Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:50 am
Professor Ango Abdullahi, the current spokesman of Northern Elders Forum, was the vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, between 1979 and 1986. He also served as Special Adviser on Food Security to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2003. He had a stint in mainstream politics when he contested for Kaduna Governor on the platform of Social Democratic Party, SDP, in 1991 but lost to the late Dabo Lere of the National Republican Convention, NRC. Although he has refused to participate in politics in the current dispensation, he has not retired from making comments on goings-on in the polity. In this interview with FEMI ADI, Professor Abdullahi bares his mind on the insecurity in the North-east, Abubakar Shekau’s recent video on the abducted Chibok girls, zoning of political offices and the North’s resolve on Jonathan’s 2015 Presidential bid
Did you watch Shekau’s video where he was saying Islam means killing and killings…and that he would sell the school girls. Does Islam support these?
No! Certainly not. Pronouncements have been made by major Islamic organisations around the world, including recently, the Conference of Islamic States. Actions of the sect are totally, totally un-Islamic. In fact in Islam, Muslim or no Muslim, it is like killing the entire humanity. In fact the destination of somebody who commits suicide, in Islamic beliefs, is hell fire; let alone against somebody who deliberately takes somebody else’s life.
There are reasons, there are provisions or ways a Muslim should defend himself. Mainly, where a Muslim is urged to take up arms is where he’s attacked. But not to attack without provocation. No.
So you see, quite a number of people who are very vast in Islamic history and Islam itself have said clearly that these activities are un-Islamic; totally un-Islamic. It’s just like saying that the insurgency in Syria is Islamic. A Muslim to go and tear the chest of a victim, pull out his heart and eat it raw, attack churches, mosques and so on and you say that this is Islamic? No, certainly it is not Islamic. To my mind, it is violence that is emerging for various reasons.
I was born 76 years ago. I was a university student when Nigeria got her independence, so I must have a very good picture of our past history. Our parents had political differences: Awolowo, Premier of the Western Region; Dr. Azikiwe, Premier of the Eastern Region; Sardauna, Premier of Northern Region and later, Osadebey, Premier of the Mid-Western Region. Different people from different historical, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
But they were able to sit down and discuss matters of common interest on the basis of common understanding and eventually that was the basis for Sarduana’s quotation: “We may be different but we should be able to work together if we understand our differences.”
This is what really should be the pre-occupation of Nigeria. There is no way you can wish away 350 ethnic groups in Nigeria today. There is no way you can wish away the fact that there is Christianity, Islam and even animist religions and so on. But what you need to do is to sit down and look at the entire structure and see in what way perhaps you can mitigate these differences that emanate from tongues, locations and religion. This is what our parents did to be able to work together, which eventually took us to the point of independence. It was after independence that things began to take the kind of direction in which eventually we’re in today. So Boko Haram’s ideology is not Islamic. This is the summary of it.
What about the feeling that such rag-tag people are as a result of economic deprivation caused by members of the political elite like you?
Absolute nonsense. Are they economically deprived because of the elites in the North? Or are they economically deprived because of the elites in Nigeria? Let me tell you, this is a guesswork but I think it can be verified factually. Today, 80 per cent of Nigerian wealth is owned by less than 100,000 Nigerians out of 170 million people. Then what happens to the rest of us the 160 million plus to share the remaining 20 per cent, and what do you say when you’re talking about Nigerian elites or leaders?
Somebody who has stolen billions and is celebrating all over the place, he’s a Nigerian elite. What he steals in Lagos affects the man in Maiduguri and what the man in Maiduguri steals affects the man in Calabar and so on. So, it cannot be accepted in this narrow definition.
Generally, I agree the elite generally are responsible for the crises we’re having in Nigeria today, but you cannot blame the elites of the North as being responsible for the crises in Nigeria, let alone the North.