By: Gabriel Onoja
Harun Elbinawi (May God expose his many treacheries) appears to have totally lost it. His timeline on Twitter reads like what it is, a terrorist propaganda bulletin aimed at inciting people to the point of signing up for a jihad. On Monday February 20, 2017 he tweeted from his handle, @ELBINAWI that “These 3 evil men @MBuhari @elrufai @Buratai_COAS murdered 1000+ Nigerians & dumped their bodies in mass graves.”
On the surface the tweet appeared innocuous, something from another jobless nonentity looking to catch some fun from trolling highly placed people, but it is far from that. Taken in isolation or in context of other tweets in the preceding and following hours, Elbinawi’s outburst exposes his true intentions. His tweet is part of a more complex and strategic messaging aimed at whipping up anti-government sentiments, perhaps in preparation for some other actual actions on the ground.
First, the supposed murder he referred to was the fallout from when members of his outlawed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) confronted the Nigerian Army in December of 2015. The resulting military operation drew public criticisms over what those that initially did not have the entire information described as disproportionately hard response to the foolhardiness of IMN radicalized youths. A Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State government cleary indicted IMN for provoking crises and of being militarized in violation of the law just as it also apportioned blame to the military where necessary.
It is this past episode that Elbinawi wanted to pass off in his tweet in a manner that suggests the events just occurred or are ongoing. The dubiousness of this act is appreciated when one realizes that the tweets were interspersed with other tweets about the Southern Kaduna killings by suspected herdsmen. The unwary would likely be misled into thinking there was an ongoing pogrom if they do not discover the duplicity.
Secondly, the Twitter associates of Elbinawi should give right thinking people concerns same as the intention of his tweets. In addition to the desperate bid to criminalize the government and the Army – consistent with the IMN eschewing everything that is secular, this individual is also trying to broker an alliance between his outlawed group and another criminal entity, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), whose leader, Nnamdi Kanu is standing trial for a string of crimes against the country. Any previous claims to peaceful agitation has been negated by these tweets as they practically urge insurrection against the government and the Nigerian state.
Curiously, the only thing that unites Elbinawi’s envisaged alliance is criminality as depicted in his photo mashup of IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu; IMN Leader – Sheik Ibraheem ElZakyzaky, who was indicted for inciting the December 2015 clashes with the Army; and disgraced former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who is standing trial for one of the most brazen case of theft of public funds originally meant for buying arms to fight terrorists and insurgents. These, in this man’s perverted estimate, are the oppressed for whom Nigerians should rise up for against the government.
These preceding aberrations may look frightening but they are nothing compared to Elbinawi’s expansion into seeking international dimension for his erratic views, and from the look of things, his envisaged actions. It is okay to have sympathy for a country like Iran but not when that nation has consistently demonstrated that it will happily sabotage Nigeria for its own ends.
Again, the retort would be that there is nothing wrong in being sympathetic to a country that is being hounded by foreign influences. The only problem? Iran is the one doing the hounding in this instance. From backing Houthi rebels in Yemen to financing IMN in Nigeria, its sponsorship of extremism and terrorism is not a new topic and its activities are worrisome enough for Saudi Arabia and Israel to form an unlikely alliance to counter Iranian export of terrorism.
This alliance is another of Elbinawi’s many headaches and the reason is not far fetched. It will ultimately thwart a plan that Elbinawi is likely a part of, an Iranian plot to scale up its activities. The authorities in Nigeria must on this account pay attention and keep this fellow under watch because a few days ago another IMN propagandist retweeted the request “Is there any company in Abuja that is willing to hire a refugee from Yemen, that specifically wants to seek asylum in Nigeria to escape war?”
The connections are clear here: Iran, patron of IMN, is sponsoring Houthi rebels in Yemen; a request comes in for any company that will hire Yemeni refugees; and the next thing is that Elbinawi sparked a Twitter frenzy to whip up sentiments against the government and the Nigerian Army while alleging a global anti-Shiite sentiment.
With the activation of Elbinawi for the next phase of whatever the IMN agenda is in the country, what will follow next? Would his rallying cry on Twitter provoke the next round of attacks on security and military agencies? Would Iranian trained Houthi terrorists use the cover of being refugees to sneak into Nigeria and carry out attacks on behalf of IMN? Would the so called refugees come into Nigeria to pass on Iranian-imparted fighting skills to IMN’s radicalized members in line with their threat that the country would burn? Would the refugees turn out to be Iranian-trained Houthi commandos that would attempt to spring ElZakyzaky from detention? Harun Elbinawi should know.
Onoja, is National Co-ordinator, Coalition Against TERRORISM and Extremism in Nigeria and contributed the piece from Jos.