Politics

Those ready to die for Buhari in 2015 are weeping today because of him —Abuja imam, Sheikh Khalid

Buhari

Sheikh Muhammad Nuru Khalid is the Chief Imam, Legislative Quaters, Apo, Abuja. A cleric noted for speaking the truth to the authorities, he speaks, in this interview by Deputy Editor, SALIU GBADAMOSI, on challenges of insecurity in Nigeria, farmers/herders’ issues, crises in Plateau State, among others. Excerpt:

Nigeria is currently facing a lot of security challenges ranging from terrorism and banditry to kidnapping. How do you think the country got to this point?

We moved in the wrong direction for a long time and when we realised that there was trouble, we decided to move in another wrong direction. What I mean by this is that the way we have been managing our differences is wrong. And now that we have realised that we are in trouble, instead of starting attitudinal and behavioural change, we decide to limit our concern to political change. That is what brought us to where we are. If we want to improve our standard, we need total change, and by that, I mean, attitudinal, behavioural and political change.

Would you say politicians have a hand in the problems bedeviling by the country?

Even they affirm it. You find them telling Nigerians from time to time, directly or indirectly, that they are the problem of the country. The ruling party will be accusing the opposition and the opposition will be counter-accusing the ruling party of negligence or directly or indirectly sponsoring or helping insecurity. So, who do we blame? Politicians. They have to come together and change the narrative.

You said in one of your recent sermons that President Muhammadu Buhari met Nigeria a united country and that he should restore it to that state or else he faced the wrath of Allah. Were you saying he was not doing enough to unite and secure the country?

I am not the one saying it. The situation is speaking to everybody in Nigeria. Even the blind can feel it. The common man that was ready to die for him is feeling it now. People are feeling the impact of the failure. Nigeria is not moving in the right direction. The unity of Nigeria was kept at a manageable level before he came and our assumption was that he was going to cement the unity; that he was going to deal with insecurity. But what we have today is that some people have hijacked some parts of the country. Bandits have hijacked some local government areas in Zamfara State. They are also doing what they like in parts of Sokoto State. Look at the killings going on in Kaduna, in Taraba, in Adamawa, in Plateau and in Benue. We have a situation whereby a serving governor is telling the citizens to protect themselves and a state House of Assembly calling on the citizens to protect themselves. What is the situation telling us? I am not the one saying it; it is the situation on the ground.

There is said to be a school of thought in Islam that says that you don’t openly criticise leaders but here you are criticising the president, saying the country is disintegrating right on his watch. Are you not going against what Islam says?

I don’t know that school of thought you are talking about. But if there is such a school of thought, it is a hypocritical school of thought. During the time of the Tabi’un (the generation of Muslims who followed the Companions of Prophet Muhammad, and thus received their teachings secondhand), there were people like Ibn Jubayr that was killed by Hajjaj ibn Yusuf because of the way they speak out for the masses. Hamad ibn Hambali, Abu Hanifa and some other leaders died in prison. Ibn Tamiyyah was imprisoned because of the way he spoke against bad governance. I don’t think Islam that promotes justice and equity will say that if you see injustice, you should keep quiet. Who will speak for those school kids that are in the hands of bandits? Who will talk for those victims of circumstances who died and whose families are suffering? If Islam cannot speak for them, who will? So, we should just condemn small criminals stealing fowls and chickens and snatching phones but keep quiet about leaders that are negligent of their duties? What school of thought is that? It is a hypocritical school of thought.

If you met Presidnt Buhari today, what would you suggest to him as solutions to the country’s nagging problems, especially insecurity?

I would say that he should first identify those who are behind these atrocities and have them punished. If you punish big criminals, the rest will take a cue. Singapore used poor because of corruption. But the Prime Minister of that country was prosecuted because he went on holiday at the expense of one company which paid for him. He was arrested for that. So, he (Buhari) should prosecute some highly placed people that are behind these current atrocities. Let him, as he said during his campaigns, draw the line. Had he drawn the line and looked at his government, he would have caught those committing atrocities inside his government. He should then look at those who are negligent of duty in his government, those who are performing poorly. He should remove them and bring them to book. That is what he is supposed to do. You can’t have a soft mind or apply soft treatment when you are dealing with corruption and insecurity. You have to be ruthless to some extent but operate within the ambit of the law.

The terrorist group, Boko Haram, have made people feel that they are fighting the cause of Islam. Are they truly fighting the cause of Islam?

If I believe they are fighting the cause of Islam, I would have been with them but I know that they are fighting the cause of Satan. The cause of Islam is to protect the common man. The cause of Islam is to fight injustice. The cause of Islam is to promote unity, harmony and social justice. Is that what they are fighting for? Are they not destroying the common man? Are they not killing women? Are they not attacking children? They are totally working for Satan. Their cause is satanic cause.

The Federal Government is rehabilitating repentant terrorists for subsequent reintegration into the society. But the idea is being criticised in some quarters on the grounds that the so-called repentant terrorists will be reintegrated into the same society which they have destroyed and whose people they have killed, maimed and displaced. Are you in support of ‘rehabilitating’ these repentant terrorists and sending them back into the society?

I am not in support of rehabilitating them but I am in support of deradicalising them. These people are radicals; they have radical thoughts. That is what took them out of the society in the first instance. They say they have ‘repented’ but what was the motive? Why did they repent? We have to know that first. Most of them repented because they didn’t have food but their radical idea is still there. They are abnormal human beings. They have radical thoughts. If you want to reintegrate them into the society, you have to deradicalise their thoughts so that they will become normal human beings. This is the first stage.

Their victims are living with trauma. Some of them may be nursing the feeling of revenge. You have to also consider them; give them the kind of preparation that will remove that trauma. You need psychologists to talk to them, to fix their problem. Then if you bring those repentant criminals back, there will be no problem. But if you just say you rehabilitate them by giving them training then to have some works to do in the society and you bring them back but they still have that mentality, that bad ideology when their victims are living with that trauma, they will try to take revenge. So, there are lots of issues; it is not just about forgiving them.

Are you in support of granting amnesty to bandits, given the level of atrocities they have committed?

Amnesty could be the last option if there is no other means. If the government cannot crush them, they have to go into dialogue and offer of amnesty. But if the government is so powerful that it can arrest and persecute them and free Nigeria from their evil, there is no need to talk about amnesty. But if it is the last option, then we have to go for that instead for people dying and suffering.

What is your view on the farmer/herder clashes that is compounding insecurity in states like Benue?

The problem is injustice. If there is justice, farmers would know that they are working to improve the economy of the country and herders are also working to improve the economy of the country. They ought to work together on improving our economy. And the government will help the two groups. If there is disagreement between them, then the government ought to do the right thing. In the absence of the government doing the right thing or in the absence of justice between them, there must be clash. So, the issue borders on justice.

President Buhari recently said the government was going to ‘retrieve’ some grazing routes across the country. Do you think this could bring about a solution to the farmers/herders clashes?

Well, it could bring a final solution but the course of action on the part of the government is not the way to go. We have the governors’ forum. The Federal Government can go through the governors and table options before them to select from because they are closer to the people than the Federal Government. That is the first thing to do, especially when the governors have taken a position. We are talking of the unity of this nation and when there is lack of unity among the people, the first thing to do is negotiation. Let us know what the agitations of the Southern governors are. What are the agitations of the Northern governors and what are the things that will bring them together? The Federal Government is just like the father in a family. When your children are fighting, you are the one to bring them together and show them the way and you cannot do that if you are biased. I think that is the starting point. Let the governors come to a roundtable and come to the realisation that if there is problem in Kogi, it could enter Kwara and if Kwara is on fire, the fire could spread to Osun and beyond. So, let us agree that every part of this nation is important. Let us not think that if there is fire in the North, it will not consume the other parts. The fire may not consume the other parts physically but it will consume them economically because it is the resources of the government which are meant for the development of the nation that will be now diverted to control that crisis. It is important for us to know that we are playing with fire.

There are agitations for secession in parts of the country. What do you think led to these agitations?

It is because we don’t don’t learn from history. History always sends a message to the living. If we had taken a cue from the Biafra war, this thing would not have come again. If we had listened to the message of Maitatsine, Boko Haram would never have happened. If we had listened carefully to the message of history, even the communal clashes in Plateau and Benue states wouldn’t have happened. We have failed to learn from our history. We have to start learning. Let us embrace dialogue. Let us invite all Nigerians to forgive one another. Let us start like that and let us stop campaigns against particular individuals, clans, tribes, sections and let us stop marginalisation. Let us respect one another and believe that all of us are important.

Would you agree that some religious leaders are also inflaming the country’s problems?

Yes, of course. If I would support Hausa/Fulani because I am one of them; if I would emotionally be attached to my religion; if I don’t call a criminal a criminal because he is from my part or religion, if I don’t sympathise with the victims of circumstances in Nigeria because he is not from my language, then I would be inflaming the fire and it is going to consume me. But if I remove my emotional attachment to my religion, to my clan, to language, to my section and to my people and believe in one Nigeria and preach peaceful coexistence of Nigerians, then I am doing the right thing.

You are from Plateau State. Are you not bothered about incessant crises in Jos? What do you think brought the state to the level it is now?

Today (Tuesday), a friend, a Berom, called me to thank me for what I am doing for Plateau State because I have been sending messages of peace to Plateau State. I have never supported the killing of innocent Plateau citizens. I am for justice and that is why I am planning to go back to Jos and start my preaching there because I feel ashamed preaching in Abuja and watching my people in Jos coming under curfew again and again. I want Plateau to be peaceful. But I am doing a good job here (Abuja), considering the comments I receive from the people.

What do you think are the causes of the crises in Plateau State and how can the government tackle them and restore peace in the state?

It is not the government that will tackle the problem; the people must tackle it themselves because we are emotionally inclined to our ethnic, tribal and sectional groups. That is why we fight one another with or without reason. So, first of all, let the people of Plateau State understand that we need one another. Secondly, let the state government continue with the efforts at restoring peace among the people because after this governor (Simon Lalong) assumed office, there was relative peace in the state. What brought back the crises is the attitude of the people. Let the people know that they are for one another and let the government promote justice. That is all.

Talking about promotion of justice, you said earlier that some of these problems were caused by injustice, how can Nigerians and government at all levels promote justice?

By knowing that every Nigerian deserves equal treatment and government office is a responsibility before it becomes a right. If you did not discharge your responsibility and you taking your right from the government, you are being dishonest and thereby promoting injustice. Thinking of what to do for the government and not what to take from the government should be the attitude of Nigerians. If Nigerians will agree that we are all equal in opportunities and rights, then Nigeria will be united and peaceful. As I talk to you, there is no justice in employment in Nigeria. In the recruitments of the army and the police, there is no justice. If people had to buy their way into the military, how can they sacrifice their lives for a country that could not freely offer them a job? If a man had to buy an offer to be recruited into the Nigeria Police, how can he protect justice, because he is a victim of injustice? In short, the way forward is to look inwards. Let us check our minds and change our thoughts.

2023 is fast approaching and everybody is gearing up for it. What advice do you have for the political class, the electoral body and the electorate?

Let us look for a leader that is capable of uniting the nation; a competent person that is capable of restoring the economic power of Nigeria; a competent person that will restore peace and promote security of Nigerians; a competent person that will say no to corruption and everybody will be panicking to practise corruption. INEC must do their job according to the law, according to the provisions of the constitution of Nigeria and the law that created them. The people must vote not for money; don’t receive anything before you vote. Politicians should know that they are politicians because there is Nigeria. If there is no place called Nigeria, there will be no President of the Nigerian Senate, there will be no president of Nigeria, and there will be no governors. So, they must know that all developed countries were developed by politicians who were willing to sacrifice for their countries. We lack that caliber of politicians in Nigeria except for very few exceptions. We want to have many of them so that Nigeria can be great again.

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