By Abimbola Adelakun
If, by now, Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, has not categorically denied he told the Muslim bandits he has been meeting in recent times that their enemies are Christian “outsiders,” it means he said what he said, and he is not taking it back. Gumi has been garrulous since he gave himself the job of negotiating with domestic terrorists supposedly on behalf of the country. He has even blamed Niger Delta militants for teaching Fulani herdsmen the criminality with which they are ravaging the whole country. Gumi is acting blind, and that is not because he is deformed. He wants to justify using a walking stick and then poke everyone’s eyes with it. His pronouncements give him away, not as someone looking for peace for Nigeria but merely pandering to an emerging power base in his neck of woods. Power has changed hands in northern Nigeria, and the formerly respected voices like Gumi can no longer find a relevance commensurate with that of those who speak with AK-47s.
The millions of almajiri children whose destinies the northern elite stole to feather their private nests have now grown up, and they are upsetting the social order through sociopathic ferocity. They have morphed into all shades of terrorism. The same weapon of violence their leaders have always used to assert power has fallen into the hands of these plebeians, and they are making their leaders quake with trepidation. These barbarians have tasted blood, and are no longer content to be summarily corralled into rigging their theocentric leaders into power during election periods. They have found new relevance, and they are making huge sums of money out of it. These terrorists have not only managed to reduce the myth of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his once-touted military expertise to rubble, but they are also now bracketing the nation’s choices to either paying them ransom for their abducted victims or giving them official roles. For people like Gumi to remain relevant in this emergent political order, he has to find a way to be in the good books of these brutes. That is why he is practically grovelling before them and forming their mouthpiece. Gumi is not looking for peace; he is a dangerous clout-chaser.
First, we must thank him for unravelling quickly enough for us to know his true agenda. It would have been terrible to be fooled by his previous criticisms of northern politicians’ failures and imagine he has sincere intentions only to discover he is just another duplicitous negotiator using the precarious security situation to burnish his credentials as a powerbroker. His intervention in recent times has been a shameless dance of religious and ethnic irredentism. Gumi, however, is not the only northerner speaking on the mounting violence in Nigeria and refusing to disguise their real motives. Northern governors and prominent politicians have been no different. If they cannot subsume the larger interests of the nation under their identity matrices of religion and ethnicity, the rest of us should regress into our tribal enclaves as well. It will be a negative reaction to a negative attitude, but it takes two negatives to make a positive.
At this point, one wonders why the Nigerian security forces and the dis-Information Minister Lai Muhammed did not respond to Gumi when he blamed Christians for violence against Muslims. Given Nigeria’s volatile history, they must know such inciteful comments are instigation to violence against Christians, especially the vulnerable ones. Why did the Nigerian Army not debunk Gumi’s slander and speak up for its soldiers’ integrity? Why not tell Gumi pointedly that the soldiers warring against these terrorists are first and foremost detribalised Nigerians; also, they are not classified according to religious leanings, and Gumi’s “animal talk”, as Fela would call it, will not stop them from going about their professional duties in the proper manner? These are people who issue juvenile press statements each time two or three IPOB supporters gather, but they are quiet on this. What of Muhammed who said the Federal Government uses “backchannels” like Gumi to reach criminals? By asserting you use him as a negotiator and not disavowing his claims, you indicate official support for his stance. So, does the Federal Government that Muhammed works for also believe that terrorists are victims of Christian military officers?
When you compare the official silence that met Gumi’s baloney with the thunderous outrage that greeted Bishop Matthew Kukah’s more positive and more forward-looking homily on Nigeria’s situation, you realise how deeply institutionalised ethnic and religious prejudices are in this country. What exactly did the Bishop say that made him deserving of opprobrium but leaves Gumi intact? Muhammed and his fellow attack dogs that hounded the Bishop are suddenly quiet. Is Kukah’s assertion that some people get away with atrocities in this country for ethnic and religious reasons not over-justified now? Where are those that attacked Pastor Enoch Adeboye for being “unpatriotic” when he spoke on restructuring Nigeria? What exactly did Adeboye say at the time that he deserved all that barking from the rabid dogs of the presidency but lets Gumi get away with practically inciting vandals against fellow Nigerians? It is funny that even some Yoruba, people whose heads are for carrying loads and who joined the pillorying of these Christian clerics, have somehow lost their tongues.
At this point, one can only hope that southern politicians have their notebooks out and they are learning significant lessons. These people have no concept of Nigeria as anything other than their feeding trough. They do not love the country. They never have, and it is doubtful they will ever love this bastard child. They care about Nigeria only as long as its resources fill their pockets. They will not hesitate to sacrifice all of us, and that is why we should not put ourselves in a default mode of espousing a pan-Nigerian vision when they have made it abundantly clear where their loyalties lie.
While a South-West governor issues a press statement saying that our enemies are criminals, not fellow Nigerians who happen to be Fulani/Hausa, Senate President Ahmad Lawan will still have the mind to blame South-West governors for emboldening criminals to attack northerners. Lawan’s home state of Yobe is a place that international agencies classify as “unsafe” and severely warn their citizens never to go near there. You do not hear the same Lawan talk about the multi-generational leadership failure in his home state that has made the place one of the world’s worst habitations for humanity, but he will have the chutzpah to blame South-West governors for being failures.
A South-West governor, in the name of “one Nigeria,” will exculpate herdsmen from being stereotyped as criminals by pointing out how long they have lived together peacefully, and a North-East governor will respond that the forests where herdsmen graze -and which are in contention- is a no man’s land. A South-West governor will say the Seriki Fulani in his state speaks more Yoruba than he himself does, while their northern counterparts justify herdsmen carrying military-grade weapons. They do not reciprocate by telling us how much the southerners in their domain have been acculturated into their communities. Instead, they double down on their clannishness. The South-West governors will leave their offices to visit Seriki this-and-that to sue for peace, but you do not see their northern counterparts doing the same when violence breaks out in their region.
By now, it should be evident that we are operating on different wavelengths on this Nigerian identity. What is the point of such unreciprocated liberalism? We are giving too much of ourselves and we are getting too little back. Nigeria does not exist for these people unless, of course, there is a federal allocation attached to the discourse. Southern leaders should stop sacrificing their people’s dignity and adopt the strategy of being shamelessly tribalistic too. Sustaining this farce of being a “detribalised Nigerian” makes one look naïve. Tribalism is a viable countermeasure if we do not want to end up as unfortunate dupes of a national vision that has long been aborted.
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Sheik Gumi is why we all need tribalism
By Abimbola Adelakun