Dr Ahmad Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, leader of the Nigerian Muslim Shura Assembly (NIMSA), a movement he described as being committed to the unity of Nigerian Muslims in a manner that is voluntary in this interview spoke on national issues, the deposition of Sarkin Kano, Mallam Muhammadu Sanusi 11, concluding that the restructuring of the country will come in a natural way and with unavoidable catastrophe if the Federal Government fails to heed the voices of Nigerians.
He also said that contrary to widely held belief that Emir Sanusi was removed due to political considerations, the Sarkin Kano was a victim of northern elite conspiracy. Excerpts:
Would it be right to say you are a medical doctor with military background?
When did you leave the military and why?
I left the military in 1986. The military is a very big institution. I was in the Medical Corps and you can have the opportunity of becoming a Major General or a Director of the Medical Corps. But then at that age I was very young and I had the ambition of becoming…you know I come from an Islamic scholarly family and I had the ambition since I was in primary school to go and further my studies in Arabic and Islamic Studies. So, I had to resign to pursue this line of studies. I left as a Captain. You know we had this system where there is Direct Regular Commission. The Army sponsors you to the university and after your university education they take you for military training before you are commissioned.
I am asking you this question because as an Islamic scholar with a military background you might help find solution to Nigeria’s prolonged battle with the Boko Haram sect, which started an insurrection that has to do with Islamic ideology. We have been told by the Chief of Army Staff that Nigeria has defeated insurgency…
(Cuts in) When?
He said what we are looking at is terrorism. From what you have seen and heard of the war against insurgency, what is your take?
The problem we are having with insecurity in this country is that we are yet to comprehend the magnitude of this Boko Haram movement. Boko Haram is not a local thing. It is an international movement. It was a local matter before it crystalised into Boko Haram. Even as a local matter they were calling themselves Nigerian Taliban. So, the ideology was imported and they have a fertile ground in Nigeria when the security is weak. I am sorry to say that; but I was in the Army and I saw every nooks and crannies. I could remember when we were in a military course in Jaji, one of the instructors, a Major said look at the Nigerian Army, we have turned from Infantry Division into Mechanised Infantry Division, but no division has enough Armoured Personnel Carriers because that is what makes infantry mechanized. We didn’t have more than three at that time. We are buying refurbished, Second World war vehicles. When you say a division we don’t even have a company of mechanized cars. It is not now, but since the military dabbled into politics. They vandalized the institution. And let me tell you one thing. I was one time in Jaji and a Colonel was telling us about Maitatsine. He said the way the Army is porous, these Maitatsine people if they are well organised can teach Nigeria a lesson and you know Maitatsine was an uneducated person operating within a local environment. But Boko Haram is not local in ideology, funding and everything. It is an international movement. We should, therefore, not underrate that. We have to be very serious. We can’t fight such an organized, imported ideological movement with simple rhetoric. We have to be serious with our structure. Let me make it categorically clear; please in this interview strike out Buhari from the equation. Strike his name out. Don’t even mention his name. What I mean is that he has no solution to the problem and he is a victim of the decay. We are now facing a serious problem and we should not be sensational, but intellectual in our approach. We should be intellectually focused so the nation will know where we are. It is not about politics. It is a big problem, but can we face it? Yes, we can face it, but we need to put the right people. It should not be politicized. Already, the Army was a skeleton before Buratai became the Chief of Army Staff. One of the governors from one of the southern states said it: that they buy the position. I sent a boy to Depot Nigerian Army in Zaria and they were asking for money.
How many people get into the Army and Police Force with money?
Up till now as I am talking to you if you have money you have your way. So, people buy the position and are not ready to fight. They are just there to get a ladder to make money; to be sent to lucrative positions. If it is police they are looking for where they would be sent as escorts to get money; if it is Army where they would be sent to where they are doing oil bunkering. Nobody wants to be a professional soldier; I am telling you. Once you are there you can do nothing. What they are doing is to give Nigerians Panadol when they are suffering from typhoid fever. You know what typhoid fever does? It perforates the intestine. It causes psychosis, which is a very serious disease, but when you give Panadol to suppress the fever it will not cure the man so the person will die. That is what Nigeria is. The systems, the institutions are all hallow.
So, what do you want them to do?
We need people who are competent, who will come to build the institutions, correct the institutions on intelligent and scientific foundation, not those who are propagandists trying to make us believe they are doing something when they are doing nothing.
You talked about the ideology of Boko Haram and that it is an imported one. That brings me to the Nigeria Army’s “Operation Safe Corridor”, a system where Boko Haram fighters are being de-radicalised. As an Islamic scholar, is it possible to de-radicalise people with ideologies like those of Boko Haram, especially by the…
(Cuts in) Wait, wait. This ideology is virulent in itself. If you claim to be a Muslim or you want an Islamic system it is not the problem. The problem is when you want to impose it with mighty powers. When you do not have the instrument of power you resort to…look at Saudi Arabia, everything is there, modern Internet facilities, good roads and there is no security problem. Islam is not the problem there and they have non-Muslims working there. What I am saying is that our approach is wrong. But you can contain the ideology. What will stop this insurgency is restructuring. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco were all able to contain insurgency. So now, these areas that are hot like Borno and Yobe, give them semi-autonomy so that they can turn themselves into what they want so that even if they go into their system you don’t have to challenge them that what they are doing is unIslamic. And if you go to Morocco today, there are non-Muslims there. In fact, they have Jews there. So, they cannot fight the government because they have provided you with what you need. If you go to Igbo land now, this IPOB why are they making noise? It is because they feel marginalised. Give them autonomy. Let them be what they want to be so that one Kanu will not come and say they are being marginalised. You have your area and land; so do whatever you want.
But northerners are those against restructuring?
Not all northerners are against it.
Who are those against it?
It is some leaders in the North that are against it; not all northerners. Let me tell you, it is the youths of Borno that are feeding Boko Haram. It is like a tap leaking. The simple thing is to stop the leakage and you then mop it up. Boko Haram is always getting youths coming to them because their language is religion to them. So, they will continue to get the youths until the language of the government becomes religion too. If you go to Saudi Arabia the language of the government is religion so they have no cause to fight. Give them the kind of religion they want and Boko Haram will stop. They are suffering in the bush, but remove that idea from their heads because they will not denounce their religion. It is the interpretation of the religion that is causing the problem.
What are your fears if Nigeria does not restructure?
No. One, restructuring is coming by force whether we like it or not. But instead of…let me give you an example. This is in medicine. A lady who is having her first child birth when she goes to the hospital, the doctor, nurse or gynae when the head of the child is coming out they use a knife, scalpel to cut an angle of the vagina so that the head of the child will come out. After cutting it you sew it back because if it is not cut, the head of the child will push it and the tear will be rugged and in many places. But if it is surgically done it will be neat and painless. So, it is one of two things. Nigeria is restructuring no doubt, but it is better we do it neatly, nicely than to allow it to rupture. So, it is coming whether we like it or not. It is already in the process.
What are you seeing?
This is the last president, probably. In fact, the last president that really ruled Nigeria was Goodluck Jonathan and he messed it up. Buhari’s government is an alloy government that is not well solidified. You know when you put aluminum and iron they do not become an alloy; but maybe brass and iron become steel. The government of Buhari is an alloy. The elements are not in agreement. So, it is not steel. It is an alloy between Southwest and the North and there are already fundamental vision and difference. It’s just to come together and get power. That’s all.
Early last week the Sarkin Kano, Mallam Muhammadu Sanusi was dethroned and banished. How do you feel?
Actually, I wrote something about the Emirate system or traditional rulership system; but I think the time has come for us to abolish that system because they are fighting among themselves. Secondly, they are clashing with the authority. Thirdly, it is completely useless. With specific reference to Emir Sanusi, I think it is natural that if you are a traditional ruler, it is either of two things; you either follow the government or you step down. So, that is why I said the system should be abolished. They should just go and you don’t need to replace them with anybody. After all there is no monarchical system in America where we copied our democracy from. You have the governors and these are the elected leaders and if there is a strict enforcement of law and order nobody will misbehave. This is the only way we can go forward because the monarchical system is dragging us back.
Let’s address the reason for his removal. The authorities alleged insubordination and other things bordering on disrespect, but those outside government are blaming his removal on the 2019 election because it was alleged he supported Kwankwaso, a PDP chieftain against the governor who was then the APC candidate. What do you reason may be the cause of his removal?
No, it is not true that his removal has to do with politics. That is off the mark. It’s a real fight…You see in the North there is real fight and class struggle and war and the enmity is great. So, there was no plot against him that has to do with politics at all. It’s not because of any political manouvre; it’s real fight. Don’t you see how General Musa Yar’Adua died in prison when the late Abacha put him in prison? Don’t you see how Abacha removed the Sultan of Sokoto? These ones were under military regime; so where is the politics there? You also saw how former Governor Aliero removed Jokolo? It is through real fight. In fact, the system needs to be abolished completely so that we have peace in the North. Unfortunately too, Emir Sanusi was not just vocal, he is vocal in telling half the truth because he will say something and do something different. They should just abolish the system. It is archaic and long overdue. Look at the way Governor Nyesom Wike addressed the traditional rulers in his state. He couldn’t have spoken to them in that manner if they were still useful. It is because they are useless. They are all thrash. Traditional rulership is now an appendix in the body that needs to be removed.
Perhaps you will help Nigerians understand better as a Sheikh, an Islamic cleric. During the 60th birthday anniversary of Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the deposed Emir of Kano was present and he spoke a lot. According to him, “Nobody who is a leader in northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy; you can’t be happy with millions of northern children out of school; you can’t be happy with nine states in the North contributing almost 50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country; you can’t be happy with Boko Haram problem; you can’t be happy with political thuggery, all the issues, the Almajiri problem that we have.” Sheikh I know you are not happy. Are you? And how did the North get into this?
What I can add to him is that you couldn’t have been happy also riding a Rolls Royce when your citizens live in abject poverty. Emir Sanusi should not have been displaying opulence in the midst of his poor subjects and be making the noise he made. Why we got to that stage is because we have social hypocrites as northern leaders who are not honest. We all make noise, but we are not honest. This is what has led us to these problems. We make noise, but we lack honesty. You could ride a Rolls Royce, but you couldn’t pay the medical bills of your subjects. They cannot eat, some of them one meal a day and they were around him. I was in Abuja sometimes ago and somebody showed me private jeeps parked in the house of one man. Yet this is a nation where we do not have steady electricity supply, good hospitals and our leaders travel to India for treatment. Even our president goes to UK for treatment, but we have all the luxuries of the world and yet cannot return home to replicate those good things that are working, what we see outside our country. It’s a pity. I have just been told that one of our representatives is going to Dubai to celebrate his mother’s birthday, in this abject poverty and insecurity. Even the governor’s 60th birthday is for what? The money these people spent coming for this birthday if collected together can go a long way to secure our people and save them from attacks. This is what is happening generally whether with our clerics, politicians or whatever status we have attained we have this social hypocrisy. We come together, say good words, but right in the bottom of our hearts we do everything that is forbidden to undermine the progress of the downtrodden. We are not honest people. That is why even though the Boko Haram people are evil, no Nigerian can deny the fact that they are dedicated to their own cause. Are we dedicated to our own cause as they are? No. So, how can you finish them? How can these governors ban Almajiri? If you ban them they will become criminals because man must chop. So, you don’t ban them, but modify and adopt them. Is it not under Goodluck Jonathan that they built 150 Almajiri schools? They call it Almajiri school with their Mallam inside. They were housed, fed and very slowly put English, Arithmetic and in a short time the Almajiri will turn to good people in our society. And very soon they will be ashamed to carry on with what they were used to doing. Now, what did these northern leaders do to the Almajiri schools? They are all vandalized now. We like propaganda. That is the social hypocrisy I told you about. It is here in the North and that is what is killing the North. The only true leaders that the North had that were serious; let me tell you was Tafawa Balewa. They were building schools. Tafawa Balewa never went out for holidays. He goes to his farm in Tafawa Balewa. The Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello left only about 10 pounds in his account. They worked to build universities, institutions. Murtala Muhammed was serious. He said what I have I will bring back first before asking anybody to bring back. The next serious person, if he had stayed and could have done better, but not like them, was Umaru Yar’Adua. I am a northerner. Let me tell you. You heard of the case of abducted children to the South. It is not abduction. Parents willingly gave their children to them. When the people from the South come they tell the parents we will put your child in school and tell the parents other things they will do for them. The parents will then release the children to them. The conservativeness of northerners is diminishing or has almost disappeared. Anybody can come and say I have school, bring your child and they will give you. These Almajiri you see in the streets, go and meet his parents and say I have a school for your son they will give you. Just say there is school, food and allowance they will go. So, if you want to stop Almajiranci, build structures. That was where Goodluck Jonathan got it right. But where are they today. Laws will not change the Almajiri system. It is action that will change it and they are ready. Kano is claiming to have the richest man in Nigeria and Africa when you have the poorest people in Nigeria? What are the rich northerners doing? Going to dance in people’s birthdays? Shamelessly? All the legacies Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa left, all the schools; honestly you will be ashamed if you go there today. Go to the schools. Where are the textile companies? Where is the New Nigeria Newspaper? Where is the NNDC? Where is Bank of the North? We should be ashamed. It is not to beautify ourselves when you have cancer in your body. You are talking about the make-up when your body is sick. Cure your body first. Don’t worry about your artificial look.
How do you reset the North to attain its former status?
It will be through this restructuring that I told you which has already started. It has started with the bandits. They are holding a large chunk of land mass in the North and nobody can enter there; not even the government. They control it and are stopping people from farming. They are their own authority there. So, you see, Nigeria is disintegrating. If you give states some levels of autonomy like we have in America where Texas, for instance, has different laws from other states; they also control their resources and others. If you do something like that and the Federal Government concerns itself with policing so that states don’t infringe on minority rights we will be treading the right path. When we restructure in this manner then Nigeria will work. Those who are armed now and in the bushes will eventually become the security of that place. It is just like we gave the Niger-Delta militants the job of protecting the pipelines. Didn’t they protect it? But if you bring outsiders there will be war. And how can restructuring be done surgically and not by natural tear? The government should organize a true National Conference involving all the important people.
We had one in 2014…
No, the government selected those they wanted. Don’t select those you want. Select those who people want and who are influential. Bring government, Gowon, Babangida, T.Y Danjuma, Domkat Bali and bring the politicians that are effective like Rabiu Kwankwaso from Kano; you know he has a movement? Bring Kanu and his people into it, Sowore from Kwara and let’s look at Nigeria intellectually. How can we leave in harmony? What powers can be dissolved to states or regions?
You mean the constitutional review that the National Assembly has started will not solve the problem?
You know why? It is because those lawmakers rigged election. Who likes them? It is their money and party affiliation that brought them there. The 2019 election is the worst election in Nigeria. So, they are not representing anybody. So, how can they review the constitution in such a way that will answer all our questions? Let us divide in unity. We have to fragment it because this problem we have you cannot solve them without restructuring. It is not by dissolving the nation, but by removing the power from the centre. I have come to discover that these old crop of Nigerians have no place in the repair of this country. It is like someone who built an ultra-modern hospital, but is using analogue computers and old consultants who have been working for many years forgetting that we now have new drugs for certain ailments. The complexity of Nigeria is more than them. Buhari is a victim. He tried so many times himself to get the power, but couldn’t get it. So, suddenly they brought him and put him. These people, these forces, these interest groups that put him they are the ones now that are messing up Nigeria. Those who put him in power are engaged in social hypocrisy that I talked about. Now, they have exhausted him and they are plotting another way.