On 23rd August 2012, DESERT HERALD Newspaper organized a Media chat with Sheikh (Dr) Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, the Saudi based Islamic cleric to shed more light on some important questions he raised during the just concluded Ramadan Tafsir. The Interview was conducted by experienced journalists selected from both the print and electronic media in the country. The event was held at the corporate office of DESERT HERALD Newspaper at Marnona Road, Unguwan Sarki Kaduna.
He arrived at the corporate Headquarters of DESERT HERALD at Unguwan Sarki, the venue of the interview, by 10:45 am, clad in simple regalia with his trademark smile. On hand to receive him is the Chairman and Editor-in-chief of DESERT HERALD Newspaper and Magazine, Malam Tukur Mamu, Deputy Editor of Desert Herald, Umar Abubakar, Managing Editor of Reformer Newspaper, Ibrahim Muhammad and the Sunday Editor of New Nigerian On Sunday Malam Sheriff Ahmed.
After the welcome address by the Publisher of DESERT HERALD, Tukur Mamu, the ball was set rolling by deputy editor of DESERT HERALD. Sheikh (Dr) Ahmad Abubakar Gumi made no pretense reacting to some burning national issues like Boko Haram, his call for total restructuring of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the attempt to kill him by two suicide bombers recently in Kaduna, and the issue of unity of Nigerian Muslim Ummah.
Born in Kano on 1st October 1960, the day Nigeria got her independence, Dr Ahmad Gumi was later brought to Kaduna after three months, were he grew up. He attended Sultan Bello Primary School at Unguwan Sarki in Kaduna, Kaduna State; Sardauna Memorial College at Kawo and later Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. After graduation from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, he joined the Nigerian Army through a programme called direct regular service commission. He later resigned from the Army to pursue his childhood ambition of studying Islam and Arabic. Sheikh Dr Ahmad Abubakar Gumi is a chip of the old block, a replica of his father, late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi who was regarded as one of the best and gifted Islamic scholars in the North. Dr Ahmad Abubakar Gumi is a man of many colours depending on which side you are opportuned to view him from. A trained Medical Doctor, a retired Army officer and an astute Islamic preacher.
During one of his tafsir, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi vehemently condemned the activities of Boko Haram as un-Islamic and urged those who kill in the name of Islam to desist and ask for forgiveness before the wrath of Allah befalls them. Before Sheikh Ahmad Gumi’s audacious call, no Islamic preacher or scholar dare condemns the activities of Boko Haram for fear of the possible backslash. That is why his open condemnation attracts comments and reactions from many quarters. The story dominates the front burner in the media. Predictably, few days after the sermon, there was a failed suicide bomb mission close to Sheikh Ahmad Gumi’s house located around Luggard Hall roundabout by Ali Akilu road in Kaduna. Unfortunately for them, the bomb went off prematurely, killing the two carriers right on the road leading to Dr Gumi’s house. Interestingly, the incident occurred at about 3:30 pm, just when Sheikh Ahmad Gumi was about leaving his house for Asr prayer.
The circumstances surrounding the incident made everyone to believe that Sheikh Ahmad Gumi was the prime target of that failed suicide bomb mission. The question that kept reverberating on the minds of Muslim ummah is: who is actually trying to kill Sheikh (Dr) Ahmad Gumi? Is it Boko Haram or there are other forces trying to hide under the cover of Boko Haram to silence the Saudi based Islamic scholar? According to him “The issue of Boko Haram in its current formation is super imposed from America, who wants to balkanize Nigeria for their benefit. There was an American security expert, who once wrote extensively about the Boko Haram. He said it is true there is Boko Haram but the present consistent bombings and killings are the handwork of foreign elements who want to balkanize Nigeria. For example, there was a letter circulated in the western part of Nigeria marked ‘top secret’ purportedly written and signed by one Datti Ahmed, dated as far back as February 2011. That is almost a year before the bombings started. My attention was drawn to the letter by a friend. The content of the letter indicates that some Muslim leaders have a plan to publicly condemn Boko Haram while they will secretly encourage and support Boko Haram to attack churches and some Christian clerics. I know they are indirectly alleging that the letter was signed by our Dr Datti Ahmed. In the said letter, the names of General Buhari, Babangida, Isa Yuguda, myself and even Sanusi Lamido Sanusi were alleged to have participated in that meeting. I was supposed to be the chief strategist and the outside contact of the group. You can see how stupid and ridiculous that fabrication can be. Gen. Buhari is an intelligent officer and so is Babangida and myself. How can we put it on paper if actually such meeting took place? This is the hand work of those who want to pitch Christians against the Muslims. Remember the letter was distributed only in the southern part of the country where Christians are in majority. There was also another letter purportedly written by one Christian Boko Haram called Akhwat Akwop. The letter allegedly threatened to attack Muslims in the North. The letter was distributed in the Northern part of the country. This is meant to incite Muslims also against Christians so that we should start killing ourselves for eventual break up of Nigeria.
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It is part of American policy to always seek to break any country that has oil into smaller units. This will allow them to control their oil at will. Look at the Arab nations; you have countries like Qatar, Oman and Libya being controlled by America. You will see American troops in Qatar, if you ask them what are they doing, they will tell you they are protecting Qatar from its neighbour. You will see them again in Oman and they will tell you they protecting Oman from its neighbour. So, all what you are seeing in the name of Boko Haram is foreign destabilization plot using some fifth columnists within Nigerian security circle. Now the North has found oil along Maiduguri and even Sokoto of recent. That is why they predicted that Nigeria is going to break up into pieces to allow them to suck our oil.
The Assassination plots
My name was among the list drawn up for elimination by the so called Boko Haram. This information was there two days in Nigerian army headquarters and I heard it in the morning before the incident. Nobody told me officially that your life is under threat; I heard it through another source. This was after I finished discussing with the people of Jamhuriya Newspaper. We have a convoy that do follow Ali Akilu road on the way to the mosque. Two men on motor bike were placed to watch our convoy. When our first car passed through the road, they quickly went few metres to plant the explosive so that when my car approached the place, they can now use remote to detonate it. But unknown to them, I did not follow the usual route where our first car passed. I followed the other road. Two minutes later, we heard a loud explosion. So powerful it was that it shook our house, you can go there and see the hole by the roadside. I quickly sent two of my boys to go and take pictures if possible. On reaching there, one of the bombers was still alive. One of them had a pistol, which I supposed was meant to finish the job in the event that the explosion did not kill me.
Curiously also, I was told later that the bodies of the bombers were not handed over to the police. It was taken by the Military and they took them to Military hospital mortuary. If such thing happens, are we not supposed to have the picture of these people all over the Media so that we can know who they are, and establish any possible link with any group?
Fortunately for us, somebody in the mortuary took the picture of the dead bodies. From the picture we saw, they are not Muslims. Yes, the supposed Boko Haram bombers that targeted me that day are not Muslims. So, this Boko Haram thing is a creation of western powers. They will kill whoever criticizes Boko Haram and say it is Boko Haram. They will have to wash their hands from the blood of innocent Nigerians that are being killed daily. They kill in churches, they kill in mosques and they target anyone that they think poses a threat to their heinous crime. The foreign enemy got our government as an umbrella to operate. That is what is going on and I don’t know what they stand to gain.
This brings me to the issue of General Owoye Azazi. This man, Gen Owoye Azazi got three promotions in Nigerian Army within a year. Quite unprecedented! He was a Major General, Lieutenant General and a General all in one year and he has planted in the army and other security agencies his networks. He was retired from the Army because of the allegation of his involvement in the supply of weapons to militants. Now, is such person a patriot? If there is a western intelligence planning to break up Nigeria and they request for his assistance, will he not help them? So, forget about this nonsense they call Boko Haram. Look at the huge amount of money that was budgeted to fight Boko Haram. Where is it now? He has gone away with it! So if you want to know what is Boko Haram you look at these factors. The bomb they detonated that day is not a locally made device. It is a military device, so powerful that if it hits a car, nothing will be left in such vehicle. So where do the so called Boko Haram get that type of bomb from?
That is not the first time they are targeting Sultan Bello Mosque. Look at the case of the policeman who was killed while trying to diffuse a bomb planted in front of our mosque. They did that so that Muslims will say Christians have started retaliating. This is why we are calling on both Muslims and Christians in this country to see these issues beyond religious lens so that their evil intention can be defeated. Alhamdulillah, if you go to any market in Nigeria today; whether there is bombing or not, you will see Muslims and Christians relating happily with one another; same with different ethnic groups in the country.
UNITY AMONG ISLAMIC SECTS
Reacting to whether there is any step being taken to reconcile all religious sects especially the Dariqa, Shia and Izala, Dr Ahmad Gumi responded that he has tried on several occasions towards achieving unity among all various sects. The first thing is to let the public know that we all Muslims are one. Then each group can come and contribute their quota. Another advantage we have at the moment is the easy interconnectivity where people can come together for the purpose of achieving same goal. Look at what happened in the last American presidential election. People all over the world are able to contribute one, two or three dollar to the campaign of President Barack Obama. That was what made it possible for Obama campaign organization to raise enough funds that eventually culminated in his success at the poll. We should explore the same opportunity towards building unity within Muslims in Nigeria.
I have said it before that in the house of Islam, whoever says La ilaha illallahu Muhammadar rasululah (SAW) is a Muslim and should be tolerated except two people: anybody who carries arms against the nation. Such people should never be tolerated in Islam. For example, Islamic scholars have been advising Muslims to join the police, join the army, join the politics and some set of people are saying doing that is unbelief and they will kill you. For you to go and kill a policeman just because you did not agree with them is not acceptable in Islam. If the so called Boko Haram laid down their arms, then they are welcome to the fold of Islam.
RESTRUCTURING JAMA’ATU NASRIL ISLAM (JNI)
Sheikh (Dr) Gumi shed more light on why he calls for total restructuring of Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI). According to him “Jamatu Nasril Islam supposed to be an umbrella organisation of all Muslims in Nigeria which was initiated in the 60’s with the aim of helping Muslims to overcome many things like illiteracy, and to come together so that they can live peacefully with their non-Muslim counterparts. That was the essence of its creation.” Dr Ahmad Gumi went further to list some notable achievements recorded by the pioneer leaders of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) such as primary and secondary schools which he himself attended. They paid salaries to teachers in these schools.
Unfortunately, the organization has started to nose dive due to many factors. Jama’atu Nasril Islam in its formation does not have international recognition that can allow other Muslim countries to contribute to its growth towards achieving its purpose. Uptill now, JNI does not have recognition under the law compared to other organizations established at the same time with JNI. Recently, I asked somebody to help me check the record in Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and as at today, there is no single record, not even a file of JNI exists at the Corporate Affairs Commission. This has made the organization not to function like its Christian counterparts. In Nigeria here, organizations which are religious are allowed to solicit for and receive assistance from any part of the world. Nigerian Muslims as many as we are cannot get assistance especially from the rich Arab nations because we don’t have an umbrella body that can be used in getting such assistance.
Secondly, as stated during my tafsir, some Muslims have a misconception that when you mention something like nation, peaceful co-existence or constitution, they are un-Islamic. They think that something like constitution uproots Islam. They have that misconception. Contrary to this belief, our Prophet (SAW) urged Muslims to always fulfill any obligation or pledge they have with anybody, be it Muslim or non Muslim. Our Prophet (SAW) had a treaty with the Jews while he was in Medina before his death. He also urges Muslims to live with other faithful and that is what the constitution is all about; how to live in peace with each other.
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However, I don’t want to be seen to be giving the impression that when I said we should live in peace it entails other people dictating to us what we are to do. It does not mean that we don’t have our right, No. we need stability dearly in this country. Not only Muslims even the non-Muslims. If you go round the world, you will discover that Nigeria is one of the most beautiful countries. Allah has deposited abundant natural resources for us. What we only lack is good health and leadership. We are one of the best people on earth. This is because Nigerians have the tendency to leave everything in the hands of Allah. They are very patient. For example if you go to China, the leadership is just some few people, not even up to one thousand. Some western countries are more illiterate than Nigerians. An American was once asked about Iraq, and he was asking which of the states of America that was. So, it is the few cliques who are running this country that made it bad.
Dr Ahmad Gumi’s call for total restructuring of JNI during his tafsir did not go down well with some Emirs and some top officials of Jama’atu Nasril Islam. Sources close to JNI disclosed to this reporter that he was cautioned for openly calling for the reformation of JNI. For this, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi explained that “may be somebody has been following my trend, if people have been following trends, it is that whoever is committed to his faith as a preacher, your service to Almighty God is correct. You make sure your mouth did not say what not to say. Before the Jama’atu Nasril Islam issue, I know in previous years I cautioned some boys who gave themselves the legitimate right to interpret the Qur’an and sunnah. I told them no, simply because you can read and interpret the Qur’an does not mean you can gather people and start enacting fatwa. I told them that just because you are a professor of literature in English does not make you a Reverend father in a Church. There are other bigger Islamic organizations that I have openly criticized, that division of Muslims is not the best, that we must come together and unite whether you are Shia, Dariqa or Izala. For your information, this is not the first time I talked about Boko Haram. In 2009, I talked about them during my tafsir. Once you are facing a threat and you keep quiet, then you are already dead. So, when you are being threatened with death, that is the time to be alive and say something. The issue of JNI is that there is tendency that it gives a bad image to Islam not only in Nigerian press but all over the world. We have to move forward and such bold step must come from somebody. Let me give you example, at one time Lagos was congested as a federal capital. Somebody from Sokoto, Maiduguri or Enugu will have to suffer to get to the end of the country. So General Murtala came and said, ok let’s move the Capital to the centre of Nigeria for easy accessibility to every Nigerian. Is that not a national project that benefits everybody? Late Murtala did it not for himself but for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Look at Abiola, not everybody know that Abiola was a great man. He was once in my father’s house in 1993. He told us that in this house; your father told me to contest for president. He likes every Nigerian irrespective of where you come from. But unfortunately, we have many people who are selfish; who look at themselves as genuine. These people will come later and tell us they can be a solution to our problems. So let’s develop and live in peace. In the hereafter you will know who is on the right path whether you are Muslim of Christian.”
Sheikh Gumi also gave reasons why he decides to call for the restructuring of JNI in the open. Quoting a verse from the Qur’an, he explained that whenever you see a division within people, there are some people who are benefitting from such division. These people will try to hide their ugliness from being seen without caring to know whether their action is good or bad. I have worked so hard trying to get the Ulama and Islamic scholars to come together for the peace of the nation. They refuse to heed my calls. This is between you and God, so there is no fear of Allah in them. What they fear is you people (press) to hear, and then they will act. They fear people but they don’t fear Allah, both Muslims and Christians. Now in Nigeria, do you think the Governor or the president will do something for the fear of Allah? People are being killed everywhere, yet they don’t care, but if the press raises the issue and hammer on it they will quickly do something. So I have discussed with JNI before coming to the open.
Jama’atu Nasril Islam is for the masses; it is for Nigerian Muslims and not for the Emirs. That is why I call on all Nigerian Muslims to come together and salvage ourselves so that we can stay in peace. Christians should not be jittery on the unity of Muslims, because every Christian knows the truth that Muslims in Nigeria are peace loving people. They know this fact. Let me give you one story. In 2006, I went to visit he GOC of 1st Division. He called all the officials in the Division. One of them who is from the East said “I don’t know what happen to Nigeria. He told us a story of how he got to Kaduna. He has a brother working in Kaduna Textile, but when he arrived Kaduna he did not know the right address of his brother and have never been to Kaduna before. So, he met a Hausa man working in a filling station and explained to him that he came to visit his brother but could not trace his address. The Hausa man told him not to worry that he will house him and help him trace his brother. The next day, the Hausa man went to the textile, traced his brother and brought him to the house to meet him. This was how he came to live and study in Kaduna that eventually saw him in the Nigerian army. Likewise, go to Ahmadu Bello way in Kaduna, it is Igbos that are living there. This is the society that allows you to establish your business without any form of discrimination. So, if Muslims have a good organization, this organization will prevent youths from vandalism which is the only problem any Igbo man can complain of. This is why Christians should even encourage unity among Muslims. So that is why JNI needs good leadership. The Emirs are already in a form of entanglement, a cobweb-like situation. Look at what is happening now; the emirs cannot handle the problem because we have allowed anarchy to spread among the Muslims. Emirs cannot lead this umma whether we like it or not because they are already suppressed by this system of government. We want JNI to be democratized, let the leaders be elected. But let me make it clear that I, Sheikh (Dr) Ahmad Abubakar Gumi is completely out of it because I can consider myself as one of the emirs.
What I am saying in essence is that we should not allow revolution to come to Nigeria haphazardly. Let Nigerian Muslims be allowed to choose their representatives in view of what is happening in Arab nations. People do not want leaders imposed on them anymore. If we allow revolution to come to us, we don’t know how it will end.
ANY POLITICAL AMBITION?
Sheikh (Dr) Ahmad Gumi categorically stated that he has no political ambition and will never join politics for whatever reason. He was responding to a question on whether he has any future political ambition owing to his popularity and acceptance among the people. “I will never do that. Remember some people are good pilots while others are aircraft Engineers. Politics is not in my interest and it is not my profession and I will never venture into it.”