Sheikh Gumi is Wrong, Boko Haram is not same as irredentists
Dear Sheikh Ahmad Gumi
Last week, you granted an interview in which you asserted that: “those agitating for Biafra and Oduduwa Republics are not different from the Boko Haram sect terrorists”. Well Sheikh, given that I have appreciated many of your positions both in private and public in the past, it is important that we take time to clearly, firmly and directly tell you that you are wrong on this one. Lest we become guilty of what we accuse others of doing, it is important we are honest and firm with each other; if we want to be honest with ourselves, then there is no other way to put it than to bluntly tell you that your position on this issue is historically wrong, logically flawed and intellectually unsustainable.
Dear Sheikh, I know you are an avid reader and aficionado of rhetoric and semiotics so I have no doubt that whilst some of your fans and loyalist might be upset with me for being so blunt and dismissive of your position, you (the addressee) will see through my chosen style of rhetoric and chuckle. I must also add that you are getting this missive also because you, more than many other clerics, have a measurable influence over bandits and audience across the land with non-bandits. Lai Mohammed is right when he admits that bandits are probably more willing to listen to you than to the government. Let’s be clear: Bandits and others are more willing to listen to you not because you are a bandit but because you have a moral authority that transcends what the government has.
To whom much is given, much is expected, part of consequences of so much influence and recognition is that your opinions and pronunciations cannot be allowed to go unweighted and unmeasured.
You are totally wrong when you equiparate Boko Haram or bandits to irredentist or nationalist asking for ethnic nations like Arewa, Biafra or Yoruba nations. It is an error that should not be allowed to pass even if you were being metaphorical, figurative or allegorical.
Boko Haram which means “Western education is forbidden”, that also refers to itself as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, meaning “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” is a group with international links whose claim to fame is through acts of violence and declared war against the Nigerian state and people, occupying territories and killing soldiers and civilians, kidnapping children and displacing families.
Those groups asking for Arewa, Biafra or Yoruba nations are activists asking for the restorations of nations existent before the advent of Nigeria. In the past fifty years, none of these groups has engaged in any form of cogent violence. What irredentist groups are asking for is a return to a political grouping, community and nation based on common language and shared cultural values and worldview. They do so because they feel that this Nigeria as structured is not beneficial to their aspirations. They compare their past to the present and conclude that their future will be better in nations of theirs.
It is ok and even legitimate to be against them, it is allowed to insist and even make the case that Nigeria, as it stands, is the best thing for all but it is wrong to say those asking for their own nations are no different from Boko Haram terrorists.
If you or anyone else or even the government of Nigeria genuinely and rationally feels the need to defend and promote one Nigeria, the way to do it is to confidently and calmly show strong reasons why it is safer and more prosperous to be in a one Nigeria and it must be done by promoting good governance, not by coercion, fiat or distorting history. Please let us leave crass propaganda to reckless agitators.
Your case for a one Nigeria built around the need to preserve marriages and businesses is also weak, wrong, obsolete and myopic. Eminent, accomplished and selfless leaders like Dr Amos Akingba and Chief Tola Adeniyi who have been patriotic to and made their mark in Nigeria have already clearly and repeatedly explained that in the new nations people will be free and safe to legally trade, love and worship as they please, just as Nigerians and other nationals can do in Nigeria and across every viable nation in the world.
Whilst we are it, let us point out that you are also wrong to say Yoruba leaders and others are not for the emergence of nations in Nigeria. Dr Amos Akingba, Chief Tola Adeniyi, Dr Fred Agbeyibe and Chief Solagbade Popoola are clear examples for you of professionally and personally accomplished personalities and globally influential leaders, there are many more out there across the country standing with irredentists, some real and coherent, some self-serving and confused but they are out there. Admittedly there are others who do not hold such positions but that is not to say Yoruba and other national leaders are not for and with the irredentist. To each its own.
In what was certainly a bad outing, you, dear Sheikh, went on to make matters worse by asking the Government to grant amnesty and empowerment to bandits across the country just like it did for Niger Delta militants. That is not only wrong but also vexatious. In principle, I am against amnesty for militants, but to compare rebellious groups that emerge due to government’s failure to provide basic need and to equitably share the proceeds of natural resources found in the Niger Delta to terrorists and bandits who emerge to dethrone the State and kidnap children is intellectually revolting and morally repulsive. Amnesty to Niger Delta militants is an admission of guilt and atonement through bribery by an incompetent repentant government, amnesty to Boko Haram is a sign of surrender of the sovereignty of a failing state.
Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.
Prof Anthony Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos.