Interview: Clerics praising governors lack integrity —Sheikh Bello

Islamic preacher, Sheikh Muyideen Bello, speaks with WALE OYEWALE about immunity clause for governors, impunity in the country, among other issues
Why did you, in one of your lecture videos, criticise the removal of former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II?

Looking at it critically, I don’t think there was any basis for removing the former emir. The position of an oba or emir should not be treated with disdain. One does not just wake up overnight and dethrone a king or an emir. It is God that enthrones the king. The Holy Quran makes it clear that God enthrones whoever pleases Him. God makes it clear that He is the only one who can dethrone a king, and no one can determine the punishment that He would mete out to a king that errs. The former Emir of Kano is an experienced intellectual. He is not a mean man to be pushed back in the affairs of things. He is so versed in Western and Arabic education. He knows the law. But the world has turned upside down; politicians now pride themselves on dethroning kings and emirs. A politician has no right to depose a king. I don’t know how the anomaly would be corrected, but I know that if the matter is not reversed, it is very precarious for the city of Kano.

Twenty years from now, Kano will remain unsettled because of that singular decision. There is nothing that a politician cannot do with power. However, it should not be like that. The intrigue that they cooked up against Alaafin (Adeniran) Adeyemi II of Oyo still has lingering consequences in Yorubaland till date; we are still grappling to find our feet as Yoruba people. One may have it cheap dethroning an uneducated king; not an educated and influential king. First, Prophet Muhammad said we should give reverence to any human being that reverences God, so that we don’t plot our downfall by sinning against such a person. Anyone that plots evil against a friend of God is simply plotting against God. The stakeholders must ponder what happened.

One can see that you are very passionate about the city of Kano.

That’s true. I cannot rate any town or city in the North above the city of Kano. As the state Missioner from Ilorin to Maiduguri for Ansar-ud-Deen, this gives me an opportunity to know so much about the North because we have our branches everywhere in the North. I love Kano to the extent that, about 20 to 30 years ago, whenever I was down South, I would be feeling so uncomfortable. I imbibed their culture. I am so accustomed to them.

You appear to be opposed to the idea of immunity for the governors. Why is this so?

What is the essence of giving immunity to the governors; who does that? They should be called to question when they err. Let us leave immunity for the President alone. The governors are overzealous. If they embezzle public funds and we are sure, does it mean we cannot question them? Some of them have no regard for the President. Most of the governors are power-drunk. Our governors came to the position wretched. If you vest excessive power in a wretched man, what do you expect of him? Such a person will misbehave.

A President should be given immunity because the office is supreme. After him, there is no other higher authority in the land, humanly speaking. In the past, the kings and emirs were the highest authorities before the advent of modern politics. Today, politics has stripped the monarchs of their powers. That is why a governor would say, after they sit at an occasion, encomiums should not be showered on any other person in such a gathering; is that not the height of impunity? Americans, for instance, want to believe that their president is the world leader. Nobody appoints the American leader as the world leader but they just hold the belief because they honour their own. Why then should Nigerians not honour their President? Had we followed the path of honour and justice in Nigeria, we would have been as great as America and our President could have, as well, been so honoured. However, we are so greedy and backward. If we remove immunity from the President, he is no longer powerful.

You once described immunity for governors as a crown of thorns, why?

Yes, it is a crown of thorns but they are not aware that it is so. That is why we are clamouring that the excessive power that causes them to misbehave should be withdrawn. Why would you wait until they leave office before you question them? The maladministration that they engaged in would have taken its toll on society if not checked immediately. Residents of each state should set an agenda for the governor and track their achievements. If, as a governor, you perform excellently, we can support you for one or more subsequent terms. Unfortunately, our governors are not up to the task.

But, even as you criticise the governors, some clerics praise them for what they do…

Such clerics lack integrity. The governors don’t deserve encomiums. If we shower encomiums on the monarchs, that is understood. Without (a reigning monarch) dying, another king cannot be enthroned, but a governor has just four years or, at most, eight.

Women hate your preaching because you criticise them for wearing revealing dresses. What do you think about that? am carrying out God’s mandate as his servant. God assigned me to speak the truth to all. I have no choice but to discharge my duty. If we leave the women without cautioning them, they would turn the world upside down. They are the ones nursing the children and we cannot afford to let them mislead the children. They should be good examples for the children to follow, so they should not be allowed to make missteps. I was at a programme on a Friday in Lagos. Women at the venue were about 1,000, while the men were just about 100. The women were in revealing attire. After the prayers, I warned them against the danger of illicit dressing and left the place. As I left, the crowd disappeared. Since then, the women have always been well-dressed for my programme.

In the North, the design of dresses like agbada or babanriga has not been altered as the people down South have modified it; it is an unnecessary modification. What is the pride in dressing in an odd manner? We should all have a rethink.

Some are of the opinion that God gave mankind freedom of choice, so they could explore…

I want to say that mankind shall be answerable on judgment day for their extreme freedom before God. Extreme freedom is irresponsible and will always
put mankind in trouble before our maker. For instance, the coronavirus; I want to state clearly that it is not God’s will to punish the world with the virus. It was as a result of the irresponsibility of man. COVID-19 is as a result of human excesses.

Government directed that Nigerians should desist from congregating or clustering. Are you in agreement with the social distancing directive?

I am in support of government’s decision on social distancing. Prophet Muhammad said if there is pestilence in a particular community, we should not go there. If your own town is being ravaged with diseases, don’t go there either. Although they are exploiting the masses, the step is good and in accordance with the will of God. If we were directed to shut down mosques and churches, so be it. Ever since people had been flocking to churches and mosques, how faithful and just have we become?

How many good imams and pastors are in the world today? So, what is the essence of our frequent visits to worship centres? If the people were so allowed, many would have been sleeping in churches and mosques in the name of religion. One would have assumed that such people were true believers, but that would not be true. Many people would have turned worship centres to permanent abodes just because of fear of death. I am in support of government’s decision to place a ban on religious gathering. You will recall that the Sultan of Sokoto warned Islamic faithful against going to Eid this year. But, governors of Kano, Bauchi and a few other states lifted the ban on religious gathering.

You criticised the police for their habit of extorting money from members of the public in the name of enforcing restriction of movement…

I once said on air that we have laws in Nigeria; we have a written constitution but we don’t have good law enforcement agents. The police are the law enforcement agents. I was told by a journalist who went for a coverage that some members of the public were victims of alleged armed robbery by soldiers for failing to pay a bribe of N10,000.

In this COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerian masses are crying about poor welfare package, yet there is gross infrastructural deficit. What advice do you have for the government?

Government should be more proactive. The present state of the nation is a big challenge to the people. There is poor electricity supply or lack of potable water. Government should give priority to developmental projects. Rural community should be cheaper and more attractive in order to reduce rural-urban migration. There should be good road networks in the rural communities. If a loaf of bread is selling for N200 in the urban centre, that size of loaf of bread should not sell for more than N100 in the rural area. That is how it is in developed countries. In Lagos, you begin to wonder how the people survive in the midst of population explosion. Whenever it rains in Lagos, there would be intense heat because of overpopulation.

What do you think about the decision to hike electricity tariff?

I don’t think that the decision is justifiable. For example, as things stand now, the amount I pay for electricity per month is daunting. This is just a residential building. I spend N280,000 on diesel per month, yet they send me an average electricity bill of N85,000 per month without constant electricity supply. There was a time I asked them to remove their supply cable. They should encourage Nigerians by improving their services. Barely 20 years ago, Ghana celebrated 50 years of good (electricity supply).

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