Alama Sani Salihu Mustapha is an Islamic scholar from Katsina State. A medical doctor by profession born in 1946 to a Pharmacist father, he is a retiree from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC after 35 years of service. An epidemiologist with Masters Degree, Alama Mustapha who is of the Peoples Redemption Party(PRP) political family also resigned and retired as a writer in Islamic Education after a shot at the presidential ticket of the PRP.
In this interview, Alama Mustapha, spoke on the deposition of the Emir of Kano, how Northerners indoctrinated Southerners to hate Islam and sundry national issues. To him, Emir Sanusi deposed himself by lowering the value of his worth to ascend the throne of the Emir of Kano.
You contested the presidency under the PRP at a time…
(Cuts in) I wanted to…
Were you just an aspirant?
Yes. Most of the party members believed we should contest but the Chairman and a few others said we should not contest; we should give up and become slaves of burden.
I am happy speaking with you because from your background, you are a yesterday man alive today to see what is happening today after witnessing what went on those days. Before this interview you painted a picture of how things were rosy those days and the question is: how did we get to the situation we are today?
It is through education and competition. I will never forget one very important thing when I was to be employed in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. It is the level of education. We were told we were born to be educated and education is in our blood; but the differences must be understood. The North comprising 60 percent of the Nigerian land mass don’t know Islamic education and they are trying to know Western education. But the situation is that they cannot catch up in Western education. I went to school in Lagos and worked with Southerners. I know them very well. They do not hate Northerners. Instead, it is who you are, what can you do and what you are doing. Now, if you can’t perform in a competition, naturally, people will not like you. I worked in NNPC for 20 years and I attended Federal School of Science in Lagos for 18 months; so how can you come and tell me that the Southerners hate Northerners? How? How could I have passed my examination? I couldn’t have. How could I have succeeded in NNPC? I couldn’t have. But the problem we do not address is imbalance of education in the North. How can we catch up with the South in education? Even when we were in the Federal School of Science in Lagos, majority of the students were from Igbo, South East and South South. The majority were Igbo and Calabar. Yoruba were in the minority not to talk of the Hausa. So, how did we get to the stage where that system collapsed? When I attended interview for NNPC, I listened to members of the panel. They were saying oh! very good, this man is qualified. He has double degrees. He has basic, MBBS and now Masters in Community Health; he is qualified to be employed. I will never forget this statement. There was never an Hausa man in the panel.
You are almost a Sheikh as it is now, an Islamic scholar, vast in the Quran and you write Islamic books…
(Cuts in) No. No. No. I am not a Sheikh. I am an Alama, not an Ulama.
What is the difference between a Sheikh and an Alama?
Sheikh actually is the devil. Yes, Sheikh is the devil. You see they use words without knowing its origin (laughs). I mean it. Sheikh means a devil. That was his original name given by Mohammed. But Alama is the person that is a doctor, erudite scholar of Arabic knowledge. An Ulama is a general teacher, but Alama is one who has been examined and found competent to interprete Islam. So, the name is Alama and not Sheikh.
You heard Emir Sanusi’s sermon when he was here for Mallam El-Rufai’s 60th birthday Anniversary where he talked about the limitations of the Almajiri system, how the North has left the poor ones to suffer, how backward the North is because of certain Islamic misinterpretations and what elites of the North have failed to do while the masses are suffering and others. But he concluded by saying anybody who is a Northerner will not be happy today. I want your perception to these issues raised by the Emir.
Almajiri concept is rubbish and nothing but illiteracy and misinterpretation of the Holy Quran. Islam came with honour and not disgrace. Almajirancai is wrong. They used a wrong word they say it is Hijra. Hijra means to leave a place of evil. It’s just like what the Northern King of Israel did. They left the North and came to the South, a place of evil to a place of good. That is Hijra. So, Hijra means leave a place of evil to a place where you will have comfort and stability and they say Almajiri. Almajiri is to move forward. So, where did we get these nonsense interpretations from? Emir Sanusi used to write articles and I used to read his articles and support him. Unfortunately, we have never had any linkage. Almajiranci as our backbone in the North is rubbish. You marry four wives, where did Abraham marry? His first wife was barren. Supposing he had children by the first wife, would he have married another one? No. So, we have misinterpretation of the literature. Unfortunately, the government is not interested in knowing. That’s why they don’t like…he is an Accountant and I don’t know what the problem was. But whatever it is, he is a person who will read and write and then put things into practice. In the process, you can make mistakes and come back to correct it but most Northerners don’t like that.
You are aware he has been deposed?
Yes. I read about it.
What is your position?
Wallahi, I pity him but he chose it. It was his mistake. He is from Kano and I am from Katsina. We have the basic platform of what education is. It is the culture of our people, their behavior and everything. How can somebody who was the governor of the apex bank in Nigeria come back to a place where there is no authority, to take a position where only birthright is the qualification? What is birthright? He could have been patient if he is interested in Islam, find out those interested in Islam around him and come back and develop. But who will listen to him in the North? Nobody will ever listen to him in the North. They will say you are an outcast or somebody trying to bring out something new for others to know. There is no research and development, so to speak. What does he want? He has enough to live a comfortable life.
Some people are blaming his removal on politics
Forget about politics. I know politics is dirty. He couldn’t have suffered this humiliation if he had not chosen to be Sarkin Kano. People may say it was the turn of his lineage and that is where I say birthright is falsehood. Let me tell you, it is not politics that led to his deposition. Emir Sanusi is an intelligent person. Anybody who is practical must be intelligent because he must do his job. He did a good job at the Central Bank. I am not an Economist. I read what Alhaji Sule Lamido said about him; that he was interested in Shari’ah. But God is such that if the base is not stable, nothing can grow out of it. So Emir Sanusi came and joined Muslims who do not know what Shari’ah is and he did not come out to tell them that this is not the way to do the Shari’ah and educate them on the tenets of Shari’ah. He did not tell them we cannot vote for these illiterate Northerners who do not have even Holy Quran. Even their English Language is not good. Where in this world can you become a Head of State with only primary or secondary school certificate? Where? I am not giving a lecture on job analysis and training or anything but let us remodel our system of education and ensure that any person who will lead us, let us trace his past records. What did he do? Let us see his opportunities. Has he the right to govern? But the Northerners do not understand this. They say Allah ya nufa. How can Allah? This is what we are trained to believe; to be hopeless, useless and indeterminate. Unfortunately, Emir Sanusi wanted good but did not follow the right track to achieve it. I think that actually was what led to his downfall. You cannot have double face as far as God is concerned. You either know it or you don’t know it.
You mean Emir Sanusi has double face?
Yes, exactly. He has double face on Islam but not on his professional job. You must be very careful in Islam because who are you? Who is educated in Islam among Northerners? You truly need comfort to understand Islam. It is not for every Tom, Dick and Harry. Mohammed said if you tell something that I didn’t say, you will enter hell fire. I challenge anybody to tell me the difference between the Bible and the Holy Quran. There is no difference. They are telling lies. These people don’t know anything; we are just joking. I have written eleven books. That is why I said read the Bible. You must understand the Jews and the Amalekites. Yes, the Jews will leave in peace the moment they come to God. If they sway, their enemies, would come from Gaza Strip or elsewhere. The same thing applies to Nigeria. We cannot do without God. I am not saying don’t commit sin. To believe in God doesn’t mean you have to pray five times a day. Forget about it. I am a Northerner but was respected when I went to school in Federal School of Science in Lagos. I had special seat in front and nobody sits there. I was very thin. Why? It is because people appreciate who you are. But here in the North, nobody appreciates you. There is no respect. Most of my trainings and life are with non Muslims. I was never insulted. In NNPC at that time, there were two of us who were Muslims when I became General Manager. Do you know what they do to me? They were the ones to ask me: Mustapha, when are you going to have your prayers? When we go for a conference and they start drinking alcohol they will say Sheikh, go and leave us alone.
When people like you speak in this manner, some of us would begin to wonder why we have these religious prejudices and crises in Nigeria
It is because you the Southerners feel that they were indoctrinated by Northerners to hate Islam. It is indoctrination. Look, I am the best person to talk about who Southerners are because I spent 18 months in school, in Lagos. I was never insulted. I was rather protected. Let me give you one example. There was a time I broke volumetric flask during Chemistry class. Definitely, I broke it but two Yoruba girls came and said I did not break it and that it fell down by itself. They also threatened the technologist that if he writes down my name, they will punish him. I will never forget that incident. The problem is that the Northerners indoctrinated the Southerners to hate Islam because instead of them to ask them what is in the Bible, like I have always asked the Jews; if they don’t know, they will tell you we don’t know and if they know, they will tell you. That is why I like them. But we Muslims will shout hey! So, we can live in peace and stability but we cannot achieve it without going back to our base. We have to understand our relationship with our creator and that you are not compelled to pray five times a day. We must have a common base. Outside my house, I have to protect and help you. That is the only way out, otherwise we are just joking. There is nothing like improved economy because everything now is through technology. That is the foolery. The Western world is saying in how many years time, some number of people will be out of jobs due to technology but in Nigeria, we are creating jobs in a world of technology and digital systems. Everything must be manufactured and brought to Nigeria and we are saying, we will create jobs. How? When you talk of bandits sacking a whole village and kidnappings going on at the same time with insurgency, it is because we are cursed. God is cursing us. It is there in the Bible. How many times did God say He will curse Jews and Jerusalem and that He will punish them? Look at Nebuchadnezar and Titus; what they did to Jerusalem. So, you think we are safe if there is only one God? Everything is in the Bible, study it carefully. We are cursed because God is punishing us. Let understanding the Bible be made compulsory, especially the Old Testament, the books of Genesis and Exodus. If we understand these and the nature of God, then take the Holy Quran and see. Did you say there is no Moses? There is no Isaac? There are no other Prophets or Jerusalem? What did Mohammed say against them? He said tell me what your Prophet said and I will say the same thing. But we don’t do that here. So, there is no hope for our country Nigeria. We are jokers because Nigerians who know are not given the opportunity to say the truth. That is why I said Sanusi made a mistake. Why did I not gain any position in PRP, a typical Northerner from Katsina with good family background? My grandfather was a Judge. My father was a Pharmacist. So how can you say people will not like me? I am talking of 1900 when my grandfather was Judge of Katsina Province. We are highly educated but some of us are where we are because we don’t like the truth. Just say Mohammed and no Northerner will like you. If you say God and Mohammed, no Northerner will like you.