From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Muhammed Nuru Khalid, popularly known as Digital Imam, is the vocal Imam of Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja.
In this interview, the cleric spoke on his concern with the deteriorating state of affairs in the country and how the ruling All Progressives Congress has failed on its promises to Nigerians.
There’s heightened fear and tension across Nigeria over rising insecurity. Are you concerned?
I am seriously concerned just like every other Nigerian who is worried about the security and economic situation in Nigeria. Nigeria is obviously not in order. There is security crisis in virtually every part of the country. News of killings, kidnapping, banditry, insurgency is becoming persistent in our society. Unfortunately, government is not doing enough to tackle these security challenges. Even if they are doing, they are not doing enough to end this challenge. Their actions are obviously insufficient to end the challenge and Nigerians need to sleep with their eyes closed because they have a government.
Where did we get it wrong? Things weren’t this bad few years back?
We got it wrong when we began to politicize, regionalize and sectionalize issues of security in Nigeria, which ought to be everybody’s business. When politicians are happy with insecurity situations because of the failure of the ruling party and maybe take advantage of that to campaign and come to power, then they are using a tool that is not supposed to be as campaign mercenary, and that was what happened in 2015 when the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan was in charge. All Progressives Congress (APC), which was in opposition then took advantage of the Boko Haram attacks and insecurity then as mercenary for campaign. They won elections and came to power, unfortunately, the thing turned over on them and is hunting them now. The second place we got it wrong was not seeking divine assistance in our national affairs.
Do you think APC deceived Nigerians in 2015 or are they overwhelmed with the challenges facing the nation?
What exactly happened before the 2015 election was that Buhari and APC took advantage of the Boko Haram activities and pockets of insecurity as well as perceived corruption then to campaign against Jonathan’s administration. When they won the election in 2015, they found out that things were different from the way they saw it, not as easy as they thought. And it’s not easy for them now to come out and admit their incompetence and admit that they were wrong and over criticized the former government. They don’t want what they did to the former administration, particularly in the area of harsh criticism to be done to them. The government obviously detests constructive criticism, particularly as regards the issue of insecurity and other challenges facing the nation, which they promised to address in their 2015 campaign.
But criticism is a means of putting someone in checks?
Yes! It is, but the government doesn’t want it. They did it to the previous administration freely, did lots of image damage, locally and internationally, to Jonathan’s administration, but they don’t want it done to them, and that’s another place they got it wrong. Unfortunately, we have continued in that direction that is leading us nowhere.
What’s the way out?
The only way out is to come together as Nigerians, keep religion, party, tribe and other divisive tendencies aside, put Nigeria on the table and think of how we can rescue the country from imminent collapse. That is the major thing to discuss now. In my own way as Islamic cleric, I engage on people on the need to be patient, committed and have hope in the country. In addition to that, we must repent and change our wrongful ways of life. I always call on people in authority to always check their mistakes and do the right things, take rightful steps and policies that would herald significant growth and development of Nigeria. One important thing the government must do is to listen to Nigerians attentively and carefully, and attend to their requests. Government should be able to explain to the people why it’s possible or impossible to do what they want or when they want to do it.
Most Nigerians have called for restructuring or renegotiation of Nigeria. Unfortunately, it seems the government is uncomfortable with that?
That is why they must listen to the people of Nigeria and attend to their needs. Give them what they want because we practice democracy, which gives opportunity to all Nigerians to freely make a request and suggestions on how to be governed. I suggest that government invite meaningful and trusted Nigerians that would represent others on a table where the issues of Nigeria will be tabled for sincere discussions and deliberations. The focus of the representatives should be on what they want, how they want to be governed, among several other things. That will give a way out.
What is your assessment of economic policies of the government so far?
The highly proclaimed economic hardship of Nigeria is a fake one because Nigeria is rich in human and natural resources, unfortunately, it’s not governed properly. There’s high level of corruption in Nigeria. Some people are trying to be richer than the nation. There’s high rate of financial embezzlement going on in public offices. There are lots of bad policies forced on Nigerians by the government. These policies have to be expunged from the governance system. Corruption and embezzlement must also stop or be drastically minimized. We must create equity and social justice in the system so that the majority of the people can benefit from the wealth of the country. Absence of such social justice has aided poverty and fueled insecurity.
Could absence of social justice fuel agitations?
Social injustice is number one in the list of the catalyst for the social vices. It’s the cause of insurgency, Boko Haram, banditry and other criminality you can find in our communities today. If there is social justice in Nigeria, people will feel respected, belonged and they would take ownership of the country.
Are you impressed with the government’s fight against corruption?
I can’t assess the state of affairs regarding the fight against corruption because there’s nothing new about it. ICPC and EFCC were created by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to aid the fight against corruption and that has been going on long before APC and Buhari came to power. Nothing new or strange about the fight. Any new thing in the fight must reflect in our economy and standard of living, but there’s nothing new or measures being taken to strengthen the fight against corruption or achieve any success. It has been a mere motion without movement, noise without news.
CAN and NSCIA have engaged in open fight lately. Are you concerned?
I am seriously concerned that CAN and NSCIA could fight themselves openly over political issues. These bodies are supposed to be championing the cause of peace, unity, tolerance and development among Nigerians, holding government officials responsible for anti-masses policies. But, unfortunately, the otherwise has been the case. They spend their time chasing things that does not matter. They are leaders and not supposed to be exchanging words, which are misleading to their followers. Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) has provide such opportunity for reconciliation and harmonization of issues and such platform should be leveraged on to resolve issues.
Should APC apologize to Nigerians over failures?
It’s often difficult for an average politician in Nigeria and Africa to apologize to his or her people for ineptitude, incompetence or any other failures. APC and Buhari may not want do that because of ego. But apologizing to Nigerians for their failures is the only way to regain our trust, respect and confidence again. If they do we will forgive them and take it as mistake, otherwise, we would take it as intentional act to inflict more pain and penury on Nigerians over these years.
2023 general elections is fast approaching and many are advocating power shift to the South. What’s your position on that?
My position is that Nigerians should start thinking of qualification, competence, experience and other criteria for anyone that desires public office. We must choose candidate that is suitable and most qualified to rescue Nigeria not minding tribe, religion or political affiliations.