Gumi to Buhari: Stop talking about corruption, tell Nigerians your achievements

In the wake of the visit of Shiek Abubakar Gumi, Bishop Matthew Kukah and Bishop David Oyedepo to former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the controversy that has continued to trail meeting in which Obasanjo and former vice president Atiku Abubakar were reconciled, Gumi spoke in Kaduna on why the visit was necessary and other issues in the polity. Excerpts…

You just came back from a trip with other prominent Nigerians to Abeokuta, could you give us why you were there?

The trip is all about the reconciliation of people who have been quarreling over political issues and the quarrel has gone deep. In such case, if the warring factions are ready for peace or to come back together and settled with whoever feels aggrieved and he is ready to accept forgiveness, then it is the best thing that any man who knows the purpose of life should attend such meeting. That is what the gathering was about. Reconciliation between these two individuals, former president Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar, is very significant and very important to them and the country, especially at this time when the nation is inflamed. It should teach people that no matter how you take anybody as your enemy, a human being like you, one day you can come together and reconcile and that is why it was an honour to be part of such reconciliation process between the former president and his vice.

How would you react to those that said the whole exercise is political, especially the timing and now that the former vice president is the presidential candidate of the PDP?

I cannot deny that there are political undertones, but even the cynic, the person accusing us, his statement is political too, because he doesn’t want these leaders to come together for political reasons. He wants them to continue fighting so that he can have advantage of divide and rule. So, even those criticising the reconciliation are doing it for political reasons, but for us who teach religions where ever there is accord, treaty, peaceful settlement whether political or apolitical it rhymes with the wish of God. For those who want the fight to continue, whatever reason they want it so, either political or not is not the way of God. Those supporting it are the ones doing what God wants, because God does not want confusion, hatred between men. God wants peaceful coexistence. We have seen innocent people being killed on a daily basis over simple issues that should not cause disaffection. So, we are happy to be part of these historic reconciliation for whatever reason people adduced for it, whether political or otherwise and we want it to trickle down to all Nigerians, not only them. In Nigeria we have even intra party crisis and we want people to settle them, there should not be crisis because election is not a do-or-die affair. If people like you and you are have the majority, you will win, if they don’t like you, you don’t have to struggle, leave it to somebody that the people like, so that you don’t take their blames and their burden, this is how we see it.

When you described the reconciliation as critical because the country is inflamed, what exactly do you mean?

What I mean is that there is chaos in the land. Why is it that innocent people are dying everyday? If you are on the front line you will know that, just as we are sitting now, anything can happen, people coming for revenge and the next day the other people will go over there for revenge again. Ordinary Nigerians are not getting anything from government but they are being killed everyday. It is not just between Muslims and Christians, look at Zamfara it is Muslim/Muslim and even Christian/Christian because in Adamawa I think they have a situation like that and when you ask, the only thing they will tell you is they killed us first and we want to get revenge. So, who has the moral right to come and teach people what we call forgiveness. Let us come and forgive each other and begin to open new bridges. This is what Obasanjo has taught the nation with this reconciliation. He was aggrieved by his vice in many, many ways, he felt aggrieved but he is ready to forgive. After all that he has written, he is ready to forgive and forget, this is a good thing for the nation.

You have always been frank about the performance of this administration, has your view changed over time or it is still the same?

About his (President Muhammadu Buhari) capacity or whether he has done well? You see, usually the people who preach are not preaching for votes, but to analyse the situation and try to find a way out for the society. Part of the nation been inflamed like I said earlier, the economy has crumbled because of poor economic policies. The president was warned about these policies from inception. International economic bodies where telling him, these economic policies are wrong, they will lead you know where, but he did not understand and insisted because they taught anybody who criticises the government is a wailer. President Buhari did not criticise former President Goodluck Jonathan the way I did.

Nobody criticised former president Jonathan especially here in the north like I did. So, I expected them to know that when we are criticising this government, it is not because of any hatred, but for the good of the country. At that time, Jonathan’s problem was the security situation in the country and not the economy. Economic wise he was doing well, In fact, Nigeria was overtaking South Africa and other African countries in economic development. But I was tackling him on security, how he allowed the security chiefs to mislead him, punishing a whole region under fake security alert. Boko Haram is there in the north east and not here in Kaduna and Sokoto.

But he was putting soldiers here and there, humiliating people and this was causing serious problems and as a civilian he did not know that these security people were just getting money, they were just milking him innocently. Nigeria is still in deep waters, so we need people that have the know-how that can take us out of this quagmire that we have fallen into. But yet 80-85 per cent of Nigerians are semi-educated. They may not understand concepts like these; they may not understand that election is a game of numbers.

So, we have a big duty to educate people. But first let the president know that time has elapsed, he cannot handle this issue. You don’t build an economy in the modern sense, by just saying you are fighting corruption. In fact when you make fighting corruption your slogan outwardly, it emboldens corruption and destroys the economy.

I always compare it to a rat, if you want to catch a rat in the dark with a trap you can succeed, but when you switch on the light, the rat will disappear and may even multiply. His only selling point wherever he goes is talking about corruption, corruption it is now worn out, anytime he mentions corruption now people just laugh, because he is sitting in the den of corruption. So, I want him to forget about that. Just show Nigerians what you are doing; I have done this and that. So, really his time has come, if I were him personally I would assist the new generation to come up, which would have been better.

But anyway, he is convinced and he believes he is doing his best and he is coming out to contest. Now, the choice is left to Nigerians. I am not going to say Nigerians vote this person or that person, but I am telling Nigerians to vote according to their conscience. If you want the present status to continue, vote for it to continue, if you want to change it, vote to change it. Whoever wins the majority carries the day. I maintain my neutrality; I am not vouching for anybody. I am not saying that this is the person you should vote for. Vote according to your conscience. But what I will say if you ask me to appraise every government or individual, his capacity and his problems then I can only say that.

It is just like suitors coming to marry a girl, I can say this man is this, this one is this, and it is left for the girl to choose. You don’t build an economy in the modern sense, by just saying you are fighting corruption. In fact when you make fighting corruption your slogan outwardly, it emboldens corruption and destroys the economy. I always compare it to a rat, if you want to catch a rat in the dark with a trap you can succeed, but when you switch on the light, the rat will disappear and may even multiply. His only selling point wherever he goes is talking about corruption, corruption it is now worn out, anytime he mentions corruption now people just laugh, because he is sitting in the den of corruption. So, I want him to forget about that. Just show Nigerians what you are doing; I have done this and that. So, really his time has come, if I were him personally I would assist the new generation to come up, which would have been better. But anyway, he is convinced and he believes he is doing his best and he is coming out to contest. Now, the choice is left to Nigerians. I am not going to say Nigerians vote this person or that person, but I am telling Nigerians to vote according to their conscience. If you want the present status to continue, vote for it to continue, if you want to change it, vote to change it. Whoever wins the majority carries the day. I maintain my neutrality; I am not vouching for anybody. I am not saying that this is the person you should vote for. Vote according to your conscience. But what I will say if you ask me to appraise every government or individual, his capacity and his problems then I can only say that. It is just like suitors coming to marry a girl, I can say this man is this, this one is this, and it is left for the girl to choose.

But don’t you think that your peace mission with others is an endorsement of Atiku?

It is an endorsement that he is capable, not an endorsement that you should vote him, like I said if three people want to marry a lady I can tell her one is capable, two is capable, three is incapable. So, it is an endorsement that he is capable among the contestants not for you to choose him, you are now free to choose.

Who actually invited you to meet Obasanjo for the reconciliation?

Actually the choice of those who will witness this great occasion as I was made to understand is a consensus choice, between the two warring parties. They said that they needed people who are not aligned to any political party and my name and that of Bishop Kukah came up and you know we have been critical of any government that we feel is not doing well, we don’t keep quiet. Even while Obasanjo and Atiku were seated, I was very critical of the government, but they understand my criticism was issue based. Now that Buhari is in government and I criticise him, others that I had criticised know that I don’t have any problem with any of them. They now know that I am neither APC nor PDP and I am still myself. So, they wanted people without political linings so that they will not capitalise on it.

Why do you think Atiku is capable?

I think he is capable is this particular sensitive situation that Nigeria is in now. Don’t forget that I am a medical doctor, there are priorities in treatment, there are stages in treatment. In the Nigeria we have now, if you bring a young person he cannot handle it, because part of our problem is these big men. They will not respect the young person. So, you need a heavyweight. This is a heavyweight fight, not featherweight or lightweight. So, the former vice president is among the heavyweights that can pacify every religion, every region, every tribe and he has people to work with everywhere in Nigeria now. He is among those that can bring all sides together. Also his age is an advantage in this point in time. This is because at 72 and well-to-do, what does he want power for? If he can listen and take advice, he will perform miracles. But if he will turn to another demagogue, close his doors and feel he is the king, then he is woefully going to fail and Nigerians will turn away from him, even if they elect him. But so far among the candidates, the person that can bring people together is Atiku. I think he has the qualification, he can do it.

What is your take on the toga of corruption placed on Atiku by the present administration, how can he disabuse the mind of Nigerians?

Let me tell you, I don’t deceive myself; corruption in Nigeria is not a stigma, so they better look for another thing to try to tarnish him with. Get what I am saying, it is not that corruption is correct or a good thing, but it is not a stigma. I am yet to see a Nigerian that will get free, easy government money and will not take it. If somebody is a bad man for example and say I want to repent, such man is better for me than a hypocritical pious person, pretenders. What we need now is to bring Nigerians together. Let there be peace, people are being killed daily, vandalism of pipelines ongoing, killings, all these problems are serious issues. I am not condoning corruption but I am saying don’t use it as a slogan.

‘You are corrupt; you are helping looters’ that is all they can say. But when I go out I see people in abject poverty, people dying of simple diseases, hunger, children out of school. Even what they call corruption at times, is not corruption that is detrimental, it was corruption that was alleviating the lapses of the government. So, government over time developed the unconventional way of settling people. When you go to the houses of all political leaders, from party chairmen and the likes, they are feeding the masses. So, all these monies people are saying they are stealing, they were also using it to service the masses.

If I open my phone, you will see text messages of people asking for anything just to eat. But in those days it was not like that, actually these monies go back to Nigerians, but it is unconventional. Now they have blocked that unconventional way calling it corruption and they have left the people without an alternative of how to tackle the fallout for all these people. I am not saying we should continue with that unconventional means, no, but constitute the process of change gradually, being considerate, being merciful, then we can change the whole system. In fact, there will be a time when there will not be money for people to steal because everything will be electronic and where ever money moves, it will be from account to account and it will be monitored, and it will be difficult to steal, the time is coming but before we reach there. But this unconventional means which generated so much a noise about corruption has in its own way been useful. For example, nobody in this modern time will accept ‘Almajiri’ as the right way to go, but before you condemn it, what alternative have you given to take care of those people.

Yes we need to phase it out. But how are we going to do it? It is by coming up with another alternative, not by just coming out with a law to say you cannot do this again, stay at home. How will such over 13million people just stay at home like that? So, where is the alternative? This is what we are saying. Not just coming out to say Almajirai is bad, corruption is bad, yes we all know.

But put in place a system that will satisfy the people and discourage corruption. If a teacher comes back at the end of the month with a package that will be able to take care of him and his family, their medical bills and even school fees, you will find out he would not want to indulge in corrupt practices. So, it is a slow process. This tag of corruption will not work anymore because people are seeing corruption everywhere. What I will like is whoever wins let him take the issue of corruption seriously, but without making it a political weapon, blackmailing people, castigating people that everybody is corrupt.

.new telegraph

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