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Ehichioya Ezomon: Sheikh Gumi’s propagation for bandits

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, the medical doctor-turned Islamic preacher, is a non-state actor adding to Nigeria’s verging towards the precipice. Yet, he lives in denial, and the government seems comfortable with his unmoderated views, and actions.
Why should the government, which has security as one of its main agenda, allow Gumi, even remotely, to define its handling of insecurity posed by marauding herdsmen-bandits?
The fiery cleric has perceptively encouraged and supported the activities of bandits, who run amok, traffic in death and destruction, and displace indigenous people, and occupy and seize their communities, possessions and means of livelihood.
Gumi is a critical voice with a large following in the Muslim community, and that breeds concerns about his facade in the garb of a “peacemaker” he tried to sketch on Friday, September 10.
In a rebuttal to presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina’s labelling him as a “lover of bandits,” Gumi, in a Facebook post, said: “You bootlicker that called me a bandit-lover! I am not one, but my country-lover, my region-lover, my state-lover, and my people-lover, and humanity-lover.”
No matter how he presents himself, Gumi, by his posturing, is a person of interest, challenging the authority of the government that should’ve reined him in. But that hasn’t happened, thus raising several questions in discerning minds.
Is Gumi flying a kite, and for whom? Is it for the government or powerful individuals or groups? If his views aren’t representative of government’s stand on banditry, why hasn’t he been stopped in his dangerous trajectory regarding sensitive national issues?
Perhaps, he’s an untouchable, and above the law, which agents of the government have routinely deployed to invite, arrest, interrogate, detain, and even prosecute less divisive figures in the polity!
Sadly, Gumi, by “justifying” the absurd and insane atrocities of the bandits, is giving their terrorism a religious coloration, and the North and Islam a face different from what they profess and portray.
Gumi, mostly in the news for the wrong reasons, has been visible lately whenever security operatives were hard on the bandits, as witnessed in Zamfara State, and would come up with a distorted history of how banditry and armed herdsmen evolved in Nigeria.
He would blame the presidency for its “political gullibility” in deploying the military that “cannot defeat bandits in a guerrilla warfare,” citing the reemergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Gumi’s latest views on, “Zamfara: The Flaring of Crisis,” posted to his Facebook page on September 6, is that the military can’t solve, but worsen Nigeria’s security situation, warning, “these herdsmen are going nowhere, and they are already in battle gear.”
His entreaty-cum-subtle threats to the government: Negotiate with the “faceless” bandits, as it did with the #EndSARS protesters and Niger Delta militants, and grant them amnesty he says that “comes with reconciliation, reparation, and rehabilitation packages.”
“So will the herdsmen crisis be resolved,” Gumi said, adding, “In fact, there is a need for a Marshal Plan to educate the nomadic pastoralists so that no citizen is left behind.”
Gumi can’t be altruistic in seeking amnesty for bandits, whom he’s hobnobbed with, and represented in ransom payout negotiations with kidnapped victims’ families and state governments, with insinuations that he gets “some slices” from the “largesse.”
That may not be, but his photo-ups with armed bandits, and handing out envelops/pouches said to contain ransom money, speaks volume about his “real” intention of throwing all for the bandits!
Is it to ensure genuine peace in the affected states, and Nigeria in general, or to carve out influence and dominion for the Fulani herdsmen and bandits over areas they’re not indigenous to?
Yet, this isn’t to dismiss entirely Gumi’s arguments and advocacy. He’s some fine points, like preventing banditry from developing into a Boko Haram-like ideology under the cover of religion.
But he can’t be “sincerely” concerned without overly condemning the bandits, but preoccupies himself with spotting their modern armaments, and prowess in guerrilla warfare that he boasts a combination of Nigerian security forces can’t match or contain.
Check Gumi’s soliciting, and wonder why he lays much emphasis on alleged marginalisation and discrimination against the Fulani herdsmen – as if it’s a state policy – and calling for creation of a Federal Ministry of Nomadic Affairs, and amnesty and restitution for the bandits – for their unprovoked and bloody campaigns against innocent Nigerians, their possessions and livelihoods.
Then, he plays up reversing the trend as the panacea for stopping the headsmen from taking over Nigeria by force! His viral quote in the first of his two Facebook posts in one week, bears this out.
Gumi’s words: “Unfortunately, this (military actions) is no solution or wisdom. When you don’t have the monopoly of the instruments of violence, then dialogue has the monopoly of resolving the conflict.
“The danger we face now is ideological demagogues changing the narrative. They are trying hard to infiltrate the herdsmen. And we know their objectives… to destroy all modern governments by fighting the military and now… cajoling of local populations, they have tormented before to join them in the struggle.
“Let us face the reality; these herdsmen are going nowhere, and they are already in battle gear, and we know our Military (‘incapacity and incapability’) very well. So before things get messy, we need cold brains to handle this delicate situation.
“Military actions in the past have worsen (sic) the situation, stimulating herdsmen resistance. Any more action will push them closer to religious fanaticism. It gives them protection from discrediting them as thieves and also reinforces their mobilisation of gullible young unemployed youth, as we saw with BH.”
Besides, Gumi talks about vested interests sabotaging his peace efforts, and how peace and negotiations with the herdsmen won’t work in the absence of “trust of the very unjust system all Nigerians complain of, which they (herdsmen) took arms to fight.”
“This brings our role of mediation,” Gumi said. “They know, as religious men, we will not deceive them, and they came out in troops to meet us,” adding, “to our astonishment, it is the same unjust system that turns round to betray our peace mission.”
Certainly, there’re individuals and groups benefitting from the insecurity in the country, and especially from the destabilising activities of herdsmen and bandits!
Still, Gumi, without realising it, suffers from a “trust deficit,” and it’s why he’s some roadblocks in his peace initiatives that sceptics see as one-fits-all, the-cure-all approach to herdsmen’s banditry.
That said, Gumi shouldn’t work himself into a frenzy, as recent pronouncements, and ongoing policies and programmes of the Federal Government are favourable to the herdsmen-bandits.
For instance, the government is rehabilitating “surrendered” Boko Haram members. As “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” Gumi needs only to encourage the bandits to surrender, and they’d be “forgiven” and granted their “desired” amnesty.

Unless he’s other motives for his preachment of “amnesty, reconciliation, reparation and rehabilitation” for the bandits, Gumi shouldn’t heighten the tension in the polity with demands already in the works via the benevolence of the Federal Government.

Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos