Wike, Gumi and the Geographical Expression Called Nigeria, By Law Mefor
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic scholar residing in Kaduna, has claimed that Christians cannot be trusted with the nation’s security. This was said by the divisive cleric in a sermon that lasted more than 14 minutes and was posted on his official Facebook page.
In the same vein, the cleric yelled profanities at Chinwo Nyesom Wike and demanded that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu oust him as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, accusing him of courting the State of Israel. The same Gumi visited terrorists and bandits in the forests and pressed the federal government to grant them amnesty.
By recent outbursts, the cleric revealed an uncomfortable fact once more: some Nigerians think they own the country regardless of who is currently in power. Therefore, it is not by chance that until the arrival of Barr. Chinwo Nyesom Wike, the former governor of Rivers, virtually neither a Southerner nor a Christian served as the minister of Abuja, the federal capital.
A video of a Muslim brother declaring Christian Wike’s appointment as minister of the FCT to be an abnormality that must be immediately corrected went viral a day or two after Wike was appointed. Although it was predicted, the security agencies didn’t order the man to stop. After that, Sheikh Gumi raised the bar to emphasise the point that, although all Nigerians presumably have equal rights, Christians cannot serve as Minister of Abuja or become the President of Nigeria.
Going by the concentrations and preferred religions of both the indigenous people and other settlers, Christians possibly constitute a majority in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) population. They are an inconsequential majority of second-class citizens, as Gumi has just pointed out, who cannot be trusted with the security of the federal capital territory or, of course, Nigeria.
It is so since the seat of government is located in Abuja, the federal capital territory of Nigeria, where the president also serves as the country’s chief security officer. In other words, if Sheik Gumi and his allies do not want a Christian FCT minister to represent the president, then it stands to reason that they do not trust a Christian president for Nigeria. The inconvenient truth uttered by Sheikh Ahmad Gumi and some others is scientific logic or deductive reasoning.
That begs the question: Who owns Nigeria? According to the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution, Nigeria is the collective name for the more than 250 ethnic groups that comprise the nation-state, which gained independence from colonial Britain in 1960.
On paper, Nigeria belongs to all ethnic nationalities that constitute it. Still, in practice, Sheik Gumi and cohorts believe and act as though it belongs to a select few, and one way to ensure this is by electing a Muslim as president of Nigeria and selecting a Muslim from the north as minister of the Federal Capital Territory. The military and civilian leaders of Nigeria in the past have remained loyal to this silent demand. Since the FCT’s founding, only Ajose has represented the Christian South as a minister, and that was even before Abuja was still on the drawing board and was still based in Lagos.
Muslim northern ministers have served ever since the capital was relocated to Abuja. Before Sheikh Ahmad Gumi recently asked Wike to be removed as Minister of the FCT and unambiguously declared that Christians cannot be trusted with Nigeria’s security, no one ever expressed concern or believed it was more than just a coincidence. Gumi has unwittingly opened their eyes.
Nigeria was first branded as a geographical statement by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He meant Nigeria is still a country and has not achieved the status of a nation. Nigeria’s founding fathers, including Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, and the rest, were tasked with turning Nigeria and Nigerians into a nation.
These nationalists who succeeded the colonists struggled with the onerous task. The lowering of the Union Jack (British flag) and raising Nigeria’s green-white-green flag in its place to declare the country’s independence and sovereignty was a mere symbolic gesture. The founding fathers and their political parties fought to dominate the system; rather than agree, each of them fought for the upper hand to rule and govern the entire country, trying to replace British colonialism with indigenous colonialism.
The First Republic, the First Military Coup, and finally the Nigeria-Biafra civil war were all caused by the inability of the leaders of Nigeria to agree to an equitable nation. After such protracted civil agitations, the military finally relinquished control in 1999. Even so, they proceeded to impose their retired members on the polity and have continued to do so ever since.
In other words, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi’s tirade reiterates that much work still has to be done to transform Nigeria into a nation if indeed the leaders still see the Nigeria project as worth their while.
Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president, claimed in Awka at some point last year that Nigeria is still a country, not a nation. Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan remarked the same thing during the book launch honouring Professor Udenta Udenta’s 60th birthday: “Nigeria is a country and not yet a nation.” It is a topic for another day to discuss what both past presidents did or did not do during their terms in office to transform Nigeria into a nation.
The desirability of Nigeria’s nationhood is still up for debate, as some Nigerians believe they own the nation and view others as inferiors who must take second or third fiddle if they are to play any fiddle at all. Sheikh Ahmad Gumi just emphasised that to Nigerians once more, especially the Christian community.
The ostensible advantage of maintaining Nigeria’s disunity by such people rather than working for the nation’s oneness is dangerous since it obstructs growth, peace, and unity. Everyone knows that development is impossible in a place where nationhood is still in flux and unrest is rife.
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi and a few other people are criticising Minister Wike, not because the minister lacks the capacity or the ideas necessary to transform the federal capital region. The critics would prefer that Abuja stay in its current state or even deteriorate so long as a Muslim remains in charge. It is not about religion but competence. After all, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, a Muslim, performed brilliantly as FCT minister.
Political leaders in Nigeria need to start over and discuss how to transform their country into a nation in which all ethnic groups – Muslims, Christians, and even atheists – will live in harmony and social fairness. This is the same call made recently by Emeka Anyaoku, a former secretary general of the Commonwealth, who stated that Nigeria needs a new constitution urgently.
The 1999 Constitution is possibly the least helpful in Nigeria’s history for imposing a unitary constitution on a federal environment. That is the takeaway from Gumi’s submission. It is time to unite Nigeria and put an end to the feeling of entitlement among some Nigerians as well as the perception that some are second-class citizens.
Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians, despite what Sheikh Gumi and others like him may think. Nigerians don’t have another nation they can call home. In Nigeria, Muslims and Christians must swim or sink together, and no group or section is more Nigerian than the other.
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi and his cohort ought to leave Minister Wike alone. Nigerians of all religious backgrounds are entitled to serve as FCT minister and to run for president and commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces. No one of the country’s various religious or ethnic groups has a birthright to the office of Minister FCT or President of Nigeria.
Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; email@example.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor
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