December 9, 2023

Gumi: Nigeria’s Untouchable Sheikh

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Sheikh Ahmad Gumi called Mr. Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, “satanic”, last week. He could be right. Gumi is a Sheikh, and all Sheikhs are spiritual people. Some of them see the heart of God; at least they make us think so! He did not stop at that.

He went ahead to ask Wike’s appointing authority, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to remove the former Rivers State governor as the Minister in charge of the FCT. He also did not stop at that. Gumi spoke like someone with authority. He does not issue ultimatums without spelling out the consequences. He warned President Tinubu that if he failed to remove Wike, he, Tinubu, could as well kiss his second term goodbye. In addition, President Tinubu would also have the North’s Muslim community to contend with., pub-3120625432113532, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

He used epic but unmistakable language to warn the president and Commander-in-Chief. Hear him: “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.” We should note here that Tinubu has not done six months in his first term of four years. He has not even fully survived the various legal wars the perennial presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is wagging against him. But Gumi is already issuing a threat of second term denial. Gumi talks as if he and his northern promoters will be the ones to decide Tinubu’s fate come 2027.

Curiously, all Tinubu’s boys are silent over the matter. Not a single word has been uttered to counter Gumi or abuse him for daring the president. If someone else had issued that threat, I know the number of direct and third-party advocacy attacks that would have come his way. Is Tinubu afraid of Gumi and his second term threat? Or is it just a case of you don’t throw stones at every dog that barks at you on the street?

The beautiful thing about it all is that Gumi is not God. Only God knows tomorrow! How we are sure Gumi will still be around to determine whether President Tinubu gets a second term? Someone owns Gumi’s life, and He alone can determine when to recall it. We are all IOUs in the hands of our Creator. He recalls our bills anytime He wants it! Gumi, as an Islamic scholar, should know that! The thrust of this piece, however, is not about Gumi and his threat of second term denial. It is about what he said about Wike and the Nigerian State.

Gumi was angry, and I still think he is still angry with Wike. He was so angry that he had no other name to give to the equally loquacious minister than to baptise him “satanic”. Wike’s offence must have been very grave in the estimation of the untouchable Islamic scholar. Nigeria, we are told, is a secular state. This means that as a nation, the country does not have any state religion. That is purely on paper. As far as the Gumis of this world are concerned, Nigeria belongs to one religion: Islam. Many don’t like this line of argument. The government and those in authority who should know better and speak when occasions demand are also not helping matters. That is why someone like Gumi finds it repulsive that the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Freeman, could visit Wike in his office and Wike in turn would have the effrontery to play host to the ambassador.

The main grouse of Gumi, and possibly those behind him, is the fact that Wike allowed the Israeli ambassador access to the inner recess of the FCT at a time Israel is fighting an avoidable war with Palestine. Irrespective of what provoked the Israel-Palestine war, Gumi finds it difficult to believe that the ambassador of a nation which is purportedly killing his Muslim brothers in Gaza would come to visit a Nigerian minister. It doesn’t, and it would never matter to him, the fact that Nigeria maintains a solid bilateral diplomatic relation with Israel. The mere fact that Israel is fighting Palestine, is enough reason why no government official should have anything to do with Israel and all its interests. He could also not understand why Wike should consider the idea of seeking Israeli government assistance on security matters in the FCT. Such cooperation, Gumi says, is simply to do one thing, to wit: “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.” That is his interpretation of any security collaboration between the FCT and Israel, if it comes to fruition.

To get the ears of his target audience, Gumi used the beard as a symbol. The Islamic scholar, however, failed to tell us if everyone with a beard is an agent of terror that Osama Bin Laden represented. I have seen fantastic, God-fearing bearded men. I have watched videos of bearded Sheiks like Gumi, who preached peace and harmonious relationships. So, what exactly is Gumi afraid of in a secured FCT, or any part of Nigeria? Are all bearded men evil, or all clean-shaven men angels? The answer is in the content of our characters. The elders in my place say that only children with sanguinary tendencies look for knife-repellant charm (iwa omo ni mu omo je okigbe). The womenfolk tell us that when you don’t spread any millet outside, you should not be afraid of the rain. “Conscience”, the legend, Uthman Dan Fodio, says “is an open wound; only truth can heal it.” What Gumi said in that his homily last week was, and remains, an open call for war! Threatening that President Tinubu’s failure to remove Wike would set the president on “collision” course with him and Muslims in the country is akin to calling for war. It is an infraction that should not be left unpunished.

But who will do that? Who has the testicular fortitude to ask the almighty Sheikh Gumi to come and account for his unguarded utterances? Nigeria is too fragile. Gumi knows this. That was why he drew the line between the two most prominent religions in the country. He also knew that the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket of President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shetima, would continue to haunt the nation. He said: “Where are those that worked for the Muslim-Muslim ticket? Hypocrites and worthless people. Abuja is becoming an extension of Tel Aviv and security is the bastion of the people. Have you not heard the silence? They know what they are doing…” This is a call to arms. Unfortunately, the State is loudly silent! Godwin Emefiele was accused of ‘financing terrorism’, and he has been in government custody for months now. Gumi openly called for arms against the State, he is walking around a free man. We are told that one partridge is not taller than the other, except the one which climbs the heap. Gumi’s partridge is taller than the rest not because it is on a heap; but because it is on the rooftop where it remains untouchable.  

There are people that are born with some levels of privilege. There is nothing wrong in being born a privileged child. But there is everything wrong when one abuses such privilege. There are many privileged Nigerians. You may change that to read: there are many over-indulged Nigerians. Those who are simply untouchable, the very privileged children of the chief priest. Every infraction they commit is without rebuke. By virtue of birth and the configuration of my lineage, I belong to the class of people known as Omo abé Àlà (children born into the inner recess of the shrine). Why? My forebears were chief priests of our family deity, Orangun.

To underscore the privileged position my lineage occupies, we are saluted this way: “Omo Ààrò mésè domi akòko nù, àgbà hìhòrò mú sèrìnrín; kó somo olòmúrín, hàn wí ké so ugba uhun” (when the son of the chief priest overturns the water meant for the deity, the lesser priests laugh over it; if a child of the uninitiated does that, he pays fines in two hundred folds). Omi akòko is sacred water for the deity. The biggest sacrilege anyone can commit is to overturn the water. The penalty is grave. But if any member of my lineage does that, nothing happens. Privileged children, we are! However, despite that we have the knowledge that we are without rebuke in spiritual matters, there is no history (past or present) to show that anyone from my lineage has ever committed the sacrilege of overturning the water meant for the deity. The family discipline as espoused in the saying: Omo abé Àlà hísìwà hí hù (children born into the inner recess of the shrine don’t misbehave) ensures that.

Gumi is no doubt one of the few privileged Nigerians we have around us. He says and does whatever he likes without consequences, like a typical son of a chief priest. He can even threaten our existence as a nation, and nothing will happen to him. The State is afraid of him. If not so, going by what Gumi said about Wike and the Nigerian State last week, one would have expected the State to rein him in. He had talked and acted the same way on several occasions in the past. At a time when banditry was more common than the air we breathe and the bandits remained invincible, only Gumi knew where they were. Only he could go to the deep forest of the wicked (Igbó òdájú) without any consequences. Only Gumi could tell the government how to handle the compulsive killers of the north and the government obeyed! He negotiated with bandits on behalf of the Nigerian State, and we were asked to show appreciation to him.

Nobody remembered the saying that it takes a thief to be able to trace the footprints of another thief on the rock. Nobody questioned how he became so familiar with the felons and became their go-between. When you occupy an uncommon, privileged position, there is nothing you cannot do. Discretion only teaches one to be circumspect.  He also told the nation in the same sermon that he might not be available for the intermediary role anymore. One of the groups he commands, he added, had asked him not to. “One Miyetti Allah leader came and told me that if they come to me with a proposal of negotiation with bandits, I should not be part of it, that I should leave it alone.” I pity the states that will come under the attack of bandits soonest because Nigeria’s negotiator-in-chief has closed shop, temporarily, though! Nobody is speaking to that loaded message. Indeed, Nigeria is still a huge joke.

That Nigeria is divided sharply along two contrasting stratifications; geographically, socially, and religiously, is not contestable. Geographically, we have the north and the south. In social terms we have the extremely rich and the extremely poor. In religion, we have the Muslim and the Christians. Don’t ask me here about the traditionalists. Those ones are forbidden to confess their faith openly. If you are in doubt, go and ask why the Osun worshippers were not allowed to do their things in Kwara State. And nobody should draw my attention to the recent Ìsèse Day declared in some states in the South-West. That is pure hypocrisy! Still in doubt? Tell me, how many of the governors were seen at any shrine showing solidarity with the traditionalists the way you find in the churches and mosques? Gumi speaks the minds of the north, and to a greater extent, those of the Muslim community.

There is nothing wrong with that, if done in a more civilised way. However, Gumi is already carrying his sadakat (almsgiving) beyond the mosque. It is wrong for a section of the country to feel that without it, the rest cannot progress. The 2027 general election is some three years and seven months away. How on earth will Gumi be issuing threats about what will happen in almost four years’ time? And should it come to that, does Gumi know that if we find it difficult to open a calabash, we can as well break it?

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