(5): RE:IS THE NORTH A LIP?
Dr. Salisu Shehu
Department of Education
Bayero University, Kano
With all sense of modesty, I can proclaim that I belong to a generation of Muslim activists that were intellectually nurtured and brought up, and are still being influenced in a number of ways by, among other things, the brilliant weekly write-ups and commentaries of the likes of Mallam Adamu Adamu. In fact, Mallam Adamu stands out quite prominently among them. Having grown up and had my primary education in a village in the late sixties through the seventies, and even while at the teachers’ college in the early eighties I was never used to reading, not to talk of appreciating the value of newspapers. I got introduced to reading them when I set my foot in Bayero University Kano, as a student in the mid-eighties. Once initiated, I immediately got hooked up to Mallam Ibrahim Sulaiman’s Column and Mallam Adamu’s DEFINITIONS-IN-HUMOUR, both in the Sunday New Nigerian. As it were, the latter was essentially, most of the time, politically satirical with some blend of sarcasm. It was a unique kind of social criticism, one may further say, which was full of rare insight, appeal and humour, all of which would wholesomely engage its readers, and then at the end of it all, leave them excitedly inspired, conscientized and sensitised. What, perhaps, may further demonstrate not just merely our unrelenting admiration for, but also secret discipleship to, Mallam Adamu and his generation of writers, the Muhammad Harunas and co., was our following to them from the NEW NIGERIAN to CITIZEN then to SENTINEL and finally now in the Daily Trust Columns. Sometimes, if it became obvious that one would miss the Daily Trust editions for a particular week, at least, necessary arrangements and even sacrifices are made to ensure obtaining that of Friday, just to read Mallam Adamu Adamu. The knowledge, information, and several other benefits one derives from his Friday Column are really immense and invaluable. Usually, the brilliance, erudition, lucidity, proficiency, adeptness, articulation, candour and force that are deployed in his writings all combine to give Mallam Adamu’s Column a unique appeal and attraction.
The assertions above are sincere expressions of my feelings, impressions and dispositions towards Mallam Adamu’s writings. I have no reason to flatter him. In fact, only the Lilliputian can be flattered; that would not matter to giants in anyway. But as human beings, we have certain inherent limitations and weaknesses. We cannot be roundly perfect, and so we are bound to commit errors and or make mistakes. In the scholastic and intellectual sphere, even the most celeberated erudite scholars do fall into error, what the Arabs usually say,
“Every invincible horse (‘dokin iska’) does have missed step(s)”. And like Imam Raagib al-Isfahaani once put it succinctly, “no writer would put down a certain piece of write-up except that if he reads it afterwards, he would surely feel , “I should have added this or deleted that, or that I should have presented this point before that”, “Allah had Decreed that no script would be perfect and impeccable except His Book-the Qur’an”. This to my mind is the exact thing that Mallam Adamu fell into, not for the first time of Course, in the second part of his write-up – Is the North a Lip?, published in his back page Friday column of the Daily Trust of 26th July, 2013. What appeared in that write up was, to say the least, not only a manifestation of that inherent human weakness, but a demonstration of the fact that, evasion of facts or their deliberate distortion for the purpose of mischief can be its integral (human weakness) components. It is therefore, upon this premise that I wish to take Mallam Adamu on some assertions he made, or issues he raised in the write up in reference.
Generally speaking, one would admire Mallam Adamu when he writes on issues that are rather not strictly religious. In this regard, one would see how courageous he can be in standing firm on the path of fairness and objectivity. But, perhaps because of sectarian chauvinism, since Mallam Adamu cannot deny being affiliated or inclined to one, even though, sometimes desperately, albeit fruitlessly, he tries to play the ostrich, but the writing is very clear on the wall. His intolerance, resentment and pathological hatred for some Islamic scholars and their followers are usually very glaring. Contrastingly also, his undue reverence and veneration to a fault, one may say, of some other scholars are similarly very clear. This kind of tendency in Mallam Adamu can be seen even at the global level as it relates to some Muslim countries, scholars or groups. A common element discernible in the write ups of Mallam Adamu is that the Muslim scholars and countries he seems to differ with on certain religious creeds or issues always represent everything evil. They never do anything good for Islam or the Ummah, and they do not and cannot even have the capacity or potentiality to do that. Every keen reader and follower of Mallam Adamu’s writings would agree with my assertion because, as far as I am concerned, and I stand to be corrected, I have never seen any instance at which Mallam Adamu says anything positive about the group of scholars and preachers that he characteristically and fondly always disparages. The Late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi falls within, or leads this unfortunate group of scholars. But as for the other group of scholars of Muslim countries revered or anointed by Mallam Adamu, they are always on a right cause. They do not fall into error, and they must, thus, be venerated and glorified at all times and at all cost. In spite of the vanities and misdeeds of some of the icons of this second group of Islamic scholars, they are to him the paragons of virtue.
This kind of posture is obviously wrong, especially when the person associated with it is a writer of international repute that Mallam Adamu depicts. It is worse if it is associated with a person who seems to be purportedly proclaiming that he is interested in fostering and promoting the unity of the Ummah. What usually pushes a person (a scholar or writer) into this kind of faulty position is the inability or failure to imbibe the Qur’anic principle of adl and insaf (fairness and objectivity in judgment and utterance). The Qur’an severally enjoins us to be just and fair in dealing with people in whatever situation, and in any case, even if we differ with them in opinion or have some resentment towards them. First of all, the Qur’an enjoins us to be just and fair in our speeches (this includes writings) about or against person(s) or people even when, and if, the interest of somebody close to us in some way is involved. Allah says in Surah al-An’aam, verse 152: “…and when you make speech (statement) be just and fair even if (it was involving/against) your next of kin…”. And in Surah al-Ma’idah, verse 8, Allah charges us to rise above our sentiments and ill feelings against a person(s) when it comes to making judgment/attestation for or against him/them. Allah says: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.” The Qur’an gave us a practical demonstration of the kind of fairness required of us in speech and judgment when it tells us about alcohol and gamble. Although these are unambiguously prohibited by the Qur’an, but when it comes to describing the essential character of the two, it was fair enough to state the fact that they contain some benefit even though very little compared to their harms and evil. That is insaf. We also see its practical application from the hadith reported by Imam al-Bukhari, in which the Prophet (SAW) affirmed the saying of a Satan about the virtue of Ayatul Kursiyy that it gives protection to whoever recites it while retiring to bed for sleep. The Prophet (SAW) said, as far as that particular statement from him was concerned, he spoke the truth, even though he were a great liar. The point here is that because of insaf, the Prophet affirmed his statement of truth regardless of the fact that he was Satan. That is what is expected of intellectual icons like Mallam Adamu Adamu, and it is this kind of fair-minded approach to issues and treatment of people that would foster and promote mutual understanding, mutual respect and unity in the Ummah. But Mallam Adamu’s failure in this regard is very glaring. When he was writing last year on the Saudis and Hajj, he was able to identify whatever sort of thing he thought was evil which the Saudi authorities and scholars did against Islam and the Muslim Ummah, but could not have the fairness to say anything positive about their handling of Hajj and other Islamic rites and institutions. Conversely however, in many of his writings, he would go to any length to defend or justify the words, actions and perspectives, postures and dispositions of Iran even if in absurdity and futility.
Let nobody make the mistake of thinking that I am out to hold brief for any particular scholar or group of preachers even when they have numerous failures, lapses and errors of omission and commission. None of our scholars is infallible, just as no Islamic group is being led by angels. Therefore, all our Islamic scholars and their various respective groups have their good and bad sides. They do right in some instances and they fall into error at other instances. Some are closer to righteousness and uprightness in creed and character, others are farther away. The point I am making, therefore, is that we must be fair to ourselves. That entails acknowledging a person’s or group’s positive side and constructively criticize his/its negative side without any sort of element of mischief, malice or vilification. That is the only way we would engender mutual tolerance, understanding and unity in the Ummah, and the nation at large.
So far I have only attempted to take on Mallam Adamu Adamu from a general perspective. At this point I would begin to pick him up on certain specific aspects of that write up. Reading through it one would be disappointed by either deliberate distortion of historical facts or evading them, as the case may be, or being economical with the truth, casting aspersions here and there, all of which smack of snobbery, mischief and malice. In the first instance, what would become clear to a careful reader of that article is that Mallam Adamu was obviously roundly putting the blame for the prevaility atmosphere of animosity between Muslims and Christians in this country upon Muslims. At some point of course he made a faint allusion to the fact that both sides of the divide have their share of blames, but it was glaring that Mallam Adamu heaped the greater part, if not wholesomely, on the Muslims. Mallam Adamu seemed to have alluded or rather insinuated that afterall, it was the Christians that not only showed greater restraint or tolerance, but some prominent figures among them even made the rarest of sacrifice to not only keep the North together and the country as a whole. I tried to find explanations to this posture but could only arrive at two. First, I said look! Mallam Adamu was on a peace mission, trying to make amends and build bridges, and so, out of eagerness to pacify the Christians he would do a costly kaara (looking the other way on the wrongs of others). But on a second thought I quickly dismissed that explanation (which was born out of husn al zhann), and I said to myself, would the Mallam Adamu Adamu I knew be so naïve and stupid to do that? I was, therefore, compelled by my second thought to look for another explanation which goes like this. As a typical Shiite, although as I said earlier, he always plays the ostrich in that regard, courtesy of taqiyyah, it should not surprise anyone if he indicts the Nigerian Muslim Ummah that is predominantly, 99.9% some may say, Sunni Muslims. The resentment, bile and hate that Shiites hold against the Sunni are no small. Throughout history, they are known to have supported non-Muslims against the Sunni whom they consider as infidels.
Coming to his accusation of Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi as the person that made a statement that “constituted the first dagger thrown at interfaith relations”, one may only wonder how Mallam Adamu could have forgotten some of the very spectacular incidents in our country that first sew the seed of discord and mutual distrust between Muslims and Christians. How would Mallam Adamu have forgotten the incidence of the first coup d’état that was exclusively planned by a group of military officers from one particular religion and ethnic group, and specifically also targeting leaders from one particular religion, ethnic group and region or those who appeared to be their sincere friends and allies like Akintola. Thenceforth, several other incidents happened that led to very unfortunate things like the a ware (cessation derive) and the civil war of unworthy memory? Was it the preaching of the Sheikh that led to that? Did Mallam Adamu also forget the embers of discord that were fanned on the Shari’ah debate of the late seventies?
Still on the issue of General Murtala’s assassination, Mallam Adamu can have the right to read the meaning he read from the statement made by the Sheikh on that, but for those of us that grew up in communities that are rather heterogeneous, we have every reason to agree with the position taken by the Sheikh because we knew pretty well and we did witness how the Christians with whom we lived celebrated Dimka as a hero, and were thus, happy with the assassination. In my home town in of Tafawa Balewa, the Sayawa Christians even composed a song in praise of Dimka, which they used to chant and dance during their religious and cultural festivities like the Christmas and New Year celebrations. For the avoidance of doubt, the opening stanza of the song was, “Dimka duu Murtala, Dimka duu Murtala, kai, kai Dimka duu Murtala”- (“Dimka has hit (killed) Murtala!, Dimka has hit Murtala!!, oh, oh, Dimka has hit Murtala!!!”). I was around ten years old then, in primary two, old enough to understand the mood of the singers and dancers. Of course, Mallam Adamu could say that that action did not receive media coverage like the statement made by the Sheikh, and could not have done any damage on the perceptual and relational atmosphere between Muslims and Christians in the country. Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that there were actions and utterances from the Christians that confirmed the position taken by the Sheikh.
One other historical fact that may further dismiss Mallam Adamu’s line of thinking is the fact that in our kind of multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities, the obnoxious settler-indigene animosity even predated Nigerian independence. Mallam Adamu should know that in my home town our parents used to take precautionary measures on every Sallah day when they were going to the Eid ground for fear of attack by their Christian neighbours because it did happen a couple of times in 1956 and 1958. Was it the preaching of Sheikh Gummi that created this kind of hostility then? The fact of the matter is that the resentment held by Christians in the North against Muslims predated the Tafsir of Sheikh Gummi. Books and other scripts written by them are replete with a lot of venomous and uncomplimentary statements against what they perceive to be Hausa/Fulani subjugation and oppression. One case in point, among many others is Bishop Kukah’s “Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria”, published in 1993. It may interest Mallam Adamu Adamu to recall, because I believe he must have read Kukah’s book, how he made a lot of scathing and caustic remarks about our revered leaders like the Sardauna, and the entire Sokoto Caliphate establishment. A further confirmation of this kind of resentment and bigotry held by some Northern Christians against Muslims even before Sheikh Gumi started his Tafsir is what Dr. Usman Kane reported in his book titled, “Muslim Modernity in Post-Colonial Nigeria, p.19. Dr. Kane was narrating what Bishop Kukah told Dr. Walter Miller, who was described by Ayandele (1966) as “the most fanatical and perhaps the most dedicated Christian missionary in Northern Nigeria”. What did Bishop Kukah tell Dr. Miller?. He said to him, “I remember when I was a kid, if I was eating too quickly my grandmother used to say, “why are you eating as if you are running from Hausas?”.
One other manifestation of Mallam Adamu’s unfairness in treating Sheikh Gummi and the group of his followers is his several assertions on the effect of their pattern of preaching on Muslim-Christian relations in the North. Obviously, as far as his submissions are concerned, Sheikh Gummi and his disciples were solely responsible for frightening the Christians, which invariably led to the incessant, intermittent and internecine ethno-religious crises that have been occurring in Plateau and Kaduna States. The prevailing insecurity situation in the North, including the emergence of Boko Haram are all fall outs of the Jihadist preaching of the Sheikh and his disciples. But if we review all the Islamic religious currents and activities of the late 70s through the 80s and 90s, it would become clear that unless one chooses to be economical with the truth or unless one was just out to make mischief and heap up malicious accusations one cannot make these kinds of assertions against one particular group.
It is true that, there were and still there is a lot of what can be called baragada (incoherence) in the utterances of some Islamic preachers in that particular group, and the same can be said about others also as would be proved here. But if the truth must be told, the preaching and activities of the Zakzakiyya Movement that has since drifted into full-fledged Shiism to which Mallam Adamu has always been their intellectual patron and frontliner are really more frightening to even Muslims, let alone the Christians. The militancy and belligerence deployed and demonstrated by this group in its activities, and whose primary goal at that time was to import the Iranian brand of revolution to Nigeria was undoubtedly more frightening. Beginning from the Islam Only riot of 1978 through the often violent muzaharas (processions) all over Northern Nigeria was certainly much more frightening to Christians. If at all Mallam Adamu was not out for mischief, he could not have refused to refer to the war songs chanted during those muzaharas, the skirmishes and clashes with anti riot police during those muzaharas that used to occur leading to loss of scores of lives and property and the drums of war beaten by this group in their songs as the real source of fear in the region at that time.
If we refer to some of the war songs composed and aggressively chanted by the Zakzaky boys who were the canon fodders being remotely controlled from behind the scene by the likes of Mallam Adamu, then one would see to whom some of his malicious statements would be more appropriately attributable. Let us listen to Mallam Adamu in that piece in reference (Is the North a Lip II) and then let us also listen to the war songs of Abbas Jega and others. Mallam Adamu said in that piece, “For almost three decades the threat of a Jihad, which even those who made it didn’t understand, couldn’t launch but wouldn’t stop preaching, filled the Northern air. It is not for nothing that religious tension is higher in Kaduna and Jos than in other places in the North”. While Mallam Adamu made this statement against the disciples of Sheikh Gummi, he certainly did it out of malice, because such tendencies were more associated with the young, unsuspecting Muslim boys and girls that they used to lead in the purported Quds day muzaharas. But to further make this point home let us recall a few stanzas/ verses from the war songs of Abbas Jega and others: (I) On invitation to war, Abbas Jega could be remembered saying in one of his songs: “Haba diya maza ku daina tsoron yaki; Kaka-tsara-kaka hodan yaki” (oh men! You should fear not warfare, whether to war farers!). (II) On the call to fight the government and dislodge the Kufr system, thereby staging the Iranian brand of revolution, Abbas Jega could be remembered saying: “Kur’ani Shi za ya mulkin Duniya, don haka Shi za ya mulkin Najeriya (Quran will rule the world, and would thus rule Nigeria!). (III) On invitation to march to Kafanchan to take revenge against the Christians that carried out aggression against Muslims, Abbas Jega could be heard saying: “Maza da mata Jama’a kowa ya fito, za mu Kafanchan domin daukar fansa” (men and women should all be out, Let’s all march to Kafancan for revenge!) (IV) On the same kind of invitation for revenge, AbdulMumin Bauchi chanted this song in Kano in 1988 during the Muslim Ummah Unity Rally organized by the Council of Ulama. The song was composed in the rhythm of Shata’s “gagarabadau na miji tsayayyen dan kasuwa”. So the song goes on like this: “kuna ji kuna gani ana yanka Musulmi?”(thou are witnesses and merely watching when Muslims are being slaughtered?); and the chorus would answer, “Kankare daudar kasarmu sai Musulunci kadai” (the cleansing of evil from our land is for Islam only!). The examples actually are very numerous. But I still remember Mustapha Gadon Kaya’s very violent and belligerent song welcoming the release and return of Zakzaky from detention in 1996. The first verse of the song reads: “Kun ji kunya aduwwan Mallam Zakzaky gashi yau ya dawo” (shame unto you the enemies of Malam Zakzaky, today he is back!). With all these examples, I leave the reader to judge whether Mallam Adamu was really being fair to Sheikh Gummi and his disciples in his statement quoted above or he was simply being malicious. In fact, when we were students in the University, we used to hold a lot of resentment against Sheikh Gummi because we used to feel that he was so much pro-kufr system because he was fond of saying “a shiga a Gyara” (join the system and change it from within). And we used to mock at that by saying “a shiga a narke” (join the system and melt in it!). It may also be recalled that more than any other scholar in this country Sheikh Gummi used to encourage young Muslims to join the military and other paramilitary forces in order to fill in our quota. This, therefore, brings us to the issue of who were the actual precursors and antecedents to Boko Haram? Was it Sheikh Gummi and his disciples and their activities? Or the products of the preaching of people like Mallam Adamu Adamu who was fanatically committed to importing the Iranian Shi’ah-branded revolution to Nigeria.
The Zakzakiyya brand of activism, to which as I said earlier, Mallam Adamu was and still is one of their prominent intellectual ideologue and patron, was the first generation of Boko Haram. In actual fact, the present Boko Haram is an offshoot as well as vestiges of the first generation. How would this be proved? Let us make some quick comparisons. (I) The first generation of Boko Haram being led by Zakzaky (and some invisible Iran sponsored intellectuals) preaches that the government and all its agencies are a Kufr system that must be dislodged and replaced with an Islamic government through violent confrontation. (II) The first generation of Boko Haram being led by Zakzaky (and some invisible Iran sponsored intellectuals) used to teach their boys that the security apparatus, especially the police whom they used to call babbaku are their foremost enemies and target of attack as they are the ones that protect the Kufr system. (III) The first generation of Boko Haram being led by Zakzaky (and some invisible Iran sponsored intellectuals) used to teach their boys that the educational system is an integral part of the Kufr system that must not only be abandoned, but must be fought. And in keeping with the dictates of that doctrine many of our mates in the universities in Northern Nigeria were misled to abandon their studies. I can vividly recall that some of the most frequently invited persons to MSSN Islamic Political Class in my University (BUK) were former students of ABU, Zaria. One of them from Katsina State was a student of Chemical Engineering in ABU, Zaria before he abandoned his studies. We used to be told that he made an A1 in English Language in the WAEC of those days. And true to that story, the Queen’s English he was speaking was quite amazingly superb. But he abandoned his studies because it was a Kufr system. While these are not the only comparisons that can be made, we would have to stop here, and still leave the reader to interrogate Mallam Adamu’s motives on his aspersions and insinuations in this regard against the Late Sheikh Gummi and his disciples.
Now, coming this far, but without necessarily exhausting what may need to be responded to from Mallam Adamu’s article, it would be pertinent to extol a bit of the virtues of the Late Sheikh Gummi. This is important for two reasons. First, since Mallam Adamu Adamu has chosen to disparage him more than 20 years after his death, we would rather comply with the Prophet’s teaching as in a Hadith reported by both Bukhari and Muslims to extol the virtues of our dead ones. (II) Extolling his virtues would be beneficial to our younger ones who were not yet born when the Sheikh was alive. For this purpose, we would pick only one out of his many virtues, walaa nuzakki alallahi ahadan (we intend no hero worship even in the least in this regard). So also,“wamaa shahidna illa bi alimna, wama kunna lighaibi haafizeen” (we bear no witness except to that which we knew, and we are indeed not acquainted with that which is hidden).
One of the most revered virtues of the Late Sheikh Gummi was his rare ascetic and mystic life. He did not profess or proclaim Sufism, but his life was glaringly more austere than most of the self-styled Sufis of our day. Like we see today, many Muslim scholars (in all their sectarian strands –the Darika, the Izala, the Salafis) are desperately struggling to move closer to people in power in order to enjoy various sorts of undue privileges and material gains. If he had had the tendency for amassing wealth he could have been the richest Muslim scholar before his death because he was close to almost all the regimes since independence up to his death. But what did he leave behind after his death? How many houses did he buy in Kaduna while he was alive? How many estates did he have? How many millions did he stash away in local and foreign bank accounts? None! How many times would consignments of food be brought to him, and he would readily instruct that it be shared to the needy people around? How many fleets of cars were parked in his house before his death? It was, in fact, reported after his death that he had only four sets of cloth to himself. Allahu Akbar! May Allah have mercy on him and forgive him for his sins and failures. As for us that are still alive, we pray unto Allah to guide us to the best of deeds that are most pleasing to Him and make us die as good Muslims, believing in Allah and His Messenger (SAW) and the Last Day, and on the path of the Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet (SAW).