Sheikh Ahmed Gumi in a chat with Francis Damina talks about the reconciliatory visit to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, security, the President Buhari-led administration and 2019 elections.
Your recent visit to Abeokuta has been trending especially on the social media. What actually transpired?
First of all, the negative reactions that greeted our visit to the Presidential Library, Abeokuta, came mostly from the social media that is infested with agents of government where an individual can employ diverse identities based on ethnicity, region, religion, etc, pretending to be sometime, one hundred people. But don’t worry as there is no case. It is only malicious politicians who want to make capital out of a very good deed otherwise we do separate even animals when we see them fighting. It is a natural instinct in us to make peace as humans. When I was told that there was going to be a peace accord, I did not wait for a moment to contemplate about the political consequences and I still don’t care. Any man of peace is my man and I will support him whoever he or she is. So, I don’t see anything controversial about our visit to Abeokuta.
You mentioned peace accord. Was there any problem?
I was called that there was going to be peace and reconciliation between two great men who are leaders of this country because once a leader, you remain a leader. They were at war and decided that they should reconcile and forgive each other. I don’t know which religion, logic or political affinity forbids that. For me, anyone who criticizes our act of goodwill to reconcile the two leaders does not deserve to be in government because, it is only peace that can bring about development. How many people have we lost because we have not allowed peace to reign? There have been so much killings and revenge in the land. And so, when you find those at the top wanting to make peace, you will have no option than to key in. My conviction has always been that when there is peace at the top, it will trickle down to the grassroot and forgiveness, reconciliation, etc, will become the themes at every twist and turn. So, I have no regrets; if I am called again, I will go. I don’t care about the consequences.
What was really the conflict between the two?
Ah! Ah!! It is not a secret that President Obasanjo had written a book demonizing Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. He said so many bad things about him. And this is a document that generations to come will read. So, they decided that they should bury their differences and forge ahead. Is this not a good thing? Why the noise then? You see, as bad as President Trump is painted, when I heard that he was going to make peace with the North Korean President, I became very happy. The two countries both have nuclear weapons and are coming for the first time to talk on how to make peace irrespective of their ideological differences. This means that we should always endeavour to make peace whether we are capitalists, communists, Christians, Muslims or whatever. So, as far as I am concerned, the noise that greeted and still greeting our going to Abeokuta is, now as then, very unnecessary and would have only emanated from the APC internet seekers.
Pundits have made references to the killings on the Plateau, Zamfara, Birnin-Gwari, Southern Kaduna, among others, where you were not seen in an attempt to make peace. What is your take?
You see, when people are fighting, it is only the soldiers, the police, and other security agencies that will be sent to first of all stop the fighting after which the government invites neutral people who will initiate peace and reconciliation processes. But we cannot cry more than government that is the bereaved in the circumstance that we are not invited. In the case of Abeokuta, I was invited and I went. Should I have objected simply because of somebody’s perception of Obasanjo or Atiku? Should Pharaoh of Moses invite me for reconciliation, I will not hesitate. And these people making noise have done nothing to end the killings in the land. In fact, they are accessories in the killings of innocent citizens while castigating people who do not belong to their own circle of greed. They are those millking us dry. Look at the governor of Kano State who was recently caught stocking money into his ‘Babban riga’. They are all like that with the exception of only one or two persons. And these are people who claim to be fighting corruption. They are simply wolves in sheep clothing. How do you object to peace on ground that it is not politically favourable to you?
But many saw it more of an endorsement than reconciliation.
If he is a peacemaker, I will endorse him. But since they are against peace, I will not endorse them. We have to distinguish between a peacemaker and troublemakers. Our good deed should have attracted their attention to call on us to make peace in some other areas but as you know, they will not. Look at Col. Sambo Dasuki they continue to incarcerate in spite of the fact that the courts have said he should be freed. They have rather continued to mention national security as an excuse. But how does national security infringe on the freedom of a citizen?
What is your assessment of the Buhari-led government?
All I see is sycophancy like the man in Kano caught stocking dollars. You see, when we went to make peace, they said it was because of dollars whereas they are the ones stocking dollars in their ‘Babban riga’. It’s very unfortunate! With this government, Nigeria is a sinking ship. I therefore want Nigerians to embrace forgiveness and to as well, emulate former President Obasanjo. He anointed Jonathan and when he saw that the same Jonathan was going to destroy the nation, he withdrew his support. It is the same thing now happening between him and President Buhari who is currently destroying the nation. So, will you blame him of being bias? Once Obasanjo decides, it is our duty to follow in order to redeem the country from the paths to destruction. We have seen failure otherwise tell me any Nigerian who has not seen that apart from the sycophants. Islam admonishes its adherents to be just even when it is against one’s own self, mother, father, etc. And this is what I see in Obasanjo. It is not about his own interest but the nation’s. Managing this country requires intelligence, diligence and respect for the rule of law. In this case, when government does not respect its own laws, they should not expect adherence to the same law by its citizens. This is why the Fulani man will break or take the law into his own hands because government is indifferent to his predicaments. How then can you stop him? And instead of government to be remorseful and then find a way of bringing the abnormalities in the land to a stop, it has been abuses. How can you abuse someone who goes on a peace mission? Secondly, what stops me as a Muslim cleric from endorsing whoever I want? Not even Islam. In fact, to endorse the right person is a religious duty on me. Neither the Holy Qu’ran nor the constitution stops me from doing that. It is both a civic and a religious responsibility. Islam imposes on me the duty of endorsing the right person. I am only conscious of the ignorant and gullible ‘talakawas’ otherwise I will do more than what Obasanjo did.
Do you see Atiku Abubakar as the remedy to our current situation?
It is not about Atiku Abubakar but our nation. There are other candidates. So, Nigerians can choose whoever they want.
But most people believe in 2019, it is either Buhari or Atiku Abubakar.
You know it is like in 2015 when it was between Jonathan and Buhari. People then said Buhari was lesser evil and they went for him. Today, the same people are saying Atiku is the lesser evil and they are going for him.
But do you see him as the lesser evil?
What I wanted was a new page with a new brand of politicians to open a blank, new page for Nigeria. But since that is not forthcoming, we will use what we have at hand.
So, Atiku is the lesser evil?
Well, Atiku Abubakar as Obasanjo said, can revamp the economy of Nigeria and that he has not been found guilty of any corruption case by any court of law. Whatever they say about him, only the courts can convict him and not the newspapers. So, for me, he is not guilty of any corruption case until he himself or the courts say so. As far as I am concerned, if he will come and revamp the economy, it will reduce eighty percent of crime rate. We need peace. So many people have lost their lives, many others are out of school while a lot more go to bed hungry on a daily basis. Yet, we say things are alright because there is a man the ‘talakawas’ like and they don’t want us to speak against him. Though others are afraid, I will never relent because I see what I am doing as Jihad. This man is not a deity. I say what I say even in the Mosque. How can we allow riffraff to control what we say? We will be finished if we allow that because we will become a communist country. So, I don’t regret what I did at all.
Now who will you like your followers to vote in 2019?
I had told them to vote based on conscience. I asked them to vote for the present government if they are happy with the present situation. And if they are not, they should change the change. So they should go and decide – I don’t care. But I also told them why I don’t care; I’m tired and will want to be sleeping well. I don’t want anybody to again come to my house to complain that he or she has not eaten and so on. They should go and complain to those they voted as I am not responsible for their budgets.
- So the abnormalities in the country are as a result of bad leadership?
Sheikh Gummi: No doubt!
- Then what is the way out?
Sheikh Gummi: We have it in our religion that every disease has a cure. Maybe, it is just not known. When Tuberculosis was killing people then, people were afraid and said it had no cure. But later on, the cure was discovered. Likewise, all our problems in life have their respective cures. Not even the so-called killer herdsmen. Why will government not employ the same herdsmen to deal with the situation? The same with the Beroms on the Plateau.
- So even the killings are as a result of bad leadership?
Sheikh Gummi: Yes of course! It has nothing to do with religion otherwise how many people got killed in Zamfara, Birnin-Gwari, etc? I sent people to the leaders of the Fulanis in different places and the feedback I got was that there is a new generation of young Fulanis who are drug addicts involved in various forms of criminality and all that the government needs to do is to be involved in infiltrating these young men.
You have been very critical of President Buhari while back here you seem to be at home with Governor el-Rufai. What is the rationale?
When you are fighting an elephant, will you want to be distracted by a mere fame seeker?
What is your message to Nigerians in the light of the present situation?
We need peace and forgiveness. We should embrace each other to build a better nation. Let’s renounce our differences by discarding hatred, rancour, injustice, etc. But most importantly, we should forgive each other because all of us have sinned and need forgiveness. We should equally not interpret our present predicament by arguing that it is part and parcel of a plan to Islamise Nigeria. Which Islam will encourage you to stock money in your ‘Babban riga’ like Ganduje? It is rather about the survival of their pockets. Is the Vice President not a Reverend? Or, did you not see how a senator from the south-south jumped to them for protection after all the atrocities he committed? The earlier we know that these people are simply robbers, the better for us.