending ourselves against this barbarism? And you know the way Buhari hates us, even if we have arms hiden in the moon, you know this guy will go and bring them to show the world to justify his all out war on us. Don’t you see because the President shares the same ideology with Boko Haram who have killed more than 30,000 innocent souls, destroyed schools, markets, towns and infrastructures, rape and kidnap women and children, but yet, the President has been releasing 100s of their commanders and paying them millions of dollars which facilitated their regrouping and with which they have been buying state of the art weapons and killing even the army in hundreds who only know how to display their bravery on killing peaceful Shiite’s women and children whenever they are on the streets of Abuja, protesting the illegal detention of our leader.