October 29, (THEWILL) – It is impossible to think of Sheik Dr. Ahmad Gumi without the image of the mullahs of Iran coming to mind. Despite their sectarian differences (Gumi is Sunni while the Ayatollahs are Shia) the similarities are striking nonetheless. With vast and flowing beards reminiscent of prophets straight out of the OT, they live, eat, sleep and swear by the name of the holy one himself, Prophet Mohammed. Most of all is their God-given right to rule, to deliberate on everything from mode of worship to dressing, consumables and much else.
Starting from the ’79 Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran has remained a theocracy guided by an Islamic Constitution. The religious leaders headed by the Supreme leader (Ayatollah) choose those in leadership positions. Though Nigeria isn’t a theocracy like Iran, religious leaders like Gumi would want only Muslims to be in charge of some sensitive positions. That, in his view, is the only way Muslim faithful will be assured of safety.
Lacking what should be exemplary self-restraint in a religious leader (think of the Dalai Lama whose bearing in words and deeds remain unimpeachable), Gumi has been feeling quite antsy since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appointed Barrister Nyesom Wike Minister of the Federal Capital Territory in August.
The appointment itself may have irked Gumi privately. For him, Wike’s appointment is nothing more than a desecration of the holy seat which only Muslims like Gumi should occupy. But the cleric had no opportunity to bare his mind until mid-October after Michael Freeman, Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria paid a courtesy call on Wike in his office in Abuja. It was simply unbearable. The Muslim scholar could no longer keep his cool because what had been simmering privately erupted in a public rage against the perceived Christian enemies of his beloved religion.
In a 14-minute tirade recorded on video in a mosque, Gumi let his mind be known promptly. Because of the on-going war between Israel and Palestine, Gumi interpreted the Israeli envoy’s visit to Wike as some kind of tacit support for Israel which he mistook for a Christian nation. (Gumi is in good company with another religious leader Pastor Enoch Adeboye of Redeemed Christian Church of God who supported Israel early in the conflict in his misguided notion that the tiny Middle East country is a Christian nation.) Equally galling to the Islamic cleric is the safety of Muslims in the FCT if there was any collaboration with the Israelis.
“The Minister of the FCT is a Satanic person,” Gumi said in a packed mosque. “I said it before when he was appointed and some people were grumbling. He has gone and brought the Israeli Ambassador, that’s what someone sent and I am yet to watch it. But what is confirmed is he said they will collaborate with the Israelis on Abuja’s security issues. Abuja will now become an extension of Tel Aviv and when they see anyone with a beard like us, they will say it is Bin Laden and we will be killed.”
“If Israelis enter this country,” Gumi went on, “there will be a clandestine operation against any outspoken Islamic cleric; we have seen the signs. Why was Sheikh Jaafar killed? May his soul rest in peace. Why did they kill Sheikh Albani? You can see how they are killing; there’s a hit list and we have known this for long. Why am I walking with the police? You didn’t see me with police during Buhari’s government, despite my disagreement with them. It is because of this threat that we applied for police protection and they gave us. Even if the President doesn’t like me, he has to give me police protection or else he will be held responsible for my life.
“For you to understand, they will bring the MOSSAD into our country. Because of this, Tinubu should know that we know their plan, he must choose. He should remove the Minister of Abuja; if not, we will collide with him. On the day of a bath, the navel is not hidden.”
His eyebrows drawn together in fury and frustration about the very un-presidential appointment of an infidel to a job that should rightly belong to a Muslim, Gumi’s mailed fist came by way of that public pronouncement addressed to the presidency in particular and Nigerians in general. If President Tinubu fails to remove Wike as FCT minister, there would be trouble not only for the Southern Christian minister but for the president himself. And one of the consequences of such refusal, Gumi pronounced almost like a fatwa (another shared trait with the Iranian mullahs) would be denial of a second term to Tinubu.
Hardly had the worshippers put on their footwear when criticism followed Gumi’s pronouncement.
“Gumi’s attacks were unprovoked, malicious, inciting and a deliberate misinterpretation of our history,” thundered the North East Consolidated Peoples Forum (NCPF) via a statement through their spokesman Alhaji Abba Liman. Gumi’s sermon in the mosque was coming from “misguided elements and their sponsors in order to cause disaffection and disunity in the country.” The speech “does not represent the collective view and interest of the North, and certainly not Nigeria’s interest.”
Comprising of eminent northern individuals of both sexes, NCPF declared that “we totally condemn such unprovoked divisive statements from a divisive element who is seeking to destabilize the peace and unity of our dear county, Nigeria, for selfish reasons. The utterance is toxic and it should not be accepted by any decent and sound-minded person who loves peace and our Nigeria.”
A day before, Yekeen Nabena, former deputy national publicity secretary of All Progressives Congress thought Gumi had gone too far with his unprovoked attack on Wike, declaring that “some Northerners’ sense of entitlement is not only dividing the nation but making them see Southerners as inferior to them in a country where everyone is supposed to have equal rights. The people of Niger Delta and Southerners in general will no longer fold their arms while the likes of Sheik Gumi spit on their faces irrespective of political or religious beliefs.”
“My intervention in the recent controversial statement is not about the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike alone, it is about the rights of the Niger Delta people and the Southerners in general,” Nabena said in his response to Gumi. “At this stage, we expect all the voices of reason to speak out because the sense of entitlement of the likes of Sheik Gumi is becoming more satanic.
“How can you justify the rationale behind some Northerners heading some positions that are naturally meant for the people of Niger Delta and the South? Up till date, a Northerner is still the GMD of NNPCL. If religious and ethnic bigots like Gumi and others are saying a Southern Christian, especially from the oil-rich Niger Delta, cannot hold the positions of FCT Ministry and the Senate President, we demand explanations on what qualifies a Northern Muslim in the leadership of agencies like NIMASA, NNPCL, NPDC, NLNG, NPA, and so on.”
All through last week, several other organisations pitched in their response to Gumi. Among them was the Pan Niger Delta Forum and Middle Belt Forum.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF Dr. Ken Robinson, described Gumi’s divisive statement as “most unfortunate,” especially “when every well-meaning Nigerian should be concerned about the stability, peace, and unity of the country, the likes of Sheikh Gumi are further stoking the embers of discord, certainly, intended to exacerbate tension in the country. It’s utterly despicable that a so-called cleric would fashion himself into a shameless promoter of parochialism and acrimony.
“We consider the call for the removal of Chief Nyesom Wike as Minister of FCT, and indeed, any other Niger Deltan, based on wild predispositions, as an indirect poke at the people of the Niger Delta region, and the South-South-geopolitical zone, in particular, to catechize our stake in the Nigerian state.
“Perhaps, it is necessary to underscore some unadorned facts Sheikh Gumi is pretending to overlook. Abuja is the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and not a sectional capital; more so, it (FCT) was developed and continues to be developed with, mainly, the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta region, where Nyesom Wike comes from.”
Any Nigerian from any of the regions, Robinson suggested, can be appointed to the position of Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, noting that Wike is the FCT’s 17th Minister “but only the second Southerner to hold the position in the FCT’s 47-year history…We commend President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his patriotism and political will in appointing a Southerner, the former Governor of Rivers State, as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory after over four decades. It is needful that all patriots and true lovers of the nation, particularly of northern extraction, without equivocation, denounce the dangerous diatribes of Sheikh Gumi and those of his likes, in the national interest.”
The MBF also spoke against Gumi. Publicity Secretary of MBF Dr. Pogu Bitrus, began by saying that MBF “would have ignored Gumi’s outburst but for the following cancerous interpretations deducible from the said video clips from other clerics also rendered in Hausa. Gumi’s vulgarity is not just insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians, but a further display of the despicable arrogance associated with Gumi’s Fulani stock who have used state power to capture, manipulate and enthrone themselves over Nigeria and its resources.
“We repeat that history is unequivocal that at no time were the Fulani aborigines (original inhabitants) of the FCT. This is documented and established by all verified historical narrations. We unambiguously condemn the messages contained in these trending video clips calling for the sack of Barr Nyesom Wike as the FCT Minister on account of his faith or where he hails from.”
One of the most incisive comments on the Gumi faux pas came late last week from Azu Ishiekwene, editor-in-chief of Leadership newspaper. Headlined “Gumi’s extremism shames decency,” Isheikwene wrote thusly: “His attack came from a much deeper place: resentment that Tinubu who emerged president by the grace of the North had the effrontery to bring an “intruder” into a “sacred ground,” without the approval of the Landlord. This brazen sense of entitlement dressed up as a “religious wrong”, offends decency. It’s unacceptable. Abuja does not need to be saved from Wike. It is against people like Gumi that the capital and the country must now defend itself. The original builders of this place did not conceive of it as the Boys Quarters of one tribe, religion or ethnic group. It was precisely because of this sort of complication which Lagos presented, apart from it becoming a concrete jungle that Abuja was conceived of as the new frontier of national unity.”
In the on-going face-off between Wike and Gumi so far, the minister has won all the rounds in the public space. Gumi’s own kin has denied and denounced him. Wike’s own people have stood gallantly behind him. Still, some recall that Wike’s support for a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket in December 2022 may have provoked Gumi’s explosive pronouncement.
“I don’t see any problem with Muslim-Muslim ticket, Christian-Christian or Muslim-Christian tickets,” Wike said in an interview before the presidential elections. “Is that our problem? What we need is synergy among ourselves, among the three arms of government as I am doing in Rivers state now to be able to move our country forward. It’s not about money or resources but how well and careful we are in delivering to our people.”