The Chief Imam of Apo Legislative Quarters Juma’at mosque, Abuja, Sheikh Muhammad Khalid, recently trended on the social media after a video of his sermon criticising the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), went viral. In this interview with PUNCH, the Islamic cleric says he stands by his words that the president is not doing well

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In a video of one of your sermons that went viral recently, you were seen heavily criticising the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd). What is your grouse with his regime?

The situation of the country informed this, and I am in the right direction because my religion charges me to be just and I have to. If I said things like this during the (Goodluck) Jonathan administration and I don’t want to say it now because I share the same religion and ethic inclination with the President, then I am a hypocrite. My take is that we are all Nigerians and we deserve to live in peace. I believe a lot of things must be done in this country and must be done very fast. I have been to Rwanda and saw what happened there. In Nigeria, we are actually playing with fire. The killings in the country are taking the shape of genocide and that is why people are dying on a daily basis. More people are being killed in this regime than the previous administration. Make your research and juxtapose it with the number of people that were killed during the last administration.

In the video, you told the President to return the country to how he met it in 2015, but his supporters would disagree and tell you that Buhari has done well in the fight against terrorism. Do you still maintain your call?

This regime has been telling lies that there is an improvement in the area of security. Where is the improvement when our children can no longer go to school in some parts of the country and some states are under the control of bandits? In the North-East, especially, a serving governor’s convoy was attacked.

Then (during the Jonathan era), it was only a few states that were under the control of Boko Haram. Now, tell me, how many states are safe in the country? Even his (Buhari’s) state Katsina is not being spared. Kankara Local Government Area is in his state. In Zamfara State, there are about five local governments that have become no-go areas. There are some places you can’t go without an escort in Borno State. Other regions are also contending with one form of insecurity or the other. If it is not bandits, then unknown gunmen are wreaking havoc. It (insecurity) is worse under him (Buhari), let us tell him the truth. If he cannot improve, let him take us back to how it was in 2015.

Before he assumed office, bandits were not operating the way they are now. How many schools were attacked and how many schoolchildren were abducted during the last administration? Look at how we shouted when the Chibok girls were abducted. How many have we witnessed under Buhari and we are not telling him to bring back our schoolchildren and put an end to this scourge? Can you tell somebody in Kaduna, Zamfara and others that there is an improvement? A lawmaker in Katsina State said for the fear of being attacked, he cannot go to his constituency; and he is not the only one. Many of these people have no peace of mind and you call that an improvement? Yes, some people will disagree with me because they have two passports, they have where to run to if things completely get out of hand; they are not being sincere.

For your sharp criticisms of the President, are you not afraid that the government may come after you?

I have been asked this question several times and I have been telling people that I am not afraid. Am I doing something wrong? I have not attacked any personality on the basis of his character or behaviour. I am only speaking out my mind because I want the country to be safe for all. In that preaching that went viral, I prayed for him (Buhari) that if he wants to fulfill his promises, may almighty God help him. Why is nobody talking about this? Although, I also said if he does not want to fulfill his promises, may almighty God deal with him. If he comes after me, that is an affirmation from him that he does not want to make good his promises to Nigerians. I want the Almighty to use me to show Nigerians whether he wants to fulfill his promises or not. If anything should happen to me, then it is a confirmation that the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), does not want to keep his promises.

In the viral video, you said something which suggested the President is being ill-advised. Do you think this is the root of the problems confronting the nation?

Yes, of course. Let me use the issue of agriculture in the country as an example. They have made him believe that all is well with the sector, whereas the prices of food in the market are skyrocketing. The situation is telling us that the money devoted to agriculture is going somewhere else. He is receiving stories that there is bumper harvest and that Nigerians can feed with N30. The same thing is happening with our security; he is being misguided, or else how can bandits overpower the government? There have been hypocrites in every administration, including his; he needs to checkmate this and not come after me for saying things must be in order.

As a cleric, are you not meant to be praying for the President instead of criticising him?

The truth is that we can’t substitute actions for prayers. But pray for him to do what? I can only pray for him to take action, not for him to neglect his responsibilities. Prayer does not work that way and that was why I said if he wants to fulfill his promises, God should help him. Besides, we have been praying for him before now, what is the result?

It is being said in some quarters that you are critical of this government because you are seeking favour and attention. How do you respond to that?

I want all Nigerians to look at my lifestyle, they will understand who I am. Don’t come to the mosque and look at its size; go to my house and see where I am living; look at the vehicle I am also using; judge me from that. I am challenging this government to bring out any file of contract I have submitted or that has been awarded to me, whether in this regime or the last. I am not a contractor and I don’t beg for favours for myself or on behalf of anyone. I don’t go to offices, I am not the type, everyone knows this. I have no regret for speaking out, whatever the outcome will be. Let me state this again, if Buhari should send his men after me, it is an affirmation that he does not want to fulfill his promises, because I prayed for him.

What do you make of the recent attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy and do you envisage more of this if the President neglects to heed your advice and fails to act?

If you have an estate and you employ guards to keep watch for you and in the process, they become targets, what would you say? Would you pretend you are safe? If the NDA can be attacked, tell me where is safe in the country. Recently, a serving senator’s son was killed, among other killings happening in different parts of the country. Whoever is saying there is no problem is deceiving himself.

The race to 2023 has started; what would be your advice to Nigerians?

Let us look for the person that will unite the country. That is the first issue. The person should be able to put a stop to the secession agitations, whether in the name of Biafra or Yoruba Nation. Let us look out for someone who can solve our security issue and, lastly, let us look for a Nigerian that can solve our economic problems. To those who will contest, you should be aware that Nigerians are now wise. They want a new dawn in the country. If you make a promise and fail to deliver, you are going to be made to face the consequences.

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