By Ibrahim M. Attahir
I read Adamu Adamu’s back page column in the Daily Trust of Friday, July 26, 2013 captioned: “Is the North a lip? [II]”. It is surprising that Adamu Adamu has chosen the Ramadan period to launch his attack on a deceased person that died more than two decades ago. In this period of fasting we are taught to make peace even with the ignorant person that abuses or quarrels with us.
If I did not read the column I will never believe that Adamu Adamu can write such a piece. I doubt much if his aim is the desire for correction. Adamu Adamu’s motive is his own business. Ordinarily, one may not bother to respond to such a cowardly article attacking a deceased person. Moreover, the late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi (the victim of Adamu Adamu’s attack) stated several times during his lifetime that he would not forgive anybody that responds to any person attacking him. However, if Adamu Adamu’s piece is not replied, it will mislead the younger generation that does not know certain happenings dating more than 30 years back.
The issue has, therefore, become public interest beyond the personality of the late Sheikh Gumi. That is what has prompted me to respond. On the face of it Adamu Adamu’s piece started as a concern on the lack of unity in the North. However, he got it completely wrong when he failed or refused to understand the complexity of the factors responsible for lack of unity in the North. He seems to identify only one of the many factors hampering unity of the North: ethno-religious animosity.
Even in that one factor he heaped the entire blame on the revered late Sheikh Gumi. According to Adamu Adamu it was the utterances of the late Sheikh, more than even the 1987 Kafanchan crisis, that kick-started Muslim-Christian conflict. He said that when General Murtala was killed in the Dimka-led 13th February, 1976 abortive coup Sheikh Gumi stated that Murtala was killed because he was a Muslim. Adamu Adamu further stated that the religious interpretation of the coup by Sheikh Gumi instead of the fact that Murtala was just “killed by coup makers who happened to be Christians” was the genesis of Muslim-Christian conflicts.
I am not a military historian. But the Dimka-led abortive coup cannot by any stretch of imagination be seen as just a military coup. It was the only coup in which the planners, executors and their collaborators virtually came from three local government areas of one state. Moreover, there was hardly any Muslim or any Hausa/Fulani, or Yoruba or even an Ibo in the core planners of the coup except some few individuals that were implicated. A look at the list of those tried, convicted, sentenced and executed in connection with the said coup can confirm my assertion. Some Christian communities allegedly celebrated the assassination of General Murtala.
Therefore, the coup was open to suspicion. But that may not necessarily mean that it had backing of the Christian religious establishment. In fact it was generally seen as a national tragedy. Assuming, but without conceding, that the Sheikh was wrong in his suspicion, I believe that Adamu Adamu should also know that speaking ill about a deceased person is prohibited in Islam. Furthermore, from the perspective of African custom and tradition once a person dies any animosity or hatred towards him should end. Even from common sense it is very unfair to engage in attacking a deceased person who is not there to defend himself. That is why under Islamic Law if a claimant proves his claim against a deceased person that claim is viewed with suspicion.
The claimant must compliment the proof with an oath known as complimentary oath or judicial oath to remove the suspicion that he is taking advantage over a deceased person. It is curious that Adamu Adamu waited for more than 20 years before telling the world that the late Sheikh Gumi was the cause of Muslim-Christian conflicts in the North.
The late Sheikh always used to say that whoever noticed any mistake in his teachings, preaching or writings should notify him to make the necessary correction while he was alive. His reason was that after his death whatever he taught, preached or wrote could not be changed. Incidentally, Adamu Adamu leaved in Zaria/Kaduna axis while the Sheikh was alive.
Yet he did not care to meet the Sheikh over the alleged statements or write his article then. It is now that he finds it convenient to tell the “truth” by trying the late Sheikh on the pages of newspapers. There were also so many commissions of inquiry that investigated the various ethno-religious crises across northern states. None of their findings indicted the late Sheikh Gumi or any of his disciples, associates, or followers. Was Adamu Adamu so unpatriotic when he knew those that caused the crises, but did not deem it good to appear before any of the commissions to tell them the remote cause of what they were investigating? Adamu Adamu did not see his own failure in that regard but rather blamed the northern leaders whom he said did not call the late Sheikh to order.
Apart from findings of commissions there are many writings and statements by individuals on the ethno-religious crises in the North and on the late Sheikh Gumi that show the fallacy of Adamu Adamu’s claim. Some of the individuals are from among the northern minorities.
They never mentioned the late Sheikh as the cause of the crises or the animosity between Muslims and Christians. For example, Moses Achonu is an Assistant Professor of History at Vandervilt University who specializes in history of Sub-Saharan Africa and he is from the Middle-Belt.
He recently wrote a well-researched paper in African Studies Quarterly (an online publication) titled: “Colonialism within Colonialism: The Hausa-Caliphate Imaginary and the British Colonial Administration of the Nigerian Middle-Belt”. Moses Achonu rather blamed the British colonial rulers for placing the Hausa/Fulani people over and above the minorities. He even stated that it was Sultan Muhammad Bello that drew the map of the Sokoto Caliphate and its Niger-Benue frontier for Clapperton which map made it to London after the latter’s death. Achonu viewed the said map as a deliberate annexation of the Middle Belt territories into the Caliphate.
This is a statement, if I may say, from the horse’s mouth showing that the suspicion of the minorities dates back to the pre-colonial era. Dr Philip Ostein is an erudite American Professor of law who taught at the University of Jos. He conducted many researches on the Jos crises. One of his works is “Jonah Jang and the Jasawa: Ethno-Religious Conflict in Jos, Nigeria”.
He mentioned several causes of the conflict ranging from political, economic, tribal and religious grudges. He did not trace any cause to the late Sheikh or any group related to him. There are other such writings that corroborate what Achonu stated. Some posited that the root of the crises in Jos could be traced to a policy of the whites that gave preferential treatment to southerners and Hausa/Fulani to the detriment of the indigenous Berom. When the late Sheikh Gumi died the then Governor of Taraba State, Reverend Jolly Nyame went for condolence. He cried profusely and said that it was the late Sheikh that was advising him on how to overcome the ethno-religious crisis in Taraba State. Can this be the same late Sheikh Gumi whom Adamu Adamu accused of causing conflicts between Muslims and Christians? Is Adamu Adamu crying more than the bereaved? As a seasoned journalist, Adamu Adamu cannot be said to be ignorant of all these facts. He is also not unaware of the many other factors causing animosity between Muslims and Christians in the North. Politics is one of them.
South West politicians used the vocal Lagos/Ibadan press to instigate the northern minorities against their Hausa/Fulani neighbours as a political strategy. Expressions like “Hausa/Fulani oligarchy”, “Far North”, “Caliphate”, “Muslim North”, “Core North”, etc were common in the Lagos/Ibadan press and the Nigeria Standard especially during the 70s, 80s and 90s.
The tribal factor of the crises is also apparent. Even in Plateau and Kaduna States where Adamu Adamu said religious tension is higher than other places in the North (apparently insinuating that followers of the late Sheikh are more in number there), there are many communities that have mixed Muslim/Christian population and have never witnessed any crises.
It is not all tribes that engage themselves in the Muslim-Christian conflicts. On the other hand, there is the unfair conduct of some Hausa/Fulani leaders who do not spare even their own kinsmen. But if someone from a minority tribe is affected by such conduct, he will only see it as tribal/religious discrimination. Adamu Adamu also accused late Sheikh Gumi’s teaching of “giving rise to a doctrine that spawned an organization the cumulative of whose activities has been to break Muslim unity and to frighten Christians.
For almost three decades the threat of a Jihad, which even those who made it didn’t understand, couldn’t launch but wouldn’t stop preaching, filled the Northern air.” Adamu Adamu did not, however, say anything about those who staged the “Islam only” demonstration more than 30 years ago. They went round writing “Islam only” on public places and highways in Kaduna and Zaria. He does not see that as frightening the Christians. Incidentally when the advocates of “Islam only” took to the streets it was the same Sheikh Gumi that went to ABU and persuaded them to tow the path of gradual enlightenment instead of confrontation.
Adamu Adamu also does not see anything of concern to the Christians with regards to a group that wanted to import “Islamic revolution” from a foreign country. Was it Sheikh Gumi’s teaching that made Lebanese Muslims and Christians who are both Arabs to engage themselves in bloody civil war? Another Sheikh Gumi’s offence according to Adamu Adamu was that he told Muslims to vote for a Muslim candidate in the Kaduna North Local Government election.
However, as an Islamic leader was Sheikh Gumi expected to tell Muslims to vote for Christians? A religious leader (Islamic or Christian) should be expected to champion the cause of his followers. All over the world religion plays role in election. In some European countries even the denomination of the candidate matters. Normally religious leaders do not go against the interest of their religion.
It is politicians that sometime tell their followers to vote the rival party which is known as anti-party activities. It is unfortunate that recently the same virus has infected some clerics! In 1992 the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presented a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) protested. But nobody said that CAN was instigating Christians against Muslims. They were only trying to assert the right of the Christians to be carried along. The protest did not force the SDP to change the arrangement. It did not also make the SDP a Muslim party or its rival, National Republican Convention (NRC) a Christian party. The Christians in SDP did not decamp from the party nor did the Muslims in the NRC decamp from the party. Muslims and Christians did not engage themselves in a fight. The religious leaders just did their work and the politicians did theirs.
Final decision was left to the electorates and the SDP candidate won the election. Apart from religion there are many factors that influence voters. Some just vote for any candidate fielded by their party. Some vote for a candidate based on sectional or tribal considerations. Some vote for a candidate they expect to get some favours from when he or she enters office. Some voters even cast their vote for the highest bitter. Adamu Adamu may just be holding brief of those that competed with the late Sheikh during his lifetime but could be nowhere close to his enviable position. Even after his death those competitors realized that they cannot fill the vacancy his death created. They still find even his name intimidating and they continue to launch attack on him either directly or through their proxies. My solace is that the late Sheikh among Islamic scholars is like Gen. Muhammadu Buhari among retired military officers/politicians. The mere mentioning of Sheikh Gumi’s name even after his death will continue to intimidate his rivals. Adamu Adamu has, therefore, not achieved and can never achieve the aim of disparag… Allah yaji kan malamin malamai.