Sheikh Nuru Khalid, the former Chief Imam of Apo Legislative Quarters’ Mosque committed a great ‘sin’ recently when he took the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to the cleaners over insecurity that has pervaded the length and breadth of Nigeria. He dared to talk while eating. And for that alone, he kissed his job goodbye. In Nigeria, it is a grave sin for you to be invited to eat and while at the table, complain that your host does not know how to cook.
Imam Khalid became the Chief Imam of Apo Legislative Quarters Mosque in 2007, and by the set-up of the mosque, he was more or less an employee of the government as his salary was paid by the government. But on Friday, April 1, he was bold enough to criticise the same government. The mosque management committee did not waste time suspending him before he was eventually sacked two days later.
The Digital Imam as Khalid is known and addressed by many of his admirers, perhaps, knew that his sack was imminent, as he, alongside others, worked assiduously towards the construction of another mosque in Abuja, built behind the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Quarters and where he was named the new Chief Imam following the incident of his sack.
Now let us examine what Imam Klalid said while delivering his Friday sermon that got his employers reeling. Khalid, in his sermon, specifically asked Nigerian voters not to vote for any politician who cannot guarantee them the safety of lives and properties in Nigeria in 2023. Hear him: “We need prayers. We need supplication. This is very important at a time when Nigeria is facing a very serious challenge. Everything is not working well. People are dying. Our roads are not secured. Most part of the country is not secured. The government is always telling us that they are doing their best. But we deserve more than that best as citizens because we want a secured Nigeria.
“What you are telling us is that your concern is about the 2023 elections. And what I am telling the citizens is to send a message that we are going to vote under one condition. Nigerian masses should resort to only one demand which is – protect our lives or we won’t come out to vote; let us be killed, we will not come out to vote, since it’s the only language you understand, we are going to speak it.
“Our lives are important to us. We want to live. Our wealth and dignity are important as well. You must do something to secure our lives and make our security workable. We cannot afford to be moving like this. People (are) attacking our trains, killing our people as if there is no government in this country. They (bandits) can gather and disseminate intelligence information as if they are a government of their own while our government cannot share information and stop the rubbish on our ways.”
The very next day, Imam Kahlid got suspended by the mosque’s management. The suspension order was signed by the administrative head of the mosque, Senator Saidu Dansadau. The irrepressible Imam was subsequently sacked from his post few days later. The Apo Legislative Quarters, the mosque as well as the church inside the Quarters are all properties of the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA. It goes without saying that the management of the mosque headed by Dansadau felt there was no need for the Imam to incite the populace against the government. What Dansadau failed to realise is the fact that the sacked cleric has a duty to call the attention of those in government to the ills in the society and to free his conscience as demanded by God.
The Imam’s sermon was his own way of calling the attention of the government to the complete breakdown of security architecture in the country which has left many Nigerians in distress after the Abuja-Kaduna train was bombed by terrorists on March 28 this year. Before the attack on the train, the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway had been turned to a graveyard as terrorists kill and maim travelers at will. Those not killed are herded into the bush and their families forced to part with huge sums of money before they are released. The Kaduna Airport, for those who have the means to fly, has also been rendered useless as the road from the airport to Kaduna metropolis harbours many cells for kidnappers who pick passengers using the road at will. Even at that, the terrorists, two days before the train incident, actually breached security at the airport when they stormed the tarmac in their hundreds on motorbikes. A security agent lost his life during the attack.
During the train attack, many prominent Nigerians were killed, several wounded and many of the ‘big fish’ in the first-class coach abducted. One of those abducted is the Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Ali-Hassan. He was released only a few days ago after his family allegedly paid N100m to the terrorists. The heavily armed gang in a recorded video before his release said that Ali-Hassan would be allowed to go home in the spirit of Ramadan and due to his advanced age. Aside from that, the terrorists said that they are not interested in money and that the Federal Government should negotiate with them as their demands are known to the government. Up till now, the government has not come out to tell Nigerians what those demands are and whether they are ready to negotiate with the terrorists so that Nigerians can live in peace.
The sack of Digital Imam and the spate of killings in the North has again brought to the fore, the hypocrisy of northern leaders many of whom have refused to criticise the government of President Buhari due to the fact that he is from the North. Many northern groups and associations have simply decided to play the ostrich despite the fact that many of their kith and kin are being killed by terrorists on a daily basis. Aside from the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, and few others, many prominent northern leaders have chosen to remain mute to the killings going on in the region which is a far departure from when former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power.
One of the groups that has been bold in speaking truth to power is the Coalition of Northern Elders for Peace and Development, which recently traced the origin of heightened insecurity in the North to the appointments made by President Buhari in the security circle with little consideration for professionalism and proven competence.
“As difficult as it is in speaking the truth, we feel constrained to admit that our quick resort to religious, ethnic and regional considerations led us to advise the president in wrong directions.
“The war against insecurity could have been a thing of the past if we had made good and informed decisions. We believe the complete consideration of our interest in making appointments into security agencies among other things led us to this present situation. Our decision resulted in a deep drop in the pursuit of the war against terrorists thus emboldening the adversaries on the other hand.
“Many lives and property have been lost and destroyed. Frontline troops are falling every day to a more determined group of insurgents and bandits but our decision to remain quiet and not say the truth as things are happening, led us to this present situation,” the elders said in the statement signed by its national coordinator, Goni Zana.
Also, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has challenged northern elders to raise their voices against insecurity in the region “just as they did during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan”.
Dogara noted that the elders’ silence on insecurity in the region could be taken as enabling the poor management of security in the country, especially in the north.
He condemned “sycophants” who elevate some public office holders to the status of “god”, saying such attitude brings destruction upon the country.
In the last seven years when Buhari came to power, only God knows the number of northerners that have been killed by terrorists. Either operating as Boko Haram in the North-East or bandits and terrorists in the North-West and North-Central, with gradual spread to the South, many Nigerians have looked on in helpless horror as the terrorists become more emboldened. Despite the fact that several billions of naira are budgeted annually to the security agencies to tackle the menace, there has been little success recorded in the war against insurgents while many senior military officers have allegedly become billionaires within the period.
With 2023 fast approaching, many of those in government are no longer concerned as to whether Nigerians are safe in their country or not. The focus is on the coming elections and who gets what position. President Buhari also seems overwhelmed by the crisis and he is simply marking time, waiting for May 29, 2023 to hand over to a new set of leaders whom many Nigerians palpably fear will continue the rot owing to recurring disappointing Presidents, with a few hopeful for one that will finally salvage the nation.
If the electorate heed the call of Imam Khalid to vote for leaders that would prioritise their safety, not minding where such leaders are coming from, his ‘offensive’ sermon and eventual sack would not have been in vain. However, let us pray and hope that the terrorists would not have overrun the country before May 29, next year.
See you next week.