By Abdussamad Umar Jibia
Over the past few days, pictures emerging from the reconciliation meetings between Obasanjo and Atiku littered the social media. Atiku has just been nominated as the PDP presidential candidate. Much like President Buhari, Atiku has changed his political parties several times in order to be able to get to the presidency. The major difference between the two is that while the former relies on popular support, Atiku is believed to rely on the use of money (call it generosity depending on your mindset) to buy his way. Perhaps nobody rubbishes the former vice president like his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. In his book, My Watch, the two times Nigerian leader condemned Atiku for “his propensity to corruption. His tendency to disloyalty. His inability to stay and stick to the truth all the time. A propensity for poor judgement. His belief and reliance on marabouts. His lack of transparency.” The retired General also condemned his former deputy for “his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest.”
Of all the pictures that were taken at the meeting, the one that went most viral was the one depicting Atiku, his host and former boss Obasanjo, Archbishop Onayeikan and Sheikh Ahmad Gummi. Social media commentators, especially those with sympathy for the governing party were throwing all kinds of comments. Many of the commentators accused Gummi of being there because it involves moneybags and he dislikes Buhari because the principled President does not give free money. Others say as a religious leader he is supposed to be neutral and not be seen to take side with any political party. Many questioned why he did not start his reconciliation in Kaduna where the Governor is at war with Muslim politicians like Shehu Sani. Yet, many others dismissed him as someone with no electoral value. But particularly one person, a senior medical doctor posted the picture into our group of former classmates and requested people to comment. I then took it upon myself to comment.
Let me state here that I have never met Dr. Ahmad Gummi or his father although I can claim to be an indirect student of the former having been a regular listener to his tafsir in my early life. When his child took over, I was not impressed by his style of preaching and I stopped listening to tafsir from the Sultan Bello mosque. My only encounter with Dr. Ahmad Gummi was on a faceless online platform, the Nigerian Muslim Network, a Google group that brought together Nigerian Muslim intellectuals from around the globe. The exchange between me and the Sheikh was far from being smooth as I supported Buhari and Gummi’s views were against his politics. I was particularly against Gummi’s reasons for his intense criticisms on Buhari. One of the reasons Gummi gave at that time was the retirement of his father when Buhari was a military head of state. His father died many years earlier and many of us on that platform were of the opinion that it was incorrect for a scholar of his status to be nursing a grudge for so long.
In my own case, my support for Buhari was not blind. There is no such a politician or any other person for that matter worth my blind support. As a Muslim, my religion teaches me not to go to extreme in anything, including love and hate. It also teaches me to be fair when I speak even if it is against my own self. That is what guides my opinions on issues.
Now, what makes us like or dislike a person? Human beings, as the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, have been created in such a way as to like people who are kind to them and dislike people who are unkind to them. And what is kindness? It comes in different ways. It includes helping a person out of difficulty, forgiving them when they are wrong, helping them achieve a noble aim, congratulating them on an achievement, etc. The Holy Qur’an describes the highest form of kindness as being good to those who wrong us, by doing which “you will see the one you had mutual enmity with him will turn out to be a close friend” (Q41:34).
Those of us who expect Dr. Ahmad Gummi to wholeheartedly accept and simply start campaigning for Buhari are not being fair to him. Like any other human being, Gummi will naturally have sympathy for people who have been kind to him. The PDP in and out of Government has been kind to Gummi at the time he needed kindness most.
In 2010, after the Junior Mutallab’s failed attempt to detonate an explosive in an American plane over the city of Detroit, Dr. Ahmad Gummi was detained in Saudi Arabia allegedly because his telephone number was found on the handphone of the young Nigerian. PDP was then in power and Jonathan sent his deputy to go and hold high level meetings with Saudi authorities to get Gummi released. When he was released and people, including politicians, were trooping to his house to congratulate him, Buhari as a politician should have at least through a statement expressed his happiness over the release of the Kaduna-based Islamic scholar. As bad as IBB may be in the eyes of many, he was on air congratulating Ahmad Gummi and showering encomiums on his father.
I am not aware of a personal visit by General Buhari to commiserate with Gummi’s family for his detention or another one to Dr. Gummi to congratulate him after his release. Such a gesture would have assured Gummi that although Buhari was not in Government he would have done the same thing or perhaps better if he were in power. It will also put a burden on Gummi that will minimize whatever criticisms he will make on Buhari and his politics.
Now that Allah Has given power to Buhari, how many religious leaders did he bring close that did not support him? At least we have been seeing Rev. Kukah paying visits to state house even though he was not a supporter of Buhari before 2015. Politicians are known for doing their utmost to minimize their number of foes. I believe that is why people like Rev. Kukah were at various times at the state house and it is good. But what prevented the presidency from bringing people like Gummi close? Is it because he is considered to have no electoral value? Then that ends the matter. If APC considers Gummi as valueless and others see him as valuable what is the problem if he associates with those who value him? And of what use is making noise about a person without value?
People around PMB do not help matters. One of the closest associates of Buhari who later became his minister of Education was known for his unsavoury remarks on Late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gummi. How do you expect Late Gummi’s children or his students to be part of an arrangement in which such a person wields a lot of power? And of what electoral value are people like the honourable minister if you remove PMB?
The argument that Ahmad Gummi was there because he needed money has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. What it means is that a religious leader cannot associate with anyone who is wealthy or be involved in any process in which wealthy politicians are involved. This thinking is faulty considering the number of religious leaders, including His Excellency the Vice president who have been close to Tinubu and now in this Government. This faults the neutrality argument as well.
If El-Rufai or Shehu Sani considered Gummi worthy of making reconciliation and invited him to make peace and he refused, he is wrong. But was there such an invitation? Now that Atiku invited him why did our analysts not criticize the Kaduna politicians for not inviting him like Atiku did? Why must the blame go to the Sheikh not the politicians?
On a final note, please let us leave Dr. Ahmad Gummi alone and concentrate on our support for PMB to continue to fix the nation. If you are offended by my remarks, you should be consoled by the fact that I’m only another human being entitled to my opinion.
Professor Abdussamad Umar Jibia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org