Sheik Ahmad Gumi welcomed us into his modestly furnished, new apartment somewhere in a highbrow part of Kaduna town. He was there waiting for us, with broad sparkling grin that seemed to illuminate his gray beards.
As we exchanged pleasantries, the man who had sparked a national debate with two letters he had written to some Presidential aspirants, appeared much younger that pictures portrayed of him. Our main mission was to find out why he wrote President Goodluck Jonathan and Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) not to contest the 2015 Presidential elections and to have his take on the insurgency ravaging the North Eastern part of Nigeria.
Vanguard got more that it asked for. Gumi, in a calm, comported manner spewed out shocking and disturbing reasons for his letter. He further gave a grim dimension to the Boko Haram debacle, claiming that the Jonathan government was deliberately abetting the war to pave way for his continued stay in power.
The son of late Shiek Abubakar Gumi, in this no-holds-bared interview with our Kaduna State Correspondent, Luka Binniyat, and Mayen Etim, went on to claim that he was a marked man over his recent letters, and gave reasons. It is a must-read.
Sir, could you assess the state of the Nigeria Nation today?
First, I welcome you all to my house. The state of Nigeria actually is not seriously different from what is happening in other countries in Africa. Nigeria being a mixed society has different tribes, religions and cultures, and this has made the country significantly peculiar; because we share some of black Africa’s problems and also share the contemporary Muslim problems. Every culture, every religion goes through stages like childhood, adolescence, middle age then old age.
This is how civilization and religion grow, so we’re not different particularly now that our country is going through a very difficult stage. So, what may be good for other countries may not necessarily be good for Nigeria looking at our condition, developmental stage and peculiarity. So, Nigeria’s problems need a very special, careful approach, because the end result is if you don’t have peace and stability then nothing works.
If you look at Nigeria’s problems it is a microcosm of what is happening in the whole world. The underdevelopment, the whole of black Africa, the whole of Africa is compounded with the problems Muslims are facing now. These problems are both intrinsic and extrinsic and are caused by the Muslims themselves and external factors. So, if you put all these together and reflect on Nigeria the situation is pathetic but it is not hopeless at all.
. You wrote to Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) and President Goodluck Jonathan asking them not to contest the 2015 presidential election. What motivated that?
I wish to write more and more! There’s no question of regret writing those letters and so far, I think the letters, to me, have achieved part of what I intended to achieve. First, to at least put the issue in national discourse; let’s discuss issues not like the National Conference where we tended to tell people what they wanted to hear.
The supporters of The President and the retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari have reservations about your comments. And there are people who agreed with you. What more would you want to tell Nigerians about your fear for 2015 election?
”Buhari’s Supporters, irrational, fanatical, sentimental?
Yes, my fear about the 2015 election is that when I look at the parameters of 2011 election and what led to the crises, I didn’t see anything that have changed. In fact, the factors are more aggravated now. What’s coming now to explode is a big bomb. My letters addressed the factors. It’s about a Nigerian citizen telling Gen. Buhari, please step down for peace, unity and stability of Nigeria because your followers are fanatical, irrational, sentimental and they are many, not few.
So, please … and look at their reaction (intolerance). Just telling their man to step down, and they reacted this way; what more if they were hoping, dreaming – because I tell you they’re sentimental and irrational – hoping their man will be president and suddenly he’s announced the loser, how will their reaction be like? And who can control them? You see, the flames of war, when they start nobody can control them.
“Jonathan/Buhari are false lights”
Look at Syria now, people fighting the government and vice versa. Then terrorists came in, fighting the liberalists, liberalists fighting the government and the dictators and now nobody, not even the United Nations has the honour and prestige to tell people. “please stop!”. That’s war. Look at Libya, there’s war. War in Nigeria, when it starts too, nobody can stop it and it may have no boundaries. Now, it’s confined to some part of the North but when it engulfs the whole country nobody will settle anywhere. The worse thing is that people don’t know how to behave in war.
It’s just like insects in the bush. If there’s light or flame they think it is good for them; they rush to it and fall into flame, killing themselves. So, there’s fake light. We’re creating fake light. In the North people think that General (Buhari) is light whereby they can get salvation, but it’s a false light, it will destroy them.
And in the South too, the government has false light. It is saying, “followers”, especially Christians, “this is your salvation, saviour” – it’s a false light. Why? Anything that will cause polarization of the society even if you have the upper hand, you really don’t have it because the other hand will try to undermine you. So, in a stable society, there is a correct light whereby every segment of the society is comfortable, relatively and reasonably comfortable.
There’s no agitation, no urge to fight back, this is the society we can all bring up ourselves. We live happily together without destroying any culture, religion and other differences. My dear sister came with attire with different colours (referring to the female reporter). I don’t want her to be all white.
We should accept our differences. God made it so. In fact in the Qur’an (he quotes a verse of the scripture) which literally means “do your religion and me my religion.” Is not by force, there’s no compulsion in religion. In fact, a verse in the Qur’an said you can never put faith into a person’s heart except God, so your own is to admonish people.
Sir, maybe that’s what you meant in the letter to the President when you said; “surely with the Christain votes and northern PDP followers, you can win another election but you will also set the nation into another turmoil because that segment of the nation that rejects you believe so wrongly or rightly that you are involved negatively in the Boko Haram saga”. Can you please elaborate on this?
“A big section of Nigeria will be uncomfortable with Jonathan continuing as President”
The question of Nigeria now is not about winning election; it’s a question of “I’m right, I won”. It’s not about that now; it’s about responsibility; it’s not enough to say I’ve won election. It’s only enough when every part of Nigeria feels truly that you’ve won. Secondly, when all sections say, “we’ll be comfortable with your leadership then that’s it.
If there is any section of Nigeria which is afraid and suspicious of your leadership when you’ve not won, then don’t contest in the first place. Because everything in this democracy was designed to have a peaceful and mutual understanding and consent of the people as put in the constitution.
But in this case, if President Jonathan wins, a huge part of the society will feel uncomfortable and frightened by his continuation. The natural thing to do is to give the chance to another person to contest; this is just natural everywhere in the world.
”And what about Boko Haram?
Why the Boko Haram issue has two perspectives – the perspective you, the press, have been bombarding Nigerians with and the true perspective seen by the victims. Let me tell you what the victims see in Boko Haram; We are almost one full year of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. people gave the government benefit of doubt at the beginning. The National Assembly sanctioned the state of emergency and that means that soldiers can liquidate or kill anybody without trial. That automatically puts you out of the area if you are an outsider.
You cannot go and see for yourself what’s happening. Powers were given to them and also huge sums of money. With these huge sums, nobody would have taught that after this long period of fighting Boko Haram we will still be fighting them. Soldiers at the fronts were being eliminated, outnumbered, and many civilians incarcerated. The Army were just there arresting civilians and putting them in prison. There is no military strategy to fight Boko Haram.
On the contrary some of these soldiers cry to me personally. They come to us and tell us stories contrary to what you people hear. Helicopter droppings, tinted glassed vehicles, sometimes with foreigners in them. Army officers telling me that sometimes they’ll pursue them but would be given orders to stop, “don’t pursue”. You (the press) don’t know this but we know, and even recorded some. We know it’s a remote control war. This stalemate is a remote control war.
”There are Christians in Boko Haram”
Who can believe that with the kind of wealth that Nigeria has, our soldiers will be given few bullets to face Boko Haram. Nobody knows that this Boko Haram, from the few the army was able to kill, were mercenaries from Chad. There are even some none-Muslims among them. A soldiers came to us here from Bita, which is very close to the Zambisa forest. He said when they went freshly with ammunition they were able to repel the first attacks of Boko Haram. When the Boko Haram were withdrawing, he heard them say Victor, Amir, John, Mohammed e.t.c. Boko Haram are not only Muslims.
“Buhari and Jonathan are polarising figure”
So, that’s why people in the north are frantic they don’t want President Jonathan to come back because of their safety, lives and security. And this has made them to be too attached to Gen. Buhari because they think he’s the only credible person and he has large followers who feel that they can help defeat Jonathan.
I know like Jonathan, Buhari is also polarizing figure. Buhari is not only a polarizing figure in Nigeria, he is even so in the North. There are people who don’t want him at all for different reasons. My Islamic credentials make me see things in broader perspective.
And that’s why I am seriously telling him to consider that leadership is not only about honesty and accountability. It also has to do about conformity, flexibility, being nice to people and not just disciplinary strictness. No! All these people that are attached to him would be very surprised if he gets into power. He will not do what they want.
“My father was too soft, and a polarising agent to be president”
If my father told me he wanted to be President I would say ‘I know you’re honest, more honest than Buhari, but still you’re not suitable to rule Nigeria because, you’re a polarizing figure even among the Muslims just like Catholics and Protestants. Secondly, my father was a very lenient.
Let me tell you something, he was at home and the phone rang and his bank manager asked him; “did you send anybody to cash money from the Foundation account?” He said no and still didn’t want to know the person because he didn’t want anybody to look bad before him.
One day they brought a boy who presented a letter he purportedly signed and endorsed for the boy to be employed. They apprehended the boy and my father asked him why he did so. The boy said he did so because he wanted a job. My father said bring the letter let me sign the correct signature for you. In Hausa land they knew him to be soft. If he told me that he wanted to be president of Nigeria, I would have told him that he was to soft and would not be fit to be President. Nigeria needs somebody not too hard and not too soft. There are qualities that make a leader.
Still on this Boko Haram issue, you have been a target of the insurgents, Gen. Buhari too. President Jonathan, is also a target, but well protected. What would Jonathan benefit in sustaining Boko Haram?
There’s too much secrecy about handling of Boko Haram affairs. Many people were arrested, put in jail and we’ve never seen the reports. There should be open trials.
When there were bombings in Boston Marathon, the press, police and national guards were working hand-in-hand, step by step and when they discovered pictures everybody stepped up the search until the culprits were caught. Everything was open. But in Nigeria everything about Boko Haram is kept secret.
Why not exposed them so that they speak and we know who their sponsors are. There was a time Boko Haram targeted me. Explosives killed two of them when they were planting them. The military took their bodies away till today. They were not exposed for identification.
You are advocating for a president that will be widely acceptable that will not divide the country. Now there are so many people that have indicated interest to run for the Presidency. Have you spotted any among them that meets these standard?
Okay, this is another question that is very good. Nigerians are looking for an ideal President and there is nothing like ideal person when you talk of human terms. No one is ideal. What we’re looking for is someone palatable, someone that will cause less friction, problems and polarization. This is the man we’re looking for and Nigerians should decide.
Okay sir, we’ve taken much of your time I want to summarize this. I want you to give a very good advice to Nigerians
My advice would in fact be to all Nigerians. It’s very important we develop the culture of civility. We have to be civil. If you have a case take it to the court. The question of demonstrations, strive and killings should not even arise. If anybody feels he’s cheated in election let him go to court.
What is the value you get in trying to assert your right by violence? In doing that you kill many people? That’s why I’d thought it was important to pass this advice to the president and to Buhari before the elections. After the 2011, many innocent people that even didn’t know about politics died; youth corps members were killed, and villagers were massacring each other. I thought that we have had enough of violence.
This is what I expected from Buhari and Jonathan. Groom people. You can imagine now if Jonathan w groomed another person that will sustain our democracy, he would be a very great leader not to contest again and hand over to a successor. If Buhari would have stepped down, people will say oh! he’s a great man.