by Dan Onwukwe
Such, it seems, is the life of Dr.Ahmad Gumi, the sharp-tongued, radical cleric. Sheik Gumi, for those who do not know is a trained doctor, a very articulate Islamic scholar. He had been a recipient of the prestigious Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Fahd prize on Islamic affairs. But his views are sometimes not just dangerous, they are combustible. This man undoubtedly commands a large followership in the North, especially in Kaduna. He cuts a cult figure at the popular Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna. It must be said that many of Gumi’s views could pass as a pathetic commentary of how to abuse the liberty of free speech to provoke and perhaps, to incite.
In this season of politics, tongue-in-check ought to guide the utterances of those who lead. That’s what the tempers of these times require. A few days ago, Sheik Gumi caused some political tempest when called on President Goodluck Jonathan to drop his re-election bid. He accused the President, among other things, of incompetence, a divisive leader, not a unifying figure. He alleges that the President has divided the country along religious lines.
In the letter posted in his Facebook,he went further to tell the President, “it is unfortunate that your stand on many issues have turned you into a polarising figure,while your exalted office needs a nationalistic one.” The clincher in his letter is his allegation that there would be crisis in the country should the President remain in office beyond May, 2015.” The natural thing any good leader will do in this situation is to step down”, he says. Instead of the President seeking for re-election, he suggested “someone else who will not stir up apprehension” to be chosen by the ruling PDP.
President Jonathan had since last Thursday picked the party’s nomination form,a clear indication of seeking for re-election, contrary to the cleric advice. Gumi’s letter to the President came three days after he had written a similar one to Gen.Muhammadu Buhari, a presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress(APC). He had urged Buhari to drop out of the presidential race. He expressed grave concern that in the event that Buhari loses the presidential election next year, (which is likely) the outcome of his defeat might not be accepted by Buhari’s supporters. That, in his view could trigger a wave of violence across the country, beyond the North.
Taken together, it must be said that Gumi’s fears could be well-founded, especially on the need for peaceful elections in 2015. However, he’s mistaken in his assumptions, defective in his evidence, and wrong in his conclusions. Tellingly, Gumi’s unsoliticious advice, as well-meaning as anyone could interprete it, fits into the political gameplan of some people who would want to see President Jonathan decline to seek re-election. And they are legion. It’s common knowledge that such forces have been working overtime, plotting one form of strategem or the other to make this a reality.
But Gumi,a master of overexaggerating complex issues has apparently failed to understand that responsibities abandoned today will return as more acute crises tomorrow. It must be noted that this is not the first time that Gumi would be giving such defective advice on President Jonathan. Last year, he asked the President to resign. He also claimed that late governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa and former National Security Adviser, Gen.Andrew Azazi who were killed in a plane crash in Bayelsa, were plotting against Islam. What a dangerous comment from a religious leader.
Only a faint-hearted president will drop out of seeking re-election which the Constitution of the land permits him to do simply on the basis of the enormous challenges facing the country. On the contrary,crisis period such as Nigeria is currently facing measures the resolve and determination of leadership. The desire of every elected President is to leave something permanent behind as evidence of the work of a lifetime, looking ahead of history. Such desire to leave worthy legacies cannot be achieved by chickening out because of challenges.
Once an incumbent president believes he has a record of performance,subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the land, he has every right to seek a fresh mandate. In that connection, I like what a former American President, Gerald R.Ford said about incumbent presidents who seek to be re-elected. According to Ford, the presidency is not a prize to be won but a duty to be done. Above all, he argues that it is not the power and glamour of the Presidency that lead an incumbent President to ask for another four years.
Rather, he says it is something every hardworking citizen will understand.In his words, it is “the challenge of a job well begun but far from finished.” I think it makes sense that President Jonathan sees to the end, the problems that his administration inherited and those it created. All the horror unleashed by Boko Haram insurgents, as horrible as it is, it will be fitting that Jonathan’s administration sees to its end. Therefore,it is uncharitable and defective as Gumi has done to accuse the President of complicity in the activities of Boko Haram or that the President is “more Ijaw than Nigeria”, by which I guess, the fiery cleric meant the President is parochial, not broad-minded in the use of political power.
Ideally, a President’s authority comes from the public’s belief in his right and ability to govern, as well as in the willingness of individuals to suspend their own judgment and offer whenever necessary, advice that will help the larger society. This is where trust in the President is crucial. As much as President Jonathan is facing perhaps the biggest security challenge than any previous president in the country, and none has been maligned as much as Jonathan. However, I don’t think he has lost that trust and credibility as Gumi insinuated in his open letter. In that respect, many Nigerians have been unfair in assessing Jonathan presidency. It is worth repeating that just as Gumi has the right to air his opinion, no matter how hard-line and disdainful it might be, President Jonathan is well covered under Section 137 of the 1999 Constitution to contest or seek re-election if he so decides. An he has decided. Altogether, It is important, to borrow from the Holy Book that “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile…let him seek peace, and hold it” .(I Peter 3:10-11). The message is simple: Unguarded and inciting utterances could ignite violence as we head for next year’s elections.
Dan Onwukwe is a reporter with Daily Sun Newspaper where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author