" I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong "
This piece is a rejoinder to Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Gumi’s article titled ‘The Second Round of Goodluck Vs Buhari: A Source of Apprehension’. It also addressed the corollary remark he made in response to the flurry of scathing comments from concerned Nigerians - supporters, well-wishers and admirers of Muhammadu Buhari - which trailed his writeup; as well as the earlier essay he penned under the heading ‘Buhari Vs Atiku: A Choice Between Idealism and Realism’.
Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Gumi does not need introduction to the Nigerian Muslims, especially those who are resident in the North West. He is a knowledgeable and outspoken cleric who teaches the works of Sheikhul Islam Ahmad ibn Abdulhalim ibn Taimiyya, the ‘Knowledge and teaching of Politics in Islam’, to a large audience on Sundays, at the Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna. Dr. Ahmad is a respected Saudi-educated scholar who is regarded by many as powerhouse in Islamic Jurisprudence and his teachings is being broadcasted live to his audience across Nigeria and the world through Facebook and the Youtube channel.
Without sounding immodest, I must say that both senior Gumi (may Allah have mercy on his soul) and our respected Dr. Gumi were never fans of General Buhari. It seems, in the estimation of the Gumis, Buhari can do no right. Whereas the revered late Gumi upbraided him for being unjust ruler when he was the military Head of State over his jailing of Second Republic politicians convicted for corruption, his son condemned him (together with Atiku Abubakar, the erstwhile Vice President under Obasanjo’s presidency) and declared the two as no longer fit to rule Nigerians on account of their refusal to: i) bow to pressures and all entreaties from several leading Northerners to drop the court cases they instituted separately against the election of late UMYA, ii) heed what he described as the Prophet Muhammad’s command which made it obligatory for a Muslim to obey a ruler even when he is unjust and tyrannical.
Dr. Ahmad’s position on Buhari and Atiku was re-echoed in the interview he granted to Weekly Trust paper in the aftermath of UMYA’s declaration as President in 2007. The young Gumi went further to reach conclusion that the duo of Buhari and Atiku were incompetent to rule for the fact that any Muslim who opposed the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was incapable of being a leader.
He succeeded in painting Buhari’s rejection of the presidential poll that produced UMYA as rebellion and an act of disobedience to the Prophet’s injunction on the obligatory submission to rulers. This was in spite of the crystal fact that: i) Nigeria was and is still not an Islamic state, ii) the declared result of 2007 presidential elections were adjudged to be massively rigged by broad spectrum of Nigerians, election monitors, international observers and even late ‘Yar Adua himself who admitted publically that the elections which returned him as President were substantially flawed, iii) the decision by Buhari to challenge the official results in the courts was done to seek legitimate redress for himself and the system within the ambit of the constitution, laws of the land and due process, iv) opinions of great scholars such as Sheikh Abdullah ibn Fodio is that it is only mandatory for a Muslim to obey his leader in so far the leader does not disobey Allah’s injunctions (which could include usurping authority or benefitting from sham and unjust elections to mount the throne of power).
After the failed attempt at castigating Buhari for ‘rebellious’ conduct against the Prophet’s injunction in 2007, not much was heard from Dr. Ahmad on the retired Major General, negative remark or otherwise, until September 24th, 2014.
Interestingly, that date corresponded with the day Atiku made a formal declaration to run the presidency under APC. The cleric posted an essay on his Facebook page in which he attempted to narrow down the battle for the APC ticket as straight fight between Buhari (who has made public his decision to vie for the presidency under the party and who has fixed his official declaration for October) and Atiku. After the initial disclaimer which was subsequently followed by statement about his preference for “a totally new generation leader” which “Nigeria truly needs to turn a new page in its political life without the old players”, the cleric went ahead to acknowledge the obvious position of Buhari as a true opposition leader and the most credible among the contemporary Nigerian political class, and then wrote him off as an ideal material for want of financial resources – that must be raised by elites in his party, his associates and mass of following - needed to prosecute successful campaigns on three consecutive attempts he made in the past at the presidency.
He recognized the important role of the South West in producing the needed elixir for Buhari to win, but was quick to dismiss its possibility and offload it as adventurous in view of the subsisting political reality on ground which imposed the ‘struggle for existence’ on the shrewd Yoruba political class led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He then certified Atiku as the favored candidate, for being in control of what he termed the means of access, which automatically pushed his candidature to the realms of realism. He also held that the Turaki of Adamawa enjoys the support of that special class of Nigerians – the oil generals, the business class and tycoons - who loathe General Buhari and will continue to be impediments on his journey to the seat of power; and then eulogized him for being a fighter and a democract. He concluded his piece by calling on Buhari to step down for Atiku, albeit in a subtle manner, by drawing parallels with Al-Hassan bn Ali bn Abi Thalib and Ahmadu Bello who according to him became great by stepping down for Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan and Abubakar T. Balewa respectively.
It is instructive to note here how convenient was it for Dr. Ahmad to reverse positions he held on grounds of religious authority much later on account of expediency. He was the cleric who, some years back, condemned both Buhari and Atiku for challenging the flawed elections which threw forth UMYA’s presidency, accused the two of rebellion against the Prophetic injunctions, and went the extreme to declare the duo not fit to rule. The same cleric has changed gears and is now all out to urge Buhari to step down for Atiku on basis of religious obligation which permits ‘choice of a lesser evil’.
Am I missing something here? Is this not convenient? Anyway, we are getting somewhere. The scholar didn’t even bother to tell us how Atiku’s financial war chest could be able to translate into votes in the North West and North East, and also how much of the massive votes in the South West can his candidature rally despite the numerous political challenges he listed militating against the Tinubu’s political machinery in APC in that region. By the way, the turn of events recently has vitiated the excuse for lack of financial resources and acceptability amongst the economic and political elites put forward by the scholar against Buhari’s fourth attempt at the presidency. The unprecedented attendance at the event at the Eagle Square marking the formal declaration of Buhari, the caliber and quality of the opposition politicians that witnessed the declaration, the media hype and the subsequent vibration that rocked the Nigeria’s political terrain, and the preponderance of supporters, volunteers, admirers etc. trooping out from South of the Niger has clearly put paid any skepticism about the absolute necessity and inevitability of Buhari’s presidency.
I want to believe it was not coincidence that Dr. Ahmad came with up with a follow-up article few days after the formal declaration of Buhari. It was a reaction to the consequence of the colorful crowd-pulling event in which crème de la crème of the opposition APC in attendance were submersed in the ocean of Buhari’s supporters, admirers and well-wishers, making his movement round the venue to acknowledge cheers both difficult and tedious. The cleric has read the handwriting on the wall and understood the political direction been dictated by the aftermath of that declaration – the surging popularity of the 71-year-old General to all-time high and the savior-like reverence Nigerians across ethnic and religious shades hold him to.
This time, the permutations as to who will fly the tickets of the ruling and opposition parties favored President Jonathan and Buhari. It is open secret that Dr. Ahmad is also not the fan of Jonathan, his utterances and writings against the incumbent President speak volumes. So, a perfect opportunity or rather convenience, presented itself. The scholar didn’t waste time to deliver what he wished to be the final political blow against Buhari, using calculated attack on President Jonathan’s bid to run in 2015 polls as a façade to conceal his primary intention.
He premised his article on the ‘deplorably inflamed state of insecurity’ in Nigeria and ‘mutual mistrust between different segments of the society’ which does not require, and perhaps cannot survive, a repeat of bitter rivalry between Jonathan and Buhari before and after 2011 general elections in the buildup to 2015 presidential contest, and even possible ‘severe political anaphylaxis’ of the Nigerian state. He claimed to be apolitical as usual, but went on to confess or rather complain that neither Jonathan nor Buhari solicited for his views and support before indicating their interest to contest in the forthcoming elections. He stated that his interest in 2015 general elections was for the ‘nation to heal’ and for Islam to take its proper place in Nigeria so that its adherents will not be framed, maligned or misrepresented.
Thus, according to him, he was compelled to blow the ‘refree’s whistle’ to stop the fight before it starts. He explained that Jonathan is seen by Northern Muslims as a pro-Christian President and an associate of the controversial private jet-owning CAN president, while Buhari was detested by the Nigerian Christians on account of his of support for the re-introduction of Sharia by the Sani Yerima-led administration in Zamfara State.
He posited that Jonathan’s candidature will unite Muslims against him in the same way Buhari’s will unite Christians; and in the end, the President will force his way back to power using the apparatus of coercion of the state to win or elongate his term in office through postponement of elections, or preside over the disintegration of Nigeria - a win-win for him and his kinsmen in the Niger Delta. He appealed to PDP and APC to come to the salvation of Nigeria by fielding candidates other than Jonathan (whose ‘luck has expired’) and Buhari (whose ‘time has expired’). He concluded the piece with a sweeping remark, accusing both Jonathan and Buhari of being ‘recalcitrant’ and not yielding to reasoning or superior arguments, and in his own estimation, the two should be disqualified on the basis of that vicious behavior.
My beef with Dr. Ahmad’s analysis, apart from it been targeted primarily at Buhari in continuation of a surreptitious attack against his enviable political status and interest to run again for the presidency by the cleric, was the simple assumption postulated which underlines the faulty abstraction and conclusions of the writer.
Re-creating in 2015 events which preceded and succeeded 2011 polls that were contested by PDP’s Jonathan and CPC’s Buhari don’t just cut it. It doesn’t take quantum physics for anyone to appreciate the fact that unlike in 2011, Buhari intends to run under a broad-based national opposition party that has 14 states under its control, with a mass of following in the North that are more than willing to support his candidature materially or otherwise, his acceptability in new territories of the South amongst the masses and elites twhich is gaining momentum day after day, and the wind of change that’s sweeping across the political terrain which was attributable to inadequacies of 15 years of PDP stay in power and sufferings experienced by Nigerians.
As we approach general elections in February next year, the political environment and issues dominating national discuss are quite different from the ‘Northern consensus candidate in PDP’ and rumor about born-to-rule Northern agenda, and the smiling/innocence face with ‘no shoes’ which worked to draw sympathy in the favor of one of the candidates in the buildup to 2011 general elections. Another point of departure is there will be two major contestants to be fielded by PDP and APC unlike the case in 2011; and as recent experiences in Ekiti and Osun has shown, the popular candidate would win in the respective states.
If Jonathan and Buhari eventually contest, both of them will win across the religious divides; religion and ethnicity would continue to play crucial role in determining electoral successes in some states in the six geopolitical zones of the country, irrespective of whether or not Jonathan and Buhari are candidates in the elections. But the gory picture painted of extreme polarization of citizens along religious line is very unlikely judging from the reaction of Nigerians to Buhari’s declaration. The charge by the scholar on Buhari and Jonathan being recalcitrant isn’t in tandem with the known political behavior about the men.
It is on record that Jonathan has capitulated on many political fronts such as the fuel subsidy removal, the politics of Sovereign National Conference (SNC), elections in states and the one that produced Speaker Aminu Tambuwal etc. On the other hand, Buhari had made sacrifices which helped deepen Nigeria’s democracy; he patiently pursued his petitions to the highest court in the land to challenge results of elections he believed were rigged against him and he accepted unfavorable judgments on three past occasions even though he disagreed with ruling of their lordships. He joined hands with Bola Tinubu and other political leaders from the defunct ACN, ANPP, CPC and APGA to nurture APC into a virile and viable opposition party that is today. Buhari is a listener, a quality expected of someone whose house is Mecca of some sort to visitors who trooped to see him every day. He is approachable and takes advises from various shades of opinion. It should interest our cleric to know that the retired General had rule out himself from seeking elective office after the 2011 general elections, his supporters had exert tremendous pressure on him to change his mind and made him throw his hat into the ring. To me, the retired General should be commended and not condemned, for his sacrifices and selfless service in the political development of our fatherland.
In his essay, Dr. Ahmad did not give suggestions of the possible combinations he believed the two parties should field to avert what he called the likely violence and possible disintegration lurking over Nigeria should Jonathan and Buhari contest in 2015.
But in a spirited defense he put in an online forum to consolidate his arguments in the face of persistent and equally biting criticisms from mainly supporters of Buhari, the cleric suggested Godswill Akpabio/Ahmed Mu’azu for PDP and Ameachi/Kwankwaso, Nasir el-Rufa’i/Rochas Okorocha, Babatunde Fashola/Sam Isiah for APC. Looking carefully at these proposals, the Akpabio/Mu’azu ticket will be more combustive than Jonathan/Sambo, if we look at the past records of the personality on that ticket at the state and national levels. The Akpabio/Mu’azu and Ameachi/Kwankwaso will simply not fly in the present political climate of Nigeria. The Akpabio/Mu’azu on one hand, and either Nasir el-Rufa’i/Rochas Okorocha or Babatunde Fashola/Sam Isiah on another will be more inflammable than Jonathan and Buhari contest as the candidates on those tickets will be symmetrically ambitious, resolute and decisive, with passionate and excited fellowship that will go to any length to ensure win for their principals.
Another issue is the likely low turnout of voters due to apathy in the electoral process most especially from the die-hard supporters of Buhari. Therefore, it evidently clear that these suggestions by our cleric don’t promise ‘safe departure’ from what he believes is going to be possibly corrosive Jonathan vs. Buhari presidential faceoff in 2015. Meanwhile, our cleric failed to explain how a presidential contest which excludes Jonathan and Buhari, and featuring the three combos he submitted would promote his desire of healing the fractured nation and provides conducive environment for Islam to take its proper place in Nigeria to such an extent that its faithful will not be framed, maligned or misrepresented.
The choice of language and sometimes assuming demeanor in Dr. Ahmad’s recent writings on Buhari and his sea of supporters, and also on commentators critical of our scholar’s position over mundane political issues are areas he should really look and work to tie loose ends. As a scholar, preacher and spiritual leader with good following, he should control his anger and frustrations, and guard against letting his emotions reflect in his communications and engagements with those people that disagree with his writings or opinions expressed on secular issues.
Hitting Buhari with innuendoes - over his intention to run in 2015 instead of supporting someone from APC - like ‘me or none’ or accusing him and his supporters of allowing ‘fantasy of idealism’ to becloud their reasoning was unnecessary. Veiled reference to his teeming supporters as ‘fanatical followers of men and not reason’ was unhelpful.
Writing off Buhari as someone who ‘cannot be advised’ and ‘believes in himself only’, and the weighty insinuation which projected him as capable of turning self into another Pharaoh when elected was both misleading and uncharitable. Furthermore, accusing public commentators of ‘insolence’ for disagreeing with ‘facts’ or rather point of view of the cleric presented by the cleric in essays, and calling them ‘sub-humans’ and ‘primates’ who used their ‘animalistic instinct’ to scan the articles he wrote on Buhari instead of their human cerebral cortex was unbecoming of a preacher. Also, tagging those commentators who took strong exception to his humdrum opinions as ‘puritans’ and likening some to ‘Khawarij with fake piety and unrealistic tendencies’ was beyond the pale. A cleric’s opinion on earthly matters remains a view, nothing more or less. And there are as many rational and logical points of view as there could be; the opinion that triumphs in the end is the one which comes to be accepted as superior, pragmatic, popular and so forth.
I found it difficult to assimilate our cleric’s hardline position that requires outright disqualification of the two frontline contenders in the race for 2015. That stand was based on shaky grounds which cannot be substantiated with convincing arguments and verifiable facts. This is the first time I’m reading a scholar and religious leader sounding so relentless in coming out to make these kinds of unrealistic and unjustifiable demands that are clearly contrary to the laws of the land (1999 Constitution as Amended and the Electoral Act), justice and equity. The question to ask: is Dr. Ahmad making these demands as a private citizen? Or is he putting them across in his capacity as a spiritual leader?
If he is presenting those thoughts as a cleric, then I’ll advise that he look into history and see how scholars and spiritual leaders shaped the evolution of their countries without these kinds of direct meddlesomeness into the political transition of their states. A case in point was Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab’s ‘mutual support pact’ with the Al-Sauds leading to power sharing between the Houses of Al-Saud and Al ash-Sheikh, and also resulted in the relative stability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia till day.
I’m of strong conviction that Dr. Ahmad can actually do better by adding his voice to the campaign for transparent and credible general elections in 2015 which should reflect, at least on the average, the wishes of majority of Nigerians. He shouldn’t allow his fear of Buhari or Jonathan winning the 2015 poll get the better part of him; we cannot afford to be paranoid over an electoral competition which promises to be contested keenly. In any case, the PDP has made Jonathan its sole candidate for the 2015 presidential poll, and General Buhari is on his way to clinch the APC ticket. Our scholar should let the two contestants exercise their lawful rights, and demonstrate his tolerance of other Nigerians who are free to hold contrary opinion from the one he embraces and who wish to apply their freedom of voting whoever they deem fit among the two. Besides, Nigeria is a constitutional democracy where rights and responsibilities are written down as law.
Ibrahim Sanyi-Sanyi ([email protected]) writes from Kano.