By Rotimi Fasan
It seems that Sheik Ahmad Gumi’s self-appointed mediator role between terrorists, misnamed bandits, in the North and Northern states’ governors came under official scrutiny when his effort finally attracted the attention of the Directorate of State Security, who invited him for a meeting.
Although, the DSS spokesperson had told the news media it is routine practice for the DSS to extend invitation to persons of interest to it, which would lend credence to the fact that the cleric had indeed been with the DSS, Sheik Gumi himself denied any such meeting. Whatever the truth is, it does appear that Gumi’s handshake has in the reckoning of state authorities, particularly the Army, now gone beyond the elbow. This followed his latest remarks accusing the military (or is it the Army?) of harbouring elements who collude with the terror bandits to launch attacks on innocent Nigerians.
Before now Sheik Gumi, who rose to the rank of a captain as a doctor in the medical corps of the Nigerian Army, had accused Christians in the military’s counter-insurgency/banditry campaign of being responsible for the killing of bandits. It was a remark with the potential, if not the clear aim, to set off a sectarian war in the military. For quite a while, indeed, Sheik Gumi had come under sharp criticisms from Nigerians who view his mediatory role of appeasement as overtly conciliatory and accommodating of the outlaw activities of the terrorists. At every turn, Gumi has taken the opportunity to put in a word for the terrorists, heaping the blame for their criminal ways on everyone but the terrorists.
In the terrorists’ attacks on schools, Gumi has all but held the students culpable for the crime committed against them by the army of outlaws that have overtaken the North. He offers a rather romantic and generally sympathetic account and justification of the activities of the criminals. One could mistake these beastly terrorists who have murdered hundreds of Nigerians in cold blood and received ransoms running into hundreds of millions of naira from both the state and traumatised relations of kidnap victims- one would be excused to take these terrorists’ activities for mere circus shows by listening to Gumi. For him, the deadly criminalities of the terrorists are like childish pranks that could simply be excused away as some form of youthful delinquency.
When Gumi started his rapprochement with the murderous forest militias in February, his intervention seemed acceptable. He appeared to mean well, and may well do. Except that his utterances now undermine his goals and endanger the collective security of Nigerians, upending the security set-up in ways that should be repugnant to all supporters of order and justice. The first time he took what looked like an extremely dangerous journey to the forest to meet the terrorists, his justification was that the entire process needed an impartial arbiter, not the state that had serially violated previous agreements with the terrorists. You may wonder what kind of agreements were this, but should not be surprised to know that these were generous offers of appeasement money that were directed at getting the terrorists to drop their arms. If nothing else, it was both a cheap surrender and admission of state failure.
Anyhow, these efforts and its solution formula fell flat across the North. Many of the terrorists rehabilitated under these arrangements returned to the forests before or as soon as they had exhausted their monetary largesse. What started like peaceful approach had suddenly become big time money-making business for the terrorists and some of those employed to check them in the security units as Sheik Gumi has observed. The terrorists would not be appeased and they persisted in their crimes while, Gumi, amid all of this, continued to make a case for them. He joined a group that visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo in April to seek his input in efforts to find a solution to the ‘banditry’ problem in the North.
As part of his rhetoric of appeasement, he compared the terrorists, who he claims lack a voice, to coup plotters and demanded the state pardons them as it did coup plotters during the military era. He described the devastating onslaught of the terrorists on farming communities and the attendant conflict as ethnic wars. Pray, what is the ethnicity of the Zamfara, Niger or Kaduna states farmers whose farms and homesteads have been destroyed by the terrorists? How does this incursion into farmlands or farming communities in the central or southern parts of the country amount to an ethnic conflict? At another time and still playing the appeasement game, Gumi made the outstanding claim that the northern terrorists learned their art from Niger-Delta militants. Just as he demanded that an amnesty programme in the manner of the one President Umar Yar’Adua emplaced for Niger-Delta militias should be instituted for the terror-bandits of the north.
What would Gumi not ask on behalf of his so-called voiceless bandits? He has demanded like some other northern advocates that they be recruited into the military or assigned the task of guarding the forests against terrorists like themselves! Aba, Sheik, must everything be grist for the appeasement of your beloved bandits?! Where would this saccharine love of criminals, a Lot’s wife malaise, end? Sheik Ahmed Gumi would rather have his ‘downtrodden’ bandits’ systematic engagement in hostage-taking in return for generous ransoms than the regular raids that result in indiscriminate destruction of lives and property. It was in this spirit he urged parents of the abducted Greenfield University students to pay about N200 million in addition to procuring motor bikes for the bandits that abducted them in exchange for the return of the remainder of the students that escaped summary execution.
Has Gumi pondered the implication of his actions, some of which have their origin in a culture of entitlement that see Northerners compare incomparable situations and thus demand unfair advantage over others? Can any right-thinking person compare the motivations of the Northern terrorists to those of Niger-Delta militants? Is this not the same mentality at work when Abubakar Malami compared open grazing to sales of spare parts? So, if Dr. Goodluck Jonathan employed members of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, as petrol pipeline guards, Ahmad Gumi, without openly saying so, can demand the employment of terrorists as forest guards?
Just as President Muhammadu Buhari deemed it fit to compare his overt nepotism and favouritism in appointments to the constitutional demand that a minister is appointed from each state of the federation without him or others in the North perceiving the blind spot, or indeed, the ‘dot’ in the circle of his integrity claims? The likes of Gumi work in vain except they accept that appeasement or culture of entitlement will not bring an end to terrorism in the North.