..Incurs More Wrath From Nigerians
By Abiola Olawale
In another shocking comment, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic Cleric on Monday made a case for some Fulani herdsmen involved in banditry, stating that they are peaceful people.
Gumi who had previously advocated that amnesty be granted to bandits again reiterated that the bandits terrorizing Nigeria’s Northwest are only victims of circumstance.
He made this known during an interview on a Channels TV programme, Monday.
According to the Islamic cleric, who recently added chief negotiator to his title, the bandits were peaceful before the society became hostile to them. He said the majority of them are acting with natural instincts as they were once victims of kidnapping, killings, among other crimes.
The Cleric further stated that dialogue is the only solution the government can employ to resolve the crisis.
In his words, “When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality which turned into banditry, which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know. There is no excuse for any crime; nothing can justify crime, and they are committing crime. I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality. And this is what we should look, let’s remove the pressure, let’s remove the things that made them into criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with the nomadic herdsmen. They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this. It is a complex issue that Nigerians need to understand.
“The solution is very simple, but it’s not military hardware. The solution is dialogue and teaching. These people are acting with natural instincts, not special knowledge. And they don’t have any ambition or anything. They don’t have a vision of the future. They are talking about existence; their livelihood is destroyed; because the cattle rustling that was going on for a long time, they are the first victims of it. So we need to investigate how cattle rustling became a big business in Nigeria and how it affected the socio-cultural behaviour of the nomadic Fulani. They were pushed into criminality. They are killed by the military, lynched in town. Do you know that there are situations where any man with this Fulani physique – slim, light-complexioned, even dark ones – on a motorbike is automatically arrested and incarcerated? They are being profiled. The Fulani herdsmen is seeing evil all around him. You can imagine when he sees his children, women, everything killed, his animals slaughtered. You see what happened in Oyo, his hut burnt down. Who is burning down his hut? It is somebody coming from a building, somebody coming from a car. He doesn’t own a car, he doesn’t own a building, he doesn’t enjoy anything of the Nigerian cake. Then you are coming, again, the little thing he has, to kill his animals. So he is seeing the evil from the other side. So each side is seeing the other’s side as evil. So it is the clergy that now has to come in the middle, Muslims and Christians. We have to listen to them. Demonising anybody is not appropriate. And evil is there in everybody. Amnesty comes with a package – all victims should be looked at and the government should compensate because actually, it’s the responsibility of the government to protect people, their lives and livelihood; and they were not able to do. So since it’s a negligence from the government, then the government should come from both sides.”
However, Sheikh Gumi’s latest advocacy for the bandits, has further led to widespread condemnation among Nigerians, who bombed the cleric over his highly controversial comments.
Below are some of the reactions harvested on Twitter:
“Peaceful people they were indeed! And that was the reason they were rejected in Ghana. Right? Gumi should have been arrested by now for he knows everything about the killer and terrorists in Nigeria!” (@AjayiToyin)
“What is happening in Nigeria, how come a religious leader is a mediator cum supporter of criminal elements and the government is happy with this development.” (@meg60601189)
“Peaceful people that willfully destroys farm lands of others with their cattles? This country can never get it right with people of this nature brazenly and openly defending the indefensible thereby, emboldening the perpetrators of this manner of evil.” (@ijawboy2)
“These are heavily armed individuals that go about killing & maiming other people. Then unarmed protesters carrying placards are imprisoned!! What in heaven’s name?????” (@Vinaprisca_ik)
“The way Sheikh Gumi described bandits and Fulani herdsmen, you’ll be tempted to go and play Ludo with them inside bush. That man is 21st century Usman Dan Fodio.” (@ayemojubar)