By Tony Eluemunor
After years of the government’s seemingly standing by as insecurity was blanketing the country, a change came.
President Muhammadu Buhari signposted that change by appointing new service chiefs. Immediately the new service chiefs set to work, some discordant voices arose from various parts of the country.
One of the most noticeable of such voices belonged clearly to Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, who graduated as a medical doctor at the Ahmadu Bello University, joined the Army and retired as captain.
Gumi, who was born a proud Nigerian on Independence Day, 1960, further studied Islamic Jurisprudence and Tafsir (providing elucidation, explanation, interpretation, context or commentary for clear understanding and conviction of God’s will) at the Umm al-Qura University, in Saudi Arabia. He is currently at Kaduna’s Sultan Bello Central Mosque as a preacher.
How much have things changed in Nigeria since the National Security Adviser, Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd) delivered his speech on the new measures with which to stem the insecurity in the country? That was on Tuesday, March 2,2021.
Very much has changed. First, the speech specified that the Federal Government was hell-bent in confronting the insurgents and had not conceded any grounds, and would never bargain with them. It was in that speech also that a no-flight zone was imposed on Zamfara State. The NSA inferred aplenty that Gumi was on his own and not acting for the government.
Yet, did the Minister of Information and Communication not say openly, when asked about Gumi’s meeting with the bandits, that government had various ways of reaching out in its search for an end to insurgency? Was he just trying to ride a storm, or was he unknowingly leaking out the information that a faction in the presidency may have sent Gumi on his mission?
Well, by the time Gumi began to reach out to the bandits, it was clear that there was fire on the mountain. As if by a coordinated action, that was exactly when both bandits and killer herders began to run amok, kidnapping school children and killing villagers almost on weekly basis. As though part of that concert, many Northerners began to speak out in defence of killer herders. But it was Gumi who did Nigeria a real service, even if inadvertently. He gave us the invaluable information that the herders and the bandits were one; Fulanis wronged by the terrible Nigerian social system.
Yet, what aroused the Federal Government to issue a battle cry through the NSA on March 2nd? There was really fire on the mountain that week. On February 27, bandits killed four and kidnapped 26 in Rafi, Niger State, killed four in Igabi LGA and three in Kajuru LGA in Kaduna and three in Sabon Birni, Sokoto State. February 28, Police officers killed nine bandits in Safana, Katsina State. February 28, bandits kidnapped seven in Rafi LGA, three in Katcha LGA in Niger State, gunmen killed five in Zangon Kataf LGA and five in Chikun LGA in Kaduna and three in Tsafe, Zamfara. Same February 28, soldier troops killed “dozens” (estimated at 24) in Igabi, Kaduna.
March 1, was particularly bloody; bandits killed five in Igabi LGA and one in Kauru LGA while air strikes killed “many” (estimated at 20) bandits in the surrounding area in Kaduna, kidnapped one and killed 12 in Illela, Sokoto. Same day (March 1) sectarian violence led to two deaths in Okobo, Akwa Ibom while Boko Haram abducted seven aid workers in Dikwa, Borno.
March 2, kidnappers abducted three students in Safana, Katsina, bandits kidnapped 50 in Rafi, Niger State and gunmen killed one and kidnapped “some” (estimated at five) in Obokun, Osun state. March 3, gunmen killed six police officers in Obubra, Cross Rivers State and bandits kidnapped 70 in Maru, Zamfara, while Nigerian troops killed “some” (estimated at ten) Boko Haram militants in Marte, Borno.
March 4: Sectarian violence led to five deaths in Offa, Kwara while bandits killed one and kidnapped two in Bodinga, Sokoto, and a clash between soldiers and bandits in Safana, Katsina left four outlaws dead, but Nigeria lost one soldier, unfortunately. Same day, soldiers killed one Boko Haram militant in Ngala LGA and five militants in Dikwa LGA in Borno. March 5, Bandits killed 17 in Sabon Birni, Sokoto and suspected herders killed two farmers in Ikole, Ekiti.
So, it was important that the Federal Government spoke out when it did. It was also noteworthy that Gumi asked for amnesty for bandits just days after the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation started drawing flacks for asking for a Commission for pastoralists, Tuesday, Feb 16. No thanks to the Attorney-General, his statement caused many in the South to call on their communities to defend themselves, thus heightening nationwide tension.
Now the battle has been joined. Nigeria is standing tough against the criminals. Some state governors have served notice that they are in the fight for real. First, is the Bornu state Governor, Prof Zulum who has never hidden his readiness to fight Boko Haram insurgents. His Zamfara State counterpart, Bello Matawalle, has taken the fight to a new level. He has caused a serving soldier and his girlfriend to be arrested for supplying the bandits with arms and military uniforms.
He has also sacked some traditional rulers for aiding the criminals. Matawalle even name a security guard of Government Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, as a collaborator in the abduction of the schoolgirls on February 26. He has promised to do more. On March 3, 2001, Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai announced that he would not negotiate with bandits. Many Southern states are beginning to stand tough against the killer herders. The coming months will be interesting.
The tide has not turned and so there is nothing to cheer about but at least, the fight against insurgency has intensified. There is fire on the mountain and Nigeria is reacting to it appropriately.