I think this is the right question to ask. Femi Adesina, about three months ago, asked: “Where did this Zulum emerge from?” He was apparently dazzled and wowed by what he saw in microcosmic Borno headed by Zulum which he could not see in macrocosmic Nigeria headed by our President. He asked in amazement: “How come he (Zulum) is doing unusual, uncommon things, and being very modest about it?” He was so stupefied to the extent that, I think, he forgot he was in the entourage of Mr. President. He was not hypocritical in his utterances which sound like eulogy in honor of the Governor.
If reincarnation is real, many might not dispute that Zulum is a reincarnation of ‘Umar ibn Khattab (R.A). But there is no place for reincarnation in Islam. It is a pagan belief, and thus, unscriptural and unscientific. Plus, no one can come close to the Prophet’s Companions in achievements—but we can strive to emulate them. Perhaps Zulum is trying to emulate ‘Umar. I wish him success. In his book of about 970 pages titled “‘Umar ibn Khattab: His Life and Times”, Dr. Ali Muhammad as-Sallabi did justice to the life and times of ‘Umar. It is a recommended book for any administrator who desires success.
If we said Zulum emerged from the Sky, we will be advocating a belief that is contrary to the Qur’an. Those who know his parents and when he was born are still alive. They will refute and defeat us, hands-down, with their sense of history and grasp of history.
Therefore, the question on where Zulum emerged from is either a non-standard one; or a question which answer is obvious. In this sense, it is not a difficult one to answer. Zulum emerged from where any other person emerged—from a union called marriage. The real question we should ask is: who is this Zulum and why is he different? What informs his sense of Justice, altruism, and humanism when people celebrate corruption, injustice and cannibalism?
I have started to think that Zulum is one of those few among our leaders in whose life concept of meeting Allah is deeply rooted. Or what else do you say or expect us to say? The Qur’an says: “So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone” (Q18:110). For the righteous work expected of anyone who hopes to meet Allah, he (Zulum), especially as a governor, has been doing it—this is obvious; not in doubt. May Allah strengthen him on that.
As for not associating anyone in the worship of Allah, this is between him and God—I don’t know. But I do hope he will also not fail in this aspect. The Governor, and the rest of us, should pay serious attention to this so that our righteous good deeds shall not be made as scattered floating dust (هَبَآءً مَّنْثُورًا). See Qur’an 25:21-23. For associating partner with Allah which is also known as shirk is a big issue. I will leave this to scholars who are well grounded in Islamic monotheism.
Governor Zulum appears to do his things without fear or favor. He seems not to do things to please people but to please Allah. The hyped phrase; “I belong to everybody and to nobody” really applies to him. It fits him. It dovetails his person and his activities and his manners of governance—though he did not say it. Those who said it have shown nothing to justify it—they only play to the gallery about it.
Governor Zulum is very desirous to make sure that things are done properly. He seems to be discomforted to see his people in pain and comfortable to see them in comfort. Can you imagine what Borno would look like under Zulum if it had been relatively peaceful like Jigawa or Kano; like Oyo or Lagos? It would have probably been a tourist center or tourist attraction—to rival Niagara Falls in the USA, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, or Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Zulum has always won my heart. A serious governor. You must have read the breaking news as I did. Is there even any major newspaper that does not narrate the story? The news of the suspension of Ramat Polytechnic Management. Suspension for what!? For running a ‘nearly dead’ school. While I am convinced he is a serious governor, many are of the opinion that he is not serious. They argue if there is any higher institution that is not dead in Nigeria? If that is the case, all managements of higher institutions in Nigeria should be suspended.
The truth is: that is not possible. Not every governor—or Federal Government—is like Zulum. Many others would rather the institutions died completely. Are we not already awarding degrees to students who do not merit primary school certificates? That is why Zulum is different. Hear him: “As far as I am concerned, this polytechnic is dead. Nothing is working. The workshop is not working, the agricultural workshop is not working, likewise the entrepreneurship center.”
He lamented further with a vow: “insha Allah, I will not allow this polytechnic to rot during my era as Governor of Borno State. I will do everything possible within my reach to ensure functionality of this institution, insha Allah.” He recalled when he was the Rector “The entrepreneurship center was producing nothing less than 10, 000 to 20, 000 school desks and chairs every month. We produced beddings.” Zulum will definitely not tolerate producing unproductive students just like Kaduna’s El-Rufai will also not tolerate lazy students. But that is what many of our higher institutions do today. They valorize and canonize lazy students, money or/and sex for grade lecturers, and useless teachers; while they criminalize and disdain diligent teachers, principled lecturers and focused students.
But can we doubt the promise of Allah? “[It is] the promise of Allah. Allah does not fail in His promise, but most of the people do not know” (Q30:6). Allah promises that “We do not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.” (Q12:56). “And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers.” (Q14:27). And for the wrongdoers, “He has prepared a painful torment” (Q76:31). Any reasonable person, of course like Zulum, will not allow any school under his control to dole out certificates to unmerited students. A certificate becomes unmerited when the school that awards it lacks basic facilities or students that are awarded ‘know’ their way rather than read their books. For Zulum, this will not happen under his watch. That is why he is different.
Yet I am afraid. Afraid of what? You know Nigerians, already some are saying Zulum is behaving like a super governor. But is anything wrong with that? They are of the opinion that he will go the same way. ‘Which way again?’ I asked. ‘The way of the Super Cop and the Super Minister,’ they said. ‘God forbid,’ I retorted. Though I will not be harsh on people with this kind of thinking. It is our sordid experiences with leaders in Nigeria that should be blamed for this thinking.
I pray, and strongly hope Zulum will always be on track. His trajectory—path to success—shall remain smooth and he shall live office unscathed—God willing. One, he doesn’t live beyond his means. His previous and current records are pointers to that. Two, his professorship is not a controversial one. He earned it from my Alma-Mater—University of Maiduguri—the most resilient university in Nigeria (there is no debate about this). His professorship was made in Unimaid were he taught for many years. “If you want to be made, go to Unimaid.”