Imam Fuad Adeyemi is the Executive Director of the Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society (AIC), Abuja. In this interview by TAOFEEK LAWAL, the cleric appraises the last general election and speaks on the state of the nation, his expectations from the incoming federal administration, the activities of his organisation and other issues.
What do you make of the last general election, the outcome of which is being contested by those who lost out in the exercise and generally, how do you view the state of the nation?
We have to give thanks to Almighty Allah that we were able to have the general election. There was so much apprehension but the election turned out to be one of the most peaceful the country has witnessed. The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari and the president-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu, lost in their home states shows that the election was one of the fairest polls we have ever had in this country. The results reflected the choice of the people. Those saying otherwise are being beclouded by their ambitions or interests. I was a presiding officer in the 1983 election. I have been part of elections, so I know what an election is all about. Ovie Whiskey was the chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) then. A friend used to call me ‘Ovie Whiskey’ at the time because of my foray into the election process. With this background, I can talk about elections in Nigeria. As I said, the last election was one of the best we have had in this country.
This is the first time a Nigerian who is ready to preside over the country has been elected. The president-elect was prepared for the election and he is prepared for office. He has focus and he is working towards it. He was not an accidental contestant. He worked for about 35 years for what has materialised. He has also done something that gives me a lot of hope: this was the first time a presidential candidate singlehandedly footed his campaign bill. This means that nobody will have the opportunity to say ‘we put you there’. He will not fail, by God’s grace. We also have to appreciate President Buhari for fulfilling his promise to deliver credible, transparent and acceptable elections. We have to appreciate him and thank Allah for him. When I met him during the Sallah homage to the Villa, I told him we were proud of him for being true to his word.
The people believe that the incoming administration will change the course of Nigeria’s history. With its campaign slogan ‘Renewed Hope’, we believe Tinubu’s government will bring positives for the country. The personality of the president-elect and the vice president-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, will bring about the best for this country. The two are talent hunters who go for the very best at all times. They have the ability to groom and grow others, to spot the best brains and change the way things are done. If you look at their antecedents, you will know that there is hope for this country. When Shettima left as governor, he brought somebody who is equally capable as his successor, as governor of Borno State. There is no success without a good successor. Look at the succession process in Lagos State and see where Lagos is today in Nigeria. The successes of the president-elect and the vice president-elect are there for everyone to see in their respective states. They will take over the affairs of the country in the next few days. We need to pray for them to succeed again. If they are allowed to work, Nigeria will be a force to reckon with globally.
Nigerians expect the Bola Tinubu administration to hit the ground running. What do you think should be the first priority of the administration?
The first thing should be to identify who will do what and I trust them to do that. They should forget about politics and do what will uplift Nigerians and unite Nigeria. Nobody is talking about any ministers, special advisers, or directors-general, the focus is on the president. Don’t appoint people because they are your friends or political associates. If you must accept your enemies as part of your government, knowing that they will perform well, there is nothing bad in it. I am not saying they should not compensate those who worked for them but not at the expense of the development of the country. The incoming administration cannot afford to underperform because people have trust in it. Even those complaining know that these people will perform. They must identify and appoint people who are determined to change the course of the country for good.
The presidential election petition tribunal has commenced sitting in Abuja to look into various petitions submitted by political parties and their candidates. What is your advice for the tribunal judges?
One thing I want them to know is that mortals who administer justice ought to be vicegerents of God. The power the constitution has given to them derives from God. They should not allow anything to taint their thinking in giving justice. There are three courts. The first one is their own court. There is the court of public opinion and the last one is the court of Almighty Allah. Whatever you judge today, be assured that God is going to judge you. Judge the way you want God to judge you.
Hajj preparations have started all over the world and Nigeria is not an exception. What is the importance of Hajj in Islam? What is your advice for the intending pilgrims as well as Hajj administrators?
First and foremost, Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is compulsory for any Muslim who can afford it. Hajj is the peak of worship in Islam. It combines every other act of worship. It is also what I call the true united nations of the world where every tribe from all over the world converges for worship. At Hajj, there is uniformity in dressing and worship. What does this tell you? We are all equal in the sight of Almighty Allah. It reminds you of the Judgment Day whereby every human will stand before God and give accounts of their deeds. It also encourages economic development of nations. Look at the early Sudanese Empire, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire, the early Gold Coast and the Kanem Bornu Empire. They all developed because of their early exposure to Hajj. It made them metropolitan in nature.
The administrators understand that Hajj is a spiritual journey and as such, they should make sure that the pilgrims get the maximum rewards. There are five key components of Hajj which the administrators should take into consideration. They are transportation, accommodation, protocols, feeding, luggage and logistics. The pilgrims should be given good accommodation around the Haram municipality. Managers of Hajj in Nigeria are competent and I know they will do it. I will advise that the Hajj administrators deal with all the five areas I have highlighted so that the pilgrims will have great Hajj experiences. They should also make sure that there are local guides to redirect lost pilgrims to their tents or accommodation.
How is your organisation, Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society, faring, especially in terms of the realisation of its aims and objectives?
We have been able to identify three challenges that are facing our nation and especially the Muslims. The first is ignorance, the second one is poverty and the last one is relationship. If you look at all our programmes, they are geared towards solving the aforementioned problems. It is high time we raised the standard of living of the people. Can someone who is hungry serve God very well? The answer is no. It is only when people know where their next meal is coming from that they can serve God heartily. On ignorance, there is a Hadith that says, ‘You are an enemy of what you don’t know’. You are envious of people because you don’t know how they are making it. And for us, Muslims, we don’t have good relationship among ourselves. We need to understand ourselves and when we do, we will be able to work together and be stronger together. With these three thematic areas that I have mentioned, Al-Habibiyyah will continue to expand.
We have so many programmes like the ‘Do Something Initiative’ where we give revolving loan with no interest. We have the Zakat and Endowment Foundation which is doing well. We also the Department of Finance, Human and Business Development which is partnering with the International Institute of Banking and Finance, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), to organise trainings in human capacity to lift people out of poverty.
There is also the Department of Endowment and Empowerment that is partnering with the International Commission for Refugees, to help people. As I said, the Zakat and Endowment Foundation is helping people to grow. We can say with pride and gratitude to Almighty Allah that in the northern part of the country, Al-Habibiyyah is the first organisation that is collecting money transparently and disbursing it to deserving beneficiaries to develop their businesses. This is targeted at reducing poverty in the society and raising the standard of living of the people.
We also run a programme on national television called ‘The Abrahamic Mission’. The programme is geared towards promoting religious tolerance among ourselves. There is also the Food Bank which is our flagship programme. And the most important is the Al-Habibiyyah Academy where we teach people to read Qur’an fluently in four months. In fact, it (the academy) is the programme that got Al-Habibiyyah introduced to the world. Alhamdulilah, we are growing. Allah is supporting us.