By Rasheed Abubakar
President Muhammadu Buhari’s double four-finger (4+4) sign, which he flashed during his budget presentation at the National Assembly last month, has been a subject of criticism from some his political opponents, who in their ignorance described it as an occult sign.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is contesting against President Buhari in the February 2019 presidential election, obviously misinterpreted the sign to be “an occult double four-hand signal.”
The former Vice President was reacting to the report of 12 million Nigerian farmers making donations to President Muhahammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign.
He asked, in a statement signed by his media aide, Phrank Shaibu: “Could that be why the President was flashing an occult double four-hand signal that has gone viral? What did the hand signal mean?
“Does it mean that the President has jettisoned the idea of a free and fair election and is telling Nigerians that no matter how they vote, he will return for a second term of four years?”
Atiku’s uninformed submission about the sign was also supported by a controversial politician, Femi Fani Kayode (FFK), who posted on his verified Facebook page on December 24, 2018 at 8:27pm, that:
“This four-finger solidarity sign by Buhari/Jubril at the National Assembly portends danger and is NOT as simple and innocent as people think. It is NOT about four more years for Buhari. It is deeper and more sinister than that.
“It is known as the Rabia sign and it is symbolic of the Muslim Brotherhood sect which is associated with terrorism in Egypt. If you doubt it, open the Wikipedia link above and read all about it. Nigerians, think!”
On Tuesday, January 7, 2019 at 7:15pm, FFK made another misleading post with a photoshopped image of Rabaa with AK47 guns at the top of each of the four fingers. He said:
“The four-finger Muslim Brotherhood terrorist Rabia sign that Buhari keeps using is an affront to the Living God and an insult to the millions that have been killed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab over the decades. God will judge him for it!”
Unknown to FFK, the group (the Muslim Brotherhood) he associated with terrorism is the oldest and largest Islamic political group, not only in Egypt but the entire world. Founded in 1928 in Egypt by a renowned Islamic scholar and teacher, Hassan Al-Banna, the MB has some of Egypt’s largest education, charity, and healthcare NGOs.
Majority of MB members, according to multiple reliable sources, are middle class academics, doctors, lawyers and students of higher institutions who have always maintained its non-violent stance before, during and after the Rabaa mass killings.
Sadly for the critics of the MB, both UK’s Theresa May, Donald Trump of the United States and their predecessors have refused to designate the MB as a terrorist organisation, despite orchestrated campaigns from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s governments.
Notwithstanding, does it really matter if the US and allies do so? After all, Washington was a few days ago accused of supporting PKK and YPG Kurdish rebel groups who the Turks believe are terrorist organisations.
This apparent mischievous move and sheer display of ignorance are not limited to either Alhaji Atiku, Phrank Shaibu or FFK, some Nigerians (including the Salafiyyah-Wahhabi sect) have also exhibited the same crass illiteracy in a bid to associate negativity with the iconic Rabaa (also spelt as Rabia or R4bia), a symbolic gesture that reminds the world of the tragic massacre in Egypt where military and police forces dispersed, with brutal force, the peaceful sit-ins at Al-Nahda Square and a larger one at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square.
In August 2013, the Egyptian army and security forces, under the command of a military dictator, General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi raided two camps of protesters who stood against the unlawful removal of Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president of Egypt.
Human Rights Watch described the massacre as “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”. Another human rights group, The Freedom Initiative, whose founder, Mohamed Soltan, spent 22 months in Egypt’s prison said: “The mass killings marked the bloody beginning of an unprecedented wave of repression that plagues Egypt to this day.”
The survivors of the coup and the millions of supporters of the ousted President Morsi, particularly the members of the MB adopted the Rabaa sign, which literally means “four” in Arabic. Technically, it is made by raising four fingers with the thumb resting on the palm – as against the internationally popular V sign adopted by the pro-coup protesters and military supporters in Tahrir Square. To them, Rabaa is a sign of resistance against El-Sisi’s oppression in Egpyt.
Prominent nations, including Nigeria, the United Nations, global human rights groups, global personalities and well meaning individuals did not only condemn the coup, but also criticised the use of live and lethal weapons which led to the death of over 2600 protesters.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been seen at different fora flashing the R4bia. The Pakistan’s Malala also identified with the victims of the Rabaa massacre with the iconic sign. Leading Islamic scholars, including Sheikh AbdulFatah Thanni, Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafi’i amidst others, have also displayed the Rabaa gesture at a solidarity symposium/press conference in Lagos, Nigeria in 2013 to condemn the bloody coup.
Incidentally, five years after the unforgettable massacre of the 21st century, President Buhari coincidentally made a similar four-finger (4+4) signal, but this time with his two hands up while presenting the 2019 budget to lawmakers at the National Assembly, a sign which was misunderstood and misinterpreted by political opponents to be occultic.
Evidently, there is no correlation between Buhari’s four-finger signal and Egypt’s iconic Rabaa sign. The meanings and intents are not the same. While the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood globally use the sign in solidarity with El-Sisi’s victims, Buhari adopted the sign to express his willingness to run for another four-year term, if voted by the Nigerian electorate.
If there would be any significant relationship, the sign should be a reminder of the day democracy died in Egypt. It was a broad day – and bloody – robbery of millions of Egyptians’ right to choose their leaders. They were murdered in cold blood, a massacre which was proudly supported by some of Egypt’s Arab neighbours and Western powers, the so-called “police states” which have always advocated for “democracy”.
The Rabaa sign reminds us of the hypocrisy of world leaders, who had initially issued press releases to condemn the coup plotters and called for restoration of democracy, but shamefully made a dramatic U-turn, embracing the leader of the coup and joining others to encourage El Sisi to become the most unpopular president of the Land of the Pharaohs.
Egypt is today receiving several millions of taxpayers’ money in the form of foreign aid from the US, the highest in the world after Israel.
The world looks on, unconcerned, as President Morsi (as many Egpytians still address him till date) and thousands of his supporters languish in dictator (El-Sisi’s) dungeons for years. Human Rights Watch said no fewer than 60,000 political prisoners, among them journalists/bloggers, poets, artists and human rights activists are currently held in Egyptian prisons.
The Meeting Point
The inessential argument over the symbolism of Rabaa should rather be seen as an opportunity for Nigeria to call for enquiries at the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) into the circumstances that led to the death of thousands of innocent Africans during the 2013 bloody coup and drag the perpetrators – including El-Sisi – before the International Criminal Court of Justice for crimes against humanity.
Coup plotting is one of the major factors militating against successful democracy in the 21st century. Just like the world jointly condemned the abortive coup in Gabon few days ago, no democratic country should associate with a country whose leader is a product of coup plots, if the primitive way of getting to power through the back door is to be eradicated in our world.
Culled from: Daily Independent, Nigeria, Friday, January 11, 2019.
Author: Rasheed Abubakar (Twitter: Rawshieldpr), publisher of Muslim News Nigeria and Author of “Media Narratives of Muslims in Niferia: Facts and Fallacies”.