Dr Ahmad Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, a prominent Islamic scholar in northern Nigeria wants Nigeria reconstituted in such a way that sub-regions and states under them would be offered a new structure that would guarantee them some measure of self-control.
According to him, restructuring should mean decentralizing power from the central government.
He noted that forming a new structure in Nigeria was one hypothetical solution that would suppress agitations from different groups in the country and bring about unity.
Gumi, a medical doctor, and one of the strong voices in the North, also called for government of national unity, saying it was the only way out of the myriads of problems confronting the country.
He spoke on other issues bordering on elections in Nigeria and the current “RevolutionNow” protest, among others.
Is Nigeria, slowly drifting into chaos and disintegration?
As you have said a lot of waters have passed under the bridge since we last spoke. In a nutshell, one can say that Nigeria is drifting slowly into chaos and this is from many quarters. And new fronts are coming up. Before we were dealing with…Boko Haram is still active because Boko Haram is taking a very dangerous transformation. Boko Haram realized that it is getting a big bad image by killing civilians; so now their attention is on confronting the military and the military are complaining of underfunding, under-armed logistically and morally. I just signed a letter. A soldier, a Corporal complaining that what he is getting cannot hold him and his mother is suffering from cancer. And you know in Nigeria if you are diagnosed with cancer it means you are like a walking corpse because treating cancer is in millions of naira. But the soldier is not talking about money for the treatment; he is talking about rent for the mother. What do I mean? Soldiers are in bad shape, economically. No morality and Boko Haram’s target now is war between them and the soldiers. Let it be known now that the less attack on civilians is not a sign of improvement because there are now fatal attacks on armed men and such attacks mean a dangerous turn of event. If the government says they are winning the war, how come a Lieutenant Colonel is killed? Do you know what it means to kill a Lieutenant Colonel? Whether in an ambush or whatever it is? So, now they are taking on the military. As they are doing that we have been talking about the Shi’ite to government about the need to manage them well, pacify them when there is the need to pacify and be strict when there is the need to be strict, but follow the rule of law. It has been mismanaged to the extent that they are saying they are going to kill the president if our leader dies. I have never seen this kind of thing. How can you allow the situation to degenerate to the level where people are no longer afraid to say I will kill you if our leader dies? How did we get to this stage? For over five years you have been holding their leader. We have been telling them release him before you turn people into Boko Haram. We have the situation in the Northeast; we do not want another one in the Northwest. Then we now have “RevolutionNow” agitation. Nobody is contented; everybody is complaining and I see the economic factor because the government is not here to manage the economy. It is here to stop stealing, prevent stealing or fight corruption. Fighting corruption is completely a different matter altogether than managing economy because in economy as they say capital is coward. If you want heavy capital to come into your area, it goes only to where there is stability and not where there is instability. There has to be economic, social and political stability. Nobody brings money to where there is turmoil. The way this government started its governance is through attacks. It is a government that started steering murky waters. In Nigeria like the regime that passed away where there was a lot of pilfering of public funds everywhere and you come and say look I am the new Sherriff in town I will deal with those who steal, you will end up your regime without knowing where to start because some of the people that brought you in were the same thieves. So, where will you stand? In this kind of situation, what you do is to draw a line by saying from today, I am going to take this action. Tell them to repent and preach the fact that things are very bad in Nigeria and, therefore, come and let’s build it together again. But when you come and say you people are thieves and devils, they will show you they are devils because they will destabilize your government and that is what happened and is happening. I just saw it coming. I knew there will be trouble in Nigeria because not everybody in Nigeria wants change.
Most Nigerians are afraid the country will disintegrate the way things are going?
I see chaos and probably Nigeria can even disintegrate. And disintegration will be bad for Nigeria. Let me tell you about the North if there is disintegration. The worst thing any country will like is to have an unstable country as a neighbour. So, Southwest will be relatively stable; Southeast will be stable, but the North will be volatile. How can we contain Boko Haram in the Northeast? No way. How can we contain the problem of the herdsmen in the North? We cannot contain them. In fact, the little weight the Southwest and Southeast are adding to fight them is what is suppressing them, but if you go and leave us with them we will just eat ourselves and you have a very volatile North and I do not think we will have peace there because the borders are not barbed-wires and there are so many inter-marriages. In fact, Nigeria will just be like another Lebanon or Yemen. Nobody can control the North because nobody has monopoly of power in the North. The herdsmen, if they have any iota of political acumen, even if they are evil since your man is in power what do you do? You lie low to allow him to have the power. You don’t become so virulent that you end up destroying the northern power by attacking people everywhere not caring who is there. Let me tell you this. Nobody is in control of the North now. No northern politician has that clout to embrace everybody in the North. Everybody in the North is with his clique and that is a very dangerous situation for the country. The Southwest is divided into two equal house and nobody is in control there too, but generally, the people there are not violent. They can negotiate and stay in peace. The people of the Southeast seem to understand each other because their own is business. I see it to be more stable even though the Kanu IPOB people are there because generally the population there can understand and negotiate. They can only have population problem if people ask them to go back to their region. But the North? So, you can just imagine.
So Buhari should form a government of national unity?
So, what is the solution because we are tired of saying this is the problem? This is very urgent. Nigeria should have a government of national unity. That is the only way out. I do not see any other way out. No government whether APC or PDP will come up now and say it is fighting corruption and hopes to achieve peace and unity. What corruption are you fighting when you are catching some people and leaving others? You will just destroy the nation. Nobody will follow you when they see that you too are taking money. The economy is terribly in shamble. And there is one thing: the effect of the poor economy on social integration. Now, you see small boys thinking of kidnapping people for millions. People are in abject poverty. So this prolonged period of abject poverty by this regime has also changed the psyche of Nigerians. Instead of correcting it, it is even worsening it. That is why the kidnappings and other crimes are more because people cannot meet up with their family responsibilities and eat.
What have you to say on the latest court pronouncement on the Shiite Movement?
Has Sheikh been released physically or by the court? Have they obeyed the court order? Okay, until we see him out before we can say anything. But this is a better alternative than him being held for this long period. They should have since released him so they don’t take the burden of treatment, just like Kanu of IPOB. Since Kanu was released has it changed anything? It would have been the same thing if El-Zakzaky had been released. He would have done nothing. Even now there is nothing he can do. But it is better to release him so that the tension, the reasons for agitation would be reduced. Talking about the intervention of the Iranian authorities, we should know that the Shiite Muslims are closely knitted. They help each other and they have a government, which is in Iran. The government has oil money and they assist each other. They don’t shy away like the Suni world. The Suni world is loose because they don’t feel the threat. The Shiites from inception is based on oppression. They teach the doctrine of being oppressed. That is why they are always closely knitted. So, we should know that since Shiite is imported…it has not been in Nigeria since the last 50 years, not even a stretch of it until it was brought in by El-Zakzaky himself. So, we should understand how to deal with them. Just make them recognize your authority and do not allow them to be armed. Therefore, anything that can push them to take up arms, you have to stop that. Do not give them reasons to agitate. Let them be civilized like other religions, but do not use force to suppress their ideology. You can advise them and show them red lines, but you should not crush them. Crushing them is like putting petrol on fire. Their ideology is just like that of Al-Quaeda. They thrive in the spirit of being suppressed. They like fighting authorities. We should not give them that chance. If you give them that chance they will thrive. If you incarcerate their leader and put him out of their reach for long their faith will increase. When you allow them without suppression they don’t thrive. As for government’s proscription of their movement, what government should have done is to encourage them to register because their registration means recognition of authority. Like the Izalla; it is not a sect, it is an organization, but with an opposite ideology with the Shiite. The Izalla organization is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. So, they work within the confines of the law. So, you do not expect radicalism. Allow the Shiite to register. Encourage them to register. I have spoken with them and told them you have grown up, I cannot convince you otherwise, but be civilized in your approach to practicing your ideology. I do not agree with their ideology, but you are Nigerians whether we like it or not. You are citizens; so we should accept you as you are.
Sowore’s “RevolutionNow” is a question on the legitimacy of Buhari’s mandate
I think the protests by the “RevolutionNow” group, honestly speaking nothing and I say nothing in Nigeria is working as it should be. Nothing. So, there is truly, truly need…I won’t call it revolution, but something like that in every sector. In fact, when the government came with the slogan of change they said the change starts with you. So, you see the government wants change and he (Sowore) is talking about change. Things have to change. But I do not think that he (Sowore) can be so insensible to think that he wants to change government that way because in a democracy like that of Nigeria as faulty as it is if you destroy the system you that are trying to destroy it cannot hold it. So, if he thinks by revolution he wants to bring down a government, it is wrong because if you destroy this little thing that is holding the nation what will Nigerians hold? I say Nigeria’s democracy is faulty because there is no credible election. If there is a credible election the opposition will congratulate the winner immediately, but look at now, up till this time we are in court. If there is real democracy this court of law should be quick in dispensing justice even before inauguration. But look at the shameful election we had in 2019; very shameful. That’s why somebody like Sowore will call for revolution. I think he is questioning the legitimacy of the mandate. So, why did they conduct a shabby election? A lot of money was used, but it was so shabby, disgraceful and shameful. Look, before APC was formed I was very passionate about elections because I knew that was the only thing that would bring stability to Nigeria.
After elections, let everybody be satisfied that the real winner emerged and then the man who lost says yes I lost. The election that was conducted by Jonathan and that brought Buhari in is a replica of this election. All those million votes you heard were just thump printed. It is just that then a lot of PDP governors decamped from PDP and joined the opposition and they knew the trick. That was why the game was tilted against PDP and it was just by three million votes. They were outsmarted by three million votes. Then you had a president who was not ready to fight because he doesn’t want to spill blood, a president who is a good Christian otherwise he could have remained the president. He would have put soldiers in place. Even President Buhari was so surprised how Jonathan gave in. Honestly, the psychology was that when Obasanjo tried to distance himself from him and other Nigerians were distancing themselves from him, Jonathan knowing the consequences of giving victory to Buhari, he willingly gave it to him and dared Nigerians to wait for the consequences of a Buhari administration. Not long after this handover everybody is saying they are suffering. What we need now is to revolutionize INEC so that nobody will complain after elections. We even brought INEC to Gamji Hall here and told them this is the system you can adopt. We also brought APC and PDP and said look from the polling booths it should not be only electronic transmission of results to a server. People should see the result sheet in the ward physically; paste it from the polling booths. So, you do not need all these collations. Then there is no way somebody will come and say he was not defeated. But they are not ready to adopt it.
Will restructure Nigeria douse tension in the land?
If I am to speak to Buhari I will tell him that only a government of national unity can douse the tension in the land. Do not select only the people you know. Select those who can control people. Who among the ministers he has picked now can control people and douse tension? From the opposition there are people that can hold positions in government and douse tension. That is what you call government of national unity. What he can do now having picked his ministers is to reshuffle. Let him call PDP, Atiku and others of like minds to come and work out a government that can douse tension. Buhari has no option now than to do this. The first thing after constituting this government of national unity is to bring INEC to standards in accordance with best practices all over the world. Let there be elections where no two people will argue. Look at America they have over 200 years of smooth politics and this is what brings about development. Once you have rigging, cheating, this and that, Nigeria will not progress. And there is also the need to restructure Nigeria. Nigeria should be restructured. Restructuring should mean decentralizing power from the central government. Look at Zamfara State now. You have a governor that knows how to pull the strings. Now, the tension, the killings and all have gone down; just one man. So, you can imagine if we have such a man in the center. He can do it. People need to be managed just like you have industrial manager. If you don’t have good industrial manager your industry will collapse. It is the same thing with a farm. If you don’t have good farm manager your farm will collapse. People are managed like that. If you don’t have a good manager at the center people will just scatter and begin to kill themselves. I am not concerned about terminologies like true federalism that Buhari talked about, but all I know is that Nigeria needs to be restructured in such a way that every sub-region will have some measure of self control. That is when they can suppress agitations like this. For instance, look at Rivers State where the governor said the protest by Sowore should not come to his state. Did you see that happening in Rivers State? The reason is that you have a local champion there controlling. So, this is what we need. There should be harmony and some measure of self-control given to the states. If you do that Nigeria will work.