Recently, Kaduna-based prominent Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, was in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to witness the reconciliation between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Atiku Abubakar. In this interview conducted at his home in Kaduna, he opens up on the significance of peace, his perception of the administration of President Buhari and why Atiku is the lesser evil between the present occupant of Aso Villa and the former deputy in 2019, among other issues
Your recent visit to Abeokuta to reconcile former President Olusegun and Obasanjo has been trending. Can you let us into what led to this?
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 grassroots and forgiveness, reconciliation, among others, 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.
You speak about war; was there war between the two people involved?
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, 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 endeavor 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 rats.
Pundits have made references to the killings on the Plateau, Zamfara, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, etc, why are you not seen involved in making peace?
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? Who the hell? Should the Pharaoh invites 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 the criminals. 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 favorable to you?
But some people are seeing that it appears to be 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 peace maker 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 have continued to incarcerate him 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 for his continued detention. But how does national security infringes 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 who was 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 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 Qur’an 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 everyone knows that in 2019, it is either Buhari or Atiku?
You know it is like in 2015 when it was between Jonathan and Buhari. People then said Buhari was the 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, is Atiku 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 ‘talakawa’ 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?
Then what is the way out?
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.
Do you see the ongoing killings as tied to bad leadership?
Yes of course! It has nothing to do with religion, otherwise how many people got killed in Zamfara, Birnin-Gwari and other places? I sent people to the leaders of the Fulani in different places and the feedback I got was that there is a new generation of young Fulani 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, but back at home in Kaduna 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 rat?
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 nation. Let’s renounce our differences by discarding hatred, rancor, 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 Islamize Nigeria. Which Islam will encourage you to stock money into 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 armed robbers, the better for us.