Since the time he took a courageous but dangerous path of meeting and preaching to bandits to repent, appealing to government to consider negotiation instead of using brutal force against them, the revered Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, has continued to stir a hornet’s nest. Although, his evangelism to the cattle rustlers who transmuted to bandits and continue to terrorise many states in northern Nigeria contributed significantly to the temporary peace deal enjoyed in Zamfara, Katsina and Niger states, resulting in the release of some of their captives, his utterances in recent times have angered many Nigerians and constituted authorities, to say the least.
His recent interview granted to Arise TV, alleging that some soldiers are colluding with bandits must have forced the Department of State Security (DSS) to invite him to their Kaduna office. Gumi’s accusation was premised on the kind of dangerous weapons he saw in the hands of the notorious bandits. He wondered how these sophisticate weapons got into their’ hands. However, infuriated by his statement, the Nigerian Army, through its spokesperson had to reply to Gumi. They accused him of demoralising its soldiers who are in the frontline and even assisted in freeing some abducted students of Kebbi state.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Sheikh Ahmed Gumi has assumed the role of chief mediator between bandits and the government. Evidence abounds on how he toured many troubled northern states bedeviled by the activities of bandits and met with the affected governors. Everywhere he finds himself, Sheikh Gumi preaches, canvasses or advocates for negotiation, dialogue or amnesty for the bandits. While no price is too costly for the maintenance of peace and security in the country, it seems Gumi’s advocacy on negotiation with bandits have since failed to yield the desired results in states that initiated it. For instance, both Zamfara and Katsina state governors have agreed to grant amnesty for bandits who surrender and embrace their peace accord. Interestingly, when the dialogue or negotiation began, many bandits repented and laid down their arms. Sadly, they later abandoned it and went back to the bush. This sad development compelled Zamfara and Katsina state governors to withdraw from further dialogue or contemplating granting amnesty to bandits.
For Dr Ahmed Gumi to insist that bandits be granted amnesty, he is either living in denial or forgetting the experiences of Katsina and Zamfara states’ failed amnesty programmes? No wonder, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state rule out any dialogue with the bandits. What about the mode of their operation which hinges on abduction for monetary gains? Is Gumi aware that there is a difference between banditry and other elements of insecurity in the country? Take, for example, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND). It was formed to pursue resource control in Niger Delta region. The ideologically indoctrinated Boko Haram members are driven by the desire to form an Islamic state. The same with IPOB which wants to secede from Nigeria and form republic of Biafra. If I may ask: What are the northern bandits’ grievances or what do they want to achieve? The answer may be,they suffered theft from cattle rustlers. Of course, they may have lost their cattle and other valuables to rustlers as claimed, but must that be the reason to sack, kill and abduct helpless poor people most of whom are children?
Gumi could be right in his own way. However, given the continued killing of peasant farmers in Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina and Niger states, which threatens food security, and the abduction of school children, which disrupts education in the North, these criminal bandits should not be recognised let alone granted amnesty as canvassed by Gumi. The only language the bandits understand is violence. The government should teach them.
Pambegua, Kaduna state