Islamic scholar Dr Ahmad Gumi shares the same birthday with Nigeria, making him 62 years old today. In this brief interview, the Kaduna-based Islamic cleric shares his views on Nigeria’s achievements at 62 and why Nigerians should have another shot at rebuilding the country.
You share the same birthday with Nigeria, how do you feel about clocking 62 with Nigeria?
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Well, I am grateful to Allah that one has reached the age of 62 and I hope the future will be better than what we are experiencing now. For a nation, 62 is still an infantile age but for a man, it is an old age. We are hoping things will improve for generations to come.
Do you think Nigeria has attained some milestones at 62?
There are some achievements, because to still be existing as a polity is an achievement. But as I said, as a nation we are still an infant, when you compare us with other nations. Secondly, all the 1966 political forces are taking shape, it is like we are going back to the era of 1966 which was derailed by the 1966 military coup. This is because the recent politics is reflecting North East, South West, and South East. When you observe, you will see that all the major Presidential contenders are from these regions. So, it seems we are getting back to where we stopped and I hope this time, it will mature without any interruption from the military.
Do you think going back to the 1966 era is good for the country or does it portend certain danger?
No, it’s a good thing for the country because water finds its level, everybody will know their political strengths and remain within that confine. So, this time, it will be difficult for the military to take over and the Gideon Okar coup has proven that, when Colonel Dantsoho disassociated himself from it. So, coups are impossible now and we have to manage and assert our political power based on our population.
There are those who say Nigeria should have advanced beyond its present state to be on the same level with countries such as India. Do you share this view?
India has actually made more progress for a different reason. This is because India is an old civilization. But we are still better than countries like Ghana, financially and economically. Just imagine the number of Nigerian doctors in the UK, the only problem we have in Nigeria is insecurity and it has its reasons. This is because Nigeria has not developed its social welfare network for every Nigerian to belong. But now, with this politics whereby every region has its candidate, Nigerians will start to understand why they should start behaving in a civilized way. If you look at the agitations, they are piping down now because every region now feel they are given a level playing field and if you feel you are being cheated, come and contest. Now that they are coming to the contest, we can see Nigerians behaving. Northern candidates are wearing Igbo traditional attire and trying to make the southeast feel they are part of them and they are identifying with their cultural outfit. And you will see Igbo candidates going to the north and wearing the northern attire. The animosity and hatred will reduce because if you want to be elected by Nigerians, you have to be nationalistic in approach. So, I think it’s a positive development, really, the negative things about Nigeria are all due to maladministration of the governors. They have not put all their attention into manpower and development. They depend on infrastructure which is highly inflated and a lot of corruption and so, we end up not having good manpower development which has led to poorly constructed infrastructure. This is part of the problem with Nigeria. The people, the country and its resources are not the problem.
What message do you have for Nigerians as they mark this year’s independence?
My message to Nigerians is that this is another time to rebuild the nation. If we rebuild this nation, then we can live in harmony and peace. Americans and Indians have more tribes and more diversity than Nigeria. So, we can’t hide behind differences, whether tribe or religion, to say we cannot progress as a nation. The Americans and Indians are doing well despite their diversity.