Sheikh Gumi and his blanket amnesty proposal

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By Mijinyawa Bashir
Nigerians had expected Sheikh Gumi to convincing the bandits to abandon their criminal activities, repent and apologise for their misdeeds.

…Shiekh Gumi needs to thread with utmost caution on how he goes about his mission of negotiating with and seeking amnesty for bandits, and more importantly his utterances and conduct in this regard. The statement credited to him that he was informed by an army officer that it was Christian soldiers who killed herders while on a mission to tackle cattle rustling in 2014 is highly condemnable…

For several reasons, a lot of Nigerians were skeptical ab initio about the call for negotiations and amnesty being canvassed by Sheikh Ahmad Gumi and his team, which in their opinion would result in the immediate end to banditry in North-Western Nigeria.

The first and possibly most important reason why Gumi’s proposal would be difficult to go through is that Gumi is an ordinary citizen of Nigeria. He has no power or authority to enforce or implement any of the suggestions he believes would bring an end to the persistent criminality of bandits in the country. His proposals therefore only amounts to his personal views or convictions and are most likely going to fizzle out after making sensational headlines in our various social media platforms and the traditional news outlets. If the Federal Government of Nigeria can insist that all resolutions of the National Assembly (which is a constitutionally recognised arm of government) are only advisory to the executive, then it is very simple to deduce how far the suggestions of an individual with no power or authority whatsoever will go.

The second issue that would make the adoption of Sheikh Gumi’s formula for ending banditry impossible is his probable lack of insight into how the business of government is conducted. Nigeria as a country has a national security strategy, which it is implementing. Yes, we can say that the security situation in our country is not improving and the government strategy is not working or is ineffective. However, those conversant with how the business of government is conducted know very well that the government will not abandoned its security strategy and go on it knees to negotiate with rag tag groups of illiterate criminals who are killing and maiming innocent people with impunity.

The subtle request by Sheikh Gumi for government to provide funding to broker peace with bandits is another reason the government will not very likely consider his clamour for negotiations with and “blanket amnesty” for bandits. Nigerians heard him suggesting that the government should rather use the funds usually deployed for purchasing weapons to fight bandits for the infrastructural development of the villages of these bandits. Certainly, the Federal Government will not hand over funds appropriated for military operations to non-state actors. Nigerians had expected Sheikh Gumi and his team to concentrate on convincing the bandits to abandon their criminal activities, repent and apologise to the Almighty Allah, the Nigerian state and Nigerians for their misdeeds.

Certainly blaming the military and painting a picture of something akin to ethnic cleansing against the Fulani herders will not help in any way to bring sustainable peace and resolution of this protracted cycle of violence. It will certainly discourage the Federal Government from keying into Gumi’s proposal and initiative howsoever laudable it appears.

I have always maintained that Shiekh Gumi needs to thread with utmost caution on how he goes about his mission of negotiating with and seeking amnesty for bandits, and more importantly his utterances and conduct in this regard. The statement credited to him that he was informed by an army officer that it was Christian soldiers who killed herders while on a mission to tackle cattle rustling in 2014 is highly condemnable and should not have come from an eminent cleric like him.

Considering his level of education and position in the society, Nigerians expect Gumi to be very circumspect on his choice of words because of the high level of suspicion associated with his mission from the onset. He should have employed the basic principle of justice that mandates hearing from both sides in all issues. Propagating what he was told without approaching the Nigerian military to hear its own side of the story is unacceptable. Believing and transmitting the narration of the military officer hook, line and sinker is a great error of judgement that is not expected from a clergy of Sheikh Gumi’s status.

Another issue that Gumi ought not to have propagated is the allegation by the bandits that the military have killed hundreds of innocent Fulani herders and members of their family. If indeed the bandits claimed that the military have killed hundreds of their kinsmen, Shiekh Gumi needs to balance the narration by hearing from the military about those grievous allegations.

Certainly blaming the military and painting a picture of something akin to ethnic cleansing against the Fulani herders will not help in any way to bring sustainable peace and resolution of this protracted cycle of violence. It will certainly discourage the Federal Government from keying into Gumi’s proposal and initiative howsoever laudable it appears. Nigerians were therefore not surprised when the Federal Government announced recently that it would continue to fight bandits, kidnappers and terrorist wherever they are, without ethnic profiling or sentiments. Bandits, kidnappers and other armed gangs are criminals and enemies of the Nigerian state and should be treated as such.

Mijinyawa Bashir is a consultant physician and public affairs commentator. He writes from Abuja Nigeria, and can be contacted through: [email protected]

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