By Azu Ishiekwene
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, 60, is a medical doctor and retired army captain. But he has not had a job after retirement 37 years ago. His day job since has been bandits’ advocacy. He has become so used to getting away with saying what he likes when he likes and how he likes it, he hardly knows when he needs help to extract his foot from his mouth.
He could use such help. Not only for his own good, but perhaps for the good of those taking him seriously as well.
In a rambling no-holds-barred sermon last week, Gumi lashed out at the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, for planning to make Abuja “an extension of Tel Aviv,” where anyone with a long beard would be treated like Osama bin Laden and murdered. He criticised Muslims for supporting a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the last election, forgetting that others, including Christians, also voted for that ticket.
“Satan” at work
His most deadly venom, however, was not for Wike. It was for Tinubu, the enabler of the “Satan” called Wike, and the hundreds of smaller Southern devils of all faiths roaming the woods of the country in a murderous rampage since 1966 but who have resurged with Tinubu’s election, holding the trigger. Their poor, dispossessed Northern compatriots are left to occupy empty shells as offices. This translation is a mild version of what Gumi said.
He spoke for himself and not for millions of Muslims across the country who recognise that after an election whoever emerges president has an obligation not just to one religious group but to all citizens, whether they are believers or agnostics.
He spoke for himself and not for exceptional clerics and Muslim leaders like the Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar who have spent their lives building bridges across faiths. Gumi spoke for himself, and certainly not for voters in Abuja who, for the first time ever, elected a non-indigenous woman, Ireti Kingibe, and member of the Labour Party, instead of traditional candidates of the two dominant parties, to represent them in the Senate. Gumi was speaking for himself.
Life in Abuja
Of course, he has a fanbase – a remnant of die-hards who follow him in the mistaken notion that he would not inherit some of the incendiary rhetoric of his father, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi. Perhaps there are also a few closet admirers among temporarily displaced politicians who are happy with his bitter words. But what is Gumi complaining about, really?
That Wike is suspectedly talking to the Israelis for Abuja’s security? It doesn’t matter to me. And Gumi may not understand why. Living in Abuja, as Chinua Achebe once said about Lagos, has become like living at the warfront.
But Gumi will not understand since he goes about with police escorts, which is strange because you would expect that the exploits from his bandits’ advocacy should have set him free from all security concerns by now.
Unfortunately, life in Abuja, especially in recent times, has been dangerous with frequent reports of deadly attacks on commuters by so-called “one-chance” drivers. If talking to Mossad or Hamas or Hezbollah will keep Abuja safe, it really doesn’t matter to me. And Gumi, a retired army captain, ought to know better.
The US, “a country of infidels”, has some of the largest military bases in the world in Muslim countries in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, where Gumi earned his PhD in Islamic jurisprudence, has five of such bases apart from a military defence pact with America. The UAE hosts 5,000 US military personnel at the Al Dhafra Air Base, just outside Abu Dhabi. President Donald Trump had planned to double it.
Wike talking with Mossad – which I suspect was just a Gumi red herring – does not make Abuja any more vulnerable than did military president General Ibrahim Babangida awarding Julius Berger, a German firm, the contract to build Aso Rock, where the Nigerian president resides.
But of course, that was not Gumi’s main grouse. He is offended by the “otherness” of Wike’s appointment. How can someone who is not like him, an intruder if you like, be appointed minister of the Federal Capital Territory?
There are many things for which you can criticise Wike, not least of which is his politics, sometimes. His decisions to shuffle the FCT administration, demand overdue ground rent, and revoke hundreds of plots of undeveloped land that have in many cases become speculators’ lottery, have ruffled feathers. Yet, they can hardly be described as self-serving.
To be fair, Gumi did not mention any of these complaints in his sermon. Even if he did, it would have been perfectly within his right to do so because public officers must be held to account. But that was not the point of his displeasure; it was not about requesting accountability, offering suggestions about a better way, if he thought there was one, or challenging the competence of the minister.
Whose sacred ground?
His attack came from a much deeper place: resentment that Tinubu who emerged president by the grace of the North had the effrontery to bring an “intruder” into a “sacred ground,” without the approval of the Landlord. This brazen sense of entitlement dressed up as a “religious wrong,” offends decency. It’s unacceptable.
Abuja does not need to be saved from Wike. It is against people like Gumi that the capital and the country must now defend itself. The original builders of this place did not conceive of it as the Boys Quarters of one tribe, religion or ethnic group. It was precisely because of this sort of complication which Lagos presented, apart from it becoming a concrete jungle, that Abuja was conceived of as the new frontier of national unity.
The original majority Gwari indigenes have complained, perhaps justifiably, of being marginalised; agitators from the creeks of the Niger Delta have complained, perhaps justifiably, that Abuja was built off the back of oil wealth from that polluted and forsaken region.
What injury has Wike’s appointment caused Gumi? In Joseph Ona & another V. Diga Romani Atenda (2000), 5 NWLR (Pt. 656) 244, the Court of Appeal put to rest any special claim to Abuja by anyone or group. Abuja has no special status and therefore cannot be claimed as anyone’s special ground.
If Gumi was looking, he would have seen, from the results of the last general elections that the city’s demographics, especially in the municipal areas, are changing. For the first time in its 47-year history as federal capital, neither the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of which he is an undisguised sympathiser; nor the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had the majority. Appointments must reflect competence and the changing demographics.
In spite of Gumi, it’s a small step forward for unity and diversity that an APC president appointed a PDP minister in a federal capital where a woman and a non-indigene, represents Abuja in the Senate.
Gumi was right about one thing, though. That he didn’t particularly see eye-to-eye with former President Muhammadu Buhari. But it’s surprising that for eight years he didn’t see anything wrong with Abuja under former FCT minister Mohammed Bello.
A man full of religious fervour, Bello was well on his way to pre-eminence in mullah-hood when Buhari diverted him with a ministerial appointment, which became his undoing. He lost his way and his catastrophic tenure has been largely responsible for Abuja’s current mess.
Bello’s failure had nothing to do with religion or the fact that all seven ministers of the city in the last 24 years have all been Muslims. After all, Nasir El-Rufai, one of the two exceptional ministers in nearly 50 years, is a Muslim.
Gumi’s followers won’t hear him say that. But the next time they listen to his hate sermon, they should ask him what matters more to him: result or religion? His extremism shames decency. He should find a job.
Azu Ishiekwene is Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP
If you liked this article, please use the buttons below to share: