By Suyi Ayodele
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi called Mr. Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, “satanic”, last week. He could be right. Gumi is a Sheikh, and all Sheikhs are spiritual people. Some of them see the heart of God; at least they make us think so! He did not stop at that. He went ahead to ask Wike’s appointing authority, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to remove the former Rivers State governor as the Minister in charge of the FCT. He also did not stop at that. Gumi spoke like someone with authority. He does not issue ultimatums without spelling out the consequences. He warned President Tinubu that if he failed to remove Wike, he, Tinubu, could as well kiss his second term goodbye. In addition, President Tinubu would also have the North’s Muslim community to contend with.
He used epic but unmistakable language to warn the president and Commander-in-Chief. Hear him: “Tinubu should know that we know their plan, he must choose. He should remove the Minister of Abuja; if not, we will collide with him. On the day of a bath, the navel is not hidden.” We should note here that Tinubu has not done six months in his first term of four years. He has not even fully survived the various legal wars the perennial presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is wagging against him. But Gumi is already issuing a threat of second term denial. Gumi talks as if he and his northern promoters will be the ones to decide Tinubu’s fate come 2027.
Curiously, all Tinubu’s boys are silent over the matter. Not a single word has been uttered to counter Gumi or abuse him for daring the president. If someone else had issued that threat, I know the number of direct and third-party advocacy attacks that would have come his way. Is Tinubu afraid of Gumi and his second term threat? Or is it just a case of you don’t throw stones at every dog that barks at you on the street? The beautiful thing about it all is that Gumi is not God. Only God knows tomorrow! How are we sure Gumi will still be around to determine whether President Tinubu gets a second term? Someone owns Gumi’s life, and He alone can determine when to recall it. We are all IOUs in the hands of our Creator. He recalls our bills anytime He wants it! Gumi, as an Islamic scholar, should know that! The thrust of this piece, however, is not about Gumi and his threat of second term denial. It is about what he said about Wike and the Nigerian State.
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Gumi was angry, and I still think he is still angry with Wike. He was so angry that he had no other name to give to the equally loquacious minister than to baptise him “satanic”. Wike’s offence must have been very grave in the estimation of the untouchable Islamic scholar. Nigeria, we are told, is a secular state. This means that as a nation, the country does not have any state religion. That is purely on paper. As far as the Gumis of this world are concerned, Nigeria belongs to one religion: Islam. Many don’t like this line of argument. The government and those in authority who should know better and speak when occasions demand are also not helping matters. That is why someone like Gumi finds it repulsive that the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Freeman, could visit Wike in his office and Wike in turn would have the effrontery to play host to the ambassador.
The main grouse of Gumi, and possibly those behind him, is the fact that Wike allowed the Israeli ambassador access to the inner recess of the FCT at a time Israel is fighting an avoidable war with Palestine. Irrespective of what provoked the Israel-Palestine war, Gumi finds it difficult to believe that the ambassador of a nation which is purportedly killing his Muslim brothers in Gaza would come to visit a Nigerian minister. It doesn’t, and it would never matter to him, the fact that Nigeria maintains a solid bilateral diplomatic relation with Israel. The mere fact that Israel is fighting Palestine, is enough reason why no government official should have anything to do with Israel and all its interests. He could also not understand why Wike should consider the idea of seeking Israeli government assistance on security matters in the FCT. Such cooperation, Gumi says, is simply to do one thing, to wit: “Abuja will now become an extension of Tel Aviv and when they see anyone with a beard like us, they will say it is Bin Laden and we will be killed.” That is his interpretation of any security collaboration between the FCT and Israel, if it comes to fruition.
To get the ears of his target audience, Gumi used the beard as a symbol. The Islamic scholar, however, failed to tell us if everyone with a beard is an agent of terror that Osama Bin Laden represented. I have seen fantastic, God-fearing bearded men. I have watched videos of bearded Sheiks like Gumi, who preached peace and harmonious relationships. So, what exactly is Gumi afraid of in a secured FCT, or any part of Nigeria? Are all bearded men evil, or all clean-shaven men angels? The answer is in the content of our characters. The elders in my place say that only children with sanguinary tendencies look for knife-repellant charm (iwa omo ni mu omo je okigbe). The womenfolk tell us that when you don’t spread any millet outside, you should not be afraid of the rain. “Conscience”, the legend, Uthman Dan Fodio, says “is an open wound; only truth can heal it.” What Gumi said in that his homily last week was, and remains, an open call for war! Threatening that President Tinubu’s failure to remove Wike would set the president on “collision” course with him and Muslims in the country is akin to calling for war. It is an infraction that should not be left unpunished.
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But who will do that? Who has the testicular fortitude to ask the almighty Sheikh Gumi to come and account for his unguarded utterances? Nigeria is too fragile. Gumi knows this. That was why he drew the line between the two most prominent religions in the country. He also knew that the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket of President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shetima, would continue to haunt the nation. He said: “Where are those that worked for the Muslim-Muslim ticket? Hypocrites and worthless people. Abuja is becoming an extension of Tel Aviv and security is the bastion of the people. Have you not heard the silence? They know what they are doing…” This is a call to arms. Unfortunately, the State is loudly silent! Godwin Emefiele was accused of ‘financing terrorism’, and he has been in government custody for months now. Gumi openly called for arms against the State, he is walking around a free man. We are told that one partridge is not taller than the other, except the one which climbs the heap. Gumi’s partridge is taller than the rest not because it is on a heap; but because it is on the rooftop where it remains untouchable.
There are people that are born with some levels of privilege. There is nothing wrong in being born a privileged child. But there is everything wrong when one abuses such privilege. There are many privileged Nigerians. You may change that to read: there are many over-indulged Nigerians. Those who are simply untouchable, the very privileged children of the chief priest. Every infraction they commit is without rebuke. By virtue of birth and the configuration of my lineage, I belong to the class of people known as Omo abé Àlà (children born into the inner recess of the shrine). Why? My forebears were chief priests of our family deity, Orangun. To underscore the privileged position my lineage occupies, we are saluted this way: “Omo Ààrò mésè domi akòko nù, àgbà hìhòrò mú sèrìnrín; kó somo olòmúrín, hàn wí ké so ugba uhun” (when the son of the chief priest overturns the water meant for the deity, the lesser priests laugh over it; if a child of the uninitiated does that, he pays fines in two hundred folds). Omi akòko is sacred water for the deity. The biggest sacrilege anyone can commit is to overturn the water. The penalty is grave. But if any member of my lineage does that, nothing happens. Privileged children, we are! However, despite that we have the knowledge that we are without rebuke in spiritual matters, there is no history (past or present) to show that anyone from my lineage has ever committed the sacrilege of overturning the water meant for the deity. The family discipline as espoused in the saying: Omo abé Àlà hísìwà hí hù (children born into the inner recess of the shrine don’t misbehave) ensures that.
Gumi is no doubt one of the few privileged Nigerians we have around us. He says and does whatever he likes without consequences, like a typical son of a chief priest. He can even threaten our existence as a nation, and nothing will happen to him. The State is afraid of him. If not so, going by what Gumi said about Wike and the Nigerian State last week, one would have expected the State to rein him in. He had talked and acted the same way on several occasions in the past. At a time when banditry was more common than the air we breathe and the bandits remained invincible, only Gumi knew where they were. Only he could go to the deep forest of the wicked (Igbó òdájú) without any consequences. Only Gumi could tell the government how to handle the compulsive killers of the north and the government obeyed! He negotiated with bandits on behalf of the Nigerian State, and we were asked to show appreciation to him.
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Nobody remembered the saying that it takes a thief to be able to trace the footprints of another thief on the rock. Nobody questioned how he became so familiar with the felons and became their go-between. When you occupy an uncommon, privileged position, there is nothing you cannot do. Discretion only teaches one to be circumspect. He also told the nation in the same sermon that he might not be available for the intermediary role anymore. One of the groups he commands, he added, had asked him not to. “One Miyetti Allah leader came and told me that if they come to me with a proposal of negotiation with bandits, I should not be part of it, that I should leave it alone.” I pity the states that will come under the attack of bandits soonest because Nigeria’s negotiator-in-chief has closed shop, temporarily, though! Nobody is speaking to that loaded message. Indeed, Nigeria is still a huge joke.
That Nigeria is divided sharply along two contrasting stratifications; geographically, socially, and religiously, is not contestable. Geographically, we have the north and the south. In social terms we have the extremely rich and the extremely poor. In religion, we have the Muslim and the Christians. Don’t ask me here about the traditionalists. Those ones are forbidden to confess their faith openly. If you are in doubt, go and ask why the Osun worshippers were not allowed to do their things in Kwara State. And nobody should draw my attention to the recent Ìsèse Day declared in some states in the South-West. That is pure hypocrisy! Still in doubt? Tell me, how many of the governors were seen at any shrine showing solidarity with the traditionalists the way you find in the churches and mosques? Gumi speaks the minds of the north, and to a greater extent, those of the Muslim community. There is nothing wrong with that, if done in a more civilised way. However, Gumi is already carrying his sadakat (almsgiving) beyond the mosque. It is wrong for a section of the country to feel that without it, the rest cannot progress. The 2027 general election is some three years and seven months away. How on earth will Gumi be issuing threats about what will happen in almost four years’ time? And should it come to that, does Gumi know that if we find it difficult to open a calabash, we can as well break it?
EDOCSO Celebrates World Human Rights Day; 50% Of Nigeria’s Challenges Traced To Illicit Drugs
By Joseph Ebi Kanjo
If the menace of illicit drugs and its use can be addressed in Nigeria, 50% of the nation’s challenges must have been properly addressed and settled.
Dr. Mamud Adamu, Assistant Commandant of Narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Edo State, made this assertion in Benin, on Sunday, at an event organised by Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO) to mark the 2023 World Human Rights Day with the theme: Freedom, Equity & Justice for All.
Speaking on the topic: Drug Abuse, a Societal Problem and Possible Solutions, Dr Adamu who was the Keynote Speaker at the event, attributed several challenges such as kidnapping, murder, banditry, armed robbery, etc in this country to use and abuse of drugs, insisting that no man, can with his clear eye, harm his fellow man.
The NDLEA Officer who lamented that many investors are scared of coming to the country due to these challenges of which many can be traced to drugs, further lamented that “drug abuse affects our mental health and also affects the national economic. Any country where its youths are into drugs, that country cannot prosper.”
While urging citizens to inform the NDLEA in case of any suspicious deal in their area, Dr Adamu noted: “Drugs is the root cause of why some investors are scared of investing their money in this country.
“Guide your children, pray for them. Make sure you are sure of the kinds of friends they keep.”
On his part, Dr. Moses Oshiegbu, Health Officer, Psychiatric, while speaking on the topic: Mental Health- Effect of Drug Abuse, called for laws prohibiting public advert of illicit drugs.
“There should be law punishable for parents who send their underage children to buy these substances.
There should be law prohibiting public advert of alcohol and other substances,” he added.
Earlier, the Interim Technical Executive Council (TEC) Chairman, EDOCSO, Comrade Austin Enabulele, said celebration of the Day by the organisation was to let the whole world know that every man born of a woman has a right.
“The celebration is to let the whole world know that all human beings, regardless of their colour, status, have a right. Respect my right, and I respect yours. Respect to human rights is the significance of the day.
“We are calling on government, private and individuals to respect the right of everybody,” he added.
On his part, Comrade Omobude Agho, former Coordinator-General, EDOCSO, and convener, Left Movement of Nigeria, expressed joy for the progresses the civil society organisations had made over the years in its fight for human rights.
The EDOCSO also used the celebration of the Day to award three popular volunteer traffic controllers in Benin City; a Divisional Police Officer and a Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, for their service and contribution to the society.
Alleged ₦81.2bn Tree Planting Scandal: House Committee Exonerates NAGGW
The House of Representatives Adhoc Committee set up to investigate the utilisation of Ecological Fund released to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW), has absolved the Agency’s management of allegations of fraud allegations leveled against it.
The Honorable Ismaila Dabo-led Adhoc committee was set up in July, to investigate allegations of mismanagement of funds released to the agency from the Ecological Fund.
This followed a motion titled: “The Need to Investigate the Utilization of Ecological Funds Released to the Great Green Wall by the International Organizations from 2015 to Date; and All Federal Allocations to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall as well as all Contract Awarded to Various Contractors for the Project from 2019 to Date.” which was sponsored by Honourable Ali Lawan Shettima.
The House panel, in a report obtained by Vanguard, on Sunday, revealed that it reached the conclusion after considering oral evidence and reviewing documents made available to it by those who testified before the 15 member committee.
At the inaugural sitting of the Adhoc Committee, the management team of the agency was invited to shed light on allegations that it spent ₦81.2 billion on the planting of 21 million trees across 11 frontline states.
The States listed were: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
The House Committee equally queried the agency over discrepancies in some of its expenditures.
Director General/CEO of National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW), Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, in his presentation before the Committee in September, denied the allegation while making clarifications on budgetary allocations to the agency.
He informed the committee that he assumed office in April 2022, and that berifiable records show that the sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 was the amount released to the Agency from inception to July 2023, as against the sum of N81.2 bn which the Agency was alleged to have spent.
Bukar insisted the Agency has not acted outside its mandate in the implementation of its mandate.
According to him, not all of the ₦53,425,423,874.34 received were directly spent for tree planting activities as some uninformed persons would want Nigerians to believe.
He said, “The NAGGW cost of planting, from inception in 2015 to July 2023 is ₦5,145,735,470.15
“That the approximate sum of ₦7.2 billion balance in the Agency’s account are liabilities already committed to ongoing contracts that have already been awarded.
“All unutilized funds from capital appropriation are refunded to Federal Government TSA account at the end of the financial year where applicable.”
The Honourable Dabo fifteen-man Committee in its report also faulted the claim that the agency received the sum of ₦81.2 bn noting that, “Evidence from the Hearing indicates that the NAGGW received a total sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 (Fifty-three Billion, Four Hundred and Twenty-five Million, Four Hundred and Twenty-three Thousand, Eight Hundred- and Seventy-four-naira, Thirty-four Kobo) only from inception in 2015 to July, 2023.”
In the course of its investigations, the Committee also discovered that the Agency didn’t receive budgetary allocation for 2015; and that ecological funding was not released to the agency until 2019.
The House panel also discovered that, “the percentage of ecological funding going to the Agency was reduced from 15% provided for by the Act to just 5% with effect from January 2020 to date.”
The report acknowledged the paucity and untimely release of funds, inability to access foreign assistance and absence of a Governing Board as some of the factors hindering the performance of the agency.
The lawmakers equally expressed displeasure over the unilateral reduction in the statutory allocation to the agency by fiat, and urged government, as a matter of urgency revert the Ecological Fund releases to the agency back to 15 percent as provided for by the NAGGW Act.
The report further read in part, “That the total sum of ₦20,168,363,662.18 (Twenty Billion, One Hundred and Sixty- Eight Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-Three Thousand, Six Hundred- And Sixty-Two-Naira, Eighteen Kobo) only being the shortfall of the reduction from Ecological Fund for January, 2020 to date, be immediately released to the Agency to fund its activities;”
Other recommendations contained in the report read : “Similarly, the Ecological fund office should calculate remit to the NAGGW the total sums due to the agency from the Ecological Fund from 2015 to 2018;
“Urge the National Agency for the Great Green Wall to as a matter of urgency include the frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States in the fourth phase of the a forestation projects which is to commence soon.
“There is urgent need for the agency to undertake recruitment of staff, especially for its offices at the front line states;
“Need for a greater collaboration and synergy between the NAGGW and the Federal Ministry of Environment;”
“Urge the Federal Government to constitute a Governing Board for the National Agency for the Great Green Wall;
“Need for extensive enlightenment of the general public on the sustainable use of the forest for preservation.”
Aside from submissions by the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ecological Project Office, the Committee also undertook on-the-spot assessment visit to projects sites in some of the frontline states, namely; Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto State.
UNILORIN Extends POST-UTME Registration
The University of Ilorin, Unilorin, has approved an extension of POST-UTME registration by one week to cater for days of technical hitches.
This is contained in a statement issued in Ilorin on Sunday by Mr Mansur Alfanla, the Registrar of the university.
He announced that the new deadline for registration is Dec. 17, 2023.
It would be recalled that the deadline of the POST-UTME registration was December 10, before the extension.
The registrar therefore advised intending candidates to register within the extended period as there would not be further extension.
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