Renowned Islamic scholar, Dr Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, has challenged the military to prove that the bombardment of Zamfara State forests by the Nigerian Air Force resulted in the killing of bandits’ kingpins.
Gumi spoke through his aide and traditional title holder of Dan Iyan Fika in Yobe State, Alhaji Tukur Mamu, on Tuesday.
Sheikh Gumi told newsmen: “The simple question is that we should ask ourselves: for example, these reports that they are saying that they’ve bombarded this camp and that camp, is there any evidence on the ground?
“There is a particular forest we visited in Niger State.
“The whole of the settlement had been bombarded.
“This settlement has nothing to do with bandits.
“In fact, they showed us two wells full of innocent people, dead, inside, casualties of these bombardments.
“That’s exactly what these bandits were telling us.
“They said: ‘Whenever we hear the sound of an aircraft, we run to our caves and then run. If they will succeed in killing anybody, it is the small children, the wives or the cows.’
“That’s their own testimony.
“So you can imagine a country where, for example, bandits would gather in a forest and be celebrating.
“You don’t even have intelligence to track them and eliminate them.
“Then for you to say you will succeed in killing them?
“I hear them yesterday celebrating the reported death of bandit leader.
“So, for example, if you kill one bandit leader and another one emerges, what benefit did you derive?
“For example, you killed Dogo Gide, a person more dreaded than him emerged.
“When they killed Buharin Daji, (Bello) Turji emerged.
“So what’s the success there?
“And for us to even be celebrating.
“There is nothing to celebrate.
“The only thing we can celebrate is that if our military succeeds in crushing them all and they cannot.”
Gumi said if America could go to Afghanistan and spent 20 years, “spending $3 trillion and wasting 3,600 personnel, over 20,000 citizens killed after 20 years, they are coming to dialogue with the Taliban….
“What do you expect in Nigeria?
“These (Americans) are people that have so much transparency even in their military spending.
“You will not hear even the cases of corruption like the one we hear in Nigeria.
“So if they would do that after all these 20 years, what do you expect from Nigeria?
“I can tell you without any fear of contradiction, (President Muhammadu) Buhari would spend the next one year seven months without addressing this issue.
“And if the next president comes snd he will follow the same process, he cannot succeed.
“You have to address so many economic issues and so many issues of injustice.
“And then for you to pursue the path of dialogue.
“It is not the sign of weakness.
“That’s what (late President Umaru) Yar’Adua initiated in Niger Delta.
“Do you think the silence we used to hear now from Niger Delta, is it because of gun?
“Is it because of military might?
“There are many top militant commanders that have been on the payroll of the Federal Government for the past eight years.
“They are the richest now, top militants, Commanders.
“But this is a silent issue that nobody knows.
“But that is the reason why you can explore oil and then exploit it.
“The only reason why their own is different is because the Federal Government knows that if they didn’t do something there, it will affect the whole economy.
“That’s the issue.
“It is something that is really consuming the society.
“Our major problem as a nation is how to go about solving this crisis that has defied all solutions so far.
“A lot of people are giving their own perspectives, a lot of people are giving their own thoughts about the way they think it is the appropriate way to manage the whole crisis.
“But for Sheikh Gumi, we believe people are making comments out of either naivety or out of ignorance about the quantum of the problems that we have and how to go about it.
“I think by now we are authorities, especially on issues that have to do with banditry.
“Genesis of the crisis, how to go about it, and then what we’ve actually seen on the ground.
“This is because nobody in Nigeria has seen what we saw.
“We have quite a lot of experience to narrate, to say it.
“One may ask what is even the reason why, for example, somebody like Sheikh Gumi would leave the comfort of his own house, sacrifice his own life and visit the forest?
“Is it just for the media publicity?
“So one would imagine: how would somebody be so stupid, because he wants to be in the headlines, to sacrifice his own life, on’t know whether he will be coming back after visiting the bush or not.
“So there are certain things that rationally one would find answers to.
“For the benefit of the audience, Gumi has passed the stage where he will solicit media headlines.
“That is the truth, first.
“There is no benefit at all financially, apart from using your own resources, as far as these visits that we used to do.”
Mamu said the primary focus and interest was for the “respected and revered religious leader” to play his own part in making sure that the spill of blood, the quantum of innocent blood being wasted everyday, is stopped, adding: “If the nation allows that to happen or to continue to happen, only God knows the kind of calamity that will happen.
“This is because what God dislikes is wasting innocent blood, especially of those that did not even know what’s happening.
“Most of the victims of this banditry and issues of insecurity are very innocent people across the religious divide.
“They don’t even know what is happening/
“They’re just victims of the society and the failed leadership that we have.”
Mamu recalled an interview in which a Christian clergy spoke on the activities of Sheikh Gumi, saying: “Coming back to that particular interview, it’s not the first time you will hear people, for example, saying Gumi is protecting bandits, governments are supporting him, he’s supposed to be arrested, and all sort of comments.
“We used to laugh when people say government is over protecting or having interest or something like that regarding the activities of Sheikh Gumi.
“The reason why I said so, I gave a very clear example.
“The relationship between the current President and Sheikh Gumi is not a cordial relationship.
“If it were cordial, the Sheikh wouldn’t spend months trying to see the President and would not be even granted access to see him.
“This is something they should know.
“What I emphasised is that if there is anybody, I want to be on record, if there is anybody that is looking for anything no matter how small in Gumi to arrest him, that person is President Buhari.
“I want to say it without any fear of contradiction.
“We know what’s happening.
“The President is aggrieved with the Sheikh because of so many reasons.
“For that, no matter what the Sheikh initiated, no matter how laudable anything that will come from the Sheikh, the President will not welcome it.
“If not we’ve gotten the support of top security officers, including the NSA, the DG SSS, Nigerian Police Force, all the top security chiefs, at one time or the other, they had cooperated with what we were doing.
“But no matter what you do, you’ve to get the encouragement or the approval from the above for you to even succeed.
“That is why most of the missions ended in failure despite our sacrifice and determination to reach out to these people.
“For the record, I would have wished for the respected pastor will reflect on so many other things.
“Part of the things he will reflect is, for example, if you said you will approach…
“What the government has done so far related to bombardment, which we believe is more of propaganda than reality.
“What the government has done so far related to wasting billions of Naira in tax payers money to buy Tucano jets, most of them over inflated projects, contracts that end up enriching few people in the military.
“What the government has so far succeeded compared to the amount of resources that has so far been spent is not commensurate at all.
“It is something really, very questionable that every sensible Nigerian should ask himself….
“There are very few cliques within the military that are really benefitting from these war against insecurity.
“That is why anytime you will hear the name of Sheikh Gumi.
“Some of them even sponsored write ups in newspaper houses, for example, to either condemn the initiative or to discredit it.
“To give it a different picture that will even create more division, for example between Christians and Muslims.
“But the Sheikh is telling them: how can you even put religion, for example, on issues that have to do with security?
“If these bandits are attacking or are on rampage, are they targeting Muslims only or both Muslims and Christians?
“They don’t care who you are.
“They don’t care whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, what faith you belong to.
“Most of them that have, in one way or another, become victims.
“They can tell you how barbaric they are.
“How criminal they can be.
“So, what the Sheikh is saying is that, if for example as a nation, we know that we are honest in our military spending, we know that we are prudent in our military spending, if as a nation we know that most of this money is not diverted to the pockets of few military officers, if we know as a nation we have proper intelligence, to extract information and then apprehend these criminals head on, if we know that as a nation, for example we have the capacity to crush these elements once and for all so that the nation will live in peace, then go ahead and do it.”
“But in a country whereby you are lacking in all these things that I’ve mentioned, then what option do you have as a responsible leader to ensure that you preserve even one single soul?
“Is negotiation, is dialogue, is amnesty, not the best option as long as you will protect innocent lives from being killed everyday?
“From being kidnapped everyday?
“So that is what the Sheikh is saying everyday and that’s what a lot of critics failed to understand.
“And what difference does it make, for example now out of media blackmail, bandits are terrorists today?
“And then tomorrow, you don’t have any new method that will make sure it ends the terror action?
“What difference does that make?
“So, what we are saying is that, if for example, there will be something new, for example the announcement of the prescription of anything that has to do with banditry or terrorism, we know it is a terror act.
“But he is afraid, these people have not being indoctrinated like Boko Haram.
“Because Boko Haram people believe if they die they are going to heaven.
“So this is a religious war as far as they are concerned.
“These people are fighting economic war because of so many things that happened in the past.
“Most of them are victims of cattle rustling.
“You will find that one Fulani man will have more than 200 cows.
“He will wake up in a day they’ve been rustled.
“At the end of the day, a Fulani man values his cow more than his religion.
“So what option do you have, if for example, somebody that is dispossessed of everything he has, then he got AK 47.
“He doesn’t have Islamic knowledge, no conventional knowledge, a completely ignorant person and you think he cannot be exploited?
“So that is why the approach of the Sheikh is that for you to even bring this thing to an end, you must go back to the drawing board.
“You have to understand the genesis of the crisis.
“If there’s any issue of injustice that’s been done to these people, you’ve to address this injustice first.
“For example if you say you will condemn any idea of educating the Fulani, which as a result of lack of education that they have so much ignorance to even go into this kind of criminality, then what are you encouraging in the next 10 to 20 years?
More banditry, more kidnapping, anything of that nature will also increase.
“But as the Sheikh is saying, when you educate a society, like the Martin Luther Kings are saying, once somebody is educated, I’m telling you no matter how the society cheats him, he will not go into criminality.
“He will, instead, adopt a very civil means of earning a living.
“But living in ignorance, these people even during visits, they used to say since the nation was created, they don’t know anything about Nigerian budget.
“It has never benefits them.
“They don’t have water, they don’t have schools, they don’t have clinics.
“Anything that you see that government has the responsibility to provide, they don’t even know it exists.
“They live virtually the whole of their lives in the forests.
“And then they are catering for themselves and at the end of the day, their means of livelihood is no longer there.
“That’s the reason why the insecurity persists.
“That’s why we are saying that when for example you don’t put rationality in analysing security issues, honestly there is so much danger.
“One of the dangers is you will succeed in creating division among the Christians and the Muslims.
“That’s the area of concern I discussed with my colleagues in the South when I went there.
“I said if we people did not come together as media men, see the kind of crisis we have and have a common way of reporting, honestly we would end up, the bandits would destroy us, we would destroy ourselves at the same time.
“That’s exactly what’s happening now because for example the tone of reports of the Northern media and the Southern media, for example, related to issue of banditry or insecurity.
“You will see it.
“They are coming out along religious line.
“Instead of us to confront the whole issue as it is and then find a solution, that will benefit the entire society.”
When asked that during one of their visits to the forests, the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, welcomes them wholeheartedly and the Governor of Sokoto (Aminu Tambuwal) too bought in, but why was it that the President didn’t accept their proposal, Mamu said: “He is somebody, for example, that relies 100 per cent on security reports.
“As a President, you don’t rely 100 per cent on security reports.
“The security reports can be distorted.
“Security reports can be made in a way that can favour certain interests.
“You’ve to try certain channels of communication.
“Channels of getting additional information as a President, especially regarding sensitive issue’s to do with security.
“Most of the problems we used to have, especially during the former Service Chiefs, with even these present ones, is that you know most of them, sadly to say, they don’t want this war to end because there’s a lot of money inside.
“A lot of billions inside.
“In fact, apart from top politicians in this country that are really in strategic positions, the richest people in Nigeria today are the military.
“That is why they are quiet.
“So much money is been diverted in the name of security.
“Our security spending is one of the most corrupt in the history of the whole world.
“So with this, for example, if a commander or chief executive did not understand this line of politics, I tell you there’s no way we can eliminate or tackle the issue of this kind of banditry.
“From what the state government and the Federal Government… there is no way…because a Governor, for example, would say I’ve released N2 billion for security vote.
“At the end of the day, he will take half and then they will also share their own.
“This is what is happening in most of these states.
“As an ex-military officer, these are some of the things that Gumi understands and that is why he has been consistent in trying to educate even those that didn’t understand for them to understand the politics and then the reason why a lot of people, especially those position of power and authority. would not support these kinds of initiatives.”