Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, also known as Sheikh Gumi, the controversial and mischievous Islamic cleric and demagogue, has long been infamous for his divisive, treasonable and incendiary ethno-religious rhetoric. But his recent inflammatory comments have reached a nadir.
Gumi’s reckless outbursts threaten Nigeria’s corporate existence and are capable of throwing the nation into ethnic and religious turmoil. His recent hate messages and attacks on Nigerian Christians, whom he derogatorily and bigotedly referred to as ‘infidels’, can make them a target for violent attacks in Northern Nigeria. Gumi diatribes have further widened Nigeria’s ethnic and religious faultlines. He should be arrested and prosecuted for inciting violence.
The arrogant and bigoted cleric has been tolerated for too long.
During Buhari’s regime, Gumi fraternised with terror groups and killer herdsmen. He endorsed their murderous campaigns against the Nigerian state and people. These terror groups perpetuated acts of violence with unending killings and kidnappings in the north and other parts of Nigeria. Throughout his eight years in power, Buhari was silent on Gumi’s activities that were in clear breach of Nigeria’s territorial integrity, as he enabled outlaws, bandits and Sahel herdsmen who were at war with the Nigerian state.
This should not be allowed to continue.
Gumi’s legitimisation of the criminal activities of bandits and killer herdsmen at the time the two terror groups murdered and kidnapped Nigerians in Benue, Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina, Plateau and other parts of the country emboldened the terrorists. He undermined the work of security and intelligence agencies when he advocated a “blanket amnesty” for the criminal groups responsible for kidnapping and killings nationwide.
According to him, “If the country could pardon coup plotters who committed treasonable offences in the era of military administration, the bandits can as well enjoy similar forgiveness even better under democratic rule.” On another occasion, he said: “Kidnapping children from school is a lesser evil because, in the end, you can negotiate, and now bandits are very careful about human lives. Before, the mission of bandits was to go into a town, ransack it and kill people.”
Gumi’s views about bandits, who abducted hundreds of civilians, including schoolchildren and other students, and killed some in the process demonstrate his sympathies with the criminals. This aggravated and fueled anger and division along religious, regional and ethnic lines. In February 2021, a viral online video showed Gumi making remarks alleging that non-Muslim Nigerian soldiers were responsible for insecurity. In November 2021, Sheikh Gumi stirred controversy when he took a medical trip to Kogi forests to provide medical services to herdsmen. Sheikh Gumi has also generated controversy by releasing his own definition of bandits, distinguishing them from terrorists, despite their involvement in acts of violence, killings and maiming of thousands of Nigerians.
In October 2021, Sheikh Gumi warned against declaring bandits as terrorists, emphasising that such a move would come at a price. Sheikh Gumi’s recent hateful rhetoric is one too many. The silence of the Directorate of State Security in the face of his treasonable outbursts is deafening.
In his recent reaction to the appointment of former governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike, as the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Sheikh Gumi went ballistic with his incendiary remarks. In a speech he delivered to his followers, Gumi had called for Wike’s removal as FCT minister after the former received an Israeli envoy in Abuja and discussed plans to collaborate with Israel in the area of security.
The Islamic scholar had described Wike as a satanic person, adding that Christians and Southerners should not be entrusted with the leadership and security of the country, suggesting that it was dangerous to do so. These statements have been rightly and widely criticised and condemned, with Nigerians considering them as a dangerous declaration of religious war in a country already wracked by religious and ethnic mistrust.
Gumi’s outbursts have also emboldened other bigoted northern religious clerics to make disparaging and inciting statements about the South and Christians. One was quoted as saying that Abuja belonged to Muslims. Gumi’s hateful messages can lead to aggravation of tensions and cause religious war in the country.
When Gumi attacked Nigerian Christians to the effect that the security of Nigeria could not be entrusted to them, he forgot that it was under the Muslim regime of President Buhari that the country experienced its worst insecurity. Was it not under the Muslim presidency of Buhari that bandits, Fulani herdsmen from the Sahel, attacked trains, abducted citizens and made the Abuja-Kaduna train a no-go area for travellers?
Was it not under Buhari, a Fulani like Gumi, that top military brass and the political elite travelled by train with escort and by air? Was it not under Buhari that the three deadliest terror organisations – Boko Haram/ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen and bandits intensified their campaign of terror against Nigerians?
Did Nigeria not become one of the world’s most terrorised countries under a Muslim president? Going by Gumi’s assertion, was Nigeria a safer place under a Muslim president, or was it safe to have entrusted Nigeria’s security to a Muslim? Under Buhari, a northern Muslim, our roads became unsafe, and farmers stopped going to farm as bandits and herdsmen attacked, murdered and plundered their farms and made our roads unsafe with kidnappings.
It is on record that more Nigerians died under the Buhari regime. According to data obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker, NST, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa programme, under Buhari, 63,111 Nigerians lost their lives to insecurity. The deaths arose from terrorism, banditry, herders/farmers clashes, communal crises, cult clashes, and extra-judicial killings, among others.
Sheikh Gumi’s mischief was also unashamedly on full display with his comments about the Israeli ambassador, Michael Freeman, visit to the FCT minister, Nyesom Wike. According to him, “he has gone and brought the Israeli ambassador; that’s what someone sent, and I am yet to watch it. But what is confirmed is he said they will collaborate with the Israelis on Abuja’s security issues. 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.”
The statement above shows Gumi’s ignorance and mischief regarding the courtesy call to Wike by the Israeli ambassador. He alleges Mossad would be in charge of Abuja security. Is Wike the commander-in-chief to single-handedly cede the security of the nation’s capital to a foreign intelligence agency? Is Israel even a Christian nation? The predominant religion in Israel is Judaism and Islam. How, then, does the ambassador’s visit translate to ‘christianising’ Abuja? Is this the first time an Israeli ambassador will pay a courtesy visit to FCT authorities?
Sheikh Gumi obviously has a hatred for other Nigerians who are not northern Muslims or from the north. He is a religious and ethnic bigot. Gumi and other bigoted clerics must be told in clear terms that Abuja is Nigeria’s official capital and centre of unity. Abuja belongs to no particular region neither is it an Islamic city. All Nigerians of all religious backgrounds are qualified to hold any position within the FCT, including that of a minister. It is a melting pot of all ethnic groups.
His latest incendiary statements about Christians and the President should be taken seriously. The arrogance of Gumi in saying a president will be removed in a democracy because he appointed a southern Christian as FCT minister is arrogance that comes with an entitlement mentality.
The SSS should do its work. It is still a surprise that at the time of writing this, Gumi has still not been invited by the Intelligence agencies. I consider this a double standard. We have seen other Nigerians invited and detained with the speed of lightning for lesser crimes.
Gumi should be arrested and charged for incitement and attempt to destabilise the country.